Modernity at Large

The flow of culture is not fixed. Both Appadurai and Patterson argue that culture flows in all different directions. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the effects of this flow are negative or positive, but it is certain that the notions of power and culture are inseparably linked. The first forces of cultural interaction were warfare and religion, though that has changed largely due to the expansion and social formations that have increased world globalization. Technology, in particular, has stimulated and enabled the mixing of cultures that we now experience every day.

The printing press, invented in Germany around 1440, led to the mechanization of print and bookmaking. This tool, which Appardurai would consider an element of the technosphere, resulted in some of the first editions of the printed Bible which enabled the spread of Christianity around the world. The availability of the printed word to the public boosted the democratization of knowledge and laid basis for the modern knowledge-based economy.

In current society, social media functions as how the printing press was in the 1400s.  Information flows quickly through e-mails and social networks, such as facebook and twitter.  The Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, gives credit to facebook for mobilizing and spreading the word about the protesting of the Mubarak regime.  Through mediascapes, such as shocking images of the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square, the world was informed of the brutal crackdowns on the peaceful protesters.  Technology played an important role in these protests which lead to the successful removal of Mubarak from control. Since Mediascapes are image-based and not objective, however, they can constitute imagined narratives of the Other, depending on who is interpreting the information.

Another contemporary example of one of Appardurai’s scapes could be immigrant and illegal workers from Mexico, as well as the illicit drug flow and the resulting drug culture that crosses the border from Mexico into the U.S.  This ethnoscape affects the U.S. and Mexico and creates disjuncture between the economy, culture, and politics.  For example, the controversial Arizona law to combat illegal immigrants has created tension between the two countries.  The law racial profiles all Latin Americans and President Calderon and some U.S. lawmakers oppose the law.  The illicit drug flow from Mexico to the U.S. also affects politics as the U.S. and Mexican President work to combat the cartels and their power.  Enormous amounts of marijuana and cocaine flow through the border and affect the entire country both culturally, financially, and politically.


Scribe- Julia

Present- Julia, Alexandra, Leslie

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