Sunday, November 8, 2015

"The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize", "The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture", and "Chapter Two: Population"

Conner Lewis
October 13

"United by faith, family ties and a desire to succeed, members of this seldom-seen community continue that assimilation today." - Mountain Xpress

Many Eastern Europeans wanted to religious freedom in their countries but many of their government's would not allow it, so they moved to the United States, specifically Asheville, then they created an Eastern European subculture which is now having a lasting impact on the cultural landscape of Asheville.

In the south western provinces of Canada, primarily Alberta and Saskatchewan, there is one local culture which has managed to survive and thrive against the advances of popular culture. This culture is that of the Hutterites, an Anabaptist group which withstands popular culture by existing in rural and isolated communities, as well as using their more fundamentalist religious views to keep the old culture in place.



Human Geography: Chapter Four

The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize

The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture

Essay Question:  What do The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize, Human Geography: Chapter Four, and The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture have to say about how modern popular culture changes an existing community and why?

          To many living in America the affects of modern popular culture are so ingrained in everyday life that it is nearly unnoticeable, and how it has changed our way of living has been forgotten by many. Its affects on most communities in America and around the world, however, should not go unnoticed. Through the assimilation and destruction of local and folk cultures, and the attempt to homogenize the ever globalizing world, popular culture has caused rifts between genders, religions, ages and communities. Many still cling to the belief that popular culture is what brings large communities together, and that it is simply the product of cooperation and assimilation between cultures. This is not the case, however, as can be seen through its affects on a individuals and on a community as a whole. Human Geography: Chapter Four shows the methods by which popular culture spreads, as well as how it assimilates local cultures into the norm. The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize shows how the adoption of popular culture over local culture can tear apart communities as well as harm individuals on a personal and psychological level. Finally, the article The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture shows how modern pop culture can divide communities, and no longer serves the purpose by which many believe it does and should.
          While it is not new, the way by which popular culture spreads and absorbs new communities, ideas, and traits is one that is very important to understand in order to aid in both why popular culture spreads, and what its affects on the places it spreads to are. According to Human Geography: Chapter Four, popular culture spreads through several different methods, the main of which being cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when one culture absorbs a trait from another and use them for their own benefit. This occurs very often in popular culture, when unique traits from local cultures are absorbed by the larger culture and become a part of the homogenized whole. While it may seem like this is a good thing, as it gives the larger group the ability to connect with the smaller local culture through this adopted aspect, in reality it harms the local culture as it degrades their sense of uniqueness and community. If this appropriation continues long enough, the local culture may lose its identity all together, as all of the cultures traits are adopted into the larger pop culture. This can be seen partially in the culture of inner city minorities through traits such as hip hop. commodification in this capitalist society. Commodification is when an object without any previous economic value begins to be bought, sold, and traded in the world market. While its effects are often disregarded by those who are a member of pop culture, it can actually be very harmful to a local culture's sense of identity. As traits of a culture begin to be commodified, and sometimes even the culture itself, that culture begins to become more and more stereotyped. This causes for the authenticity of a culture to come into question, and all of this can harm a culture's identity as a whole. This is due to the fact that as the traits of a culture are appropriated and commodified, they cause the local culture to be degraded as the community begins to see itself as a part of the popular culture rather than a tight knit group. The time-space compression that has occurred due to advances in modern communication technology have only exasperated this problem, as now ideas can be discovered, appropriated, and commodified in a matter of days through companies such as MTV. This causes local cultures to be assimilated and absorbed at a faster rate than ever before, and causes the people involved in a local culture to lose much of the psychological aid which all people truly require. Hip hop began as a way for the minorities to express their dissatisfaction with their lives and their situation, but quickly became absorbed into popular culture. After being absorbed, much of the unifying aspects that hip hop once held for the urban minorities were lost, as now there are many hip hop artists from many different backgrounds. Another reason why cultural appropriation is harmful is that it inevitably causes
          The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize perfectly shows how the absorption of a local culture and the adoption of popular culture through globalization and modernization can destroy both a community and a person's sense of self. This is part in due to what local culture does for a group, as well as what popular culture in its current states simply fails to do. Local culture provides a lot for a person psychologically. It gives a person a sense of self when addressing both into and out of their culture. When looking in, it allows a person to be themselves with the people they know as they are an instrument in defining their own local culture. When looking outward it gives a person the ability to identify and associate with a group of people with which they belong. It gives them a protective circle through which they can look out and both observe and endure the world. In popular culture this cannot be found. What is now called popular culture is so large, and so homogenized, that both of the aspects previously stated are lost. As popular culture aims to homogenize, no person can truly be very different, be truly unique, as to do so would be classified as strange and wrong. Unlike local culture,
