Cultural alienation

As communications have proliferated in recent decades and brought the external world to millions of people previously living in isolated communities, so they have generated two major concerns: (a) The development of mediated communication is a technical and social need, but may also be a threat to the quality and values of culture. (b) The indiscriminate opening of doors to new experiences and impressions by the media sometimes alienates people from their own culture.

With the speed and impact of the media explosion, certain harmful effects have been observed. For many people, their conception of reality is obscured or distorted by messages conveyed by the media. The rapid increase in the volume of information and entertainment has brought about a certain degree of homogenization of different societies while, paradoxically, people can be more cut off from the society in which they live as a result of media penetration into their lives. The introduction of new media, particularly television into traditional societies has shaken centuries-old customs, cultural practices and simple life styles, social aspirations and economic patterns. Too often the benefits of modern communications - which disseminate unfamiliar, vivid, absorbing information and entertainment originating in urban centres and, more often than not, from foreign sources - have been accompanied by negative influences which can dramatically disturb established orders. At the extreme, modern media have trampled on traditions and distorted centuries-old socio-economic patterns.

An analysis of the cultural flows between countries shows a serious imbalance. The media in developing countries take a high percentage of their cultural and entertainment content from a few developed countries. The flow in the other direction is a mere trickle by comparison. The developed countries get the selected best of the culture (chiefly music and dance) from developing countries; the latter get a lot of what on any objective standard is the worst produced by the former. This unequal exchange is inevitably harmful to national culture in developing countries. Their writers, musicians, film-makers and other creative artists find themselves shouldered aside by imported products. Local imitations of imported culture and entertainment do not improve the situation; they too lead to the imposition of external values.
The commercial approach to culture operates to the detriment of true values. Transnational companies are playing an ever more active role in the world-wide provision of communication infrastructures, news circulation, cultural products, educational software, books, films, equipment and training. Although their role in extending facilities for cultural development and communication has been considerable, they also promote alien attitudes across cultural frontiers. Since similar cultures predominate in the countries where the transnationals have their roots, they transmit models and influences which are broadly alike. When these influences become dominant in very different cultures, the effect is to impose uniformity of taste, style and content. This is considered as cultural invasion, the type of intrusion that represents one of the major problems to be faced by everyone dealing with international communication issues.

The socio-cultural tastes of foreign countries have been widely disseminated and are familiar to and often admired by many; people imitate them and they may become adopted norms of human behaviour in the countries exposed to them. But the imitations of alien cultures are not the same as the true development of a national culture, for they can in reality inhibit growth of national cultures by adapting to standardized international patterns of mass culture. Another negative factor is that creative artists in developing countries - authors, musicians, playwrights, script-writers, film-makers - often find it difficult to stand up to the competition of the industrialized products of the big conglomerates.

Modernization and change are inevitable, in many cases desirable. There is, however, value for the world to retain cultural diversity. The search for international unity does not require the homogenization of peoples or the obliteration of national and cultural differences that today's international media appear to promote.

The process of modernization rarely takes place without some disrupting influence and effects. Moreover, in most societies some vestiges of the past are woefully and harmfully archaic, or even inimical to accepted present-day social philosophy and practice, thus should be changed to advance human progress.
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(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems