Communication Glocalization
by
Victor N. Roudometof
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0241

Introduction

Glocalization is a concept used in diverse fields of study, and the frequency of its use has increased significantly since 1995. Because its use ranges from geography to sociology to business studies to communication studies, this entry is interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary in nature and refers to work in other disciplines beyond the field of communication. Glocal and glocalization are neologisms that emerged in 1990–1991, resulting from merging the words local and global into a single word to indicate the fusion between the two. The Japanese idea of global localization is conventionally cited as the precursor concept behind the notion of glocal. There are several interpretations of glocalization in the literature, and this plurality illustrates both the heuristic value of the concept itself as well as the fact that its appropriation is often shaped by disciplinary blinders. In this entry, there are brief overviews of the theories or approaches to glocalization developed by Roland Robertson, Erik Swyngedouw, and Victor Roudometof, as well as the approaches aligned with the world society perspective. The topic of information and communication technology (ICT) and its relationship to glocalization is addressed separately to allow a more in-depth presentation of relevant research. The introduction of glocalization in social science research has also prompted a debate over the adoption of glocal methodologies. In addition, this entry features bibliographical surveys and a list of scholarly journals explicitly devoted to the study of glocalization. It should be noted that globalization and glocalization are related, as glocalization emerged after globalization’s emergence in the social-scientific debate. But the underlying notion of fusion or cultural hybridity is not new. Consequently, in this entry, discussion is focused specifically on glocalization as such and not on globalization, hybridity, or cultural fusion in general. Lastly, although Professor Tomiyuki Uesugi (Seijo University, Japan) has proposed the notion of “glocal studies,” to this date no such field exists.

Origins of the Concept

Several online dictionaries refer to glocalization as a term developed in business studies. Glocal was listed as a new word in “Words to Watch”—a 1990 listing by US News & World Report. The 1991 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words describes how glocalization derived from the Japanese notion of dochakuka, originally the agricultural principle of adapting farming techniques to local conditions. Edgington and Hayter 2012 describes how, in Japan, the precursor concept of global localization is often attributed to Sony Corporation’s CEO Akio Morita. Sony employed the term in corporate advertising and branding strategies in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the Japanese word dochakuka and the notion of global localization were known in the 1980s, the claim that glocalization as a term originated in journals from within the field of business studies is not supported by the evidence. Readers can check Google’s Ngram Viewer for a listing of the word’s frequency, which shows that a steep increase in the term’s use began in the 1990s. Since that time, the word has been in circulation in both business literature and the social-scientific literature, and the claim often made that it was “imported” from business studies is factually incorrect. Roudometof 2015 notes that the term glocal was also used in the Global Change Exhibition (opened 30 May 1990) in the German Chancellery in Bonn. Heiner Benking built an exhibition piece in the form of a three-dimensional orthogonal cube, called “Rubik’s Cube of Ecology.” Dr. Manfred Lange, the director of the touring exhibit development team at that time and head of the German National Global Change Secretariat, called the depth dimension of this cube “glocal” to provide a word for a magnitude ranging from micro to meso to macro scales. This line of interpretation is more in tune with ecological efforts to connect the global and the local to create awareness and enhance a rethinking of frames of action. Featherstone 1995 also introduces the related term Japanization as “a global strategy which does not seek to impose a standard product or image, but instead is tailored to the demands of the local market.”

  • Edgington, David W., and Roger Hayter. 2012. “Glocalization” and regional headquarters: Japanese electronics firms in the ASEAN region. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103.3: 647–668.

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    A useful discussion on the conventional use of the precursor concept of global localization.

  • Featherstone, M. 1995. Undoing culture: Globalization, postmodernism and identity. London: SAGE.

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    This book contains a brief reference to glocalization, and the author introduces the related notion of Japanization.

  • Roudometof, Victor. 2015. The glocal and global studies. Globalizations 12.5: 774–787.

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    A detailed discussion of the genealogy of the word glocal.

  • Tulloch, Sara, comp. 1991. Oxford dictionary of new words. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This edition features the first authoritative effort at defining the new word glocalization.

  • “Words to watch.” 1990. US News and World Report 10.26: 84–85.

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    This listing is the first instance where the term glocal is mentioned as a new word.

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