Being Global, but Local

How can a piece of written text promote community, and yet, apply itself globally? By all accounts, globalization and community seem like a poor coupling; how can we think globally and still apply local, community based ideals? Almost a year ago, I was faced with this same question. Prior to graduating with my undergraduate degree, I was given the opportunity to take a “World Englishes” course at Northern Arizona University. The course looked to primarily focus on how English is being used around the world, but specifically looked at how English is applied in different geographic and culture associated continuums. I soon learned that the class based on the role of English in other countries wasn’t only filled by American students looking to teach English internationally, as I had initially supposed. Rather, my class was filled with Chinese exchange students and other pupils from around the world. My predictions were largely incorrect — I had assumed that a class based on the globalization of English would be filled with students from my own background. Then, in a sort of paradox, I quickly understood that communication is necessary around the world. In essence, communication is a universal concept that authors and communities are constantly looking to address.

In retail, social media, and marketing, applying oneself to a global approach is highly beneficial. The Center for Journalism Ethics also reinforces this point, as globalization is essential for a thriving, multinational business: “a non-global ethic is no longer able to adequately address the new problems that face global jurisdiction.” We have since learned that we cannot apply a global approach to a local problem. Not only does successful communication open markets that would otherwise be closed to one culture, globalization affords organizations the ability to apply the message to people all around the world. However, globalization and writing for an intended audience problematizes a few things.

If you have been following my blogs, it is apparent that REI is a huge facet of my life. This last spring, the American company moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, a city that the locals take pride in and strive to protect. On one occasion, we had a shopper approach an employee, citing that REI would drive other businesses out of the area. Rather than cite REI’s approaches in other cities or the co-op mission statement, the employee acted respectfully and within the appropriate context. They simply responded that the new store had actually written other stores within the area and had invited them to our vendor clinics and our grand opening, where they too could learn about the products we carry and how they could react in due time. We also issued newsletters and fliers that informed the city of our community night featuring local artists and elected officials.

In this sense, error largely falls on the employee or author that must react to a global situation with a local solution in mind. For writing, it is our intent to apply global expectations in an approachable way. Deborah Cameron cites in her article, “Globalization and the Teaching of Communication Skills”, that we must find “unity in diversity” (69). We must then establish a community through local similarities. For REI, that large similarity is the ability to tell stories and promote our passion for the outdoors. If you are familiar with my previous blogs, than you might already be familiar with how REI approaches social media and necessity of community. If you are seeking more information about REI’s roles in local communities, please look at my previous blog concerned with social media.

For REI and the social marketing team, community is a foundation from which all other aspects are founded. With this in mind, let us look at my “World Englishes” course once more. Today, communication thrives on the concept that there are implicit and explicit expectations between the speaker and the receiver. Unfortunately, globalization and the need for community has complicated our past concepts of communication and how we approach global audiences. Cameron concludes in her article that the “increasing sense that speaking and listening, long taken for granted as things everyone could do ‘naturally’ without special help, are in need of more explicit and systematic attention” (76). Fortunately for us modern, professional writers, courses like “World Englishes” and Dr. Gruber’s “Written Communication in Professional Organizations” have been implemented to fill the void. Global communication is a skill that must be practiced and implemented correctly.

Lastly, when looking to apply ourselves to a global setting, we must apply ourselves locally. Global communication with a local context takes skill, research, and practice. We will need to make revisions and learn from our mistakes. Looking back at REI’s approach to a local community, let us remind ourselves that our goals should be focused on integrating and promoting universal norms and concepts. Dorene Starke-Mayerring comments concludes this point in her article, “Meeting the Challenges of Globalization,” while explicitly stating what our role is within the community:

“For professional communicators, then, this shift toward communicating in open, participatory, and networked genres means that they need to understand how to connect and communicate across diverse cultural contexts to build, navigate and manage these communication and information networks” (476).

Let us then act accordingly and look to apply our messages globally, with the intent of building our roles within the diverse, yet associated communities. When moving to Flagstaff, REI didn’t look to complicate relations between the community and the co-op. Instead, we embraced our foundation and passion for the outdoors. The community soon followed and now views us as a resource only focused on getting people back outside.

