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What Is Cultural Diffusion In Geography

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Changing Identities And Cultures

What is Cultural Diffusion?


  • Cultural diffusion it is the spread of cultural traits from one place to another through the processes of cultural change. There are a number of types:
  • Expansion diffusion; occurs when an idea develops in a source area and spreads into other areas while remaining strong at the source. E.g. spread of Islam from Saudi Arabia
  • Relocation diffusion people who have adopted new ideas carry with them to a new location. E.g. Christianity to Africa from Europe.
  • Distance decay effect The longer an idea takes and the further the distance it has to travel, the less likely it is to be adopted in new areas.
  • Adoption of mass culture new cultural traits are taken in their entirety, perhaps abandoning old traditions
  • Adaptation/ Adaption of mass culture cultural traits are modified so it can be accommodated within the context of an existing culture.
  • Cultural Hybridity the extent to which different cultures are intermixed. Mixing of cultures can occur through; migration, media, transport revolution, Growth of global brands and even the internet
  • Cultural traits characteristics of culture that gives a culture its sense of identity i.e what makes them different from others
  • Ethnicity the shared sense of belonging to one ethnic group or another, based on ancestral lineage or cultural history.
  • Cultural diversity the differences in cultural characteristics that are manifested in a given culture. Cultures that are not diverse tend to be homogeneous
  • Global Cultural Diversity

    Contagious And Hierarchal Expansion

    Expansion diffusion comes in two types: contagious and hierarchal. Infectious diseases are a prime example of contagious expansion. A disease follows no rules, nor does it recognize borders as it spreads. A forest fire is another example that fits this category.

    In the case of social media, memes and viral videos spread from person to person in contagious expansion diffusion as they are shared. It’s no coincidence that something that spreads quickly and widely on social media is deemed “going viral.” Religions spread through contagious diffusion as well, as people must come in contact with a belief system to somehow to learn about and adopt it.

    Hierarchical diffusion follows a chain of command, something you see in business, government, and the military. The CEO of a company or the leader of a government body generally knows information before it is disseminated among a wider employee base or the general public.

    Fads and trends that start with one community before spreading to the wider public can also be hierarchical. Hip-hop music springing up in urban centers is one example. Slang expressions that owe their genesis to one particular age group before being more widely adoptedand perhaps eventually making it into the dictionarywould be another.

    In The Library’s Collections

    Previously, there was no specific subject heading for Cultural Geography. When you tried that term, “cultural geography“, as a subject search, the online catalog refered you to Human Geography. However, you can now use the subject search “cultural geography” to find books published after 2007. “Cultural landscapes” is another, relatively new subject heading. If you do a keyword search for “cultural geography” you get all the rest of the stuff! The first 30 are the most relevant in the keyword search.

    Most of Cultural Geography is shelved in the GF’s located on Berry Level 4.

    • This is the main subject heading for searching the catalog.

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    Cultural Diffusion In Technology

    They say knowledge is power. And, when one group of people develops an important element of technology that can benefit people across the globe, it’s nice to see that information-sharing take place. Of course, in today’s world that can happen at lightning speeds.

    Let’s take a look at technological diffusion through the years.

    • Paper was first made in China, eventually spreading to the Middle East and Europe.
    • Gunpowder also originated in China. Of course, nations all across the globe went on to produce gunpowder, too.
    • The fax machine was invented by Scottish inventor Alexander Bain, but certainly didn’t remain in the UK alone.
    • The anti-lock brake system was developed in the United States, despite many claims that the German manufacturer, Mercedes, got there first. The Germans then perfected it.

    Exchanging Ideas Increasing Knowledge

    The Culture Of The World: cultural diffusion

    In the end, cultural diffusion can be life-changing. When an American woman in Wisconsin enrolls in salsa classes taught by an Argentinian man, they might forge a lifelong friendship that would’ve never happened if cultural diffusion wasn’t a part of our reality.

