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As technological advances and innovational improvements begin to have a global-scale effect on the homogenization of cultures, various societies around the world are showing growing evidence of quick cultural convergence and acculturation. Whether or not this process is perceived as a benefit for society or the downfall of uniqueness within the human population, all social scientists are trying to find the reasons behind the rapid diffusion of different phenomena. The questions of what encourages and decelerates the expansion of cultural traits has been studied intently over past years, and based on the evidence that has been compiled and examined, there are more stimuli that strengthen the multiple processes of diffusion, such as technological advances in communication and transportation, than there are conditions that slow it down, such as the barriers that a physical environment might provide.
Over the past few decades, the wonders of technology in the area of communication has improved in various ways that still tend to astound most of this generation. From the invention of first iPhones seven years ago to the recent release of the Samsung Galaxy S5, smart phones have become a regular appearance in an average person’s daily life. However, even the simplest cell phone has the power to send a message halfway across the world in a matter of seconds and connect over a phone call to tell of the latest news. Because of this easy and efficient way of interacting, cultures from around the world are quickly beginning to fuse together and layer culture traits to create something new. Smart phones also have the ability to have access to various applications, or ‘apps’, such as Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and Snapchat, that grant access to a display of global trending topics and situations that wasn’t available to those that lived even in the most recent passing generation. This effortless approach to far-reaching interaction has promoted relations between distant places, therefore strengthening their connectivity and allowing the blending of different aspects of multiple cultures that hasn’t occurred ever before.
Technological advances haven’t just stayed in the realm of communication, however. Throughout the past century, transportation has also become unquestionably progressive every single year. A very prominent example of these advancements would be the high-speed rail line that is being installed in Los Angeles, California. It’s planned to take a quick and easy route from northern California to southern California and back at a speed of about 200 miles per hour. This is just one of the many upgrades in transportation that are occurring globally, usually starting in East Asian countries, such as Japan or China, and contagiously diffusing west from those origins. Even the less complex, older innovations in transportation have proved to be beneficial towards diffusion, too. Just a bit over a century ago, Wilbur and Orville Wright took flight on the first powered aircraft known to the human population. As the 1900’s went on, advancements in air technology have resulted in the high-speed airplanes that people enjoy today that came travel over a thousand miles in a matter of hours. The invention of the modern aircraft also provides a way around physical barriers that a location’s environment might provide. History proves that one of the most difficult natural barriers to overcome were high mountain ranges, but the airplane has not only provided a route over these barriers but also proves to be barely time-consuming and efficient. This also allows a more adequate form of diffusion by the actual moving of people, which has been coined as relocation diffusion.
However, even with these technological advancements encouraging the fast process of diffusion, there are still barriers that retard the rapid expansion of culture traits and decelerate the development of globalization. Throughout history, the physical environment has proved to be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the process of not only communication but cultural convergence as well. These natural limits do not just pertain to mountain ranges but vary from distance over large bodies of water to giant expanses of unpassable terrain, including deadly hot deserts and chillingly frigid tundra. Even though technology has advanced so much to the point where some of these barriers are not as retarding as before, they still prove to be an obstacle when examining the amount of time it takes for a phenomena to diffuse efficiently.
Physical terrain is not the only barrier that is seen when studying the success of diffusion and its causes. Different aspects of society can also be perceived as a boundary that is unable to be crossed when the phenomena reaches that point. In many cases, a location’s government or personal belief system can prove to be a very firm limit to the dispersion of a certain item or idea. A modern illustration of this taking place would be in the Islamic world, where the attempts at homogenization of Islamic and modern American/European culture is firmly rejected. Past Islamic rulers have been overthrown because of their tries at blending their culture with the modern society’s culture, proving just how much power and control a religious ruling can have over the overall effect of globalization on their specific culture. These types of boundaries are ones that technological advancements can affect, and because of this, the firm stances of governmental figures/bodies or religious standards are seen as the most influential boundaries against the diffusion of modern, innovative phenomena.
Even though diffusion has become one of the most well-known aspects of social science today, the study of why it happens and how it’s become so powerful and effective is a bit more complex to understand. The two barriers that have been mentioned are not and might never be completely disregarded when speaking of limits to diffusion due to their influence over a society and its culture, but the advancements in technological aspects of culture have become so innovative, efficient, and overpowering that it’s difficult to ignore the advantages of this phenomena. Either way, it’s undeniable that the homogenization of cultures is very prominent in various societies around the world today, and diffusion continues to stand as one of the few sole reasons for the existence of globalization.
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