Cameron, Deborah. “Globalization and the teaching of ‘communication skills.’” Globalization and Language Teaching. Ed. David Block and Deborah Cameron. London: Routledge, 2002. 67-82. Print

Starke-Meyerring, Doreen. “Meeting the Challenges of Globalization.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 19.4 (2005): 468-499. Print.

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6 thoughts on “Being Global, but Local”

  1. Although I am new to your blogs I enjoyed your take on the global community. I thought you were thorough and progressed through your points well. I am wondering however if it would have been possible to find a visual or two which would have emphasized your points at some places. This might have been helpful when you transition to the REI phase of the blog. Additionally when providing background you direct the reader to previous blogs. I am wondering if it would have been possible to hyperlink in that section for ease of use. (I am not sure what the program and platform allow.) Overall I enjoyed your thoughts.

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  2. Kendal,

    Great examples and narratives to help explain the concepts in this post. You make it an easy read with an understandable purpose. One thing to consider that I think would’ve helped me to be more aware of my movement through your post and how it all connects is to utilize headings. While the story is fluid, I think headings would help to give pauses for reflection and analysis before continuing on with the ideas and story of REI in Flagstaff. Just a thought!

    Great work!
    Katy

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  3. Kendal,

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs these past six weeks. This week’s blog is no different. I like the background you gave about you taking a World Englishes course. That was an excellent way to connect your personal background with globalization. I’m curious though about how class discussions went in that class. Were their heated debates because of cultural differences? I’d be interested to read about that.

    I respect that the REI employee would give a shopper a respectful and appropriate response. With that said, I would like to know the real reason. I’m sure your other readers would too. Honesty in writing is crucial. I’m not trying to be cynical, but every business has an agenda. Maybe get some feedback from your boss or even what your co-workers think.

    You state, “If you are seeking more information about REI’s roles in local communities, please look at my previous blog concerned with social media.” While I appreciate your redirection I do think a brief bit of background on REI’s role local communities would be helpful. It’s easy to assume that A) your readers will check and B) they already know. Some intertexuality would be useful here because explaining the relationship between your two blogs would give your readers some more context rather than just redirecting them.

    You say that we must apply ourselves locally. I too agree that we need to make revisions and learn from our mistakes. Furthermore, I also agree that we need to focus on promoting norms and concepts that reach everybody. However, I would like for you to explain what you think those norms and concepts should be. You have an interesting perspective with your involvement with REI so it would be interesting to read how they and yourself apply these norms and concepts. You’ve kind of touched upon it, but I’d like to read a more in depth take on it.

    You’ve done a great job with your blogs Kendal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and hopefully I get to read more of your stuff in the future.

    Danny

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  4. Hi Kendal,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I like your concept of global communication on a local level; a point I tried to attempt in my blog this week as well. Don’t forget that part of the blog post requirements is to incorporate images. Even if you cannot find images specific to your topic, you should be able to search Google images for general concepts. For example, I Googled “globalization” and “social media” and found some generic images that were appropriate for my blogs. Also, I have not read all of your blogs and wasn’t familiar with REI. You may want to give a brief background to the company. You could still refer readers to your other blogs for more information, but it might help the readers if you provide just enough of a description for your main points where you mention REI. Overall, nice job!

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  5. Hi Kendal,

    Excellent perspective on the close knit community of Flagstaff to the world. I enjoyed your assumptions about your World English class. When you explained your assumptions, I found them to be valid. I would take that class if I had the opportunity. However, the actual classroom dynamic brings about a powerful observation about how the English language has permeated through so much of the world.

    I also enjoyed your comparison of REI’s opening in Flagstaff with our readings. I think that it has a direct relation to our writing on how globalization can be implemented effectively. Thank you for your post, I am also very jealous of your residence in Flagstaff, it is a great place to live!

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  6. Hi Kendal, when I read your first few sentences about thinking globally but applying locally, I already assumed you were talking about REI! As you later explained, REI makes a great example of this–especially because if it’s co-op status. I was also excited to read about the ways REI has tried to reach out to local businesses. Thanks for the insightful post!

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