Cultural Homogeneity

Tim Wu, in The Master Switch, explains that “the age of ‘mass media’ upended by cable television was … a period of unprecedented cultural homogeneity” (214). This quote drove me to want to look at how cultural homogeneity may still exist in the present day.

I cannot argue against Wu when he explains that, “since the 1980s, cable’s appeal to the niche instead of the nation has thus … been blamed for the splintering, dividing, or clustering of America” (213). With so many different television channels and ways to entertain ourselves everyone is able to pick their own niche, but this does not necessarily mean there is no longer any cultural homogeneity in our entertainment.

og-fox-news.pngCultural homogeneity now exists in clusters. News channels favor certain parties, shows favor certain generations, and movies target niche markets. People trust a specific news channel to deliver them the news that they need to know. For example, the daily viewers of Fox News are delivered the same information and in turn create a somewhat homogenous segment of the population that share the same beliefs.

This can similarly be seen in our TV shows and movies. Generations of kids have grown up watching shows like Sesame Street and Spongebob Squarepants and movies like Shrek, Finding Nemo, and Toy StoryThese type of shows unite generations in the same way that they united generations who were watching I Love Lucy.

Cultural homogeneity can also exist outside of TV and movies and into the technologies and apps we use. The technology we use to get on the Internet although inherently open, can create a more closed experience.

For example, Apple products are not completely open. For instance, they are known for being closed off to outside enhancements. Unlike Windows that’s system is created to be easily operated on by a variety of applications, Apple continues to make their products self contained. On top of this they create products that are not easily paired with other devices. An iPhone user is more likely to get a MacBook so they can effortlessly switch between the two, giving Apple the power to nearly control the user’s entire technological experience.

Wu explains, “in a manner unprecedented on the Web … Apple reserves the right to decide what apps may or may not run on an iPad or iPhone” (291). This in itself creates a cultural homogeneity by limiting which apps people are able to use and how they interact with the technology. With this amount of control, Apple users are still tied to the Internet which stays inherently open.

Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 3.20.51 PM

Almost as many people use Facebook as live in the entire country of China

The most popular app on smart phones in 2015 was Facebook. With Facebook spanning across almost every country and having a population nearly as big as China (shown in the graph to the left), it is something that can not be ignored.

Wu quotes Tim Berners-Lee stating, “a social networking site like Facebook … threatens to become ‘a closed silo of content, and one that does not give you full control over your information in it … [T]he more this kind of architecture gains widespread use, the more the Web becomes fragmented, and the less we enjoy a single, universal information space'” (298).

With the amount of users that are consistently prioritizing Facebook and Google for their information, we can see homogeneity. However, when we look at each individual experience we still see differences.

With the amount of information sites like Facebook and Google store about you, ads are now specific to what your interests and web searches show. This limits your Web experience into a closed user specific experience that is inherently different from anyone else’s and thus heterogeneous.

So although through generations we may watch the same shows and movies making us into clusters of cultural homogeneity, when it comes to the Internet, we are moving further and further to each having our own personal heterogeneous experiences.

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