Globalization and Culture

Submitting Institution

Nottingham Trent University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

Professor John Tomlinson produces world-leading research on the cultural dimensions of the globalization process. His research findings influence policy at an international level, shape professional and public understanding of the consequences of globalization and encourage public debate about international cooperation. Tomlinson has acted as a consultant to national and international bodies including UNESCO and the BBVA Foundation (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) in Madrid, influencing their thinking, policies and practices. He has shaped cultural practitioners' understanding of the cultural consequences of globalization through presentations to cultural bodies such as Impakt Arts Festival Utrecht and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Underpinning research

Tomlinson has conducted work on the cultural dimensions of globalization at Nottingham Trent University since1996. The first major outcome was the publication of the influential Globalization and Culture (Polity Press, 1999). This was the first study to attempt to interpret the cultural dimensions — as distinct from the economic, technological and political dimensions — of the globalization process. Situating itself theoretically at the interface between sociology and cultural analysis, the book (and the body of work which followed) analyses and interprets both the impact of globalization in the sphere of culture, and the role of culture in the constitution of the dynamics of globalization itself.

The focus of this case study is on three main areas. In each of these areas the research has broad relevance for a range of end users in the cultural and political spheres.

  1. Emergence of globalized culture. Tomlinson's research aims to understand the emergence and trajectory of globalized culture which, whilst giving due weight to the specificity of the cultural, nonetheless insists on its complex entanglement with economic, technological and political factors. In particular, Tomlinson interprets globalized cultural production and experience as outcomes of, on the one hand, the time-space transformations of social and cultural modernity and, on the other hand, of the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. His work is informed by a focus on the intersection of cultural modernity and the global capitalist economy. As a result, he interprets culture as everyday practice and lived experience framed within an analysis of global and national institutional processes. One significant implication of this has been a re-interpretation of theories of cultural imperialism in terms of a more complex process of the deterritorialization of culture, significantly inflected by the commodification of cultural experience deriving from capitalism.
  2. Nature & prospects of cultural identities. Tomlinson's research explores how cultural identities are constituted in globalized societies. In particular, he explores this in relation to debates over the agenda of cultural diversity, and the nature and prospects for cultural cosmopolitanism. His analysis views cultural identities as essentially plural subject positions that are generated, rather than threatened, by the dynamics of global modernity so that cosmopolitan forms of identity co-exist with national and ethnic ones. These insights have been developed in consultation work for international public sector institutions such as UNESCO.
  3. Communications & Media. Tomlinson has examined the key role of communications and media technologies in the deterritorialization of cultural experience. This work has developed in recent years in two directions. Firstly, it explores the role of contemporary media and communication practices in the organization of people's experience of their locality and its relation to distant events and processes. Secondly, it analyzes the role of media technologies in the constitution of cultural `immediacy'.

References to the research

John Tomlinson (1999) Globalization and Culture, Cambridge: Polity.


John Tomlinson (2002) `Interests and Identities in Cosmopolitan Politics', in S. Vertovec and R. Cohen, eds, Conceiving Cosmopolitanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press: p. 240-53.


John Tomlinson (2003), The Agenda of Globalization, New Formations, 50: 10-21.


John Tomlinson (2007) Globalization and Cultural Analysis, in D. Held and A. McGrew, eds, Globalization Theory: Approaches and Controversies. Cambridge: Polity, pp. 148-68.

John Tomlinson (2007) The Culture of Speed. London: Sage.

This work had a significant presence in earlier RAE submissions and work in the field of globalization was judged to be world-leading in the 2008 RAE. His reputation for world-leading research is also corroborated by citation data: for example, Globalization and Culture has over 1900 citations on Google Scholar. The same book has been reprinted 6 times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005). It has also been translated into numerous languages: Japanese Translation: Seidosha, 2000; Chinese Translation (complex character): Weber Publications, Taipei, 2000; Korean Translation: Nanam Publication House 2000; Italian translation: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli 2000; Spanish translation, Oxford University Press Mexico 2001; Chinese Simplified Character, Nanjing University Press, 2000 ; Farsi Translation, Cultural Research Bureau, Tehran, 2003; Turkish Translation: Ayrinti Yayinlari,;Lithuanian translation: Leidykla "Mintis" Vilnius; Romanian translation: Editora Amacord, 2004; Arabic Translation, Kuwait Cultural Bureau, 2008.

