Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Implications of Voice- Good and Bad- Within the Global Civil Society

The two chapters, one by Daya Thussu called “Creating a Global Information Infrastructure” and the other by Marc Raboy called “The WSIS as a Political Space in Global Media Governance”, highlight the global media and communication infrastructure. Historically, so much about governance has been about these ominous global institutions that have no direct connection to the people they govern. While global governance gets a bad reputation for its inability to maintain legitimacy in its endeavors, it too is changing, as it must. As global governance is transitioning into recognizing that it is not just about the governances of governments and more about the governance of many stakeholders (including the global civil society), it is imperative that creations like the Civil Society Bureau are established. Granted, the effectiveness of the Bureau might not be seen blatantly, but the mere fact that there is a space being made in the international community to hear the voices of individuals is refreshing. If people do not have a voice to address issues, how can global governance institutions help them? They can’t. The next step to worry about is having the global civil society’s voice be heard and legitimized.

As I was reading for this week, I was particularly intrigued by Sean O’ Siochru and Brusce Girard’s chapter entitled, “Introduction to National Media Regulation”. Yesterday, one of the top news stories was about a Facebook survey posted on Facebook about whether or not President Obama should be assassinated. It has since been taken down off of the site and Facebook released a statement that one individual using an add-on application created the survey. The Secret Service is investigating the person. Girard and Siochru note that media is not just about reading, listening, and watching anymore. They say it also includes interacting- blogging, using social networking sites, twittering, and emailing media sources for answers to questions in the media. Regulating national media, especially with the onset of social networking media, is a tremendous task, which is why self-regulation is of the up-most importance (just as the authors argue). I don’t know if the founder of Facebook ever had any idea that his social networking site would become so powerful. It started small, first at Harvard, and expanded fast. Now it’s an international networking site that has created vast implications (both positive and negative) in 21st century international politics.

Modern Communications Infrastructure

Both the Thussu and Siochru and Girard’s readings assigned for the week address the changing structure of the media and how it has moved towards the process of privatization, liberalization, convergence, and globalization. Siochru and Girard’s chapters were important because they covered different forms of media regulation which include both societal and industry regulation. Thussu mentions that the liberalization and privatization of the communications industry has benefited transnational corporations the most and as a result of the privatization of the media there has been a surge in both poverty and unemployment in developing nations.
Raboy’s chapter on the World Summit on the Information Society deals with the development of the WSIS in 1998, but also mentions some of the weaknesses of it which above all includes its lack of funding mechanisms. An interesting point Raboy mentions surrounds the meaning of the word governance and how its definition alters depending on the organization that is using it and of course its objectives. Nevertheless, what is most important about the WSIS is that it is the first United Nations summit in which civil society was actively involved which of course is incredibly vital towards the strengthening of the communications industry.

The WSIS Welcomes Civil Society to the Governance Table

Marc Raboy's article regarding the WSIS and its role in the progression of a global communication structure gives an informed perspective on the development of international communication from NWICO until present day.  His approach to the WSIS is intriguing in that he begins with the shortcomings of its first summit, notably the lack of voice given civil society, but turns around and goes on to put things in perspective which shines a more positive light on the achievements of the WSIS.  

I think that Raboy is attempting to highlight some of the progress made within international communication and its newfound focus on the inclusion of civil society as an entity of governance.  The WSIS fell short in some areas but proves to be useful in creating a transitional model that takes the global communication rubric from a mode of intergovernmental oversight to a more collaborative inclusion-based model.  I feel that this is critical based on the shortcomings of the recent history of global media flow and its lack of respect for all actors in the international governance framework.

The WSIS sets up a new infrastructure of assessment within the international communication community and takes us from the failures of NWICO to a more open and engaging dialogue.  The community can now deal with information more accurately and openly as the global issues of information systems and communication develop.  Civil society's inclusion is imperative to give credence to any international organization and the WSIS has set an important precedent for the progress of international communication in the 21st century.    

