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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

the internet as a cultural imperial tool of the west

The quick development of media technologies has sparked the biggest controversies among scholars. Aside from this, one significant factor that this development brings is the social influence that technology creates among communities. It is true that we are traveling into a new world wherein more and more human experience is bought in the guise of access to the kaleidoscopic networks in cyberspace. The growth of new media, specifically the Internet, has crucially altered not only how people communicate with one another but also how they lead their lives. Websites, e-mails, blogsites, online communities like chatrooms have shrunk the globe and culture proliferates easily, rapidly, and inevitably. With more and more people and web pages increasingly being integrated into the World Wide Web, has the Internet caused heterogeneity or homogeneity in the global culture?
For millennia already, culture has been perceived as the unified ideas that are the very bedrock of a group or society. Nonetheless, there is a growing controversy that the proliferation of culture via mass media is not balanced and, therefore, gave birth to what society labels as cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism is the employment of political and economic influence to promote and spread the values and attitudes of a foreign culture, to the detriment of a native culture.
Before the term became in vogue in the milieu of the Internet, the older form of cultural imperialism had been infamous during the birth of modern economic capitalism. Economic power rendered high capitalistic nations to foist relative regulation over weaker nations not only economically but also culturally. Because the United States of America or Western nations are percieved to rule over global capitalism, their popular culture, Hollywood, the English language, the capitalist corporations like McDonald’s and Nike, are all apparently exerting cultural imperialism the world over.
The creation of the Internet in the 1970s looks closely associated to the growth of cultural imperialism on the World Wide Web. At the onset, the Internet was invented by American scientists primarily to alleviate the US military communication system before ultimately moving from government use to public access. At present, people across the world can do anything through cyberspace from trading to file sharing to downloading music.
The accessibility of the Internet by people in the entire world strengthens and paves the way to cultural imperialism. Thus, the definition of cultural imperialism may run parallel to the context of the Internet. The very existence of the Internet impacts other cultures in such a way that the most recent creation of the Information Age attests to the Western technology and Western culture’s superiority.
Based on the historical emergence of cultural imperialism which occurred because of the domination of Western capitalism and the invention of the Internet in America by Americans, it cannot be denied that the Internet is seen by some individuals as another means for Western nations to foist their cultural imperialism. However, others declare a different view. With a tremendous number of Internet users in the turn of the millennium, cultural imperialism on the Internet is perceived actually as subversion. The Internet has made it possible for anybody to create a website and exalt their culture with ease and with more affordability than other media. As more non-Americans and non-English speakers go online, the American domination over the use of the Internet becomes more difficult to keep. This alternative perspective suggests that cultural imperialism on the Internet can and should be challenged in order to avoid the homogenization of the world.
Therefore, two opposing perspectives emerge: on the Internet, cultural imperialism is gradually decreasing and can enable people to experience the period of cultural globalization or America still continues to lord it over the whole world. These opposite views are the main concerns regarding the Internet.
Other important issues related to the Internet include the crucial role Internet gatekeepers play in the influx of information online. With the use of MSN, Yahoo, or Google, Internet users can search for specific information from the numerous websites there are in the cyberspace. Also, the term Internet gatekeeper proposes some sort of association with the government. Government assumes the role of Internet pipeline which tries to ascertain which websites are accessible or not by its citizens. One such case is the Chinese government who has established a particular system to regulate the information flow online. This system named Great Firewall of China makes it possible for government prevents and censors websites considered hazardous to China.
The commercial side of the Internet has furthermore emerged as among the present issues regarding the Internet. The number of online advertising continues to climb, which makes local online ads famous and sophisticated. Nevertheless, some individuals complain that the US continues to dominate incomes from online ad.
Year after year, the number of Internet users climb steadily. In addition, the number of non-Western content or non-English websites has also grown and so, it interrogates the possibility of cultural imperialism on the Internet in the future. A cursory inspection of the Internet will yield Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and African websites that did not exist until the end of the twentieth century.
On the other hand, with many foreign cultures on the Internet, some governments have spearheaded online control or online censorship to ban unproductive web content like pornography. It is expected that countries with sustained traditional customs and values will follow suit. In such a case, these cultures will not be contaminated or replaced by foreign ones.
Nonetheless, the future of the world’s culture is still unpredictable as the Internet continues to hybridize cultures and inventing new culture and technology. The world’s culture is now mixed, although its future continues to hide in the cloak of technological mystery.
In conclusion, based on the history of cultural imperialism and America’s creation of the Internet, the Internet is viewed by some people as just another tool of Western cultural imperialism. Nonetheless, for others, this is perceived as a challenge to sustain and advocate non-Western culture to the world via cyberspace. Issues like cultural heterogeneity, American domination on the World Wide Web, and the Internet gatekeepers and advertisers are presently hotly debated upon with regards to their roles in changing the world’s culture. The future of cultural imperialism itself is under interrogation because of the growth of non-Western websites and limitations to unproductive Internet content.

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