Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Question 1 2014 Cultural Flattening

Describe what you think cultural flattening is, and how it might have evolved. Include an example in your answer.


  1. Cultural flattening
    Cultural flattening is the process where culturally significant icons, symbols and associations are used out of the cultural context, history, values and meaning but are fabricated in a way that it becomes recognisable for its cultural association.
    This process would have evolved with due to the improvement of international travel and tourism, greater international media, globalisation, and improvement of information technology. People could have also used those symbols and associations to supply a demand for exotic cultural commodities.
    An example is the Haka. It is associated with Maori culture, but many people replicate it without knowing the meaning.

    Harry Choi 5540137

  2. Dawn Sacayan 5779914July 24, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    Cultural flattening refers to the weakening and devaluation of cultural identities, symbols, icons and traditions. Depth and meaning associated to these are often obscured, denoted misleadingly and to some extent lost.

    Cultural flattening may easily be attributed to globalisation, greater accessibility and mobility; hence greater international tourism and migration. However, tourism and cultural policies driven by economic functions by the government also play a significant part. Ethnic communities and indigenous cultures, especially in South-East Asian countries, are commodified (i.e. ethnic villages showing tourists their way of life) to promote tourism industry and enhance the national/local economy.

    While this ensures cultural revitalization and conservation, it is done so in the expense of authentic cultural experiences, exploitation of cultural identity and loss of meaning.

    1. Reference: http://www.trendsoutheast.org/opinion/2013/6/19/commodification-of-culture-in-southeast-asia

  3. The process of promoting a culture without considering the associated meaning behind it is cultural flattening.
    This could have evolved through the technological development during the industrial revolution, enabling globalisation and making people more mobile. Governmental focus on enhancing the tourism industry for economic development have resulted in little reflection of cultural values and meanings.
    For example, traditional Korean housing called Hanok are commodified into tourist accommodation in Bukchon. This promotes Korean culture and tourism industry without offering tourists an authentic cultural experience, as they would not know the value of the designs of these houses.

    Eun Jung Lee 2232462

  4. Cultural flattening can be described as the removal of the significance and meanings of traditions or values, through the displacement of these from their cultural and historical context. These are recreated into foreign contexts, where these now lack depth and but are still recognisable symbols of certain cultures.
    This process of reducing cultural meaning may have evolved through both globalisation and increased tourism. Globalisation enables greater transport of people and goods, carrying culture with them. For example, Chinese lanterns have meaning of significance during the Chinese New Year, however these are replicated in Western societies where there may be an absence of understanding the meaning/significance.

    Cassandra Ng 5444110

  5. Kate Richardson 5473245July 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Cultural Flattening occurs when culture is treated as a commodity. History behind cultural tradition is overlooked, allowing cultures to be stereotyped and commercialised. Removing cultural context has been induced by globalization, tourism, new technology and global homogenisation. As a result cultural groups are misrepresented and objectified. However, do economic benefits of cultural flattening justify it? Marae meetings put on for tourists do not give an authentic representation of the culture yet stimulate economic development.

    As planners we must take an active role to understand cultures on an intellectual and spiritual level to enrich our knowledge and avoid cultural flattening.

    Kate Richardson 5473245

  6. The process of removing traditional customs and cultural values from a historical context can be summarised as cultural flattening. The result, culture is commodified and the complexities of ancient customs are distorted to become marketing tools.

    This is a result of globalisation, tourism, advances in technology, and international media.

    For example, Hula dancing in Hawaii was originally done ceremoniously by men and women in honour of the goddesses, Pele and Laka. Due to decades of subversion and exploitation by tourism and media entertainment the dance become to be known as a way to honour tourists that visit the island.

    Rahul Chand

  7. Cultural flattening is the reestablishment and recreational use of a culture’s identity through globalisation into niche markets. This influences tourism allowing greater variety, partly to cater for consumer demand.

    Cultural flattening may have evolved through the different stages of globalisation throughout the 20th and 21st century when markets came closer together, and there was a “desire to experience”, but not practice, foreign cultures and norms.

    An example is the colourful Hindu festival, Holi. Worldwide events such as the “Colour Run” adapted from Holi, and worldwide “Holi” events are attended by people who may not understand the meaning/significance behind it.


    Meethan, K. (2003). Mobile cultures? Hybridity, tourism and cultural change.Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 1(1), 11-28.

    Wahab, S. and Cooper, C. (eds) (2001) Tourism in the Age of Globalisation. London: Routledge.

    Du Gay, P. and Pryke, M. (eds) (2002) Cultural Economy. London: Sage.

    Jaiman Patel - 1844168

  8. Brittney SutherlandJuly 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Cultural flattening is a process that refers to the devaluation of cultural identities, symbols, values and traditions. This occurs due to a loss of in-depth knowledge of cultural processes. As a result customs and values are degraded and cultural understanding becomes reliant on stereotypes and external interpretations of culture.

    This process has evolved through globalisation, greater international trade, migration, commodification, city marketing and the tourism industry. This has caused rapid transport of people, information and goods that has circulated cultural trends and processes throughout the world.

    For example the boomerang and didgeridoo and other Australian cultural symbols are replicated in the tourism industry with an absence of historic and cultural meaning. This has devalued internal meanings and values of cultural symbols and processes.

    Brittney Sutherland 4993177

  9. Sophia Lee La Selle 2862608July 26, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Cultural flattening can be described as the devaluation of culturally significant icons, identities, traditions, values and symbols, which do not thoroughly encapsulate the true cultural context, history and meaning.

    The removal of the cultural context may have evolved through globalisation, tourism, marketing, migration and the Internet. Thus resulting in general assumptions and misinformation leading to stereotypical depictions of different cultures.

    An example of this is the inking cultural tattoos for aesthetics without understanding the importance and value it carries. Rihanna, a celebrity got a traditional Maori tattoo but due to disagreement in aesthetics, covered it with a different tattoo.

  10. Jianan Wu (Jenna)July 27, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Cultural flattening can be described as the process or phenomenon that significances and meanings of traditions and values are removed from community and historical context and flattened into stereotypes.
    In the context of globalization, the speeding intensity of information bombing has caused many cultures struggled over representation, as so called ‘fast-food culture’ gradually evolved. There are a bunch of variations but no depth per se. To be economically successful and stand out in the competitive global tourism market, iconizing and commercializing cultural products prevailed into a kind of fashion.
    For example, the rebuilt of ancient city wall in Datong, Shanxi, China was undisguisedly for tourism attraction as its defense purpose was long gone. So far it does stimulate economic development and could be reviewed as cultural revitalization. But copying the form with the absence of historical context seems rather opportunistic to me.

    Jianan Wu(Jenna) 5270747

  11. Michelle Burns 5364129July 27, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Cultural flattening is the process of traditional culture and customs being taken out of historical context and homogenised through commodification. This devalues these symbols due to the detachment of historical value. This can be attributed as a result of globalisation and tourism, which has led to an increase in the transport of people and goods, and therefore culture. An example is the war bonnets traditionally worn by Native American Chiefs who had to earn the feathers in battle. Nowadays, they are often worn at costume parties and festivals, which demonstrates the devaluation of the war bonnets due to cultural commodification.

    Michelle Burns 5364129

  12. Cultural flattening describes the loss of meaning, historical significance and context from cultural customs and entities when they are shallowly translated globally and fabricated for different uses such as attracting tourists, refurbishing heritage and recreating traditional urban environments.

    It has evolved through the international commodification of cultures for use as icons and tourist attractions, where cultural icons are rapidly transferred globally but lose their depth, context and meaning.

    An example is pop star, Robbie Williams’ Māori tattoo. The design was claimed to be particular to iwi, and Williams’ lack of knowledge of the significance of the tattoo demonstrates cultural flattening.

    Sarah Burgess

  13. Kasey Zhai 1838497July 27, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    Cultural flattening occurs when culturally significant images, items, or customs are reduced to stereotypes. These entities are expressed without historical context, and lose meaning and value. As a result, cultural icons are recognised, but not understood. For instance, use of the dragon to represent Chinese culture does not convey the folklore and connotations that are embodied by this symbol.

    Cultural flattening has evolved from the processes of globalisation, including the homogenisation of global markets. Traditions that were once geographically restricted are now freely transferred around the globe. These traditions are then commodified and marketed without acknowledgement of their historical origins.

    Kasey Zhai

  14. Cultural flattening can be seen as the devaluation and spoiling of a culture or ethnic groups traditional identities, customs and values and flattening them into stereotypes or commodities that do not express the cultures beliefs appropriately. Cultural flattening has typically been discussed as a result of globalisation, marketing and tourism.

    An example of cultural stereotyping is the controversy over the Washington Redskins brand and name (Native American face is the mascot). Native Americans have been calling for a name change for the NFL team as far back as 1971 but still the name is being used despite it being seen as a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping.

    Reference List:

    Berman, J. (2014, June 19). There's Never Been A Trademark As Offensive As Redskins. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/redskins-trademark_n_5509239.html

    Shepherd, R. (2002). Commodification, culture and tourism. London: Tourist Studies.

    Nickolas Renton - 4993863

  15. Baolin Zhang 5595904July 29, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Cultural flattening is the process that traditional cultural values and customs are flattened into stereotypes.
    Cultural flattening could have evolved through technological development, globalization, the improvement of tourism industry, commodification and advances of international media. It is a simple way to represent and promote culture but always brings a loss of in-depth understanding of culture.
    One example of cultural flattening is the reproduction of ancient building in the scenic spots in Guangzhou, China. Those buildings are usually low quality copies of traditional Chinese architecture and are mostly run for tourism.

    Baolin Zhang 5595904

  16. Sujol Chand 5846566July 29, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Cultural flattening is the process of changing the cultural significance of historical icons, symbols, attributes, and other noteworthy values into stereotypes. Flattening essentially removes historical value, and memories for which people in the future will less likely be able to experience.
    Cultural flattening may have evolved from globalisation by means of improved media outlets, travel & tourism, and advanced information technology, as well as commodification.
    An exemplar is the commodification of the Lantern Festival, as it is celebrated in Albert Park, New Zealand. Most people do not realise the purpose of the festival.

    Sujol Chand 5846566

  17. Masato Nakamura 5352865July 29, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Cultural flattening

    A process where traditional values, customs, and images attributed to national, regional or local identity, are used out of context, reduced merely to marketable icons and sold as difference (Meethan, 2010).
    This occurred over the course of globalisation, namely the increased mobility of people and advance in information technology. Where a, “submitting to the market as the source of all value (Pratt, 2006),” has occurred, “to label and define specialised or niche markets (Meethan, 2010).”
    An example is Mount Fuji, recognised internationally as a significant symbol of Japan, but few are aware of deeper historical and mythical stories.
    Meethan, K. (2010). Mobile Cultures? Hybridity, Tourism and Cultural Change. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 11-28.
    Pratt, A. C. (2006). Cultural industries and public policy. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 31-44.

  18. Cultural flattening refers to the process whereby symbols, icons, customs and associations become homogenised and their integral worth becomes devalued. Many facets of culture have become tradable and commoditized, and their historical context ignored; leading some critics to state that culture has therefore lost its uniqueness and meaning. Cultural flattening has accompanied globalization and has accelerated significantly since the second half of the twentieth century. It has evolved through a rise in digital communications (meaning greater accessibility to information and ideas), and stronger international links between nations and individuals. The commercialization of Maori culture, which is marketed to international tourists seeking a ‘cultural experience’, could be looked upon as an example of cultural flattening.

    1. Brendan Versluys- 5918945

  19. Carmen Yuen 5476956July 29, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Cultural flattening is when traditional custom associations are removed from their traditional or historical contexts, thus resulting in their cultural values to be diluted or lost. This is often due to a lack of in depth knowledge or understanding.
    This often leads to information related to the culture to be distorted thus resulting in cultural stereotypes. Additionally, cultural flattening also encourages cultural commodification to form where culture associations and symbols are marketed in the absence of their original value; usually for economic gains. E.g. the use of korus as accessories or decorations without identifying the cultural symbolic meaning behind it.

  20. Cultural flattening is the process of diluting the rich meaning and historical context of cultural practices and icons into something easy to understand and consume for today’s society. It has evolved mainly through the increase of globalization and international tourism. People desire to experience different cultures but not the meaning behind these customs and icons.

    For example, the traditional meanings behind Mid-Autumn Festival are celebration of the summer harvest and family reunion. However, it has been replicated for the purpose of tourism where tourists enjoy the decorations and moon cakes without fully understanding the meaning behind them.

    Lok Yan Chan 5748827

  21. Sarah Adams 2573646July 29, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Cultural flattening is the loss of authenticity, tradition, and individuality within a cultural group due to pressure applied by outside forces. It would have begun with the colonisation of countries and evolved through further migration, globalisation and tourism, with the increase of western influence.

    The realism, for example, of a ‘traditional cultural experience’ is removed through cultural flattening as it becomes more of a commodity for economic growth as opposed to an authentic experience. Examples include traditional war dances that are performed to tourists. They become a spectacle, rather than valuing the true meaning of the dances.

    Sarah Adams 2573646

  22. Culture flattening used to occur as a result of the lack of access to information about other countries and cultures, leading to superficial and simplified stereotypes. Nowadays, the explosion of information in a globalised world makes people less patient in understanding the history and values embedded in the icons and traditions. Culture is simplified and commodified in respond to the demand of a straight forward meaning that is easy to remember.

    Xintiandi is a shopping district in Shanghai that aims to attract tourists by combining Shanghai culture with retail activity. Many Shikumen houses that are typical of Shanghai residential housing in mid-19th century due to the historical context were demolished for the reconstruction of the duplicates that houses retail stores like Starbucks.

    Qiaochu (Michelle) Li 5523660

  23. Cultural flattening is the reproduction of cultural customs or items in a manner which fails to recognize or convey the depth of their meaning or value to that culture; historical or otherwise. A New Zealand example is how you can visit a cheap 'dollar' store in Rotorua and purchase a pink plastic tiki made in China for $1.

    It is a phenomenon that has emerged from the increasing globalisation and homogenisation of modern society, and therefore the commodification of culture. The tiki has become an instantly recognizable symbol of Maori culture, but few people today would be able to explain its traditional importance or meaning.

    Luke Carey- 2655799

  24. Robyn Kvalsvig (2710997)July 30, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Cultural flattening is when a cultural icon is overused mainly through tourism to create an association with a place. The icon is unique and has a deep meaning and history, however from overuse the true meaning is not fully understood.

    Cultural flattening has evolved through globalisation as people travel to different destinations and the increase of people’s access to the internet.

    An example is African beaded necklaces, the colour and shape of the beads communicate different meanings, such as marital status and colour combinations represent different attributes. Brightly coloured necklaces are bought by tourists without fully understanding what it represents.

    Robyn Kvalsvig (2710997)

  25. Kerryanne Lewis (5736818)July 30, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Cultural flattening is the process of cultural symbols, images, customs, values and traditions being diminished into stereotypes by taking them out of their traditional cultural context and overusing them in an inauthentic way. As a result of cultural flattening, the understanding of the deeper meaning of cultural symbols and images is lost. Cultural flattening has evolved through globalisation and tourism.

    Cultural flattening is evident in the Taiwanese aboriginal culture where totems, which are items of cultural significance, are produced and sold to tourists. This undervalues the profound cultural meaning that they have to the Taiwanese aboriginal people.

    Kerryanne Lewis (5736818)

  26. A process where cultural values and images are reduced to stereotypical icons, disconnected from their fundamental meaning. People recognise them, but have difficulty explaining their significance.

    This phenomenon can largely be attributed to international tourism, proliferation of shallow information through media and the internet, globalisation and the demand for differentiation to attract consumers.

    When turning culture into commodity we must consider, at what price? And in the end will we have any culture left or merely a marketing ploy? For example the Native American headdress, traditionally earned through acts of bravery and compassion, is now marketed in the fashion industry.

    Jade Ansted (2696304)

  27. Cultural flattening can be described as the process of taking out the historical and traditional customs, values, traditions and meanings from historical context or deep cultural context and flattened them into stereotypes. It has evolved through globalisation, tourism and international business and communication that the significance and true meanings of culture will lose by tourists and changing in geography.

    One example is Qianmen Commercial Street in Beijing, China. The original street was built around 1550 in Ming Dynasty. The reconstruction project finished in 2008 before Olympic Games that rebuilds and refurnish buildings with old-fashioned style to attract travelers.

    Simiao Zou(2681401)

  28. Cultural Flattening can be described as a process where culturally significant items, imagery and customs are reduced into stereotypes and replicated without considering their historical context, meanings and values.