    As a man living in Los Angeles watches YouTube videos on how to make his own sushi, he reaps the benefits of a healthy lifestyle offered by the Japanese culture. One remark in the comments section might introduce him to a Japanese chef, and there you have it. A new friendship is formed and added morsels of knowledge are exchanged.

    They say travel expands our minds and introduces us to undiscovered worlds. Cultural diffusion, however, is a little more permanent and steadfast. The learning opportunities continue, as entire communities of people exchange ideas, goods, and knowledge. If America’s a melting pot, then we’re sure to be on the winning side of cultural diffusion.

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    Why Is Cultural Diffusion Important In Society

    The word culture has a pretty complicated origin story. It comes from the French word culture, which in turn comes from the Latin cultra, which means to cultivate. And starting in the 1400s, culture was used in exactly that sensein the context of agriculture to refer to the cultivation of land, plants, and animals.

    In the 1500s and 1600s it began to be applied to human beings, used in the sense of the cultivation or development of minds or intellectual pursuits. Only in the 1800s did culture gain the meaning that is used in the phrase cultural diffusion; that is, a distinct way of life of a particular group of people characterized by unique ideas, customs, behaviors, and products.

    OK, what are these ideas, customs, and products, you ask? Well, culture tends to encompass the food people eat, the religion people practice, the language people speak, the music people listen to, the arts people enjoy, and their shared values, morality, traditions, behaviors, etc. It is essentially the shared identity of a group of people, learned through socialization. Culture can be broad, such as Western or Eastern culture, or it can be narrow, such as the company culture of a specific workplace.

    Now on to diffusion, or the act of spreading. Diffusion is used in a lot of different academic fields in addition to anthropology, such as physics, meteorology, and cinematography, all to describe the act of spreading, transmitting, or migrating.

    Place As Cultural Landscape

    Cultural landscape studies, as geographer Carl Sauer and the Berkeley School developed them from the 1940s on, focused on the evolution of places and included the combination of natural and man-made elements that comprises, at any given time, the essential character of a place . Cultural landscape studies emphasized the connection of natural environments and built interventions. Yet cultural landscape methods for studying places, and people’s shaping of them, tended to stress the physical and not the political dimensions of places, leaning to the study of rural, pre-industrial landscapes, vernacular house types, and patterns of cultivation, considering ecology but avoiding issues of political contestation. Among the noted essayists of this type was John Brinckerhoff Jackson .

    M.P. Conzen, in, 2001

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    What Are Examples Of Cultural Diffusion Today

    Lets expand our horizons beyond those sushi dinners and daily tweets with some examples of cultural diffusion in society today:

    • In New York Citys Chinatown youll meet the largest concentration of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere.
    • The spread of music throughout the world also illustrates cultural diffusion.

    What Happens When Cultures Come In Contact

    Culture, Types and Diffusion: Fundamentals of Geography

    Culture contact, contact between peoples with different cultures, usually leading to change in both systems. The effects of culture contact are generally characterized under the rubric of acculturation, a term encompassing the changes in artifacts, customs, and beliefs that result from cross-cultural interaction.

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    Economics And Cultural Diffusion

    Even before the Middle Ages, when merchants traded their goods by traveling from region to region, the benefits of cultural diffusion were apparent. If one region didn’t have the climate to produce one crop, another did, and those goods were diffused across countries and nations. One good was traded for another and communities enjoyed the benefits of varied products. Sure enough, that benefit remains today, as world trade continues to boom.

    Let’s take a look at the economics behind cultural diffusion.

    • Trade has been a means of cultural diffusion for centuries, dating back to the Silk Road and beyond, when caravans would travel and exchange goods between Europe and Asia.
    • Today, we can apply tuition money to various study abroad programs. Students are able to spend semesters anywhere, from Ireland, to Greece, to Japan. As you immerse yourself in another culture, you’re sure to bring various components of that lifestyle back home with you and perhaps inspire someone else to go spend their money abroad.
    • People learn of new products in other countries, like personal computers or cell phones, demand increases, the product becomes more affordable, and the product is spread around the world.

