Globalization expert Arjun Appaduri wrote an incredibly fascinating, though jargon packed, article for the academic journal Public Culture (of which, interestingly enough, he was a co-founder). In this piece he coined several terms which describe the new emerging global world. They are:
The most obvious feature that all of these terms have in common are the suffix “-scape”. These concepts, Appaduri says, are “fluid, irregular shapes” which influence everything in a culture from finance to fashion. Due to their fluid nature, they are very similar to a landscape, which have borders defined by what we can see, as opposed to a specific geographic location. These various “scapes” are the the modes of cultural transmission in this new, quickly emerging, global world. Since they are of obvious relevance to us all, it is a good idea if we understand fully what they are. While the root words of the terms give strong clues to their subject matter, a more in-depth look is probably best.
Ethnoscapes are defined most basically as the influence of any particular culture through people from another culture moving throughout the globe for whatever reason (work, tourism, forced exile, etc.). This idea should be very familiar to anyone in the U.S. as our own culture has been repeatedly changed, (whether for better or worse) by a relatively constant influx of immigrants.
Mediascapes are quite straight-forward, as this particular term has entered into common usage. They are cultural influences transmitted through media. This happens daily. Many people glean what little they know of other cultures through television shows which typically reduce cultures to widely acknowledged stereotypes. This can have a positive effect in some cases (Asian people are smart) or negative effects in others (French are snobbish and smoke too much).
Technoscapes are the transmission of cultures through technology. Technology, particularly the Internet, has radically changed both the ability of cultures to interact with each other, and the manner in which they do so. It is very easy to enter into an online forum and hear Iranian nationalists complain about their ethnically Arab president, or have an Internet Relay Chat with a Korean about the deliciousness of kimchi. However, few (though this number is growing) of these Internet interactions are face to face encounters. This means that some things are lost not only in the translation of text, but in the loss of body language. Despite this shortcoming the Internet remains a powerful tool in shaping how culture is transmitted in our ever shrinking world. It is perhaps the most powerful.
Another good example of how technology influences the transmission of culture is through the Youtube project Thru You. In this project an Israeli man called Kutiman took music from performers who loaded themselves onto Youtube. Musicians from all over the world are sampled, remixed, and cleverly spliced together to synthesize something new.
One of the most obvious cases of this is in the track entitled Babylon Band. This track features a sound that is paradoxical as it is both global and regional as well as traditional and more modern. The track is dominated by a bouzouki (a traditional Greek stringed instrument) riff and is complimented by other instruments found traditionally in eastern Mediterranean cultures (like the darbuka for example). However the dominate percussion is a very American originated style. We hear a percussion that is Rock oriented with more middle eastern melody which is an interesting and decidedly global juxtaposition of sounds. This same juxtaposition also highlights the traditional and modern paradoxical nature of the track. For another fun example of a very similar juxtaposition take a listen to the band Secret Chiefs 3. An mp3 that demonstrates the contrast can be found at the end of this entry.
Financescapes are a force that every U.S. citizen should at least be vaguely familiar with. Consider the following joke found in a popular online forum, and pay particular attention to the sentence which starts “And this is sent to you by”:
Clearly the forces shaping finance are not localized, though this shouldn’t come as any surprise as global trade has existed for a long time. The difference between now and the past is that now each stage of production seems to take place in a different area. This has created a tension in the U.S. brought about primarily from a fear that jobs once based locally have vanished overseas forever. Such a tension most definitely influences the way people look at other cultures, usually for the worse, as geocentricity can lead to scapegoating. For an excellent example of this sort of behavior we could look at a recent article in The New York Times:
Finally we have ideoscapes, which is the transmission of culture through ideology. Once again we can look to Kutiman for an interesting example. In the second track of his Thru You project entitled This Is What It Became, we hear all the hallmarks of a Reggae song. What is interesting is that the performers Kutiman has chosen for this track, with very few exceptions, are Caucasian. In fact, towards the end of the track a speech by a young Swiss man speaking English, with what sounds like a Jamaican accent, about Rastafarian ideals. The ideology of Rastafarianism is transmitting the culture of a Caribbean country. Granted it is a bastardized, irreverent version of the movement (which is subtlety hinted at in the title of the track and illustrated by the Swiss man's focus on Marijuana), but it’s a transmission nevertheless.
Here is the mp3 mentioned above.