(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

Looking for Universal Language: Verbal versus Visual

Summary of research carried out: 
Looking for Universal Language: Verbal versus Visual

The definition of culture as “the institutionally or informally organized social production and reproduction of sense, meaning and consciousness” emphazises the institutionalized and social character of culture, as opposed to the widely held belief that culture is a result of individual inspirations and imagination. Today, cultures of the world are threatened by the emergence of a globalizing hyper culture, the final cultural mutation of the post-capitalistic, post-modern society, resulting solely from the profitability goals, influenced solely by the market rules, in which a small number of large media conglomerates set in motion a homogenisation of culture. There are two major factors that threaten cultural pluralism today: treating cultural information as an economic commodity, and with the rise of technology, the resulting surrender of culture to technology.

Knowledge of French, Russian, English, German, and Serbo-Croat has allowed me to consult and compare primary sources on national cultural policies these languages cover. The comparative analysis includes the issues of legislation and funding in the field of culture as well as cultural transmission through mass media, and the related issue of the impact of globalization.

Furthermore, I attempt to map out the characteristics of the global hyper culture, in relation to their origin, as well as the mechanisms that perpetuate its emergence. First, I attempt to determine to what extent the global hyper culture is a product of the international conglomerates. Secondly, the focus is moved towards mechanisms within the cultural production based on the commercial premises, such as co-opting cultural symbols in order to further the interests of commerce, as a result draining symbols of any serious connotation.

Further distinction between verbal and visual cultural language is made: an analysis of verbal language, a simplified meta-language of brands and pop cultural slogans, resulting from excessive media consumption, completely deprived of any connection to reality. The visual media and their greater accessibility in the emergence of a global culture, when compared to verbal language, are also discussed. Finally, the last part is a discussion about strategies that might enable us to influence these processes, ranging from the proposals for the need to move beyond the idea of the French exception culturelle, which implies closing doors and exclusion, toward a need for the valid and recognized existence of cultural pluralism, to the techno subcultures concerned with inventing ways for by-passing the globally imposed culture of mass production and mass media to one of customized knowledge.


2 September 2002