    How Cultural Diffusion Happens

    Its also worth looking at how cultural diffusion takes place. According to Savage there are three key ways it takes place:

    The diffusion of cultures has been most facilitated by the institutions of colonialism, religion, and education.

    However, others have theorized three mechanisms of cultural diffusion that explain three other ways it might take place:

    1. Direct DiffusionDirect diffusion occurs when two cultures intermingle and influence one another out of their own volition, without any coercion. This occurs naturally, for example when two people of different cultures fall in love and get married, or when a friend introduces you to their traditional ways of cooking.

    2. Forced DiffusionForced diffusion occurs when someone makes you take up the traits of another culture against your will. For example, this occurred in Barcelona in the 20th Century when the locals were forced to speak Spanish instead of their local language of Catalan.

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    3. Indirect DiffusionIndirect diffusion takes place when a culture is shared by a middleman who spreads it from one place to another. An example of this is if you were to start doing Buddhist meditation. You may not be a Buddhist or have ever been to a part of the world where Buddhism is a dominant religion. But, theres a meditation studio down your street. Here, youre being influenced by Buddhism indirectly.

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    What Is Cultural Diffusion

    Culture diffusion, also often called cultural diffusion or transcultural diffusion, is a term from anthropology, specifically cultural anthropology, a subfield that focuses on how cultures vary among the human population.

    Cultural diffusion describes the spread of one cultures practices, beliefs, and/or items, like food, music, or tools. This spread can be among members of the same culture or to completely different cultures around the world.

    Cultural diffusion is why many cultures around the world share similarities.

    Types Of Cultural Diffusion

    Cultural Diffusion

    Cultural diffusion is a term we use to explain the ways cultures spread and intermingle around the world. For example, it refers to the spread of American culture into Asia and the spread of Asian fast food in the United States.

    It occurs through the spread of cultural items during times of conflict, migration and trade. Examples of cultural items include: philosophical ideas, inventions, fashions, religious beliefs, technologies and languages.

    These items can spread within a culture or across cultures. You may hear the specific phrase trans-cultural diffusion to refer to the spread across rather than within cultures.

    There are six types of cultural diffusion:

    • Relocation Diffusion
    • Stimulus Diffusion
    • Maladaptive Diffusion

    It is a term invented by Leo Frobenius in 1897, but remains relevant to this day. This article will explain each type of diffusion and the differences between them!

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    Chapter 12: Cultural Change And Diffusion: Geographic Patterns Social Processes And Contact Zones

    • Derek H. Alderman
    Cultural Change and Diffusion: Geographic Patterns, Social Processes, and Contact Zones

    Cultures develop and change both through spontaneous, local invention and the adoption of ideas, customs, and objects from other cultural groups. As early as the 1930s, scholars suggested that no more than 10% of all of the cultural items found in any cultureincluding our ownoriginated in that culture . The diffusion or spread of culture from a point of origin to other places and people can occur through personal contact, migration, trade, war, or mass communications. Diffusion is important to studying history, but it is also part of the trajectory of the future. The spread of some ideas, such as …

    What Are The Four Ways In Which Historical Diffusion Has Occurred

    So, diffusion often involves the expansion of ideas across the globe and it can occur many different ways. Some ways that diffusion can occur would be through exploration, military conquest, missionary work, mass media, tourism, and even through the internet.

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    A Short Definition For Cultural Geography

    The study of the relationship between culture and place. In broad terms, cultural geography examines the cultural values, practices, discursive and material expressions and artefacts of people, the cultural diversity and plurality of society, and how cultures are distributed over space, how places and identities are produced, how people make sense of places and build senses of place, and how people produce and communicate knowledge and meaning. Cultural geography has long been a core component of the discipline of geography, though how it has been conceived, its conceptual tools, and the approach to empirical research has changed quite markedly over time.

    While this form of cultural geography is still practised, it was challenged in the 1980s by new thinking that created what has been termed new cultural geography, which led to a broader cultural turn in the discipline. During this period, cultural geographers started to engage with new theoretical ideas within social theory, including humanism, structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism, and post-colonialism, recasting cultural geography in a number of significant ways. Most crucially, culture itself was conceived as a fluid, flexible, and dynamic process that actively constructs society, rather than simply reflecting it.

    Castree, N., Kitchin, R., & Rogers, A. . “Cultural geography.” In A Dictionary of Human Geography. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 Mar. 2017

    Examples Of Cultural Diffusion In The World Around You

    AP Human Geography Cultural Diffusion Quick Lesson

    Cultural diffusion is the spread of cultural beliefs and social activities from one group of people to another. Through cultural diffusion, horizons are broadened and people become more culturally rich.

    For example, a woman living in Manhattan might purchase mala prayer beads used by Buddhist monks to focus on a breath or mantra. Her use of those beads, incepted halfway around the world, is now positively impacting her daily practice of meditation. Had she only ever walked the streets of Manhattan, never engaging with any product or activity outside her borders, life would be very different. Also, if it weren’t for cultural diffusion, that same woman wouldn’t be able to enjoy sushi night every Thursday evening with her friends!

    The mixing of world cultures through different ethnicities, religions, and nationalities has only increased with advanced communication, transportation, and technology. Folks living in Australia can communicate daily via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with someone living in Russia. This enrichment allows us to open minds, and learn as much as we can from every corner of the earth.

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    Modeling Diffusion: A Quantitative Approach

    While the notion of the cultural landscape would emerge as the dominant theme of the Berkeley School, the dynamic relationship between social and physical systems and how these relationships change over time and across space would serve as the foundation for a great variety of geographic research in future years. More importantly, within the context of this article, the work of these early human geographers coupled human and physical geographies in space and time under the rubric of innovation and in the process established a new human geography of innovation.

    J.D. Gatrell, E.W. LaFary, in, 2009

    Dissecting Memory In The Cultural Landscape

    The making and marking of place underscores the potential of cultural landscapes to act as tangible places to dissect the meanings and functions of memory. The desire to mark place is often strong after a tragedy. People often flock to the sites of deaths or killings, bringing with them ephemeral commemorative paraphernalia flowers, prayers, pictures, and poems. The instantaneous commemoration of the 1995 Oklahoma bombing is illustrative of this point. Only hours after the bombing, the site’s peripheries became almost sacred space. Onlookers brought wreaths; toys, and messages of condolences. As the days progressed, ideas for a permanent memorial flooded into the governor’s offices from all over America. The site not only united the country in grief but also communicated messages of resilience and defiance. The wake of the 2006 London bombings evoked a similar response. Again the need to sanctify each site became immediate in the days and weeks following the attacks. Landscapes then, as representative entities, play critically important roles in shaping how the public interprets, defines, and debates its past. Simon Schama’s work on the relationship between landscape and memory has been particularly successful in propagating this approach.

    Susanne Janssen, Marc Verboord, in, 2015

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    Religion And Cultural Diffusion

    For many cultures, religion has always been an integral part of life. And this is the true beauty of cultural diffusion, that expansion of the mind. Through a friend or acquaintance from another faith, we stand to learn a lot more and live our best lives yet.

    Let’s take a look at cultural diffusion at work in religious circles.

    • Christianity started in Israel but is now practiced all over the world, initially spread far and wide by the Roman Empire.
    • During the Han Dynasty, Buddhism spread from India to China via the march of Emperor Wu’s armies and the opening of new trade routes.
    • Like Christianity, Islam is no longer contained to one region of the world following immigration.
    • An example of forced diffusion is the Spanish, French, English and Portuguese forcing the native population of the Americas to become Christian.

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