The profound growth and development of digital multimedia has fostered an expansion of interdependence, wherein our lives and spaces are beginning to overlap with those geographically far away. Intercultural communication has become prevalent and, to some degree, a routine part of our everyday lives.
The concept of “globalization” has been around for centuries due to constant improvements in transportation systems, technology, and communications. It wasn’t until after the Cold War, however, that the concept started gaining consistent and global traction.
Defined as the “growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and population brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information,” (Peterson Institute of International Economics, n.d.), globalization is a global phenomenon that we are currently experiencing and contributing to as our societies become more and more reliant on each other.
With the rise of globalization comes several socio-economic impacts that affect millions of lives within a social community. From poverty alleviation to income distribution within social class systems, globalization has left a mark and will continue to be prevalent within our society (Lee, E. and Vivarelli, M., 2006).
The concept of what I would consider “lifestyle” has become integrated in our educational systems as well, highlighting discursive analysis amongst multicultural members within a society, showcasing how cultures have become intertwined with one another, and demanding an appropriate lens to evaluate intercultural interaction.
With these interactions at hand, it’s vital that we, as members of a global community, equip ourselves with a lens that can help us evaluate and analyze content in consideration of cultural implications and sensitivity.
The idea of “culture” is both well defined in terms of communication content, yet vague—a paradoxical concept that is fully realized and lived but cannot be put into words. On one hand, culture has been superficially defined as a system of traditions, values, morals, responsibilities, and practices we live by as individuals within a social community. On the other hand, the term readily goes beyond this definition, especially when considering what “constitutes culturally-acceptable content” within society.
What is the so-called “good” in terms of culturally relevant practices and interactions? How does one’s culture affect outlook on consuming content? How does one’s culture affect ethical outlooks and practices?
As we go deeper into the world of culture, we face ethical questions about the content we consume as a byproduct of globalization. In this post, I will attempt to break down some principles we could use as a lens in viewing textual content in order to gauge its ethical standards in reference to one’s social community.
Stuart Hall, a prominent academic and theorist in the field of sociology and communication, is considered to be one of the main proprietors of deconstructing the idea of culture. Culture, as he suggests, is an “experience lived, experience interpreted, experience defined” and is a tool for an individual to make sense of the world and different perspectives (Hsu, H., 2017).
Culture, in his view, has become a site of “negotiation” wherein there is a constant struggle between the elitist notion of social norms and those of the proletariat. Hall’s studies have contributed greatly in the fields of communication and sociology in terms of understanding culturally challenging multimedia content and is one of my preferred lenses in viewing ethics in terms of cultural relevance.
His study on the “Work of Representation” focuses on how meaning is created through representation (whether it be in media, social interactions, language, etc.). This system of representation is said to be non-arbitrary, and purports that cultural implications in interaction events create meaning and understanding.
Basically, it provides a much-needed explanation of certain perceptions of the world. These representations may be inherently cultural, built over time within a social community as a shared concept map (Hall, S., 1999, p.18).
Hall’s work expands on these theories, as these relationships with objects and their inherent meanings become more complex and meaning is rooted in historical context. I strongly suggest that people give his work a read in order to further understand his take on cultural representation.
Viewing content through the lens of cultural representation
With these terms and ethical lens defined, I want to share my process of evaluating content through the lens of cultural representation. As an educator, it’s a must for me to critically evaluate content in order to provide knowledge to my students, as well as understand their personal takes and analysis, in order to understand their world better.
It’s my responsibility to help my students develop an ethical lens in viewing digital content in this global community in order to develop a future generation of culturally aware and responsible individuals.
Step 1: Viewing Content on a Surface Level
The initial step I take is to view the content on a surface level. Consume the content as it was intended to be consumed, highlighting key points and events within the content that pique my interest. After I am satisfied that I fully comprehend the content on a surface level, I begin diving in.
Step 2: Looking for Depth
As I mentioned in the first step, I take note of events within the content that pique my interest. Now these events are crucial in gauging ethical significance, as there’s always a reason for the increase in interest.
As I start plotting down the interesting events, I try to decipher why I found these events interesting. I start forming questions that revolve around my cultural understanding of these events.
Step 3: Asking Questions
Who is this content for? Why was this content made? Who made this content? Through what medium is this content delivered? Once I have started understanding why certain events pique my interest, I start questioning the motif of the content. I start asking questions relevant to the cultural implications of the content. I think about the context of the author of the content, as well as his/her cultural background and how he/she may perceive the world, etc.
Step 4: Differentiating Understanding from the Author’s
As we start analyzing content and its cultural relevance, we start to see the differences in cultural implications of the content. I start taking these cultural implications down, as these can be used to gauge the ethical integrity.
In this step, we may start noticing more underlying tones and negotiated meanings through careful understanding and analysis. One of the most common notions I come up with during this step is: “This doesn’t seem right to me, but maybe it’s something that’s deemed acceptable.”
Step 5: Observing the Cultural Landscape
We now go beyond the content, focusing on the cultural landscape surrounding it. Cultural landscapes differ for each social community, and that these social communities may also have subcultures. It’s important that we understand whom the content is for and to which subculture it intends to speak.
Step 6: Gauging Ethical Implications
This step is the fruit of our analysis. In this step, we gauge the content as a whole, then go into the minute details of the content to check whether the content is appropriate and ethical in terms of whom it’s targeting and for what purpose.
The “goodness” of certain content can be gauged through questioning our personal morality and values, aligning ourselves to the community and culture we are part of. Having implicit knowledge of where we are from as individuals gives us a sense of a moral compass we can use to gauge ethics of certain content.
Step 7: Discursive Analysis
This step is for gauging our understanding and evaluation. After we gauge content, write down its cultural implications, and decide whether it’s ethical or not, it’s a good practice to discuss our findings with people within our social community, as well as people outside of our circles.
This part is vital to being an educator, as it widens our horizons in understanding content, as well as shares insights with our students. In this process, we become a vessel of critical understanding while maintaining an open view of how the world is perceived by different individuals.
My Message to Educators
I hope that, with these guidelines, we educators can become instruments and guides to our students in gauging our interconnected world today. A key factor in becoming an educator is knowing that we may be the experts on our subject matter and understanding, but our understanding may not be optimal due to our limitations and unspoken bonds with our social communities.
Our responsibilities as educators are strongly tied to ethical understanding of content and how our students perceive these content in order to develop strong and mentally and emotionally aware future industry leaders.
Peterson Institute of International Economics (n.d.). What is globalization? And how has the global economy shaped the United States. Retrieved from https://www.piie.com/microsites/globalization/what-is-globalization on August 3, 2020.
Lee, E. and Vivarelli, M. (January 2006). The social impact of globalization in the developing countries. Forschungsinstitutzur Zukunft der Arbeit Institute for the Study of Labor. Retrieved from http://ftp.iza.org/dp1925.pdf on August 3, 2020
Spring, J. (2008). Research on Globalization and Education. Review of Educational Research, 78(2), pp. 330-363. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/40071130 on August 3, 2020.
Hsu, H. (July 17, 2017). Stuart Hall and the Rise of Cultural Studies. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/stuart-hall-and-the-rise-of-cultural-studies on August 3, 2020.
Hall, S. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Sagepub. Retrieved from tp://www2.hawaii.edu/~noenoe/hall1.pdf on August 3, 2020.