Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Contemporary Culture Research Paper

Research Paper on Contemporary Culture

The study of contemporary culture
The development of the contemporary culture is characterized by the growing impact of the process of globalization on the culture of different peoples and the dramatic change in the culture under the impact of the development of new technologies. In fact, it is possible to estimate that the globalization and new technologies are the major, determinant factors that define the development of the contemporary culture. At the same time, it is necessary to understand the fact that culture is a very complicated process and the changes that occur in culture may not be obvious at first glance that means that this field needs to be researched and studied carefully in order to better understand the major trends and perspectives of the future development of culture.

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In this respect, studies of modern scientists, especially sociologists and specialists working on socio-cultural problems, are very important because they give an insight into the contemporary culture and help understand its distinguishable features compared to the traditional culture of the past. Among such specialists it is possible to name Arjun Appadurais, Stuart Hall, and Hamid Naficy who researched the development of the contemporary culture and their studies naturally accomplish each other revealing the profound impact of the globalization and the introduction of new technologies increasing the role of media and changing not only traditional communication of people but also leading to a significant cultural changes in global terms.

The background of the contemporary culture
Before discussing views of different specialists on the major trends and influences in the contemporary culture, it is necessary to briefly discuss the current background in which the contemporary culture develops. It should be said that the contemporary culture is developing in the situation when the international cooperation on all levels constantly grows. This means that countries develops the cooperation not only in economic sphere that actually led to the emergence of the economic globalization, but also in political and even socio-cultural spheres. The geographical boundaries gradually disappear due to the development of new technologies which, on the one hand, facilitate human life, while, on the other hand, make it more saturated, the rhythm of life increases and the opportunities to develop contacts with other socio-cultural groups increase. At the same time, it should be said that the mass migration of the population, which became particularly significant in the late 20th century led to the growing cultural interchange and assimilation of some socio-cultural groups. On the other hand, the significant migration of people stimulated the development of multiculturalism which flourished in ethnically diverse societies. As a result, various socio-cultural groups in different parts of the world tend to the integration and development of new trends in culture.

In this regard, it should be pointed out that one of the major trends in the development of the contemporary culture is the Westernization of cultures of different ethnic groups which results from the political dominance of the US and its European allies. In such a way, western ideology and lifestyle is currently dominant in the world that could not have failed to affect the development of other cultures of the world, including such traditionalist and conservative cultures as those of the Middle East and Eastern Asia.

In addition, it should be said that the increased role of media and communications also affects dramatically the development of culture worldwide. It should be pointed out that the level of the development of telecommunication technologies as well as all the other technologies is unprecedented and such a progress stimulates substantial changes in the lifestyle of people, facilitates their communication, eliminates geographical boundaries and makes people closer to each other, even though they are living in different parts of the world and represent absolutely different cultures.
Arjun Appadurais’ view of the contemporary culture.

In such a situation, it is very interesting to discuss the views of specialists on the problem of the development of the contemporary culture and factors that define the cultural development of the modern world as well as the major trends in the contemporary culture. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Arjun Appadurais whose conceptual research “Disjuncture and the difference in the global cultural economy” provides important information about the development of the contemporary culture. It should be pointed out that the central concept of the contemporary culture, according to Arjun Appadurais is the concept of the imaginary. He argues that the contemporary society develops cultural activities as social imaginary. In other words as activities which actually do not obligatory have the link with some elements of the surrounding reality. Instead, the imaginary plays increasing more important role to the extent that it is even possible to speak about the imagined communities.

Basically, the author states that the concept of the imaginary is dominant because he views imagination as a social practice. To put it more precisely, he argues that  “the imagination has become an organized field of social practices, a form of work… and a form of negotiation between sites of agency… and globally defined fields of possibilities” (During 2005, p.31). As a result, he points out that the imaginary has penetrated practically all spheres of human activities and become an essential part of the contemporary culture, its major characteristic.

On the basis of his concept of the imaginary Arjun Appadurais distinguishes five dimensions of the global cultural flow, which actually constitute the imaginary. The first dimension is ethnoscapes, which is represented by different ethnic groups that have a common socio-cultural background and they form their own social practices, their own imaginary as a part of their particular culture. In such a way, it is possible to speak about ethnic cultural division of the contemporary global culture that means that the researcher still distinguishes the existence of ethnic cultures in the context of the broader global culture. The second dimension is mediascapes. This dimension is formed by the contemporary media which actually produce a profound impact on the formation of an individual, his/her identity and, therefore, his/her cultural views. The third dimension is technoscapes which is formed under the impact of the development of new technologies and which actually contributes to the dramatic changes in the contemporary culture caused by the wide use of new technologies that open new opportunities for interpersonal communication and eliminates physical boundaries between people representing different socio-cultural groups. The fourth dimension is finanscapes, which are basically related to the field of economy but, the researcher points out that the impact of economy, especially economic globalization, on the contemporary culture is enormous because global economy stimulates cooperation and interaction between different cultures. Finally, Arjun Appadurais distinguishes another dimension, ideoscapes, which refer to the existence of the ideological unity of people and basically this dimension is able to unite people with the help of some prominent idea. For instance, in the contemporary society democratic ideas are widely spread and they affect dramatically the contemporary culture forcing many socio-cultural groups change their traditional views.
Stuart Hall’s views on the contemporary culture.

The views of Stuart Hall are, to a significant extent, similar to the view of Arjun Appadurais. To put it more precisely, Stuart Hall also underlines that the contemporary culture is dramatically influenced by the global process of economic integration and he points out that the growing interaction and cooperation between different countries and, thus, different culture, is accompanied and stimulated not only by economic but also political integration of countries. At the same time, Stuart Hall’s work helps better understand the mechanism of the interaction between people in the context of the contemporary cultural integration and growing impact of globalization trends in economic and political spheres of the life of society.

It should be said that Stuart Hall presents all people as producers and consumers of culture at the same time. This means that people are not only consumers of culture but they also able to produce and, therefore, change the contemporary culture. At this point it is possible to return to the concept of imaginary of Arjun Appadurais who insisted that the imagination plays practically the dominant role as a social practice. In this respect, it should be said that Stuart Hall attempts to look a bit further understand how the interaction between people, producers and consumers of culture occurs, and, apparently he also pays a lot of attention to the imagination power of humans. To put it more precisely, he argues that in the process of communication, which actually leads to the cultural interchange and simply constitute a part of the contemporary culture, people cannot send and receive an absolutely identical message because the original message created by the sender is perceived in a different way by the receiver of the message because the latter is influenced by a particular socio-cultural background. In such a way, Stuart Hall explains how people perceive in a different way one and the same message.

In this respect, the researcher refers to media discourse to develop his ideas. On analyzing his model of encoding and decoding of media discourses, it is possible to estimate that the meaning of a text, or discourse lies somewhere between the producer and the reader or consumer. In order to explain the difference in the perception of the text by the reader and the producer, Stuart Hall develops the concept of the margin of understanding, which implies that the while the meaning of the text is between the producer and the consumer both of them interpret it in different ways being influenced by their own culture and background.

In general, it is possible to estimate that Stuart Hall develops the ideas of Arjun Appadurais and reveals how the interaction between people occurs and the impact of cultural and social background of individuals on their interaction.

Hamid Naficy’s views of the contemporary culture
Hamid Naficy’s also attempts to trace the development of the contemporary culture and the impact of media on it. He basically focuses his research on the life of Iranian community in Los Angeles and he attempts to show that the impact of media in the modern world is very significant, to the extent that they can maintain the specific culture into the culturally diverse community. In this respect, it should be said that Hamid Naficy enlarges the views of both Arjun Appadurais and Stuart Hall on the development of cultures and impact of media. In fact, he focuses on what Appadurais defines as the mediascapes and partially ethnicscapes, and attempts to trace the link between Iranian media as the producer and local communities as consumers of culture. In his research, the author arrives to the conclusion that media can contribute to the formation of a specific cultural and ideological views of the audience. The influence may be so significant that even such a diverse cultural background as that of Los Angeles proves to be unable to resists effectively to the impact of media and slow down the assimilation of “exile cultures”.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the contemporary culture is susceptible to the multiple influences determined by the progressing global economic and political integration and increasing role of media, which result from the technological progress. In such a situation, the contemporary culture tends to shift from the material sphere into the sphere of imagination where people cannot only be consumers but also producers of culture, while media are very effective tools that contribute to the spread of culture and evoke response reactions of the audience as a consumer and producer of the culture.

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