Monday, September 28, 2009

“A Space for Confrontation between Opposing Communication Paradigms”

Although the definition of governance has been debated on the world stage since the birth of the Universal Postal Union in 1974, due to globalization, interaction between international governing systems and the inclusion of civil society in such relationships are increasingly key to the industrial and societal regulations essential to modern development. Through the definitions of governance offered by Siochru and Girard, Thussu and Raboy, the reader can deduce that the liberalization of telecommunications has resulted in the growth of the free market and regulatory challenges involving the global public sphere.

Global Governance, The WSIS as a Political Space, and Creating a Global Communication Infrastructure describe governance through the eyes of several governing bodies and organizations but share the same multifaceted view of modern regulation of telecommunications. Global governance is portrayed as the convergence of international state and non-state actors, specifically those considered representatives of global civil society, where participants neutrally manage countries’ political, economic and cultural affairs. Media regulations in industry and society are changing to reflect these values as technologies unite, deregulation occurs, globalization increases and the ownership over flows of communication are consolidated. While groups including the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) have failed to meet the funding or regulatory demands resulting from contemporary consumer culture and digital and conceptual divides, civil society has experienced increased participation in governance forums. Civil society is rightly gaining the voice necessary to express social needs in an international arena separate from greedy governments and profit-driven commercial institutions.

Reflecting on the writings of Siochru and Girard, Thussu and Raboy, I believe Raboy captures the essence of media governance best in his assertion that the failures of WSIS and other international forums to concretely regulate communication should not be seen as discouraging, but, on the other hand, as a victory for modern civil society in the creation of “a space for confrontation between opposing communication paradigms” on a global plane.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Civility steps up -- but will it sell?

Two images occurred to me during this week’s readings: the mannered discourse of the civil society representatives at the 2003 WSIS conference, as described by Marc Raboy, contrasted with the spirited/vitriolic (choose whichever you prefer) debates on Fox staples like the O’Reilly Factor. Granted, Thussu doesn’t go into explicit detail on how Rupert Murdoch’s networks shape public debate, but does mention that “Fox News has redefined broadcast journalism in the USA, changing the way television news is presented and framed,” that is, as entertainment.

Another grab from the Thussu piece that caught my eye was the comment that Murdoch’s popular British newspaper The Sun maintains notoriety and high sales by promoting “sex, soccer and scandal” – an observation that will shock nobody who’s been in London when the evening papers come out. What caught my eye was the word “scandal,” because it’s central to Manuel Castells’ argument in Communication Power. While I agree with Professor H that the drier passages might go down easier with a glass of eggnog, Castells does have a lot of interesting points about the relationships between media controls and power, and he argues 1) that major political changes around the world are increasingly related to scandals and 2) their prevalence is changing the global political landscape. (That’s on page 253 and 254 of the book, for those who are curious.)

What struck me about the two images was their obvious contrast. On the one hand, we’ve got an enormous, elaborate, influential network under one individual. On the other, we’ve got an enormous, elaborate, increasingly influential network composed of many individuals and groups. The first influences the public sphere by selecting and framing issues and repackaging them in emotional, infotaining units. The second influences the public sphere via multistakeholder collaboration, networking and lobbying.

Having spent a large chunk of my week slogging through the open consultations of the Internet Governance Forum (the media governance body established by the WSIS at the Tunis meeting Raboy mentions) and having more familiarity with the TV network news format than I’d like, I’d be hard pressed to say which I’d rather participate in. One has flair, but little room for open debate; the other has plenty of room for discourse, and all the flair of a bureaucratic board meeting. Are these the only options for the future of the public sphere?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ICTs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Recently, I had a conversation with a person cynical of the positivist/optimist hype that ICTs receive within the discipline of International Communication. I have a unique interest in ICTs so I was rather intrigued as to why someone would think of them in a pessimistic or even neutral light. Inspired by my conversation and Elizabeth Hanson’s chapter entitled “The Globalization of Communication”, I started to think of the pros and cons of ICTs. This following is what I have so far…

The Good: ICTs have allowed us to connect internationally in real time, anytime. Aside from the Western world using cell phones, ipod touches, computers, the internet, etc. to connect at the individual level, ICTs are increasingly being incorporated to development plans to link peoples to foster grassroots level participation in development. One example of this is in India, where there is an E-Choupal program that consists of internet kiosks for farmer to communicate to learn of the demand for specific agricultural goods. Granted, the E-Choupal example is growing and considerably more complex now, but it started out small. Another example of the ICTs is the use of cell phones in the diaspora. They allow people to call their families in their homeland to reconnect and reaffirm with their culture. ICTs have allowed the whole world to be more efficient. As Thomas Friedman argues, ICTs have democratized information. The possibilities are boundless, or are they??

