The Idea of the Internet Homogenizing CultureNo comments yet
The issue concerning whether the Internet plays a pivotal role in globalization is a highly contentious and debatable topic. Globalization, often defined as the integration of economic capital markets and culture throughout the world is seen as a concept that has both negative as well as positive benefits. The rate of growth in the globalization of nations and geographical regions is seen to be heavily assisted by the speed of information knowledge that the Internet provides.
However, although in theory, the sharing of knowledge is supposedly to be beneficial towards the development of humanity, the Internet also provides a pathway to homogenizing culture and creating an unequal playing field for developing nations. This argument can be clearly seen in case studies of Asian nations, especially in Thailand. Hence, the use of Internet and the growth of businesses on the Internet have increased, the question raised is that although technology has advanced communication and knowledge, has this benefit affected people living in developing countries, or has the gap between the rich and the poor widened?
The Internet is a unique form of media. It has the power to reach many but this is affected by factors such as financial status, technological skill, knowledge, and the desire for the medium. The Internet is not necessarily appropriate or possible for everyone to have, and in a country like Thailand, it can be clearly seen that the less fortunate have been marginalized, especially the uneducated and those from rural areas. For example, seventy percent of Thailands Internet users are concentrated in The Bangkok Metropolitan Area (Hongladaron, 2003) and only four to five percent of Rural Thailand has access to the Internet.
In a few of his articles the scholar Hongladaron has also discussed the marginalization of rural Thai citizens. Hongladaron states the benefits of the Internet, but then confirms from his research that because these benefits are only accessible by the wealthy, hence, due to the poor being marginalized, the Internet can be considered to be a discriminatory form of medium. However, Hongladaron also argues that the Internet does not homogenize cultures. He states that the relation between computer-mediated communication technologies and local cultures is characterized neither by a homogenizing effect, not by an erecting of barriers separating one culture from another. (Hongladaron, 1998).
Hongladaron came to a conclusion about the Internet homogenizing culture, but only to a limited extent. With limited information being available on the ways that Thai people interact on the Internet, or view the Internet as a medium, its hard to conclude whether the overall effect of the Internet is homogenizing. However, it can be clearly stated that the Internet does marginalize those who are unable to use this medium.
As usage of the Internet becomes more popular, the debate of homogenizing culture is fiercely debated. Some academics argue that because the Internet benefits the rich and the educated, those who are able to use the Internet usually have a level of mental capability, thus, the homogenizing of culture is only applicable to a limited extent. For example, the Bengali tribes in Bangladesh practice sustainable living and do not value the knowledge that is presented on the Internet. They view the Internet as a very negative form of communication, as personal contact is not made. Members of the Bengali tribe live by the Hindu religion and everyone in the tribe has a certain role.
Thus, the tribe as a whole is self-sufficient and members do not feel the need to adopt the values and the teachings of the Internet. Furthermore, indigenous Tibetans are another example where the knowledge of the Internet does not reach the people. Due to their belief of the Buddhist teaching of the Livelihood, they believe in living in harmony with their surrounding land. Members of these indigenous communities do not believe in the Internet as they would argue that the computer is a want and not a need. Hence, in considering the issue of whether the Internet is a tool for the homogenization of culture, although some would say yes due to developing Asian nations becoming westernized due to propaganda on the Internet, others would argue that only Asian communities that have already been westernized use the Internet. These academics would argue that some Asian communities, especially those in indigenous tribal communities, would not use the Internet because of their cultural paradigm, hence the Internet community is already focused on just one group of culture with one group of people sharing a common belief: that the Internet is a useful tool.
Finally, it is not disputed that the Internet is a place of information sharing and this sharing of knowledge could lead to certain ideologies being more prominent and change the thoughts and practices of other cultures. However, many would argue that although this is inevitable on the Internet, the Internet cannot control the lifestyle of a persons life and beliefs, thus the Internet can only present another persons discourse, but cannot force a persons ideology to change.
Bibliography and References Used:
Cooper Wesley 2004. Information Technology and Internet Culture, [http://www.brandeis.edu/pubs/jove/HTML/V6/iculture.html]
Cultural Politics of the Digital Divide in Thailand, Hongladaron, 2003
Global Culture, Local Cultures and the Internet: The Thai example, Hongladaron, 1998
Heal Melinda 2005, The Internet and Thailand, Australian National University,
Honglardom, Busakorn Suriyasarn et al
Internet Users in Thailand National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), 2004
Bernice Ly is a technical writer working at M6.Net: ÂThe web-hosting company for humans.Â M6.Net is working hard to help humanity experience the power and freedom to develop their own part of the Internet, to share their information and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
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