Media and culture in a globalized world

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Whenever a conversation comes to the subject "globalization", there'll always be a discussion concerning the development of the media. "Does globalization destroy national identities?" "Does the globalization of media in particular suppress individual cultures?" The media certainly have a huge influence on our thinking and acting. Often we only know about specific issues because of the media. But what exactly means the term "globalization of media"? Referring to Jeremy Tunstall, it doesn't mean that individual concerns control the world but the networking and connectivity through the media-communication.

There's no exact beginning of the globalization of media but according to the American sociologist Roland Robertson who saw the globalization as a five-step process, it began in the 15th century (Robertson 1997). The building of global commercial relationships in the 16th century required communication networks. With the development of the printing soon circulated several types of writings between the particular nation states. Eventually, in the 19th century, "in the context of colonial powers, a medial infrastructure was established to enable a fast communication between central point and peripheries" (Jarren, Meier 2000). Out of political and economical requirements, international news agencies aroused and along with the telegraphy, this network developed into a global news agency system. It became a cartel and still controls the worldwide trade of news today. In the 1870th, Europe was connected to the USA, China, India and Australia via undersea cables. Around the turn of the century, 300000 kilometers of cables were laid in the oceans. In 1924 the British king Georg V. announced that his telegram reached its destination at the other side of the world in only 80 seconds. One of the last steps that cleared the way for the global media activities was the slogan "Free Flow of Information" after the Second World War.

Media and culture

Media (a Lat. medium = means) are the instruments with which information can be exchanged between transmitter and receiver. Media can be classified in print media, audio-visual media and electronic media. All media which serve as straps for the printed word or picture belong to print media. These are for example the book, the newspaper or the handbill. Audio-visual media are media with which sound waves or pictures are transferred. For example the broadcast (radio) and the television but also strap media like sound carriers (record, compact disc) are included as well as video cassettes and DVDs. Electronic media are media with whose help a broad mass can fast and uncomplicatedly make, transmit and receive information on an electronic way. For example the e-mail as a strap medium for texts, pictures and files as well as the Internet as a transmission medium for e-mails or distribution medium are included for Html documents.

The word culture (by a Lat. cultura: farming, care, also the body and mind) describes: 1. the care and buildings of the floor, the culture of bacteria - 2. all intellectual and artistic life remarks of a community and - related to single people, their education, civilized behavior, and sophisticated way of life. Culture is the sum of all endeavors, the basic needs of the human nature to satisfy; the aids to this as well as the yields of this performance (e.g. kits, techniques, moral, religious and political orders) are included.

“Our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors manage the contents of our culture ". (Postman 2003)

Nowadays culture isn't conceivable without media. With culture, various appearances of our life are meant, no matter if they concern art, education or science, religion, working world or the everyday life.

Media and culture are in correlation: Communication media are hand down values and norms of culture, culture hands down media contents (discourse). By the heavy use and great value which communication media are taking nowadays, culture and media can't be separated from each other. By the global networking, norms and values cannot be restricted to a certain part of the earth any more. Cultures of the respective media users develop.

The global village

"Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned." (McLuhan 1964) The idea of McLuhan's view of electronically technology is that it has become an "extension of our senses, particularly those of sight and sound" (Symes 1995). He sees the telephone and the radio as a long-distance ear and the television and computer as a long-distance eye. Through the electronically technology we get the chance to see and hear things that are not in our range, without changing our position. So the term "global village" symbolizes the modern world that coalesces to one village through electronically networking. It's about communicating with people all over the world without a physical nearness.

The basic precept of McLuhan's "global village" is that the speed of the technological progress has an impact on our everyday life. "We are increasingly linked together across the globe" (Symes 1995) what enables us to connect with people around the world as quickly as is takes us to contact people within splitting distance. McLuhan argues that "it is the speed of these electronic media that allows us to act and react to global issues at the same speed as normal face to face verbal communication. [...] As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed at bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree" (McLuhan 1964). The effect McLuhan sees is that we become aware of our global responsibility. We are not alone in this world and we need to care about the others just as for us. The globalization of the media intensifies our awareness.

The fact McLuhan didn't consider is that not everybody is able to benefit from the modern media. There's a dissimilar allocation concerning the access to the Internet or the television.

Americanization, Homogenization or a New Diversity

As mentioned before, media and culture are strongly connected to each other. But the question is: Does the globalization of media lead to homogenization or to diversity? Or is the idea of Americanization more appropriate?

Americanization means "a global media-culture under Anglo-American leadership" (Jarren, Maier 2000). Considering the film industry, most of the big concerns have their place in the United States. Most movies in the cinema all over the world are produced in Hollywood. Of course America has an influence on the world's population through movies. But not only movies, there's also American advertisement everywhere. But why are the American filmmaker such Global Player in this industry? Incidents in the last centuries (e.g. national markets should become international, the strengthening of the infrastructure in the Third World was disturbed and the influence of the World Bank and the IMF became stronger) lead to a dominant position of big media-concerns. It didn't change much over the last centuries. It's a fact that America has great influence on the world's thinking and acting through movies, advertisement and also news via CNN.