The Bad: Some might argue that ICTs have made communication less personable or at least dehumanizes it to some extent. Instead of going to see a family member, friend, or a professor, our society is constructing the norms to send someone an email or facebook message or tweet. Children growing up now are being cultured with the expectation of having information with the click of a button. What happens if and when they are not able to obtain information they need? Clearly applies mostly to the West, but if globalization or “westernization” or “Americanization” is vastly occurring, does this mean that we are commodifying our world to be less reliant on classical forms of communication? There is something special about being able to read someone’s facial expression and body language in face-to-face interactions. Face-to-face interaction is certainly not always possible, especially when two people are communicating internationally, but it is necessary to think about the ramifications of the widgets we use to obtain our information and communication as time passes.

The Ugly: ICTs have led to exacerbating a digital divide between the Global North and the Global South. How do we cope with the fact that as the world’s rich get wealthier, as the poor are getting poor? New ICTs are being produced all the time and the globalized civil society is leaving the people making western widgets less likely to ever own them.

In presenting these viewpoints of the implications of ICTs, I am simply trying to acknowledge conflicting views of ICTs and sometimes the reasons for and how we communicate is just as important as what we are communicating. ICTs have done a lot of good where they have been employed internationally. One thing is for sure, now that we have ICTs we are not going back, and I’m not suggesting that. I am suggesting, however, that “we”, as a global community, acknowledge the consequences of ICTs more transparently and address them more actively as the revolution of globalization and communication continues.

ICT and Fostering Development

One similar point that both Hanson and Sinclair stressed in the readings was the fact that although there is a convergence amongst nations and globalization has greatly increased communication between them, audiences will always tend to prefer television programs from their own country that represent their own values and beliefs or at least those that are culturally and linguistically similar (Sinclair 76). As Hanson mentions, “as the world becomes more global, more people want their own culture.” I do believe that this is undoubtedly true and as she points out, MTV has even modified their content in order to appeal to the country in which their programs are being viewed.

This also reminded me of my last trip to El Salvador a few months ago; when I saw how excited my cousins were about a new show named “Bailando por un sueno” (Dancing for a Dream) which really seemed to be a knock off to me of the show Dancing with the Stars. I quickly realized that the show was incredibly similar, but nevertheless, was tailored towards the local culture which tends to be incredibly family oriented and religious. Although the show was an immense hit in El Salvador, I did wonder whether it would be as popular here in the United States.

I also found that Hanson finishes Chapter 5 on both a positive and negative viewpoint towards ICT and its use towards development. She mentions that one cannot ignore the fact that at least some have benefited from ICT access and that the internet has been able to provide both a medium for communication and also more educational opportunities for many who were once marginalized. Nevertheless, she does find that there is still unequal access and highlights this point using India as a case-study and finds that government policy must make some modifications in order to improve ICT access to those in rural areas.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Development of Convergence

Hanson’s proposal that convergences of technologies, industries, economies and government policies define modern globalization trends has led me to suggest that development efforts should reflect a similarly multifaceted approach. As nations become increasingly interconnected, responsibility for the development of the third world is globally shared and can be more effectively achieved through integrated communication approaches.

Although The Information Revolution and World Politics presents both optimistic and pessimistic views of the effectiveness of development efforts, I feel that culturally appropriate communication technologies reflecting collective expertise are unquestionably invaluable. Antiquated and innovative mediums of communication can provide marginalized people with the ability to advocate for the changes needed to better their lives. Such tools can elicit social change at the grassroots level and allow for the quicker, more accurate transfer of information for the implementation of culturally fitting development strategies from the bottom up.

