Homogenous Happy Meals

“If there is a global village, it speaks American. It wears jeans, drinks Coke, eats at the golden arches, walks on swooshed shoes, plays electric guitars, recognises Mickey Mouse, James Dean, ET, Bart Simpson, R2-D2 and Pamela Anderson.” (Gitlin 2001, p. Media Unlimited)

Americanisation is the process, whereby, Western values upheld in the US, are projected on to countries outside of the world power. A perfect example comes in the form of American fast food giant, McDonalds, which has become one of the most globally recognisable and ubiquitous corporations, in an age of increasing interconnectedness.

While the USA is not the only controlling force in the media world, the predominance of Americanisation has led to increased popularity of brands and commodities, like that of McDonalds, outside of the US. This adoption of American culture can be examined through the concept of Cultural Imperialism.

Cultural Imperialism describes how one civilisation spreads its values and ideas. Imperial domination is maintained, partly, through the dissemination of cultural products, brands and commodities. (O’Shaughnessy 2012, p. 465)

Globalisation, in particular, Cultural Imperialism, has the potential to set in motion, the homogenisation of world cultures, reducing cultural diversity in the process. Through the popularisation and diffusion of a wide range of cultural symbols, inclusive of, but, not limited to, physical objects, ideas, values and customs, the world has become increasingly amalgamated.

In, From Big Mac to Rice Burger – Globalisation: McDonald’s in Japan, Manya Koetse describes how multinational corporations such as McDonalds, are a prime example of the process of globalisation. Discussed, is the widespread popularity of the food chian, referring to the presence of McDonalds in over 118 countries worldwide.

“Whilst McDonald’s initially symbolised American culture (or rather, symbolised how the US was perceived), it has now become part of many countries ‘local’ culture. I would rather refer to this as ‘glocal’; a concept to illustrate the intermingling of the global and the local. McDonald’s has become indigenised by many cultures across the globe.”

Globally, there is an omnipresent tension concerning the loss of cultural diversity and identity, due to the increasing Westernisation of the world. The fear that traditional cultures are being destroyed by the flow of capital, in the form of currency, stock, and commodities, like that of McDonalds, is a popular point of view. In concurrence, many believe that the intrusion of Western culture is increasing the glorification of values such as materialism and consumerism, which are believe to be detrimental to traditional culture and customs.

Thus, there is debate concerning the process of Westernisation, that poses questions as to whether this is a positive or negative occurrence. Is the possibility of interconnectedness and the success of the ‘Global Village’ more important than preserving traditional culture and the heterogenisation of countries around the world? Should we be fighting against Westernisation or embracing it as a form of conglomeration?

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Bieber Fever vs Fanloids

Last Wednesday, I attended, for the fourth time, Justin Bieber‘s Australian tour. As a 13 year old in 2011, I was mesmerised by the pop star, labelling him a genius. Now, as an 18 year old, I have come to realise that, perhaps, this is not the case.

An accurate depiction of my opinion then vs now:

When comparing Justin Bieber (a mainstream pop sensation), to the likes of Japanese Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku (the result of object animation), we begin to recognise the difference between craft and commodity. Justin Bieber is, very much, a result of mass production and commodification, having become somewhat more of a brand than an individual. He is surrounded by entities that exercise control to, ultimately, profit from the brand, that is, Justin Bieber himself. This trend of the ‘assembly line‘ results in the production of certainty, leaving little room for creativity and consumer engagement.

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Hatsune Miku is an open source that allows for infinite customisation through collaboration, the result is the production of risk and uncertainty in the name of craftsmanship and advocation for the changing meaning of craft in a time of digital mediation.

Thus, when a product is standardised it is targeted at the masses and loses the value of craftsmanship, but when a product is customisable, it is for the individual.