How Do You Define “Global Culture” and Is It Possible?

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One of National Geographic’s cover stories in 1999 was on global culture – with an image juxtaposing the traditional and modern in a developing country: India. The idea of a “global culture” certainly permeates much more than our outward appearance, but the way we think and act as “global citizens”.

In a Tampa Bay Times exclusive by David Jacobson, who directs the Citizenship Initiative at the University of South Florida in Tampa, the idea of a global culture is described as the “next frontier” – one of the next machinations on our planet’s path of globalization:

The arc of human history shows a continuous ratcheting up in the scale of community. Hunting bands were…replaced by agricultural societies. Agricultural societies coalesced into empires. From roughly the 17th century we see the emergence of centralized states and cohesive nations.

What next? A global order, suggests Jacobson. A culture that is shared by a significant number of the Earth’s inhabitants – complete with a set of values and behavioral norms that inform the way we think and act. A guidebook that defines what’s right and wrong between people from countries around the world, unified by a single language.

We already have communication technology allowing us to converse across national boundaries, eliciting responses from people far away that have an opinion and want to contribute. How do we temper a global culture with many players (states, corporations, individuals, etc.) vying to influence the way we see the world?

We may be far from a cohesive global culture, but we can begin to identify the preferences many of us share from country to country. One might be instantaneous communication. Whether we use email, instant messaging, videoconferencing or SMS, there is a growing expectation that we’re accountable to ourselves and to our employers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (or else be left behind by those more willing and eager). As our mobile devices have quickly become appendages to our bodies (for some, we may feel “naked” without them), we can indeed communicate around the clock from a plethora of locations outside the office and home.

There is also a widespread expectation that technology will continue to innovate, thereby facilitating our dealings and further molding our values around communication, relationships and business competence. How would instantaneous travel (the ability to physically move from one location to a distant other in a matter of nanoseconds) impact this global culture? How much easier would it be to build trusting relationships with our counterparts half-way around the world? Would this negate our need to communicate in text, and instead, simply materialize in front of our business partners and colleagues for a quick meeting instead?

What other global phenomena might continue to evolve and inform a global set of norms – norms we would rely on for an effective, global civil society?