While critics use the case of India’s Information Technology market boom to demonstrate flaws in communication based advancement efforts, I offer the theory that IC techniques should be applied for effective development as a priority of respective third world nations and global civil society. Hanson portrays India’s specialization in IT as a debated failure of modern technology in which the country’s rich have become richer and the cycle of illiteracy and poverty for the low class majority persists. Just as innovators in science, engineering and business have historically merged to overcome challenges and form new technologies for means of national defense, I believe a similar convergence should take place, as a national and international priority, to enhance the effectiveness of contemporary development practices in India and other struggling states.

The amalgamation of such factors as Hanson’s proposed Information Revolution, the Global Economy, and the Distribution of Wealth clearly reveals the comprehensiveness that development efforts must embody in globalized society. With shared accountability to the third world, all nations must employ the proper communication tools to successfully stimulate societal change.

Deterritorialization: A Big Word and an even Bigger Impact

In continuing with themes discussed last week regarding the maintenance of culture within diasporic communities, Sinclair attempts to clarify the division of culture and national identity through the idea of "deterritorialization."  This notion describes the importance of culture over the nation-state and gives way to a necessary shift in the identity of a nation.  I agree with Sinclair's notion that the recent trends of globalization indicate that the "nation as a cultural force is in retreat" and I would argue that a national identity must now take pride in its diversity of culture rather than its homogeneity.

The article helps me to reflect on the idea of the transnational bonds of a cultural identity and brought to mind an example of how a town in northern Malaysia is a testament to the whole idea of deterritorialization.  Penang is a town on the northern borer with Thailand and, like much of Malaysia, is comprised of three major ethnic groups:  the Chinese, Indian, and Malay.  In walking around this town, it became evident that these three ethnic neighborhoods were exact replicas of what each town would look like in the home countries.  Language, food, music, religion, and cultural dress changed drastically simply by crossing a street.  It was very clear that, for example, the Indian community did not consider themselves Malaysian although they had been a community in the town for generations.  They were distinctly Indian, and their identity reflected this in every facet.

This all leads to the question of media and its role within the changing global community.  Given the different cultural levels of today's nation state, I think it only makes sense that the media reflect this multi-tier approach.  While capitalism will give way to large corporations having an expansive reach, I agree with Marjorie Ferguson's assertion that pop culture is only a "surface" phenomenon.  It is important that smaller media outlets be given the support needed to reach those that identify at a cultural level or a level "below" that of the national identity.  As Sinclair points out, this responsibility falls on each democratic nation to "divert and filter" the flow of international culture and perhaps makes for a more even, and culture-centric, media playing field.  

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why John Sinclair Could Be Writing Pop Music

If John Sinclair’s essay were a 1980s pop rock hit, it would be We Didn’t Start the Fire, an expansive, rapid fire summary of recent decades interspersed with brief attempts to articulate his own message. Sinclair, of course, relies more on academic arguments than catchy choruses, and where Billy Joel argued in 1989 that Cold War animosity was merely a continuation of a longstanding global order, Sinclair argues nearly two decades later that globalization in general and media globalization in particular are powerful trends influencing nation-states’ cultural, social and economic norms and redefining the role and identity of the nation-state.

How does the media fit in? Advertising and entertainment media have helped spread the products of global corporations around the world. Sinclair acknowledges that media have increased the export of news, products and values from powerful, wealthy countries, but he notes several flaws in theories of “cultural imperialism,” including the assumption that the presence of these items would automatically undermine and replace existing values in the importing countries. He also notes that media has enabled diaspora communities to stay in touch with their homelands, reducing the pressure to assimilate to new environments.

Sinclair seems to agree with Karim and Waisbord that globalization has resulted in transnational blurring of media production, ownership, content, distribution and audience, as well as greater cultural diversity within “national” populations. Modern information and communication technologies have enabled individuals, groups, businesses and governments to transcend time and space and to connect to global networks, Sinclair says. At the same time, nations have lost some of their cultural, economic and political autonomy to increasingly powerful international organizations.

In short--if you’ll forgive another retro song reference--for states that want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony (or at least to maintain existing international harmony and cooperation) buying the world a Coke and hoping everybody drinks it is going to be less effective than promoting “social and cultural pluralism within the population” and working with globalizing institutions and corporations to promote the common good.


If you're curious, Hanson's song would be Virtuosity, and I'm still trying to find something good for Appadurai that suggests the struggle to balance globalization's homogenizing and heterogenizing influences, but the only think I could think of was Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract, which didn't really seem to cut it. I'll open the floor to further suggestions...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Power of One Image in the Diaspora

It is clear from the readings this week that conceptualizations of nation-states and nationalism within the ‘global public sphere’ are altering quickly just as fast as constant flows are being transmitted to and from spaces. Karim expounds that nation are becoming more and more imagined, particularly in diasporic communities. From my experience working with disaporic communities, I was particularly fascinated by Karim’s article. The world environment today allows people (within in their agency) to reconnect with their homeland from a far. In an anthropology class I took an undergrad, we read an entire book on how there is a strong west African diasporic community here in Washington, D.C. I remember reading about how in the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone there is a large tree that is of little importance to Sierra Leonians living in Africa. Traditionally, the tree represents freedom and growth. The diasporic community here in DC uses this one image to imagine and reaffirm their nationalism and cultural rituals, values, and attitudes. What I found to be most interesting was that this image conquered up these feelings most strongly for the older generation, but that was born in America did not understand, to the same extent of the older generation, what it meant. At the end of the day, nationalism proved to be considerably harder to distinguish for the younger generations. As we know, today’s youth are more high tech than ever and increased communication and information does infiltrate one’s culture or worldview to some extent. Finally, I think it would be fascinating to meet some of the people that were interviewed in this ethnography to hear what they think of nationalism in the 21st century.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diaspora- Reflections the Clash Between Nomadism and Sedentarism

While I found all of the articles for this week to be interesting within the framework of conceptualizing a nation-state, I found Karim Karim's article regarding the idea of "nation" through the lens of diaspora particularly intriguing.  His ability to enter the psyche of the diaspora culture both from a historical and theoretical perspective gives credence to his argument regarding the importance of international communication. 

Karim surmises, "The system of nation-states exists by mutual recognition among states (p. 395)."  This approach lends itself to psychological interpretation regarding the notion of identity formation within the diaspora culture.  In essence, especially within this culture, identity not only comes from what a culture thinks of itself but also what the outside cultures think of them.  This learned identity structure has the potential to create volatility within a nation-state, depending on a number of factors.  The example that I was most stricken by involved the clash of nomadism and sedentarism.  While traveling in Borneo I had the opportunity to witness this conflict of lifestyle first hand.  In short, the government was trying to establish control over a native nomadic tribe who had no ability, nor intent, to settle down and change their cultural lifestyle.  Many of the poorer villages began to express some hostility toward this nomadic lifestyle based on the lack of production toward the nation-state and ability to escape the taxes imposed based on land ownership.  It was said that this tribe led an “easy” lifestyle and therefore there existed a clear divide between nomadic tribe, sedentary lifestyle, and governmental communication.  Based on Karim’s examples and further explanation I cannot help but be concerned for how the future of this tribe’s cultural lifestyle will be preserved. 

Karim points to many examples of diaspora culture and the attempts to reconnect with the culture of their former land.  To me, this will always be the case as it is primarily a case of identity formation and people will continue to look for opportunities to unite around similar backgrounds and lifestyles.  In addition, technology only exacerbates this tendency and will continue to provide outlets for these connections.  It is yet to be seen how the cost barriers of some of these connections will affect their utility, but as different media make themselves available to the masses it is likely that the diaspora community will be able to hold on to their traditions via nontraditional ways.   

Analysis Question #1: The "Political-Economy" Approach Applied to Tourism

Do you think the "political-economy" concerns that have driven much of the debate in IC research over the past decades are still relevant? If so, why?

