The Internet acts as a tool of communication, a disseminator of knowledge and a provider of services. It has proliferated almost every segment of society and is arguably the most powerful catalyst in the globalization process.
There is a growing concern that the Internet will bring about or increase the presence of a “McWorld”, That is to say a world saturated by U.S. popular culture and marketing strategies where mass entertainment products etc. are leveled to the lowest common denominator in an effort to make them attractive to the broadest possible audience.
However, others have argued that because of the many to many communication facilitated by the Internet; cyberspace will prove to be a refuge for diversity and will actually foster a demand for difference.
Globalization theory hypothesizes the convergence of all the worlds institutions, thus creating emancipatory markets and an informal, non state, non economic, political zone. The increasing prominence of the Internet in the day to day lives of people across the globe and the growing reliance on information disseminated via the Internet illustrates the ability of the Internet to span the globe and in essence create a unified sense of shared memories. Furthermore it is immutable proof that the Internet is perhaps the most powerful tool of globalization.
It has been argued that the opening presumption that there exists a “coercive, sometimes wholly unconscious force of American imperialism over the Net.” It’s a statement that depends on some obsolete notions about the nation-state, propaganda, media, and imperialism. The Internet doesn’t promote imperialism – it eradicates it. The underlying force threatening the paranoid enemies of so-called American Imperialism is progress itself. The Internet is no more American than electricity. It may have been invented there, but electrons have no national allegiance. And soon, neither will the information transformed global community.
What would a man from Mars, looking at this world and the Internet make of all this talk of globalization and by extension cultural imperialism. There is lot of controversy surrounding the amount of English on the Net. This is not an issue – English is not an oppressive force but a translative machine. It is possible some languages will become marginalized (French as the Latin of the 21st century) however it is unlikely that the world will become all Anglo-Saxon. The US does dominate the world of images and icons. Cindy Crawford and Pocahontas analogized to statutes of Lenin in the old Soviet Union. However, this is not an issue on the Net as the Net is a driving force of globalization and as such is actually anti-imperialistic. There is a real issue of clashing civilizations. The Net is anti-authoritarian and unmediated. It is a liberating technology. But there is a distinction between cyberspace and real places with societies where people need governance.
The challenge is to ensure that while new capabilities are provided, a new elite is not created. Depending on your views on globalization, the Internet is either an equalizer of opportunity or a tool of the elite.
Ideally, globalization promises freedom of information and a culture of tolerance and freedom of expression. The Internet is globalizations evolutive force – the way of the future. It can’t be controlled. Civilization is trying to find contact and cohesiveness – to reconnect with the rest of the world: the creation of a global village.
Furthermore, globalization depends on the economic reality. It is incongruous to see someone in Samburu in N Kenya wearing a “Bulls” T. Shirt. The process of globalization, through the Internet lends hope to the idea of a free culture, one which doesn’t deny individuality bit creates integration and coordination.
To European cultures that believe their value lies in their past contributions, or to leaders and academics who feel their own authority rests in accomplishments of decades or centuries ago, globalization and the spread of the Internet across the Atlantic is understandably threatening.
For the most part, the Internet invasion did take root first on American soil. But that doesn’t mean that the Net was immediately Americanized; rather, it seems that America was Internetized by the emergence of cyberculture within the nation’s formerly discrete boundaries. If the Internet look. American to those who are first engaging it now, it’s only because American culture has already been fundamentally altered by technology.
Of course, there is an ideological agenda implicit to the Internet. It’s not really libertarian, though it sometimes looks that way, and it’s not really democratic, though it some times looks that way, too. Most simply stated, it’s an agenda of innovation and evolution, i.e. globalization.
Innovation yields better ideas and designs, which eventually replace the old ones. Internet culture catalyzes change. By getting online, any culture gains the opportunity to spread its own iconography back to the rest of the world.
It is true that globalization in tandem with the Internet levels the playing field. It challenges the divine right of social institutions, whose ability to post an insightful or provocative Web page is no greater than yours or mine. The Net returns social intercourse to its natural state, where anything can happen.
Whether the Internet will ultimately create a global village, uniformity or cultural diversity, depends on a number of factors. What is perfectly evident is that the advent of the Information age has fueled the globalization process.
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