Cosmopolitanism, when relocated from normative political theory and moral philosophy to social theory and sociological research, invites social scientists to consider the relationship between the individual and the world as a whole in times of global interconnection and interdependence (Calhoun, 2008; Holton, 2009). As an analytical concept, cosmopolitanism allows social research to pose novel questions about the “interiority” of globalization (Swain, 2009) – a specific mode of “being-in-the-world” pertaining to social life in global modernity. It has been argued that the main task for such endeavors is to identify the “structural realities” of various forms of “actually existing” cosmopolitanisms (Malcomson, 1998; Skrbis et al., 2004; Kendall et al., 2009). Theoretically, having access to faraway peoples and cultures at the press of a button or the turn of a page yields a historically unprecedented opportunity for cosmopolitan cultivation on an everyday basis. Two central problems emerge in the growing literature covering the question regarding the conditions of cosmopolitan cultivation. Firstly, the interdisciplinary field of “cosmopolitanism studies” tends to take the media as an agent of cosmopolitan socialization for granted. Secondly, media and communication research concerning itself with questions of cosmopolitanism operate mainly in the paradigm of “media and morality” (Ong, 2009). While dealing with topical, moral questions regarding Western spectatorship of suffering in the distance, and the role of the media in facilitating humanitarian activity (see e.g. Chouliaraki, 2006; 2013) this kind of research understands cosmopolitanism exclusively as a moral response to certain media messages.
In order to further our understanding of contemporary cosmopolitanism on a broader level what is needed is the study of cosmopolitan dispositions, conceptualized as a general dispositions of worldly openness across moral, cultural and political dimensions as manifested in peoples’ outlooks and practices and the conditions of their cultivation. In the attempt at mapping the general contours of these conditions, this study deploys a representative survey in Sweden (n = 1025) designed explicitly to study (a) the social location of various cosmopolitan dispositions and (b) relationship between media practices and various cosmopolitan dispositions. In tandem with previous quantitative research, findings suggest that various cosmopolitan dispositions are socially stratified: the cosmopolitan dispositions display a tendency to belong to more mobile and more educated individuals. Also, the dispositions are associated with women and people that are politically engaged (either to the left or to the right). Furthermore, results reveal the ambivalent role of the media: while certain media practices (such as watching television news) relate to a cosmopolitan disposition, others do not. What is more, “cosmopolitans” tend to approach the contemporary media landscape as an avenue for cosmopolitan socialization, whereas “locals” do not. Taken together, findings inform a mediatized cosmopolitanism that is impossible to disentangle from the social dynamics operating within a given society, in this case the nation-state of Sweden.
5th European communication conference ECREA, Lissabon Portugal, 12-14 november