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?
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?