TRENDS

Mongolian TempleInternet trends with relevance to global culture are numerous. Some web sites and internet services are ubiquitous and therefore may be deemed culpable for the homogenization of culture. If we are all looking at the same things online, some argue we will lose part of our own identity and eventually become one big global monoculture.

Though these accusations are not completely unfounded, with the predominance of services like Hotmail, Yahoo! and the like, the oulook may not be so bleak. Does Yahoo! not have a search engine designed for many countries in a multitude of languages? Plus, countries and cultures have developed similar search engine/web mail providers for themselves.

South Korea has Korean language versions of Yahoo! and Hotmail as well as a widely poplular service called Hanmail. (Hanguk means Korea in Korean--hence HANmail.)

The Dalai LamaLove it or hate it, English is the language of the Internet. This can be a good thing. If cultures want to reach out to the world, English is the language in which to do it. But an important point to stress is choice. Interent users can choose their language, their interests, their vices. The ability to make choices from native langauges, to English, to third languages provides opportunity and opportunity is hardly homogenizing.

Access to ethnic media for diasporic communities worldwide is unifying, not divisive. Cyber communities exist and can serve to reinforce culture rather than break it down.

A greater threat may be the inequalities that exist with regard to real Internet access. The so-called digital divide and information gap will undoubtedly leave some cultures behind. (Tan 1999) Perhaps they then will be more vulnerable.

Karen Tribe GrandmotherHumans by nature are innovative. An interesting Internet example of this is the following story from Tom Friedman's book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (2000).

"An Internet company formed in Chicago in 1998, called China Online, uses stringers inside China to gather market and other news. They file the information to Chicago via the Internet, and China Online then beams it back into China, again via the Internet. Among the things that China Online offers is the black-market rate of the Chinese currency against the dollar in China's major cities. Its reporters go out into the market every day, check the rate with undergorund dealers, and then file it to Chicago. This is very useful data for anyone doing business in China, particularly for Chinese. It is something the Chinese government would never provide to its own people, let alone to the world, but Beijing is now powerless to stop it" (Friedman, 2000, p.69) http://www.ncmonline.com/

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Bridget McGrath November 2001