Monday, October 3, 2011

Globalization: A Term Worth 1,000 Words

It was brought up in our class discussion that under the term “globalization” many have surmised that information and communication technologies in particular have a globalizing affect that spans across varying nation-states. This is true in the sense that John Sinclair characterized it – the sheer volume of information flow between countries has rapidly increased, but the reasons for this increase can be extremely different.

In my opinion, globalization is a multi-faceted term. It can be attributed to political discourse, economic interest, trade of services and goods, financial propositions and job outsourcing. It can also be viewed under a cultural lens, where we are exposed to foreign regions of the world we may never have been able to witness before (think global news networks, Skype, social networking, international NGOS, etc).

With the term encompassing such a large swath of meaning, we came to the questions: does it really mean anything, and, if it does, is this good or bad?

These are tough to tackle, but Assistant Professor at UCLA Ramesh Srinivasan took an interesting take in the Washington Post’s Five Myths by honing in on one particular aspect of globalization: social media.

The last of Srinivasan’s five myths of social media is that it creates a global village. According to Srinivasan, “Bridging disparate cultural and political backgrounds remains a challenge for social media. To learn from differing viewpoints, the technologies and cultures of social media must evolve so that they bring people together rather than keeping us in digital silos.”

Srinivasan brings up the now infamous Arab Spring, which is widely believed to have come about from the collective efforts of average citizens utilizing social media to spread the message of revolution. However, according to Srinivasan, less than 5 percent of Egypt’s population uses Facebook, and less than 1 percent uses Twitter. In our class, we briefly mentioned this particular example, and how many of the posts and tweets that fueled the fire of the Arab Spring were located in developed countries and acted as a megaphone to the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

This puts globalization in a negative light, but I think it also rings truer than what many utopian viewpoints have suggested. We are certainly not living in an age where ALL of us have the world at our fingertips, as our reading from The Information Revolution and World Politics section on the Digital Divide has proven. As we marvel at the numbers of people using the Internet or social networking worldwide, we seem to forget that there’s a large gap between the wealthy and privileged and poverty-stricken in many countries. Our reading uses India’s burgeoning IT industry and simultaneous proliferation of slums as a perfect demonstration of this gap.

So, for all of the accolades globalization may have garnered, there are many pitfalls as well. In my opinion there has been too much entertainment of globalization as a completely positive or completely negative term, and I would like to see a more complex and developed interpretation of the it as we move into an even more integrated world.

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