Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Citizenship in an increasingly global context 3: cultural identity as a source of pushback

Posted in business and convergent technologies, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on April 25, 2013

This is my third posting in a series that unlike most of what I write here, can perhaps best be considered a shared and open-ended rumination. I began writing about the changing, broadening nature of citizenship, and of belonging and membership in Part 1: shareholder value, stakeholder value, and openly-sourced social value, with a discussion of how our increasing interconnectedness through direct and immediate point to point communications bring us together. And I began discussing some of the issues and forces that would push back against that and against perceived homogenization and loss of local group identity in Part 2: membership, citizenship, loyalty and belonging, there focusing on issues of political will and the drive to maintain local and geographically defined control and identity.

• I turn in this posting to consider a second major source of pushback, as grounded in cultural identity and the will to maintain historically and experientially grounded local, national and regional identity and individuality.

And I begin by considering my own country, the United States of America, as a source of working examples. The United States is a nation of immigrants, with our citizens and our ancestry coming from every country and region and culture on the entire planet. We are called and we think of ourselves as a melting pot, while at the same time striving to preserve our cultural and regional individualities and distinctions, as well as our distinctly national identity. We are all Americans but we are also Poles and Hispanics, and even there differently origined Hispanics, Chinese and Japanese, Italians and Irish and so much more. It is estimated that some 800 languages are spoken in the New York City metropolitan area alone. And here living in this country as a whole we are New Englanders and Southerners, West Coast and Californians and Midwesterners and more. And we are Conservatives, and Liberals and Progressives, and Independents and more and Catholics and Jews and followers of Hinduism and Jainism and Buddhists and Atheists and Agnostics and more. We are the great melting pot but when you look into that pot you see essentially anything but homogeneity and uniformity. And our ubiquitous interconnectedness has not changed that. In ways it has simply accentuated our differences. This is because we all too often look for and find online voices and information sources that highlight our own local and group perspectives, and that support and justify them for the mirroring and repetition of message known and expected that flows back to us through them.

Pick any socially or economically or politically dividing and contentious issue and there are news sources and opinion sharing channels online and in the overall range of immediately available media that support each contending view, and with each such partisan perspective at the heart of the communications and information sharing of its own particular local community.

• There, local does not necessarily mean geographically local though. It can mean geographically diffused, but united as a single community by shared perceived identity.
• And when much of this connectivity is through cyber space, geographic position or localization do not matter, and in fact more groups can form and meaningfully connect and find identity together than could be possible if we were all limited to immediate geographic reach.

I could just as easily have cited the big and globally obvious cultural divisions of Latin America and the Middle East, or dividing things a bit differently, the predominantly Catholic countries or predominantly Christian countries in general and the largely Islamic world – with countries such as Indonesia added into the group of nations that reside in the Middle East and much of Latin America, and I add some significantly large African countries aligned with their European peers. On economic lines I could still cite First, Second and Third World countries, even if the Second World is very different now than initially envisioned when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact where still present. My point is that we are and remain distinctively members of local and localized groups and whether or not those groups are strictly geographically bound. And the tools of our increasing interconnectedness can also serve to maintain the boundaries that divide and define us, and on religious and socioeconomic and political and ethnic and linguistic grounds and more.

But for all of this, connectedness across those boundaries continues to leak through and the barriers and boundaries that I write of here and that I noted in Part 2 continue to become just that tiny incremental measure more porous every single day. What brands to people look for, everywhere and globally? What music and YouTube videos go viral and globally? We retain our group identities but we also seek to embrace and capture elements of an increasingly more global culture too. And the politically motivated isolationism of nation states such as Iran and North Korea, as noted in Part 2, simply makes those foreign and global alternatives that much more attractive when word of them does leak through – yes making those governments strive all that more actively to stop the inflow and the leaks.

I stated in Part 1 that:

• Our increasing interconnectedness brings us together and in ways that make those old borders transparent for more and more of our actual lives – and in our business lives and where monetizable value is concerned as much as in any other aspects of our lives.

And I noted in that context that I fully expect that the transformations we are still just viewing the start to here, will be viewed societally as a great historic shift as our descendants look back at this 21st century and define its historical meaning. I write that thinking of the little and simply assumed local barriers and distinctions that form and fade to be replaced by new as local social and political groups form and carry through and fade away. I write this thinking of the massive efforts of nations such as China with its Great Firewall, as their government seeks – ultimately futilely to isolate their peoples both from open communications with the outside world and with themselves.

• Our sense and understanding of belonging and of membership and alliance and allegiance and of citizenship are all at least beginning to shift and change, and will continue to do so, and in ways we can only partly guess at now.

I am going to end this short series here with this third installment but I am certain to keep coming back to issues raised here and by the changes and shifts that I write of here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its continuation page, and also at my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory page.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: