Shifting Standards and the Center of The World
I have been working on an international survey in the past few days, which is being answered by 11 teams of 11 different countries. And one thing really struck me in the way answers were given to certain questions.
It was not so much the actual content of the answer which I found striking, but rather the way this answer was given, which made me think about what standards were "universal". I live in a country that is not the country I was born in or, more important, raised in, which means there are parts of the popular culture that I don't know about. This goes from political figures to humorists or famous TV presenters. There are also things that I have learned to recognize since I have been here, such as which newspapers are the most influent. I take the example of the newspaper because it is the one example that struck me in the answers given.
There was one question about the press, and how the team felt they were doing with it. Whether they had a good relationship with the press in thir country and also whether they had been working with them, through partnerships and such. One group answered and gave the name of a magazine with which they were talking on a regular basis and developping partnerships with. And they were kind enough to add, after the name of the magazine (something like "Zabadaba" to me), that it was the equivalent of Time or Newsweek in the US. Which of course was very helpful, because frankly, Zabadaba was completely unknown to me.
It then struck me that I would probably have not done that, had I had to fill the survey, and would have casually strewn my answers with Le Monde (the French newspaper), or "Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung" (the German daily) without having thought further. After all, those are known enough to the people around me for them to know what I am talking about, aren't they?
I must say that La Repubblica, or der Spiegel, or even the Daily Mirror, or Newsweek are names of news organs I can associate with their country of origin very easily and I can even say whether they are weekly Magazine or daily newspapers. But that's me. I've read those, lived or visited the country where they are known. However, I am not sure how many people would actually have an idea of what exactly those papers represent in their countries if I didn't have the idea to actually compare them to wider known titles.
This struck me as an interesting way to look at the world, and see where the standards are. The interesting move here, was that the standard taken was that of the US, as if it was the one that would be mostly understood. More interesting is that if I know what Time and Newsweek are, I have no idea what their impact in the US are. ie. I know them through their international editions, and for all I know, those might be completely marginal in the US. But the comparison did help me get a sense of what Zabadaba might be. It also convinced me that there are people who are very aware that what is a well known entity in their country might be completely unknown elsewhere, and don't feel that they're living at the center of the world.