no one person can define and change popular culture as they can in local cultures. While people like celebrities are often cited as the sources of popular culture, in this globalized world popular culture is simply too gargantuan to be defined by even that influential a group of individuals. In reality it is the purveyors of cool, the large multimedia corporations such as MTV that truly define what popular culture is and should be. This is what causes such a loss of self for people in popular culture, just as it can cause a sense of placelessness to a location, it can cause a sense of selflessness to a person due to the fact that in popular culture people should appear as the same as all their peers. Popular culture also does not satisfy the needs of a person when looking at the world as a whole. To many, this is exactly what they believe popular culture exists for. To make everyone the same so that they can connect with everyone around them. However, modern popular culture has spread to such a size that rather than feeling connected to those around you, a person simply feels disconnected in a sea of homogenized others. Rather than deeply connecting with a small group, people are becoming artificially connected to a large group of indistinguishable others who are defined by popular culture. This lack of a home base can cause stress and anxiety as a person feels alone in the world. This can be seen in what has occurred to the Ladakhi people, who as they began to lose their local culture, they have began to lose their sense of community as they no longer share the intimate bond with their peers that they once had. Without their sense of uniqueness and kinship, many find themselves more alone than ever as they attempt to fit in to the encroaching popular culture. This loss of kinship is also what leads to much of the intolerance found among groups previously coexisting very peacefully. As the Muslim and Buddhist Ladakhi people began to lose the Ladakhi parts of their identity, they began to rely more and more on other bonds which could tie them to a small group. For many, this was religion. This is why religion often finds itself coming to the forefront of internal strife so much, as people attempt to create a new identity through their shared faith, and this intensity as well as the loss of bonds with people of other faiths breeds contempt and intolerance. It is obviously not the entire reason but it does contribute. While popular culture should bring more people together, it does the opposite, and drives us apart.
          The article, The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture, shows exactly why popular culture no longer performs the function for which it was created. Rather than uniting many groups together under a single umbrella, it simply fractures each person from the world even more. This is directly due to the effects which globalization and the internet have had on popular culture. The internet allows for popular culture to grow very rapidly in every direction, from TV to music to games. This is due to the fact that it not only allows for the world to record all previously created forms of art and culture, but then also allows for the rapid communication and collaboration on the creation of new popular culture. Memes are a perfect example of this, as a meme can be found, created, spread, and
popularized in a matter of days or even hours. This has caused popular culture's size to explode, as more shows, movies, games, pictures, and ideas are made and spread than ever before. This explosion in size is the reason that modern popular culture no longer serves its purpose as a blender of peoples, as before one could understand and keep up with all popular culture had to offer, and thus be considered "culturally literate", allowing for them to freely converse with people of any class on the subjects of popular culture. This size explosion has made the understanding and absorbing of all popular culture impossible, and thus the concept of "complete cultural literacy" can no longer apply, as it simply is too gargantuan a task for one to truly perform. Due to this, the development of niches occurs. This development is the main issue that can be found in popular culture today. As niches form to satisfy an audience desiring particular forms of popular culture, there is a fracture in the unity of the popular culture itself. This is why a teenager from the Bronx would find it very difficult to have an offhand discussion with an elderly man from Buffalo, as instead of absorbing the same materials and being able to converse on it, these two people now absorb very different material developed for only their niche. This is why popular culture no longer succeeds in its goal to unite people, as it attempts to homogenize people through shared knowledge and taste, while creating art and material for only specific groups, which then divides them from the rest.
          All of this information leads to the same conclusion, the spread of popular culture no longer unites but rather divides a population more and more. When it spreads, it undermines the identity of a community, when it is adopted it undermines the identity of an individual, and now it again divides people along niches. What can be done about this is a very different question entirely, as the existence and use of the internet means that popular culture will continue to spread and grow, but what can be said is that our culture needs to find a way to provide for a person psychologically, because as of this moment popular culture does no good.

Extra Credit:

An interesting video on how the internet changes and evolves culture, and how cultures can form separate of the real world on the internet, and can act as a small subculture. It also touches on how influential the internet has been on pooling information and fueling social change and advancement.

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