Digital Age Accelerates Cultural Globalization | WGLT

Digital Age Accelerates Cultural Globalization

Jul 17, 2018

The digital age has aided globalization of popular culture, according to Illinois State University professor Lane Crothers

“What social media has done is interlink people around the world, and their actual geographic location no longer matters. All that matters is, are they a member of the same digital group, or digital orbit of groups where these kinds of ideas are shared, and these kind of experiences are shared,” said Crothers.

The fourth edition of his book, "Globalization and American Popular Culture," explores how the internet has contributed to the spread of American popular culture. Crothers said the internet has created an endless space of media.

“In terms of raw programming, there's an enormous numbers of channels of digital resources, of devices, and products seeking your attention. We built what's being called the ‘attention economy,’ where the real thing that everybody's fighting for is your eyeballs for advertising purposes, or for perhaps propaganda purposes. And so they need to fill that time and they need to fill that space. But it's endless. One of the great advantages of American popular culture, whether you've licensed it legally or not, is that there's a vast amount of it already available for you to use, and to put out there on whatever platform you're seeking to put it out,” said Crothers.

He also said American popular culture has an advantage because of it's appeal. Popular content from other countries, like India's Bollywood, has also increased in global popularity in recent years. Yet Crothers said these popular cultures are still niche.

"I am convinced that most Americans believe that most of the world wants to be American, that they want to have American values and American lifestyle."

“There has to be a product already that is also as appealing and at present, that's not true for most people and most cultural products. Particularly because the American popular culture is either deliberately or accidentally associated with the broad patterns of what people think about the United States to begin with, which is that it's relatively free, and then it's relatively rich, and that you have the opportunity to build a certain kind of life in this country,” said Crothers.

There is also resistance and backlash to American popular culture, particularly from people in other countries who are happy with their own culture and see American products as threats to those traditions or social orders.

“I think really, the biggest thing that I've gotten is the degree to which the gap between between what governments want and what the culture does. And then the question is, how aggressively does the government seek to try to repress or control it?” said Crothers.

Countries like China, Iran, and France have put forth measures to prevent American popular culture from replacing their own culture. Crothers said this does not stop citizens from finding ways around their country’s restrictions.

Crothers said during his years of studying, he did not anticipate the insulation of Americans with concern to American popular culture.

“I am convinced that most Americans believe that most of the world wants to be American, that they want to have American values and American lifestyle. And I think most of the rest of the world just likes the stuff we produce. But they wish to continue to be whoever they are. Teasing that out, and really often trying to help Americans see that their worldview is more insulated than they think it is, is important,” said Crothers.

Crothers said American popular culture exports also influence more than what people watch. He says “American-style food—especially fast food—has changed the way people eat.

“It’s now more common to eat with your hands in Asia, a huge cultural shift,” said Crothers.

Crothers also said American standards of customer service are also beginning to change practices in other kinds of businesses in other countries.

Crothers's book is "Globalization and American Popular Culture."

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