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How Technology Affects Global & Local Cultures

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  • 0:01 What Is Technology?
  • 1:20 Impact on Local Cultures
  • 2:52 Impact on Global Cultures
  • 5:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson will discuss the effects that technology has both on a global and local scale. A short quiz will follow the lesson to check your understanding.

What is Technology?

I think we can all agree that it's pretty important to keep up with what's going on in the world, but how do you get your news? My grandparents got their news from reading the newspaper, but that made the news at least a day or two old before anyone learned about it. My parents, on the other hand, were able to watch TV, and news was available hourly. Now, I get the news minute by minute on my smartphone and via the Internet. This evolution of how fast we can gather information is all due to the advancements of technology.

But what is technology exactly? Most people probably picture computers and cell phones when the subject of technology comes up, but technology is not merely a product of the modern era. However, technology is any tool created from scientific knowledge that serves a particular function.

It should be noted that the word 'scientific' referenced here is used somewhat loosely, as not all cultures are conducting formal experiments. For example, fire and stone tools were important forms of technology developed during the Stone Age. Just as the availability of digital technology shapes how we live today, the creation of stone tools changed how pre-modern humans lived and how well they ate. The effect that technology has had, over time, on both local and global cultures has been significant.

Impact on Local Cultures

All aspects of our lives today are influenced by technology. In agriculture, the introduction of machines that can till, thresh, plant, and harvest greatly reduced the need for manual labor, which, in turn, meant there were fewer rural jobs, which led to the urbanization of society, as well as lowered birthrates because there was less need for large families to work the farms. In the criminal justice system, the ability to ascertain innocence through DNA testing has saved the lives of people on death row. The examples are endless. Technology plays a role in absolutely every aspect of our lives.

However, as technology becomes more and more pervasive, the amount of inequality to access that technology also increases. There are two forms of stratification, or division, that unequal access to technology creates. The first is known as the digital divide, which is a class-based division in which higher-income people have greater access to technology than lower-income people.

As the digital divide has grown, it has created a second division called the knowledge gap, which is an increasing gap in information for those who have less access to technology. For example, if you went to a school that had the latest and greatest computer labs, chances are you would gain proficiency in how to use those computers, thus making you more marketable in a technology-based job market. On the other hand, if you went to a school with less technology resources, your knowledge of how to use technology to solve problems may not grow quickly enough for you to be as marketable in the job market.

Impact on Global Cultures

Technology has a pretty strong impact on a global scale as well. One way technology impacts global cultures is through media globalization. One of the biggest ways to influence people worldwide is through media technology. As we mentioned in our example at the beginning, people are able to get information almost immediately because of things like cell phones and the Internet. One of the biggest positives of this technological advancement is that it has led to an increased sense of globalization, or the bringing together of people across national boundaries. Now with technology, a person in Japan can watch the news of what is happening in Chicago, Illinois, with the click of a mouse. This type of technology was unheard of years ago.

How technology comes together with media to connect people to exchange ideas is called media globalization. On the surface, media globalization sounds like a good thing. Why wouldn't we want technology to allow people to share ideas from across the globe with one another? Wouldn't this help everyone prosper and help each other out? Possibly. One example of this was during the spring 2011 uprisings throughout the Arab world. Technology really did offer a window into the news of the world here in the United States when we saw Internet updates of Egyptian events in real time, with people tweeting, posting, and blogging on the ground.

Unfortunately, while sociologists recognize the good that media globalization has for the world, they are also apt to understand that there is often a less optimistic side of it. With media globalization and a more interconnected globe, there is an increased risk of cultural imperialism and the loss of local culture. This can, in turn, lead to national censorship to preserve a local culture, similar to the policies that China takes to censor its media outlets and the Internet as a whole so as not to expose its people to anything that may conflict with what the Chinese government thinks is in the best interest of its people.

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