USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Consuming Culture

Today, more people are traveling to many parts of the world. Whether it be backpacking across South America or traveling through Europe, most urbanites of first-world countries are eager to leave their current habitat and experience new places and cultures. This is becoming increasingly easier as the world continues to globalize. You can easily get lost in the endless sea of information that is out on the internet, or in the many travel guide books written by experts, and when you arrive at your desired destination many times you will find a tourist center with maps leading you to all the places you’d like to visit and respective cultures you want to experience. As this process of culture consumption gets easier, it is important to understand the meaning of culture and the traveler’s impact on it.

Culture is widely thought of as a static, historical fact. I have traveled throughout Japan for the last two weeks trying to take in, understand, and maybe even assimilate into its culture. But I have recognized that given the mere fact that I have inserted myself into the Japanese culture and its context, I have invariably become a contaminant of that culture. To understand this, one must first grapple with the concept that culture is not static, it is everchanging. In “Society as a Spectacle”, Debord argues that culture is held more as a true form of knowledge. The further you look back in time (history), the more culture becomes knowledge and is perceived as factual, it becomes ingrained. There is a factualness to knowledge, and this knowledge translates into history. Therefore, the act of looking forward no longer defines culture. Culture, if you are moving with the flow of time, becomes dynamic and fluid; it becomes a production process that is always in flux. Culture is only considered knowledge if time has transcended it and society has embraced it to where it is inextricably tied to its history. Essentially, any belief of having culture that is solidified in the contemporary sense of it is really quantified now as merely the notion of myth. It is myth because it is changeable, it is now completely reproducible.

Ultimately, as long as culture remains a dynamic vibrant device that moves forward and changes with the flow of time, it must exist independently of what might have shaped it in the past. As you travel the world to experience different cultures you validify culture as a commodity. As a result, the new culture that exists in that particular place is now profit driven; the tourism economy. The experience that you are having there or the bracelet that you are buying are no longer cultural experiences.objects local to the place but manufactured for the consumption of tourism. The important and more relevant question today is by whom and for what motives or ends is new global culture being produced, and how is this culture in turn shaping society.


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The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.



AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu