Monday, June 2, 2008

Interchangeable America - what do you think?

It is 1,972 miles from downtown Ontario, California to downtown Huntsville, Alabama. Yet the differences are not that great.

If I don't want the golden arches, I can go to the happy star, the colonel, or Jared's place.

I can walk into a Super Wal-Mart and find the tomatoes in 1 minute. The differences from my California Wal-Marts (see previous posts) are superficial, unless I only speak Spanish.

(I can also walk into a Safeway in Alexandria, Virginia and find things quickly.)

One can say that I'm not "experiencing" Huntsville if I'm in a Wal-Mart, but for many, this is an integral part of the experience in Huntsville, or Chino, or St. Louis.

In 2004 or 2005, I blogged an audio post in which I read off the names of stores in the Pentagon City mall. Chances are, most of these same stores are in your local mall, if you're in the USA (and perhaps even if you're not).

Or I could turn on the TV here. Other than time shifts, much of the programming is the same stuff I could see at home (well, this cable package doesn't Fox Soccer Channel).

There are benefits to this. When Dana Franks (@ariedana) blogs about BBC America, I can find the shows she's talking about. People here (Alabama) know who Bill O'Reilly and Snoop Dogg and Ted Kennedy are. Anyone who read the back of American Airlines' June magazine knows that they sell tacos in Fontana, California.

But have we lost regional distinctiveness? Is it good that I can walk into a chain store or restaurant and know exactly what to expect? Is it good that Charles Kuralt had to work so hard to find the unusual?

Share your thoughts here (Disqus) or in FriendFeed.

(And if you're not American - do you see the same homogenization in your country?)

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