In the introduction of Daya Thussu’s chapter entitled, “Approaches to Theorizing International Communication”, he highlights the notion that theories are products of their own history. Generally, theories and approaches generate out of enormous change similar to the Industrial Revolution or the aftermath of WWII. That said, Thussu discusses the roots of this approach in capitalism. The tenants are embedded with power relations and economic structures. The more specific theories emanating from this umbrella called the “political-economy” approach are modernization, dependency, hegemony, critical theory, and the public sphere theories. There is no doubt that the role of free market, neoliberal capitalism is alive and well in today’s society. It has certainly facilitated the ever-expanding interconnections (economic, political, and cultural) of societies around the world and given rise to what Castells calls the ‘global civil society’. While the origins of this approach may have come about in the days of the Industrial Revolution with the ‘father of capitalism’, Karl Marx, it is still extremely relevant.

My reasoning for believing there is still relevance in this approach within research derives from inspiration from Professor Chin’s Tourism and Globalization seminar in which I am enrolled this semester. As I was reading an article, for her class, written by Malcolm Crick called “Representations of International Tourism: Sun, Sex, Sights, Savings, and Servility”, I began to realize the extent to which the “political-economy” approach is pivotal to understand how tourism, economic development, and the political economy converge. In this applied example of tourism, what might be of greater importance is not what the “political-economy” approach highlights but rather what it fails to fully acknowledge. The tourism industry is young and, as such, research and subsequent literature is in the process of emerging. What I have learned is that tourism is inextricably linked with the “political-economy” approach because its origins date back to the era of imperialism. Tourism development should not only be looked at as raising a country’s GNP or foreign exchange, but should examine the extent to which other societal indicators (for example, levels of education, health care systems, and even sanitation systems) are static. (Crick, 319). This is where I believe the nexus of the political-economy approach and the cultural studies approach occurs (or should occur), to cope with vast change in the international system. In tourism and in other topics within the discipline of international communication, there will always be notions of power at play whether its in the hands of one dominant actor or shared among many actors. It is how we legitimize these notions of power (political, cultural, and economic) through the use of international media that are of increasing importance. This is especially true as, around the world, people have more and more access to the media facilitated through information technology.

Globalization and Communication

For better or for worse, media contribute to the enduring concept of national identity, according to Silvio Waisbord. In “Media and the Reinvention of the Nation,” Waisbord traces the rise of nationalism following the French Revolution and discusses its growing influence on agricultural, industrial, and information-based societies. And what impact does media have in an increasingly globalized world? Waisbord puts forward two perspectives: the “globalophobes” see globalized media as a harbinger of universal Americanization, whereas the “globalophiles” believe globalized media enhance opportunities for cultural expression. The truth may lie somewhere in between. The U.S. news and entertainment industries are undeniably behemoths. And media equipment and communication technology are being increasingly affordable and available in smaller countries. But, as Waisbord points out, “media products hardly represent anything that distinctively reflects the national origin of owners and funders.” More and more, production companies and audiences are blurring national lines, so the idea of a “national” media product – created and distributed exclusively within the borders of one country – seems anachronistic. Media do, however, promote patriotism in overt and covert ways. What this means for the future of nationalism in a global society remains unclear.

Karim H. Karim also emphasizes the nebulous nature of national borders, with a heavy focuses on diasporas. In “Reviewing ‘The National’ in I’nternational Communication’ Through the Lens of Diaspora,” Karim suggests the concept of nationalism relies more on symbolism than ethnic or linguistic distinctions. Because of the needs and restrictions of diaspora communities, they tend to use less mainstream media and communication technologies. Information flows within and between these communities influence nation states because they are large and widespread. Like Waisbord, Karim suggests that traditional notions of “nationalism” are challenged by the realities of modern society.

Manuel Castells also deals with globalization, focusing in part on the problems it creates. In “ The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance,” Castells suggests that nation-states have three options to respond to crises related to globalization: they can form networks of states to address the problems, delegate responsibility to international or supranational institutions, or decentralize their power and resources. Castells also argues that the public sphere has a role in maintaining international order, claiming that the global sociopolitical order relies on a thriving international public sphere in which ideas and projects fuel public debate about issues relevant to individuals, groups, and nations. The global public sphere is a tool through which state and IGO actors should relate to civil society.