    The process evolved partly due to of globalisation. Technological improvements had made access to information, international businesses and travel easy. As a response to people’s desire to experience different cultures, culture is commoditised.

    One example of this is the commercialisation of Maori culture. Tourists often have the opportunity to watch Haka (war dance). However, the original meanings and purposes of these performances are often overlooked.

    Qiuan Wang (2904396)

  29. Cultural Flattening is the decontextualising and devaluation of the traditions and values of a culture often for an economic benefit, thus turning culture into a commodity.

    Cultural Flattening could have evolved as a result of globalisation forces; increased tourism, international trade and rapid movement of capital. Increasingly, modern information technology combined with global media has further fuelled this process.

    An example is the Great Wall of China that once held high historical and cultural significance for the Chinese. It is now being transformed into a commodity that consists of modern commercial buildings to attract and cater for the tourists.

    Rishi Buggaveeti (5679286)

  30. Cultural flattening proceeds when a culture is simplified and commoditised into a tangible trademark and no longer acknowledged or celebrated for its intrinsic, sacred and historical values. Drivers such as globalisation, tourism, economic-pressures and global competition have encouraged cultural commodification especially for place marketing and to maximise tourist (export-based) revenue. Consequently, cultural norms and values become lost for future generations.

    E.g. Pounamu was traditionally worn by Māori chiefs and given in ceremonies as a symbol of peace. Presently, Pounamu is replicated, mass-produced and sold as souvenirs without authentic cultural-value attached, therefore underlying history and meaning is neither acknowledged nor transferred.

    Jessie (Jia Qin) Xie 2690826

  31. Cultural flattening is the commodification of cultural symbols-- historical images and traditional customs-- in a way that overlooks the significance in the original cultural context.

    Colonisation and globalisation are the major culprits. The indigenous cultures have often been invaded by western culture, and been exploited to attract international tourists and to gain economic profit.

    The consequences are removal of historical buildings and mass production of cultural stereotypes. In Tianjin, a city in northern China, a 15th century fishing village was knocked down for new replica of Rockefeller centres of Manhattan. Many heritages have been threatened under this trend in China.

    Link to the photo


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  34. Cultural flattening refers to the diminution of cultural values (e.g. traditional practices, cultural symbols/icons etc.). The significance of cultural values has been ‘flattened’ through the commodification of culture.

    It evolved through globalisation, in particular, the advancement of ‘worldwide interconnectedness’ (Meethan 2003) via greater access to travel and the proliferation of the tourism industry. Global competitiveness between cities has also contributed, as cities seek to attract global investors/developers, creative classes, tourists, cultural commodification occurs (Watson 2009).

    An example is the Ayahuasca tourism industry recently developed in South America. Ayahuasca is traditionally a psychedelic brew used by indigenous shamans, largely as a religious sacrament (McKenna 1992).

    Josh Kennedy 2981842

    McKenna, T. (1992). The Archaic Revival. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. 1992
    Meethan K. (2010) Mobile Cultures? Hybridity, Tourism and Cultural Change. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 11-28
    Watson, V. (2009). Urban Planning and Twenty-First Century Cities: Can It Meet the Challenge? 2009 UN global report on the future of planning, 201-233

  35. Cultural flattening is when traditional custom symbols, items, and customs are reduced and therefore become homogenised which leads to them losing their integral value. This process has accelerated since the twentieth century through the rise of various key drivers; namely globalisation. The implications of this has led to the rise of tourism and digital communication, however the double-edged sword effect here is that the homogenisation of culture has led to the commodification of culture and history.
    An example of this process is the Henna which is the temporary tattooing for bridal women in Africa, being commercialized as services for tourists to seek a cultural experience.

    Ashley Tan (5296023)

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  37. Cultural flattening is where cultural icons are used and recognised more however the understanding of the significance/heritage behind the icons are lost. It has evolved with globalisation, technological development and open economic markets that have made knowldge spread further but thinner. An example of cultural flattening was noticed in the media in May when RnV promoted their festival with a poster of two women in costume ‘Native Headdresses’. This use of the headdresses is common and people associate it with Native Americans however there is little awareness of its cultural significance. This can mean the sacred symbol is denigrated.

    Emma Morris (1216831)

    1. Heres a link to the image used by RnV