Details of the impact

Because Tomlinson's research generated interest beyond the academy, he was invited to give many public talks and to offer expert presentations and consultations to high-level international bodies. In this way, he provided conceptual and contextual analysis of cultural policy related issues to inform the thinking and decision-making of international bodies. This has included keynote addresses to the Council of Europe (Budapest 2003; Strasbourg 2005), an `expert presentation' on cultural respect and understanding to the Commonwealth Civil Society Consultations Meeting and a submission to the `Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding' which reported to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala (2007). From 2008, these impact activities have continued.

Influence on UNESCO policy-making. The most significant impact stems from Tomlinson's 10,000 word expert briefing document for UNESCO in 2008 on the theme of `Cultural globalization and the representation of otherness through the Media' for use in the preparation of the second UNESCO World Report (1). This paper informed UNESCO's World Report: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue (2010). Tomlinson's research underpinned conclusions drawn by UNESCO on cultural diversity in a changing media landscape in Chapter 5 (Communication and Cultural Contexts) and informed UNESCO's recommendations on supporting the production and distribution of media that respond to the needs of local contexts (2). In particular, he influenced the way in which the report addressed the relation between globalization and cultural diversity by directing attention to the process of `deterritorialization' (a concept that was at the heart of Tomlinson's Globalization and Culture). An example of this direct influence can be found in Section 1.1 (p. 14) of the UNESCO Report where it states that `One of the most far-reaching effects of globalization is a weakening of the usual connection between a cultural event and its geographical location as a result of the dematerialization or deterritorialization process facilitated by information and communication technologies (Tomlinson, 2007). Likewise, in Chapter 5, there is clear evidence of Tomlinson's influence in the discussion of `Counter flows, local and regional trends' (p. 133 ff.) and `A changing media landscape' (p. 135 ff.) These particular recommendations continue to feed into UNESCO's sectoral priorities and policies (3).

Facilitating responsible corporate action. The BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) Foundation, Madrid invited Tomlinson as one of `the finest researchers and creators worldwide' to write a chapter on `Cultural Globalization Reconsidered' for a book The Multiple Faces of Globalization (2009) as part of the Foundation's `Frontiers of Knowledge Programme' (4). The BBVA Foundation is one of the world's largest corporate sponsors of research as, `the most effective means to address the challenges facing contemporary society'. The findings of contributors to the book have been used by the Foundation to produce strategies for responsible corporate action to meet the demands of a globalized world.

Encouraging international cooperation in development. Tomlinson was commissioned to write an article — "Supermarkt der Weltdeutungen: Der Austausch zwischen den Kulturen wirkt zugleich befreiend und verunsichernd' (Supermarket of Interpretations about the World: Cultural Exchange as Liberation and Uncertainty) — for the German magazine Welt-Sichten (World View). This new magazine for global development and ecumenical cooperation is published by a coalition of church-based charities in Germany and Switzerland (5). A revised version of the article was published in the 256 page Eine Welt Taschenkalender (2012) published by Volker Harms Ltd, a diary-calender that aims to engage the public and provoke discussion (6). These publications are further evidence of Tomlinson's impact on public debate and understanding.

Promoting global artistic expression. The other dimension of impact made during the review period is in relation to cultural/arts bodies. Tomlinson delivered a keynote lecture on `Accelerated Living' at the Impakt Arts Festival Conference on Accelerated Living in Utrecht (2009). The impact was in providing an analytical framework within which artists from across Europe could reflect on their practices in the context of the cultural condition of global immediacy. In a paper on `Architecture, Globalization, Locality' to the Royal Institute of British Architects Research Symposium 2011, Tomlinson offered a cultural-analytical case study which provided opportunities for architects to reflect on the cultural impact of their professional practice in the context of the globalization process. A paper on Globalization and Acceleration in Nottingham Contemporary Gallery's Uneven Geographies Lecture Series (May 26 2010) provided members of the local community with a cultural-analytical narrative within which to interpret the artworks in a major international exhibition.

Sources to corroborate the impact

(1) Evidence of the work commissioned by UNESCO can be found here:

(2) UNESCO (2010) UNESCO World Report: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue. UNESCO Publishing. See, in particular, p. 129-159 and Recommendations on p. 257.

(3) See UNESCO's Sectoral Priority 1 for Culture, clause xiii:

(4) Information about the aims behind this BBVA report and the report itself (complete with Tomlinson's chapter and the BBVA's outline of how its own strategies are informed by the findings of the report) can be found here:

(5) Supermarkt der Weltdeutungen: Der Austausch zwischen den Kulturen wirkt zugleicbefreiend und verunsichernd' in Welt-Sichten, 10-2011 Oktober, pp. 13-18. (ISSN 1865-7966 "Welt-Sichten").

(6) Information about the range of calendars and the Eine Welt 2012 calendar can be found here: