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  • Explain the advantages and concerns of media globalization
  • Understand the globalization of technology
A Twitter update page from a U.S. photojournalist in Cairo, Egypt, during the recent uprising is shown.
These Twitter updates—a revolution in real time—show the role social media can play on the political stage. (Photo courtesy of Cambodia4kidsorg/flickr)

Technology, and increasingly media, has always driven globalization. In a landmark book, Thomas Friedman (2005), identified several ways in which technology “flattened” the globe and contributed to our global economy. The first edition of The World Is Flat , written in 2005, posits that core economic concepts were changed by personal computing and high-speed Internet. Access to these two technological shifts has allowed core-nation corporations to recruit workers in call centers located in China or India. Using examples like a Midwestern U.S. woman who runs a business from her home via the call centers of Bangalore, India, Friedman warns that this new world order will exist whether core-nation businesses are ready or not, and that in order to keep its key economic role in the world, the United States will need to pay attention to how it prepares workers of the twenty-first century for this dynamic.

Of course not everyone agrees with Friedman’s theory. Many economists pointed out that in reality innovation, economic activity, and population still gather in geographically attractive areas, and they continue to create economic peaks and valleys, which are by no means flattened out to mean equality for all. China’s hugely innovative and powerful cities of Shanghai and Beijing are worlds away from the rural squalor of the country’s poorest denizens.

It is worth noting that Friedman is an economist, not a sociologist. His work focuses on the economic gains and risks this new world order entails. In this section, we will look more closely at how media globalization and technological globalization play out in a sociological perspective. As the names suggest, media globalization    is the worldwide integration of media through the cross-cultural exchange of ideas, while technological globalization    refers to the cross-cultural development and exchange of technology.

Media globalization

Lyons (2005) suggests that multinational corporations are the primary vehicle of media globalization, and these corporations control global mass-media content and distribution (Compaine 2005). It is true, when looking at who controls which media outlets, that there are fewer independent news sources as larger and larger conglomerates develop. The United States offers about 1,500 newspapers, 2,600 book publishers, and an equal number of television stations, plus 6,000 magazines and a whopping 10,000 radio outlets (Bagdikian 2004).

On the surface, there is endless opportunity to find diverse media outlets. But the numbers are misleading. Media consolidation is a process in which fewer and fewer owners control the majority of media outlets. This creates an oligopoly    in which a few firms dominate the media marketplace. In 1983, a mere 50 corporations owned the bulk of mass-media outlets. Today in the United States (which has no government-owned media) just five companies control 90 percent of media outlets (McChesney 1999). Ranked by 2014 company revenue, Comcast is the biggest, followed by the Disney Corporation, Time Warner, CBS, and Viacom (Time.com 2014). What impact does this consolidation have on the type of information to which the U.S. public is exposed? Does media consolidation deprive the public of multiple viewpoints and limit its discourse to the information and opinions shared by a few sources? Why does it matter?

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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