Globalization of information

Globalization of information
We often consider globalization in economic terms: Impact of free trade, jobs moving overseas.
But what about the flow of information? What happens when information is globalized? And how does the increased ease of international communication affect other countries, people and cultures?
Examples: SpeakTweet, Saynow

What if you had no outside information and were cut off from the world?

  • Ancient peoples struggled to understand – and control – unexplained events
  • A vast world was beyond their immediate reach
  • Imagine living in a remote and isolated part of the world and never traveling within a few miles of your home
  • You grow up without the Internet, without television, without books.
  • How would you explain the outside world?

Looking at the world from another point of view

  • Result of isolation: Fantastic explanations of the world
  • Peasants in Aegean islands in Greece believed in the Cyclopes, one-eyed giants. The photo shows a giant cyclop from the 1958 movie, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
  • Europeans believed that India and Africa were places where pygmies fought with storks
  • Humans had feet turned backward and eight toes on each foot

Indians of the rain forest: Culture clash, curiosity about outside world. Vimeo: Huaorani Indians of Ecuador

Photo credit: Survival International. More photos.

Before the telephone and the car, migration brought nations and people in contact with each other

  • Christopher Columbus
  • The Vikings
  • Marco Polo

Trade and religion pushed travelers around the globe

Early forms of communication

  • Chinese – messengers, couriers
  • Greeks – bird carriers
  • Incas – Smoke signals and numeric cord
  • Trumpets, drums, ordinary shouting (still used in the Amazon)

Technology pushes some nations ahead while others are left behind

  • Telegraph, railroad, telephones, radio
  • All were important tools in pushing ahead the economy of the United States and other nations
  • Incredible fact: When telephones were first demonstrated in 1876, the public showed little interest in them

Importance of speed

  • Reuters began in 1850 when Paul Julius Reuter used 40 carrier pigeons to send stock prices between Brussels, Belgium, and Aachen, Germany, to compete with inefficient European telegraph system
  • Importance of global communication
  • A catalyst for change
  • A redefinition of space and time
  • Advances in communications shapes the world in unexpected ways

Understanding the world isn’t easy

  • It’s a big place
  • Going around the world by plane takes two days
  • Time zones: 22
  • Countries: more than 200
  • Population: 7.3 billion and counting
  • Languages spoken: 6,912

Global Village: Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)

  • Famous Canadian-born scholar who said electronic mass media bring world closer together

After McLuhan

  • Much study went into the idea that our knowledge is limited by the information to which we are exposed

Our view: Other nations backwards and dangerous
Their view: Americans are boisterous and rich

There is some truth to this. On the other hand…
People are coming closer together

1. Increase in international travel

  • 200 million travelers in 1970
  • 700 million in 2002
  • 1.5 billion projected for 2020

Why is there more travel?

  • More airlines
  • 35 airlines in 1925
  • 930 airlines in 2003
  • Internet makes it easier to buy tickets and research trips

2. Communication is easier
3. Many big media companies have merged and they have global interests (examples: Time Warner, Sony, News Corp.)
4. People are curious. They are seeking out information about the world around them

Question: Is anything wrong with the globalization of information?

  • Sameness of products and services
  • Unfairness in global flow of information
  • Spread of cultural imperialism. Example: U.S. dominates cinema and TV screens worldwide. Hollywood is one of America’s top export industries.

Free flow of information — like the free flow of goods — can impact other nations in positive and negative ways.

Example: Abortion in Mexico

  • Access to Internet ‘internationalized’ abortion debate during height of Mexico’s 2006 presidential campaign
  • Increased information sharing
  • Stepped up efforts to decriminalize abortion in Mexico (for decades, abortion only allowed in cases of rape)
  • Increased use of Internet by domestic and international pro-choice groups

Inequities in the Internet

  • Rich countries, with 16 percent of the population, control 97 percent of all Internet hosts
  • The 100 poorest nations have 20 times fewer Internet hosts than Iceland (population: 250,000)

Incredibly, an email from Stockholm to London travels via the United States
Among the consequences: U.S. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the infrastructure. They earn more money than their foreign competitors.


Some of the most powerful tech companies in the world are American companies. The French coined the term GAFA, which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

In the U.S., the companies are generally seen in a positive light. But many Europeans associate the companies with tax evasion and invasion of personal privacy.


José Bové

Resentment and anger toward the tech giants stirs memories of José Bové, a sheep farmer who dismantled a McDonald’s that was under construction in a French town of 20,000 in 1999. Bové became a hero in France and some 40,000 people came to support him during his trial.


  • Is mankind better off as a result of globalization of information?
  • Do media companies behave more or less responsibly?
  • Are audiences more informed or educated about global problems and issues?
  • Who are the winners and losers in global transformations?
  • Will the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ continue to widen?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s