Too many (all?) global media and culture theories ignore the unique position of the United States

Dal Jong Yin’s “Hierarchy in Globalization Trends.” The model is quite useful. However, I believe it needs to be adjusted to account for the unique situation/positionality of the United States.

I am currently reading, and reviewing, a well-done text book, Globalization and Media in the Digital Platform Age, written by Simon Fraser scholar Dal Yong Jin. Jin, unlike many global media and communication scholars, has not been fully seduced by the cultural globalization, hybridization and glocalization perspectives whose adherents have dominated global media and communication studies for more than two decades — is this the longest everĀ dialectical swing away from one pole (cultural imperialism) to the other (cultural globalization), I sometimes wonder? šŸ˜‰

Jin develops a solid middle ground between cultural imperialism and cultural globalization in this textbook, published in 2019. That is, he is careful to acknowledge that the reality of hybridization, which sees cultures inevitably mixed in cultural products and objects, does not erase substantial differences in cultural and political economic power. Jin also smartly acknowledges the fact that everything is indeed a hybrid, to one extent or another,Ā  does not prevent hegemonic forces of globalization from co-opting and (ab)using hybridization and glocalization to suit their own globalizing (cultural) interests.

However, even Jin — at least so far in the text book; I am on page 39 — also, like many (all?) global media and communication scholars and theorists overlooks a key element of the global cultural system: The unique position of the United States.

Yes, the United States does not dominate everything and, yes, several other what I would call second-tier, or, dare I even use the allegedly “out-dated” term “semi-peripheral” countries such as Japan, Korean, Brazil, China, and Mexico, among others, have succeeded in developing a very significant global cultural presence. And, yes, the global cultural landscape and system have changed considerably over the past 20 to 30 years — to a point where the United States is not nearly as singularly dominant as it was at one time.

BUT the United States is, comparatively speaking, still the most powerful global cultural producer. Comparatively speaking, its cultural products are still the most widespread and available around the world with, yes, the second-tier countries’ cultural products also widely present and available, though still not as widely present and available as those of the United States.

PLUS

I have yet to see a theory that sufficiently addresses the unique position of the United States in the global cultural system and what this unique position means, in particular, to American-located cultural consumers. Their own national culture predominates, globally, in such a way that there is huge overlap and intermixing between what the “national” and the “global” are in the United States.

No other nation-state and its social actors and cultural consumers can be said to be in this situation. No other country and its citizens are in this unique position, where the national and the global overlap to a very large extent and, even to such an extent that the national is in many instances essentially reduce-able to the global.

This must be acknowledged. That is a big reason — though not the only one — why I have developed my theory of American Cultural Insularity in the Center (ACIC) and also the theory that undergirds it, Dominant Cultural Group Theory (DCGT).

ACIC holds that Americans, due largely to the fact that their national culture predominates globally, are much more insular and inward and national pointing in terms of their consumption of cultural media products than virtually all other national cultural groups — who, at the very least, in addition to consuming many of their own national cultural media products ALSO consume typically substantially amounts of American-produced cultural products.

More broadly, DCGT holds that dominant cultural groups are much more likely to be insular, arrogant, narrow-minded, and frequently largely ignorant of cultural media products produced in national contexts and produced originally in languages other than their own. This is true with the exception, of course, of American-produced cultural media products originally produced in English, which are more widely prevalent around the world than the cultural-media products of any other nation.

Simon Fraser University scholar Dal Yong Jin.

Jin, in Globalization and Media in the Digital Platform Age, advances a useful visual model that he calls “Hierarchy in Globalization Trends” (see picture at top of blog entry). In a series of concentric ovals, the global media scholar nests the “national” within the “global” within “hybridization” within “globalization.” This model, however, fails to address the fact that in the United States’ case — because its national cultural ALSO takes up so much of the “globalization” oval — sees massive overlap between the “national” and the “global”. Furthermore, the “glocal” also arguably intersects with the “global” more in the United States’ case than in virtually all others. This is, once again, because its cultural media products, comparatively speaking, still continue to predominate in so much of the world, including, importantly, within the United States itself.

In my humble view, I believe scholars need to acknowledge that the United States is such a clear exception to the rule that they must create additional space within their modelsĀ  and/or consider altering their models of globalization, globalization and culture, global media and communication, to account for the absolutely unique situation, or positionality, of the United States and consumers within the US.

That is what I am trying to do with my theory of American Cultural Insularity in the Center (ACIC).