Monday, March 26, 2007

Parochial Pittsburgh Meets Global Pittsburgh

Akin to a reward for redoubling my blogging efforts, some like-minded people made the effort to connect with me. While Juan's blog explores the meaning and possibilities of global culture, I see an exposé of the emerging transnational identities of the diaspora:

Global Culture should not be about MacDonalds and Starbucks in every little town around the world. It should be the opposite: being able to experience your own cultural heritage in the context of a foreign community. So if you come from Venezuela, where good coffee is a century-old tradition, you should be able to find the equivalent to your traditional coffee house wherever you go. If done well, becoming a global citizen should not require you to loose your cultural baggage.

Jon Udell makes a similar pitch when asking, "First, why would I want to hop from one network to another? Second, is making that easier a good thing for me and for everyone else involved?":

...the answer to the second question is that there are wrong ways and right ways to grease the skids for culture-hoppers. An example of the wrong way is the Burger King on the Champs-Élysées. An example of the right way is the ATM machine next door that takes my American debit card and dispenses Euros.

I mention all this because I’m returning from a meeting that brought together people from very different networks and cultures. The purpose of the meeting was, somewhat reflexively, to discuss how to build bridges of understanding among people from different networks and cultures. These kinds of cross-disciplinary efforts are always fun and interesting, but in my experience they end when the meeting ends.

McWorld is a cynical view of global culture, what I consider to be the geography of nomads. These vagabonds have their own set of values and code of conduct that doesn't spring forth from any particular place. The cosmopolites are not straddling two or more cultures. Instead, they belong to a community that doesn't call any particular place home.

Global nomads are not "connectors" of distinct cultures, but transnationals are. I think Juan and Jon are celebrating transnationalism, not "globalism." This perspective dovetails nicely with the Burgh Diaspora Project. Parochial Pittsburgh is a wonderful example of a strong local culture. The Burgh Diaspora fits Juan's prescription, "[B]eing able to experience your own cultural heritage in the context of a foreign community."

Transnationals make excellent ambassadors for a nation. They also can help their homeland access the tremendous opportunities developing around the world. These "cultural connectors" comprise the engine of the emerging knowledge economy and the numbers of "culture-hoppers" are growing.

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