Archive for October, 2011

sorting out thoughts on culture

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

I went into the last few classes with the initial mindset that globalization was harming culture across the world. The fact that London reminded me strongly of New York City and that you can find McDonald’s restauraunts around the world was somehow alarming. The idea that languages are dying out at a rapid rate is still difficult to swallow. But what is it exactly that we’re afraid of? It seems as if most of the change we’re truly intimidated by has been brought about by big business– namely food companies, movie producers, and other media elements. Other cultural change, however, has been looked upon positively. As we brought up in class, having a Thai restaurant down the street has been viewed as a good thing. Being able to make friends in China through social networking facets and having the ability to practice a foreign language with a native speaker through a simple phone call or internet chat could be considered remarkable. It’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of someone across the world and see their standpoint since I’ve always lived in what could be considered the “dominant culture”. I’m still forming my stance on culture in relation to globalization- but i’m glad i chose a question concerning it for the expert study. Culture is such a multi-faceted element that it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint how it has diffused and if the effects could be considered positive or negative. Personally at this point I feel that globalization may be giving big businesses an upper hand in spreading their products worldwide and many of us may interpret this as a diffusion of culture. I think there are probably two levels– the big business diffusion of products that is taken at face-value as culture, and the diffusion of deeper cultural elements such as language, values, and ideals.

…so who’s to blame?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

I’m currently taking an intro to Sociology course (The Social World) , and my textbook often references globalization in relation to Sociology. The first time it’s brought up in the text is the standard introduction– globalization as the continual integration of many elements of life across the world (primarily facilitated by advancements in technology). However, later in the chapters, globalization seems to be portrayed in a somewhat negative light. A discussion about the spread of dominant American culture and the inequality of wealth across the world both cite globalization as a primary cause for these undesirable phenomenons. It seems that people often lay blame on globalization for many modern problems- whether it be unequal wealth distribution, destruction of the environment, mass integration of culture, or a variety of other complaints.

While many people often “lay blame” on globalization (citing it as the catalyst for vast ecological, cultural, and economic issues), who are they exactly blaming? One of the ambiguities of the globalization phenomenon is whether it’s run by a distinct force or if it is simply a system that has evolved out of a time period characterized by technology and innovation. When we lay blame on globalization, aren’t we somewhat blaming ourselves? In my opinion, no one is “running” globalization. It is our own product- we fueled and encouraged it through technological advancements and the desire to communicate, travel, and conduct business faster. The funny thing about globalization, however, is that now it has grown to a size where it cannot be avoided. Countries may try to opt out of the mass integration happening across the globe, but to do so would set themselves back in many aspects.

Ultimately, for me globalization currently draws up an image of a creature (whether or not that creature is a monster is a personal opinion) that has grown out of control. It started as something we nurtured and encouraged, but now it has grown to a proportion in which we no longer can manipulate it as easily. Globalization is rapidly expanding and changing the makeshift of many aspects of our society (most recently backed up in the article Jihad v. McWorld), but we (as world citizens) were the ones who initially fostered its development. To single out a group of people or a single element that “caused” globalization would be nearly impossible, it seems to be the product of many efforts across the globe throughout past decades combined into a singular force. Whether or not you find the products of globalization undesirable, to lay blame on globalization itself seems to be the same thing as laying blame upon humanity as a whole. If we continue to let globalization dominate our lives, it seems fruitless to point fingers for something we may have very well brought upon ourselves.

midterm reflection

Friday, October 14th, 2011

          I distinctly remember signing up for this class above all others. It was a summer morning and I had set my alarm in the beach house my family was staying to get up early enough to register on time. Curled up at the counter still in my pajamas, sitting next to my mom and anxiously munching pita chips, I was ready to get this over with. 9:00 AM finally rolled around and  Eaglenet seized up almost immediately. After finally accessing the website I began to choose my classes. My first FESM choice: Banned and Dangerous Art. I entered the code but upon adding, it was full. My second choice, Ethics and Literature. The same process. At this point the FSEM choices were all unfamiliar– I found a title that jumped out at me: “GLOBL: Panacea or Deal with the Devil?” and selected it. My schedule was complete. I breathed a sigh of relief, shut my laptop, and went to get ready for the beach (it was summer, after all).