Critical voices of globalization advise against the formation of a global culture with the standardization of products which influences the experiences and lifestyle of generations. According to Hans-P. Müller, the process of globalization leads to a loss of cultural identity. There's a big warning about the destroying of individualism coming along the globalization and standardization of media. The world coalesces to one "big whole" with no space for individualism. This is called Homogenization. As media and culture are connected, there’s the danger of melting together in a negative way. Every culture will fade away; every individual wish must subside for a world-standard aim. Every variety, every selection will be destroyed and the media will homogenate all cultures.

The opposition characterizes globalization as a "complex connectivity" (Hepp 2006). "Globalization doesn't impose a cultural standardization, [...], there'll be no global culture" (Ulrich Beck in Jarren, Meier 2000). It's a new diversity raised out of the closeness between the nations. It's a process of learning from each other, a benefit for everyone. Although there's a New Variety concerning food, music and movies, the individual cultures persist. It's closeness in contrast to a "melting together".


The profound changes of our media have a global effect as well as a local one. They affect the international economic and political conditions just like our everyday performances, the way how we get on ourselves, but also how we are aware of the other ones, how we meet them and love them. Media stamp our perception; they are means for the generation and storage of information. Culture is a process of the invention and development of media: from the first cave drawings about the letterpress up to the net of electronic media. Medial and cultural radical changes almost always take place at the same time; however, it would be a mistake to want to reduce the cultural on the medial. Every language is different: the pictorial language just as the spoken, written and musical language. But also the uses of media differ. Whether the celebration, the book, the parliament, the photography or the television: not only every culture but already every socio-cultural class uses media differently.

But if the use of and the access to media are so different in every country and culture, could the globalization of media have such a big and homogeneous impact on all the various continents and societies? Do we have to categorize the consequences of globalized media in Americanization, Homogenization or Diversity?


As a conclusion, it's the perception that matters – as mostly. But my personal point of view is that the world of media and culture benefits from the globalization.

In fact, the world grew together because of the globalization of media. Through the news at the television, the internet and also the radio we know what is happening at the other end of the world at any time. The images in the television are suggestive of experiencing the event directly. That leads to a new closeness and feeling of togetherness. Everything is near and that leads us to a sensibility concerning catastrophes. It's also easier to help when something happened in another place because we know about it. To give an example, think about the Tsunami in 2004 in Asia and in parts of Africa.

It was Christmas when the news on television showed what happened there: A strong seaquake killed more than 230.000 people. Everybody knew about the Tsunami not long after it happened because of the new media. Local information are shown on the television all over the world so that they become international. The catastrophe was awful, only hearing from it was terrible. But by seeing it on the television, seeing all the humans running and screaming and crying made it even more dreadful. A feeling of commiseration was everywhere, everyone wanted to help. It wasn’t far away. Through the internet and the television, every country became aware and there were appeals for funds everywhere. Through the globalization of media, the Tsunami was a painful event for many people all over the world and it was easy to help with funds as money but also with active help (Federal Armed Forces, Red Cross…) giving blankets, food and a place to stay. Also psychological help came from other countries, Asia and Africa experienced aid from several different countries. Without globalization of media, that wouldn’t be possible in that dimension and rapidity.

But there are also negative sides. Of course, when a catastrophe happens, everybody is informed shortly after it happened. Then, there’s the wish to help everywhere, people are horrified, sad and shocked. But after a few weeks, for people who aren’t concerned directly, the catastrophe is past and the people concerned received help. But what about the long-lasting problems in the world? In all news they talk about what had happened in the world. But there are also problems without anything happening: starving people in Africa, clearing of the rain forest, child labor in Southern and Eastern Asia and child prostitution in Asia and Brazil. The globalization of media is helpful for short-lasting problems as nature catastrophes, terrorist actions or the overturn of a king. But the long-lasting problems which remain the same every day are falling into oblivion. But it’s the question if that would be different without the globalization of media and the electronically networking.

“Homogenization or a new variety?” Looking at the world, people may see a big diversity, new possibilities but also many different cultures. Despite the process of globalization, there are still things we associate with certain countries: Baguette and cheese stand for France, Pizza and Pasta are characteristic of Italy. Thinking of Russia, everybody will have vodka in mind and German people always drink beer. There's no destroying of individual countries and their cultures but a huge assortment in cinema, stores, restaurants and also the internet. The assortment seems to be unlimited and that’s what the globalization of media stands for: "unlimited possibilities"



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  Author: Corinna Lohrengel. This article was published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. How to cite the article: Corinna Lohrengel. (15. 08. 2022). Media and culture in a globalized world. VCSEWiki. Retrieved 19:15 15. 08. 2022) from: <>.