Big Question: How is globalization changing culture?

Globalization has propagated economic opportunity, elevated human rights and improved access to information, technology and goods for people all over the world. Critics argue that these benefits have come at a steep price: the sacrificing of regional cultural identity for Western ideals.

Curiosity contributor Bambi Turner looked at globalization and found disagreement about its benefits and drawbacks.

Globalization can affect culture in a few basic ways. One interpretation suggests that globalization disperses any and every culture throughout the world, making the planet more heterogeneous, forging deeper connections between different groups. For example, teens in the United States gain an understanding of Japanese culture through animation, comic books and video games, while teens throughout Asia learn about the American way of life by watching U.S. TV shows and movies.

Others argue that globalization makes culture more homogenous, leading to a unified world culture that consists of watered-down versions of regional cultural trends. Japanese sushi can be consumed in virtually any country in the world, and favorites from French pastries to "American" fried chicken can be found from Florida to Hong Kong. Proponents argue that this only affects things like consumer goods and the media, while critics worry that it weakens traditional culture.

The impact of globalization on culture may also be seen as a blend of the heterogeneous and homogenous, or a "glocalization" of sorts. Glocalization can be understood as the development of hybrid cultures at the local level, as foreign cultures reach local soil, such as in the creation of fusion cuisine or music. In the 21st century, this impact has been felt in American movies, where foreign films like The Departed are remade for the U.S. market.

One of the most common arguments against globalization is that it forces American culture onto the world, Westernizing other nations. Will everyone one day wear blue jeans and eat at McDonald's? We don't know. Globalization can work both ways: Even American blue jeans were forged from different cultures. They were developed by a German immigrant; their denim comes from the name of the French town where it originated (de Nimes); and "jeans" comes from "Genes," a name used to describe a style of pants inspired by the pants worn by Genoan sailors [source: Legraine].