Impact of Globalization on Place

Impact of Globalization on Place

The world has been getting smaller for hundreds of years, but unprecedented changes in transportation, communications, and information technology have dramatically accelerated the pace of globalization.


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Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Economics

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The world has been getting smaller for hundreds of years, but unprecedented changes in transportation, communications, and information technology have dramatically accelerated the pace of globalization.

Put simply, globalization is the integration of activities of people and organizations around the world. The term is often used in an economic context to describe the international or global scale on which businesses operate, and the process in which businesses, organizations, and countries around the world exchange goods and services. Globalization also encompasses the social and political changes that occur as a result of increased interaction among people and organizations around the world. It involves the exchange of information, technologies, and ideas.

Advances in communication and technology have contributed to the rapid exchange of ideas. Smartphones provide ongoing connection between immigrants and their families back home. Global news channels spread news about faraway events as they are still unfolding. The internet allows people all over the world to access the same information and entertainment. This exchange of information and ideas has had a profound impact on places around the world.

Globalization and Place

Place can be defined as the physical and human characteristics of a city, country, region, or any other entity. Physical aspects of a place include things, such as landforms, water flow, elevation, and climate. Human characteristics involve the size of the population, population density, and culture, which itself includes religion, language, clothing, and ways of life.

Globalization can affect the physical aspects of a place. For instance, the increased trade to and from a location may negatively impact the quality of the air. But it is in the human dimensions of a place that the impact of globalization is most evident. The rapid spread of information and goods has affected cultures around the world.

Human Characteristics

Globalization is not a new phenomenon. For thousands of years, people have traveled long distances, taking their trade and traditions with them and changing the places they visited. The Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes used between Europe, Central Asia, East Africa, and the Far East, is an example of early globalization. For more than 1,500 years, Europeans traded glass and manufactured goods for Chinese silk and spices, contributing to a global economy in which both Europe and Asia became accustomed to goods from far away. As settlers from Europe colonized the Americas in the 16th through 18th centuries, they brought Christianity with them. The spread of religion changed the characteristics of the places they settled. For example, Roman Catholicism is the primary religion in many countries in South America, which has affected the culture of the region. Language—another defining characteristic of place—also changes with globalization. Today, an increasing number of people around the world speak English, which has largely become the language of global business.

Many of the most noticeable impacts of globalization on place relate to economics. The economies of many places have changed dramatically as a result of globalization, with not only the standard of living being affected, but also the very nature of the economy. The economic shifts brought about by globalization impact where and how people work and live. Globalization enables businesses to operate in areas where labor is less expensive; many corporations based in North America and Europe have outsourced entire operations. American companies may outsource their call centers or information technology services to companies in India. As a result of globalization, textile exports have become a major economic driver in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations of the world.

In some places, globalization has helped to create a middle class, narrow income inequality, and provide new economic opportunities. But this is not always so. While globalization can increase the standard of living in developing countries, it can negatively affect local or emerging economies and individual workers. The average worker in Bangladesh earns less in a month than an American worker earns in a day. Further, globalization has been criticized for the practice of labor exploitation in countries with little protection against such practices.

Globalization also brings about rapid and significant growth of port cities and communities on the crossroads of transportation networks. Thanks in large part to its role in global trade, Shanghai, China, has grown to become the world's largest city, with some 24 million people. The skyscrapers that define the city's skyline provide a visual reminder of the impact of globalization on place. The world's first skyscraper was built in Chicago, Illinois, United States, in the 1880s, but as cities grew, skyscrapers became commonplace throughout the world, especially in large cities — another example of how ideas have spread. Globalization also has a profound impact on culture, allowing traditions, holidays, and popular culture to extend across national and ethnic boundaries. As just one example, more people celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States than in Mexico, where the holiday originated.

Other cultural changes may result from the impact of globalization on consumers. In general, globalization decreases the cost of manufacturing, which means that companies can offer goods at a lower price to consumers. The lower average cost of goods is a key aspect that contributes to increases in the standard of living. Consumers also have access to a wider variety of goods; people in London, England, can dine on Indian cuisine, and Chinese restaurants can be found in almost any U.S. town. Although many people enjoy a more varied and healthier diet, globalization has been blamed for increases in unhealthy food consumption and diabetes in some places in the world.

Globalization contributes to a more uniform world perspective and homogeneous culture. People around the world listen to the same music and watch the same television programs. Globalization has forever changed the human characteristics of places—from remote places to those at the forefront of globalization trends.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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