Sunday, October 23, 2011

The two extremes of global culture

In class this week we talked about convergence culture and hybridity. Prof. Hayden said that audiences still watch things that are culturally proximate. He mentioned the theories of Iwabuchi in regards to the spread of Japanese anime. Iwabuchi said successful products are culturally odorless, or unmarked. My first thought was the Tamagotchi phenomenon. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the toy, Tamagotchi is a handheld digital pet invented in Japan. It was a toy that seemed to involve more work than play. After the Tamagotchi pet was born, it required frequent attention and care.

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 These were all the rage when I was in elementary school. My friends would sit in class and worry that their Tamagotchi were going hungry. Some would even go to the bathroom just to feed their digital pets. I didn’t understand the appeal, but I begged my parents for one so I could fit in. It seems impossible to explain how these toys caught on. But the cultural odor theory might do the trick. The device was small and egg-shaped and the pets didn’t resemble any real animals. They were simple to use and understand. The digital pets also inspired a movie, an animated television series, and video games.

Kraidy questions the emergence of a hybrid global culture. The idea goes along with the homogenization of media to please a wide range of audiences. It all goes back to commercial interests. As the market expands, media producers are forced to adapt. Creating “glocal” products has become not only valuable but necessary for economic success. This begs the question – will audiences accept international entertainment that has a strong cultural odor?
Media don’t have to be void of any cultural references to be internationally popular. The filmmaker Sylvia Schedelbauer wrote an essay on cultural hybridity in the film “Avatar.” She points out certain the blend of varied cultural images throughout the film. These include the forests of Pandora, which simultaneously resemble the Amazon and the Redwood forests of California. The Na’vi people also have traits of various indigenous peoples. The movie was enormously successful. “Avatar” passed “Titanic” as the highest-grossing film of all time. The Globe and Mail also recently reported that “Avatar” is the most pirated movie on the Internet. Audiences obviously responded enthusiastically to the film even though it really can't be called all that culturally proximate for anyone.

Can a product that has smatterings of various cultures such as Avatar, or one that is extremely generic like the Tamagotchi be considered examples of a global culture? 


  1. "will audiences accept international entertainment that has a strong cultural odor? "

    I'd say yes. I see this in hip-hop, my favorite type of music along with Dance).

    Hip-hop is an example of culture with a strong local cultural bent that succeeded (for me hip-hop doesn't stink, so i wont' use "odor" :) ). Hip-Hop clearly started out in the black community as black frustration with dominant culture, but also as just plain fun and teasing on the block. These became known as the "four elements" MCing, Graffiti, Dancing and DJing.

    All of these were decidedly urban and "black", but have been accepted worldwide now, even if it is often localized. But even before localization, hip-hop artists were touring overseas. It was accepted by our generation without much modification. Now you see that a lot of this is mainstream, break dancing in Japan, metro trains in Rome tagged with colorful graffiti, etc.

    Semi-related, it's interesting how things go full circle, as now, there is much talk of the Europianization of hip-hop with Dance music starting to influence hip-hop.

    - Will

  2. "will audiences accept international entertainment that has a strong cultural odor? "

    For me, I would say yes or no. Right, Will, hip-hop is such a great example of yes for strong cultural odor. However, I think hip-hop is a form of African American's culture which means the hybrid culture between African culture and American culture. In a case of Korea, when we mention about hiphop, it refers to the western culture along with African American musicians. Well, Jazz also can be this kind of example.

    Tamagotchi was senstional in Korea too. I was in a middle school at that time, and exactly girls were obsessed to take care of their cyber-pet. Even though I was not that interested in a cyber-pet, I bought one in order to share a pet caring story with other friends (but my Tamagotchi has been passed away soon after).

    Well, go back to the convergence,hallyu is quite interesting topic in researching for the cultural entertainment. In Asian region, Korean pop culture gains a lot of popularities. However, in this case, agian, this Korean pop culture is westernized. Its name is K-pop that after the pop-song. It cannot be said that they have a strong color of Korean culture. As the Korean young generation adopted a lo t of Western culture, K-pop seems like to attain its popularity through hibrity I think.