Whether globalization is good or bad is an issue none of these writers bothers to discuss. Globalization is assumed to be an inevitability, and each of these writings explores how an increasingly globalized society will influence the way people, states, and institutions communicate their political desires and agendas.

The Role of the Media & the Nation

Silvio Waisbord’s chapter was interesting in that it examined the media and the role that it had in the past and continues to have in reinventing the nation and nation building. Waisbord looks at how the media, especially the radio and public broadcasting, have played a pivotal role in bringing people together from various distinct backgrounds. Nevertheless, Waisbord also mentions how many find the media to be an incredibly strong force for promoting nationalism by exposing differences between those of different backgrounds. One important note that Waisbord does bring up is that opportunities for nation building differ because not everyone has the same access to various media outlets. Waisbord discusses how the media remains to be one of the strongest forces promoting national identity, offering opportunities for shared media experiences, and contributing to the maintenance of nations by institutionalizing national cultures (387). Waisbord concludes the chapter by addressing globalization, cosmopolitanism, and multiculturalism as issues which could perhaps challenge the role of the media in nation building, but then summarizes that he feels that the survival of the nation and the media’s role in preserving it is here to stay even if the relationship between the two has changed within the past several years.

Globalized Imagined Communities and the Resulting Imagined Effects of Diplomacy on Power Structures

With collective approaches from Silvio Waisboard, Karim Karim and Manuel Castelles, I propose an innovative hypothesis concerning the world reaction to globalization. This theory suggests that pre-existing governments will maintain relevance if they mimic the modern conditions of diasporas and create global networks based on shared values to adapt to global issues proposed by the public sphere. I believe that increased dialogue between nations will better position the more virtuous cooperating members and will, through the transparency provided by modern technology, reveal and diminish the power of corrupt governing bodies.

Although I oppose Karim and Castelle’s assertions of increased government irrelevance in globalized society, I apply the ideas of “diaspora” and Imagined Communities in my justification of governments’ needed evolution. Benedict Anderson and Karim explain the creation of governing borders throughout history as the birth of Imaginary Nations. Historically, nations have been generated by systems of power seeking expansion that divide people with homogeneous traits and then force conformation to religious, linguistic, cultural or political demands. Over time, communication technologies have developed network societies and reflected the birth of borderless Imaginary Communities, however. These borderless communities are built from widely shared values, meanings and experiences that are encouraged through media and extend national culture. Hence, as media shapes public discourse, the public sphere becomes a limitless space for the intensification of nonphysical nationalized links. I contest that as nongovernmental actors advocate for the interests of the “common man,” governing systems will destabilize if global discourse is not met with a united global response.

Increased intergovernmental dialogue and transparency will strengthen the effectiveness and public opinion of cooperating nations while power structures failing to engage in diplomacy will deteriorate. Through borderless technological communities and globalized networks of pre-existing nations reflecting the concerns of ethnic diasporas, corrupt governments will be undermined, first in public discourse and finally in relevance.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Relevancy of Political Economy Theory

The political economy approach and its individual components have served as a guiding structure for the field of international communication since the 1960's.  While there has been much praise and criticism revolving around this approach, its history of involvement in the development of global relations has secured it among the most important approaches to hold on to as the international communication field evolves. 

As Thussu noted in last week's reading, dependency, modernization, globalization, and hegemony are all important pieces of the political economy approach and should be used, even if selectively, in analyzing issues within global integration.  That being said, I think that one of the more important things for international communication scholars to keep in mind is the notion of policy formation within the realm of the political economy approach.  As nation-states continue to develop, business continues to become more transnational, and technology brings the global communication sphere into cyberspace, the importance of policy formation within our field is critical for keeping order, efficiency, and openness across all areas.   

