Globalisation & Society: Media, Culture and Counter-Culture - A Response

Description: NECF Malaysia Cross-Currents Consultations
        Author: Minni K. Ang

As much as our communications media has influenced our lives and now connects us to a global perspective so also we are impacted upon by the media as an institution that reports, analyses and disseminates news as well as communicates different messages to us. This communications community influences us in the way they write and present such messages to us. We sometimes imbibe all they say (whether its the news or a product or service message) without a discerning mind to shift the wheat from the chaff.

  • media certainly influences society.
  • lack of discerning mind not new phenomenon, only better documented now. This lack of discernment is nothing to do with globalization - the "mob psychology" has always existed, only on a smaller scale.
  • the new point is that current communications media allows for a much wider possible influence, paving the way for global trends, fads, et cetera.
  • As Christians we must be aware of this and educate fellow Christians accordingly. Preparedness to face challenges of media influence will undoubtedly lessen such influences. Lack of awareness will lead to mass following.

It was Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian communications theorist, who says that the determining principle of culture is the medium by which it is transmitted rather than its content. To him the medium is the message.

  • Music is proven to be able to penetrate the mind, making it a powerful medium for any purpose. Globalization of music has been in its spread as a listening culture rather than a participative one.
  • Movies are another medium of major influence. Another medium creating viewers as opposed to participants.
  • Computer and online gaming, including virtual reality, are further new media. Creates participants, not mere viewers, but those who are not firmly in the "real world".
  • OVERALL EFFECT: a mass of people who sit back and listen / watch but who don't "get involved".
  • This culture has also entered the church, where even services are sometimes more like "shows".
  • As Christians we must be aware of this and avoid the "spectator mentality".

Our communications media because of new technological advancements have now impacted our culture as well as ourselves individually.

  • This is a follow-on effect of the previous point. As participants, we can be lost in our "own world" and not get involved with others in a real way.
  • This creates increasing individualism as opposed to community spirit, although superficially it appears as though it is community spirit.
  • Christianity is all about community. Pure individualism is an indication of moral decay. Consider the shift from community living in primitive societies to solitary living in most Western countries, and increasingly in others as well.

The community of media specialists impacts the way we think and live by their reference to opinion leaders and also by reference to themselves as shapers of opinions and by the value judgements they make.

This point has been answered above.

Cultures will be compressed where once distance and time separated one culture from another. I think we should see possibilities of living in different cultures.

  • It's no longer enough to merely know one's own culture, one must be aware of other cultures, and esp. how they differ.
  • These practices must also be weighed against Biblical truths.
  • Misunderstanding is often due to poor understanding of alien cultural norms. It is important to educate oneself.
  • The cross-cultural experience can lead to richer life experiences and maturity of thought if handled correctly. Insularity is out.

Cultural compression can exist when a person is electronically linked to two or more life-worlds as much as he/ she is living concretely in one. Will not that person absorb all the values and messages coming from these two cities via the media and communications he has with his/her friends?

Not only electronic linking though. This sort of cross-assimilation of values actually existed as early as human interaction existed, and can be concretely tied to the spread of books and the written word. Again it is merely a question of now being felt on a wider scale.

Will there be syncretism? Yes to a degree, I believe. But it stems from a global shared values that is localised, that is culture-specific.

  • As long as cultures interact there will be syncretism.
  • Globalisation only means a greater chance for these interactions.
  • Syncretism doesn't always follow, however - sometimes a supplanting of the original culture by the mass culture takes place. E.g. US music dominates international charts, though local syncretic forms have also sprung up.
  • The challenge is for greater quality - where the public can compare, unless the syncretic is superior to both the local and the global, the global usually [though not always] being superior will prevail.

The virtual community is about people who reach out across time and space and connect in a relationship with another. Such a community can exist on the premise that the people who are communicating are telling the truth of themselves and not taking on a persona to hide one's true identity.

  • Again, since the advent of writing this problem has already existed. It is a question of scale only.
  • The anonymity of virtual identities should not be viewed as all negative however - for e.g. in the case of counselling depressed persons, anonymity allows for courage to seek help.

There is then the possibility for us to re-construct our culture aided by the media which disseminates such a construction to be appropriated or re-constructed again by people.

  • This is true. There are many e.g.s of countries that try to do this, and many that have succeeded also.
  • As Christians the important thing is authenticity.
  • Sometimes a reconstructing of culture is good, but true culture stems from lifestyle norms, and that is not so easily fabricated.

As people become more open to sources of information and as they become more self-conscious they will make life choice decisions.

  • The ability to organize information and make sense of it has become increasingly critical.
  • It isn't enough to know only a small piece of the puzzle. The problem is the puzzle is much bigger with many more pieces now - a panoramic viewpoint is vital.
  • Learning approaches must be changed. With proper counsel, this can lead to a maturation of society.

Concluding thoughts

  1. Technological developments have led to a globalization of culture through various media.
  2. Dominant [aggressive] cultures supplant weaker local cultures in many instances.
  3. When local culture is strong enough, syncretism occurs.
  4. Because culture is reflective of lifestyle, evolution or revolution of cultures significantly affects every single person and how they live their lives from day to day.
  5. This shaping and moulding of people's thoughts has long existed, formerly primarily through print media. The ability to globally shape people's way of thinking has only come about since the mushrooming of mass media technologies, including
    1. Radio
    2. Television
    3. Satellite communications
    4. The Internet
    5. Movies
    6. Music
    7. Gaming
    8. Personal communication devices including mobile phones
    9. Extended distribution of print media (e.g. Harry Potter)
  6. The high level of integration among different kinds of media has resulted in a more complete delivery vehicle for any particular thought / idea / philosophy. The average individual is a target of exceedingly sophisticated plans to influence his/her mindset.
  7. It is vitally important for the church to take a driver's seat in educating its congregations about these contemporary strategies to "take possession of their minds".
    1. Ephesians 3:17-18. "So this I say and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart..."
    2. 1 Corinthians 14:20. "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature."
  8. While awareness is critical, we must not become paranoid.
    1. Galatians 5:1. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery."
  9. But we must be aware that perversion of the gospel exists, and be on our guard against it, esp. within the church. Globalisation of culture through mass media means this threat looms large. Galatians 1:6-7. "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another..."
  10. Berean Christians were commended for examining the Scriptures daily to check whether the teaching they received was really true (Acts 17:11).


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