          Later that night I explored my courses and looked up professors. I realized I had absolutely no idea what “GLOBL: Panacea or Deal with the Devil” actually meant. A quick post on the Mary Washington facebook page yielded some answers: that this was a freshman seminar on “globalization”. The word itself  was completely foreign to me at the time. I googled globalization, asked around,  and gained a very vague idea of what it meant (but for the most part I was fairly clueless). Ultimately my first impression of globalization was that it had something to do with our “world growing smaller” and was fairly limited to the business/monetary aspects of our world. I was excited at the process of learning about a completely new topic, but daunted by the intimidating word “economics”.

           Throughout the course thus far I’ve gained a greater understanding on many of globalization’s elements. It began with understanding what globalization actually meant, and slowly over time I’ve been able to apply it to my everyday life ( a little more than i’d care to admit!)  while gaining understanding of its potential implications. To be honest the definition portion of the learning process took me a while. The book I chose to read was Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and in the beginning I felt bogged down in his elevated style. But through class discussion and persistence with the book, I slowly was able to mold my own ideas about what globalization meant. To me it seemed odd that this phenomenon is present around us at all times but is difficult to define– it seems to be a force (overpowering or underlying depending on personal opinion) that means different things to different people. It is an idea so (relatively) recently expressed that people are still in the process shaping and molding its definition– and I felt that the beginning of this class was devoted to exploring the aspects of different opinions and forming our own conclusions.

         Using our group consensus- that ” Globalization is the increase in interactions between people around the world that involves the sharing of ideas, goods, cultures, and businesses” as a foundation, I’ve gradually been able to build a stronger understanding of the concept as a whole. The best indicator for my growth throughout the class is certainly my blog. In my first few posts, (http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/09/01/6/, and http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/09/01/hello-world/) I could barely wrap my head around the idea of globalization. I could make loose connections but I was tentative and unsure. I tried to apply the concept to things I was familiar with, such as music. I made vague guesses and attempted to comprehend what felt like a giant idea. I felt like I was vaguely gaining understanding, but still needed to fill in major details. Later in the blog ( http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/09/11/globalization-personal-defintion/) I was able to articulate my own impression of globalization and convey the idea to others. I felt that I was finally forming a personal opinion on the topic and gaining a greater handle on the definition itself. Lately I feel that I’ve been able to take things one step beyond the definition and apply the concept not only to my life, but to world issues in general (http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/10/01/patois-and-language/ and http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/10/12/global-responsibility/). In the beginning of this class I was struggling to make the connection between the idea of globalization and its application to everyday life- but today globalization seems to pop up from hour to hour whether or not I’m looking for it. I often find myself sitting in class (such as my Global Issues In Lit class or my Sociology class) and mulling over the concepts discussed in relation to globalization. Further understanding of globalization has given me a broader scope by which to apply ideas, and has helped me to forge many links between everyday life and this large phenomenon occurring worldwide. I doubt that at this point in time I could teach globalization to someone, but for me the application to real-life scenarios has been a major accomplishment.

          While this may not speak directly to the content taught, globalization has also helped me to be bolder in a classroom setting. I often am active in class discussions, but only when I’m confident with the material. Through this seminar I feel as if I’ve become less afraid to speak up and voice my ideas, even if I’m not completely sure about the topic I’m speaking on. The non-judgmental setting has opened up the boundaries of discussion further than I’m used to and helped me to be more comfortable speaking on a topic even when I may be somewhat off-base. While in the beginning of the course I felt more timid speaking on something I knew very a little about (like globalization), today I am less afraid to ask questions and raise ideas even if I’m unsure of their legitimacy. We’ve recently been discussing the topic of economics in relation to globalization and I’ve often found myself asking questions that in the beginning of the year I would have easily kept to myself. Globalization has definitely given me a new confidence and curiosity when it comes to class discussion and unfamiliar topics.

         Ultimately, I feel like I’ve grown significantly through this course in a small period of a time.  I came in unsure of what globalization even meant, but throughout this half-semester I’ve developed a personal definition, become more outspoken in class, and gained the capability to apply my definition to everyday life. I feel that on a daily basis I am able to think more critically about globalization and process its effects in our country and throughout the world. Through Thomas Friedman’s book, Professor Greenlaw’s notes, movies like Outsourced, and class insight I’ve built a strong foundation for learning this topic. I’m happy with my progress thus far and incredibly excited to follow this course into topics that I have a strong passion for, such as culture.

global responsibility

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

I recently was assigned an article written by Peter Singer in which he presented the following point: those fortunate enough to have money beyond their own necessities should use all of  that money to help others. Singer compares spending money on luxury items to letting an underprivileged child die. He says that we all are presented with a choice: to pad our own lives with pleasure using our surplus money, or to save the lives of those in need.

