During the month of October, 2014, the researcher conducted a personal interview with an educator who has extensive international experience and is currently working in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The subject of the interview was globalization and its relation to education. During the first couple of minutes, the interviewed educator was a bit apprehensive—he seemed not to fully know what to expect from the meeting and the content of the interview. As the interview progressed, however, humor became an integral part of the exchange between the interviewer and the educator. The humor component and the previous friendship between the two helped to ease any nervousness on both sides and made the interview progress very quickly. In his responses related to globalization, the educator touched on various topics (e.g. cultural values, professional background, etc.), but three main subjects stood out and permeated nearly all responses given by the educator: multicultural awareness, the role of technology, and a balanced approach to globalization.
When asked about his work at a private university, the educator indicated that he worked both as a librarian and as a professor. In this dual role, he was in constant contact with students from various backgrounds, but in particular with many international students. As a librarian, for instance, he noticed that international students are among those who most frequently visit the library and use its services. When providing the reason for the observed phenomenon, the educator stated that international students “love to come to the library and use the library because it’s a very safe place. It’s a kind of neutral zone” (Educator, personal communication, October 22, 2014, lines 97-98). This seemed to indicate that students were looking for shelter—maybe shelter from the culture found outside the library. One of the reasons why international students may find the library at this institution to be a safe place may be related to a fact mentioned by the educator later in the interview: most librarians working at that library “have had experience in other cultures” (lines 164-165). These librarians speak many languages and offer their services in multiple languages; the ability to communicate in their own native languages may allow international students to feel at ease to interact with others. In a sense, the library may offer these students a pause in their cultural experiences outside those walls (Greider, 2014).
The themes of multicultural awareness and globalization were also evident in the willingness to investigate ways in which international students interact with service providers. The educator indicated that the librarians recently held a special luncheon with international students in an effort to discover ways in which the library could be more useful to them. During the exchange, the librarians discovered a cultural difference in how American and some foreign students interacted with librarians who seemed to be busy: American students “won’t hesitate to come over” (line 173) whereas some international students “greatly hesitate and won’t [interact] if you look busy” (lines 173-174). The interaction with international students can also be hindered by words, pictures, and even talking manners; as a result, the university has been making a special effort to make professors aware of this multicultural component of education, which is a direct result of globalization (Parr, Faine, Le Ha, & Seddon, 2013; Tanger, 2010).
Role of Technology
Technology was another major theme during the interview. When asked how he would define globalization, the educator mentioned interconnectedness and interdependency that were brought about mainly through technology. This view would seem to fit within the Network Society theory of globalization (Castells, 2000; Robinson, 2008). According to the educator, the role of technology seemed to be two-fold: first, it allowed for faster and easier worldwide communication. Second, technology allowed for cultural influences to quickly and powerfully spread to regions of the world that did not experience those cultural aspects before.
When pressed about the role of technology as it related specifically to libraries, the educator mentioned standardization and integration, both current themes in library science and the impact of globalization on that field (Abbas, 2010). The interviewer pointed out that these two—standardization and integration—would seem to run counter to globalization; if globalization involved the exchange of cultures, awareness of difference, and valuing diversity, how were those values applied in library science? The educator believed that in the area of library integration, standardization was better and more efficient. Based on this exchange, there seemed to be a double standard for globalization in the mind of the educator: in some cases, the flattening of the world seemed to work better, while in other areas, diversity and awareness of difference were valued above all else (Plaw, 2005).
Balanced Approach to Globalization
The third major feature of the interview was the balanced approach to globalization evidenced by the educator’s responses. When first asked about his understanding of globalization, the educator mentioned the role of technology in allowing worldwide, instantaneous communication; but he also mentioned that cultures from dominant nations were reaching areas that had not been touched by those foreign cultures before. In his use of the word “commercial” (line 49), the educator seemed to indicate a negative side to globalization.
When asked if his international experience had influenced his understanding of globalization, the educator quickly indicated that it had indeed affected his understanding of globalization. While describing a particular experience in Japan, he related both the positive side (mutual cultural awareness) but also mentioned the potential for abuse of the power that comes with being a representative of a dominant culture. Considering the World-system theory (Wallerstein, 1974, 2000), this dynamic exchange of cultural values and resulting power positions have their context in the overall role that the United States plays in the world economy at this time; this takes place even though Japan is also part of what could be considered part of the “core, or the powerful and developed centers of the system” (Robinson, 2008, p. 129).
The educator’s balanced approach to globalization was also evidenced by the use of the term, “double-edged sword” (lines 58 and 127). Within this context, the educator cited as positive examples of globalization: the cultural exchanges, the valuing of diversity, and the advantages of standardization of communication, and the integration of libraries. On the other hand, what the educator termed “sameness” (line 133) may result in the impoverishment of less powerful cultures. That would be a major negative aspect of globalization. As a possible solution, the educator proposed that both faculty and students need to be educated to be “mindful of difference, and to learn to engage otherness in very productive ways… ways of learning and greater empathy and mutuality, and respect of cultures and differences” (lines 140-142). The educator’s aversion to “sameness” (line 133) and stress on diversity and multiculturalism would seem to indicate that he does not view transnationalism, homogenization, or hybridization (Robinson, 2008) as viable routes for globalization; instead, despite his early denial that “the world is getting smaller” (line 44), the educator seems to hold a view of globalization similar to Harvey (1990) in that Capitalism plays a pivotal role in the spread of culture, and this rapid cultural diffusion is taking place because the world has been compressed in terms of time and space through globalization.
The interview with a higher education professional in Oklahoma yielded interesting insights about globalization and its impact on higher education. While many subjects were touched upon and discussed, the educator’s responses centered around three main topics: multicultural awareness, the role of technology, and a balanced approach to globalization. These three major themes helped to frame his understanding of globalization and what he perceives to be its impact on teaching, learning, and library services.
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