Sunday, March 01, 2009

What do books do...

An intelligent commentary by Ethan Zuckerman on a research presentation by Pippa Norris on cultural cosmopolitanism and exposure to globalizing media... would be nice to do this on a smaller scale and ask about values at the village level, comparing kids in villages with libraries to those without, controlling for the frequency of kungfu movie nights etc. in the village.

Professor Pippa Norris of Harvard’s Kennedy School, is focused on “Cosmoolitan Communications” for her forthcoming book, titled “Cultural Convergence”. Working with Ronald Inglehart of the World Values Survey, she’s studying the ways that communications impact the strength of national identity and the trust in outsiders. Her findings - which surprise some of her colleagues - suggest that increased cosmopolitan communications leads to more trust in others and reduced nationalism.

The context for her talk is accelerating connection through globalization, as tracked by surveys like the KOF Globalization index. As globalization increases, we see more opportunity for information to come across national borders. Some view this as a threat - thinkers like Herbert Schiller have suggested that the spread of corporate capitalism will lead towards the spread of American values at the expense of local norms. More recently, Benjamin Barber, in books like “Jihad versus McWorld”, suggests that American capitalism and culture are fundamentally intertwined. These theories have led UNESCO to worry that the availability of information from culturally exporting nations like the US could lead to a decrease in cultural diversity.

Read more...


2 comments:

Kim Dionne said...

I like the localized scale you propose: how much more trust does a community have for outsiders when they have had a library for 1, 5, 10 years? It would be a fun project for a qualitative researcher to join as they could hang around the library and do an ethnographic study. I'd be curious to know whether the kinds of books in the library are having any impact as well as the role of community events. Let's not forget to consider the social networks of library patrons: do we see a more diverse network among those who go to the library (and/or have a library nearby), than among those who don't?

Michael Kevane said...

Zambia would seem like aa great place to do this ;-) as USAID and African Library Project are expanding school libraries in the country.
M