In Search Of Cultural Resemblances The Essay

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In search of cultural resemblances: The consequences of media consumption among young adults in Malaysia

Latiffah Pawanteh, Ph.D.
School of Media and Communication Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Paper presented at the 14th AMIC Annual Conference on Media and Society in Asia:
Transformations and Transition, July 18th -21, 2005, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

There is today a heightened sense of connectedness and familiarity with people, events and cultural ways of living in distant places due to the capabilities brought about by the advancements in information and communication technologies. The television in particular global media, have not only made it possible but also fairly easy the interaction with other cultures through the availability of global communicative networks and social structures. These media organisations not only support but make it possible to bring distant images and content from one part of the globe to another within seconds. These immediate mediated experiences have led to the reduction in distance between individuals, society and nation states in terms of both time and space (Giddens, 1991).
Inadvertently, this process plays a significant role in cultural globalization by providing an extensive transnational supply of cultural media products from an international media culture and presents a challenge to existing local and national cultures.
The proponents of cultural imperialism and media imperialism have long argued that global media with their continuous supply of western-based cultural

content and their extensive structure promote a restructuring of cultural and social communities in developing countries (Ali, 1990; Schiller, 1991). As such, global media is purported as having a crucial role in cultural globalization with their tendency toward homogenizing communities. Nevertheless, to assume cultural globalization as replacing the local ways of living is to presuppose the lack of resilience and creativity on the part of local cultures and also to overstate the role of the media technologies in shaping societies. It cannot be denied that of late there is an ever-growing increase and tendencies toward the consumption of transnational economic and cultural products. It is inevitable that the future years will see a greater struggle between the tensions toward globalization and the attempts to maintain and consolidate national communities (McGrew, 1992).
It is without a doubt that global media have impacted the local communities for decades and more so in the past twenty years due to the shift in international relations and economic situations that necessitates local policies to change in order to benefit and be included in the global scenario. With the ongoing transformations of the local mediascape that provide for increasingly greater access to transnational media consumption of various cultures and languages, the looming question of foreign media content and their impact on local young adults and subsequently, local cultural identities come into view once again. And what (if any) are the changes that have occurred in the local media industry? These concerns framed the assumptions that guided the study that is, the content analysis and focus group discussions of young adult television audiences. The social constructionist approach is the theoretical framework that underlines this study. Within this view, it was felt that the “interest is on programs and programming but not as texts studied in isolation from their usage as an element in everyday life” (Alaasuutari, 1999:6-7). This view also pays particular attention and attempts to understand more about the mediascape. Through the content analysis of the television programs available locally and focus group discussions with sixty young adults (20-25 years old), it is hoped that the findings


presented in this paper will shed some light on the role of media (television) on