I found the link between Singer’s point and globalization to be incredibly glaring. Globalization has clearly brought people closer together through faster communication and increased awareness of the globe as a whole. It  has also drawn attention to the fact that all countries are not on an even playing field. Often where we are born largely determines our quality of life. Those of us fortunate to be born into a richer country like America are privileged- we did not work towards or earn being born into the conditions we were. This raises an important question- as “privileged” members of an increasingly global society, is it our responsibility to give our non-essentials to those less fortunate?

As globalization intensifies and develops, we’re bound to become increasingly aware of global social issues. While some countries will reap the benefits of a more integrated world, countries lagging behind may find themselves ultimately worse off. With a heightened awareness of the global state, it will be more difficult to ignore the gap between our lives and luxuries and the struggles of third-world or undeveloped countries. Will further globalization rouse the conscious of people worldwide and bring about more charity towards needy countries? Or will we simply become more desensitized to the hardships of others? It seems as if globalization could bring about a more integrated world community (recently seen through movements like Occupy Wall Street spreading to other countries), or it could further widen the gap between rich and poor countries.

Personally, I can see the point that Singer is trying to make. However, very few people would be actually willing to donate the entire surplus of their income. A mass movement of this behavior would probably be necessary for it to catch on or be effective, which at this point in time seems unlikely. Also, while Singer presents the idea that people should donate– he doesn’t specify how or through what means. It is easy to sit back and brush off an idea like Singer’s because we live comfortable lives, and comfort is something difficult to give up. While in a perfect world people would share globally to reach some standard of equality, a compromise seems to have  the most potential to be a successful strategy at this point. Donating SOME surplus as opposed to ALL of it seems to sit better with Americans as a whole as a way of doing their part, while still aiding people in need of financial assistance.

Ultimately, globalization is bringing about a lot of important questions- and one of them concerns our level of responsibility in eliminating global inequality.

expert study question

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

(this was one of the questions I originally presented)

Does globalization pose a threat to individual cultures?

patois and language

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

In my World In Issues in Lit class we’ve dealt with language a lot recently. After reading a novel that utilized Indian dialect heavily we’ve begun analyzing poetry that makes use of Jamaican patois as an empowerment tool. In times of colonization, Jamaican dialect and patois were looked down upon by the British as signs of illiteracy and lack of education. For a long time after colonization patois carried a negative stigma, but writers started using it as a cultural empowerment tool. Embracing patois was a way to take back Jamaican identity and embrace the language of the area. The high importance of patois to Jamaican culture and language in general to cultures across the world has caused me to wonder– what would be lost if the world integrated to a level where a single language was spoken?

Language hasn’t only been important in the relationship between Jamaica and the British Empire, but around the globe as a whole. Many cultures use language as an important identifier. Language can prove to be a barrier to communication but at the same time it serves to  enrich societies and is an important link to history and origin. However, as globalization continues on language is becoming more and more homogenized. Through the internet a click of a button can translate an entire page of text into your own language. English seems to be the most pervasive language as more languages die out and more countries include English in their education curriculum. As levels of communication and culture blending continue to rise throughout the globe, the question arises: will we eventually speak only one language? Honestly I don’t think I have nearly enough knowledge on this topic to provide much insight but the idea doesn’t seem too far off. Communication and interaction across the globe would be made much easier and more convenient. I think countries would definitely still maintain a sense of culture (even within the language itself- i.e. dialects) if the globe was united in a single language, but a change that large would be gradual and is a long way off. Overall, a meshing of language could be seen as positive (effective, easy communication worldwide) or negative (loss of culture and identity). In sociology we often discuss anomie (a lack of standards that guide people as how to behave that often occurs when a big change takes place), and it would be very easy to link this concept to the large change that would occur if the world was to adopt a single language. Overall, I personally think it would be kind of sad if there was only one language, because language is such a culturally rich element that has had importance in histories around the world.


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