How are globalization and communication interrelated to each other in a ‘global village’? ‘Global village’ is a term introduced by the Canadian scientist Marshall McLuhan in 1964, which refers to the idea that mass communication allows the world to be interpreted as a village (Murray, 2006). McLuhan was the first person to introduce the concept of a global village and to define its social effects. His insights were innovative at the time and influenced the opinions of people about media, technology and communications. McLuhan chose the words ‘global village’ to point out that “the world has become compressed and electrically contracted, so that the globe is no more then a village” (Murray 2006, p. 31). The idea of the global village closes the distance between countries, as an event experienced in one part of the world can be witnessed in other parts of the world as well. It establishes an image of the world where information can be shared across borders. The World Wide Web can be seen as one of the expressions of the global village.

All these developments point to an intensified global connectedness and the beginning of the world as an interdependent system. As is made clear, more and more people are involved in global systems of consumption and have access to global networks of communication (Knox & Marston, 2007). In the Netherlands, nowadays many people have access to global networks of communication. In 2008, 86 per cent of all the households have access to the World Wide Web (CBS, 2008).

What is most significant about the latest developments in communications is that they are not only global in reach, but are also able to influence the local scale; it works in two ways. As this influence occurs, some places that are distant in kilometres are becoming close together, while some that are close in terms of absolute space are becoming more distant in terms of their ability to reach each other in a virtual way. Globalization is changing the way time-space operates and is being thought of. Time-space geography has formed an important subject since the work of Torsten Hägerstrand (1986) who is the founder of the behavioural approach within time-geography. Building on this framework, there are three ways of thinking geographically about the relationship between time and space (Murray 2006):

  • time-space convergence (refers to the friction of distance between places)
  • time-space distanciation (stretching of social systems across time and space)
  • time-space compression (destruction of space through time)


Especially the second one, time-space distanciation is relevant according to social network site Hyves, as time-space distanciation refers to the stretching of social systems across time and space. The term was introduced by sociologist Anthony Giddens and refers to the interlinking of people and places over increasingly large distances. Like McLuhan, Giddens points out that people interact in two ways; face to face, and over larger distances through communication technologies. The second has become important, as it is ‘distanciating’ the relations between people: people (or social networks) that were previously distinctive have become connected and interdependent. In this way, people who are not actually present in absolute space can be important social actors. This process does not lead to homogenization, Giddens says. What he wants to make clear is that people have the possibility to reorganize global scale systems instead. By releasing the control of local practices, social activity becomes disconnected from the context of presence (Murray, 2006 and Benko & Strohmayer, 1997).


As is made clear, globalization in general has been and still is a much-discussed phenomenon. In his book ‘the Globalization of Nothing’ (2004) Georg Ritzer divides the term globalization into ‘grobalization’ and ‘glocalization’. The following two descriptions give an explanation of both terms and they are being discussed in relation to social network sites, with in particular Hyves.

Ritzer explains the term grobalization as “the world growing increasingly similar where individuals and groups have relatively little ability to adapt and maneuver within a grobalized world. Grobalization tends to over empower the local and limits its ability to act and react” (p. 21).

The basic idea of the process of grobalization is derived from Max Weber, who wrote about rationalization. Weber pointed that the modern Western world was characterized by an increasing trend toward the dominance of rational systems and that the rest of the world was influenced by these systems (Ritzer, 2004). The three processes that are discussed under the caption of grobalization are capitalism, McDonaldization and Americanization. Especially the second item, McDonaldization is interesting according to social network sites. “McDonaldization stands for the principles of the fast-food restaurant that are coming to dominate more and more societies throughout the world” (Ritzer 2004, p. 24). When looking at the five principles Ritzer describes within the concept of McDonaldization, social network sites (in this case Hyves) can be interpreted as a rational system as well.

  • Hyves is efficient in the way that using a virtual communication medium simplifies or moderates getting in contact with other people. This does not only count for bridging time (instead of visiting a person), but also costs are reduced (compared to using, for example, a cell phone).
  • Hyves can be seen a predictable and calculable, because all social network sites are to a large extent used for the same reasons; making and keeping contact with other people. Besides that, social network sites are set up in similar ways. Although they offer different possibilities (like blogs, photo’s, free or no free access) people know how to use social network sites.
  • Hyves as a social network site is a product of the ongoing development of technology. Especially since the year 2000 more and more social network sites originated (boyd & Ellison 2008). Besides the fact that Hyves connects people or maybe even stimulates making contact, a virtual way of making contact may at the same time disconnect people. It can occur that people who are close in absolute space, are becoming more distant because contact is made in a virtual way. As Giddens said earlier, through the use of social network sites global scale systems are being restructured.
  • The interaction between people who are a member of Hyves is not occurring face-to-face; it is in the first place a dehumanized way of making contact. Besides this, it is possible that friends in a Hyves-network are not closely familiar with each other. It occurs that one becomes friends with someone, without keeping up contact afterwards.

 

Glocalization is defined by Ritzer (2004) as the interpenetration of the global and the local, resulting in unique outcomes in different geographic areas. Glocalization involves the interaction of many global and local inputs to create a kind of blend, leading to a variety of cultural hybrids. Glocalization fits to a postmodern social theory in which there is room for the local, diversity and at least partial interdependence from grobal processes” (p. 13).

Hyves can be interpreted as a glocalized version of the more international social network sites like MySpace or Facebook. Hyves is a Dutch initiative and the organization is aiming for, at least in the nearby future, to keep up the Dutch-orientated inset (Rottenberg, 2008). It needs to be mentioned here that Hyves offers the possibility to switch the language settings from Dutch to English and in the past it was also possible to switch to Spanish. And further, if you want to become a member of Hyves you have free access to do so. But looking at the statistics (6.5 million out of 7.5 million users are Dutch; Rottenberg, 2008) and the motive of Hyves to hold on to a more local – national - character, it is not very likely to use Hyves as a medium of communication if a person is not Dutch or is not familiar with the Dutch language.