Dr Teun Wolters: Wonders of globalization

Recently I discussed with my students the impact of globalization on culture and intercultural communication.  According to Bernard Saint-Jacques, globalization can be a profoundly enriching process, opening minds to new ideas and experiences, and strengthening the finest values of humanity.  To show the other side of the coin, I could not help confronting my students with the anti-globalization movement; and I could also have mentioned the Occupy movement.

How can we explain such a tremendous difference in perception and valuation? I have no complete answer. However, my interest in technology and innovation led me to another communication & culture specialist, namely, Neil Postman.  Globalization is strongly associated with technology (not in the least ICT and transport). 

Postman has pointed out that technology is not neutral.  Culture always pays a price for technology. Moreover, there are always winners and losers in technological change.  I add: This is not just a simple matter of the rich benefiting and the poor suffering.  The costs and benefits show a much more complicated picture.

Furthermore, Postman makes clear that technology silently influences the way we think and operate.

As sustainability advocate, I was also reminded of the ‘base of the pyramid’, that is, the bottom billion of people living on a few dollars per day. Technology is here to stay, but should it be  considered as an uncontrollable force?  Its use and spread is a matter of entrepreneurship.  As Prahalad and others have suggested, there are tremendous benefits to companies who choose to serve these markets in ways responsive to the needs of the bottom billion.  Could this possibility turn out to be one of the wonders of globalization?

Dr Teun Wolters

WUP 01/03/12