The political economy approach is dealt a difficult task in trying to make sense of an ever-changing and sometimes fickle global communication structure.  However, its relevance is still very clear as we progress further into the 21st century and new developing countries become bigger players on the international field.  Its main challenge will be to balance the focus between transnational business and  smaller media outlets and maintain clarity within the foreign policy and media relations on the global spectrum and I look forward to watching the evolution of this approach in the coming years.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Defense of Neo-development

As the definition of communication evolved from a process concerning the transmission of messages for purposes of control, views of the role of international communication in development have advanced and revived faith in technology and multiculturalism. Applying insights provided by Carey, Weaver and Thussu, I defend the theory of “neo-development” as an anecdote for the modernization and subsequent Americanization of third world development efforts.

Although critics question the feasibility of mass media as a practical tool in development, I argue that international communication should be used to encourage the spread of expertise, machinery and socioeconomic models to the third world. Declared the “Decade of Development,” the 1960s saw the use of media as a “bridge to a wider world” and modernization as the transfer of Western mores. (Thussu) In response, theorists akin to Paulo Freir and Herbert Schiller condemned development efforts as ploys to promote Western companies and develop dependency between third world nations and the United States. Recognizing the shortcomings of development models, authors including Daniel Lerner and Wilbur Schramm expressed faith in communication technologies and stressed the impact of local elites to the transformed paradigm of “neo-development.” This groundbreaking model stifles cultural imperialism by encouraging civic responsibility vertically and horizontally.

Neo-development may strengthen not only third world countries’ foreign and public affairs through culturally appropriate modernization, but the proliferation of cultural identity may be enhanced as well. While concern for cosmopolitanism and the emergence of an integrated consumer society has been articulated, technological determinism, as Weaver explains, promotes expressions of cultural distinctiveness. With increased global communication, diverse culture traits are proudly shared as opposed to destroyed.

I have found evidence to support the viability of “neo-development” as a potential solution for the modernization of the third world. By redefining development efforts through the expansion of communication technologies and the denial of global demonstrations of power, infrastructure-poor countries may progress.

The Power of Communication: A Cultural Perspective

This week’s readings all emphasized the importance of integrating culture within paradigms. Daya Thussu writes that there are “two broad but often interrelated approaches to theorizing international communication”- the political-economy approach and the cultural studies approach. Thussu notes that theories emerged out of great change such as the Industrial Revolution. While Thussu argues that the political-economy and cultural studies approaches are often interrelated, they are distinctly two separate approaches to envisioning the order of our global society. I am absolutely fascinated by cultures. Coming from a bi-cultural family and having taken a fair amount of Anthropology classes as an undergrad, I have a very difficult time understanding how theorists in the past could so easily distinguish and ignore culture from the economic and political realms of society.

Of the readings this week, the one I found to be most intriguing, and equally abstract, was the article written by James Carey called “A Cultural Approach to Communication”. Carey identifies and defines two views of communication- the transmission view and the ritual view. The ritual view is one in which communication enables us to share a common belief or be a part of a fellowship, where as the transmission view of communication is the process in which “messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people” (Carey: 15). He further extends that we (as humans) have the ability to create reality through communication. Furthermore, Carey illuminates that the way to create reality is through models of communication. These models are to act as a guide of how we communicate. Raymond Willams argues that we change these models when they are no longer are adequate. Creation and alterations to reality reminds me of the quote my Mahatma Gandhi. He said, "Change occurs when deeply felt private experiences are given public legitimacy." Public legitimacy is the exact cultural confirmation in which Carey refers to exemplify the order of the social process.

Additionally, within his analysis of communication and culture, he points out that Americans do not fully identify with a culture (in the traditional sense of the word). Gary Weaver and James Carey mention the irony of identifying American culture. I, too, agree with them that our nuanced American culture only becomes more defined once you leave it. Why are Americans not as conscious of their culture? Does it have something to do with the fact that Americans, along with other Westerners, have dominated the field of Anthropology? Weaver argues that nations are becoming more aware of their own culture, and that “this increased consciousness has led to the increase of nationalism” (Weaver: 13). If that is the case then how is it that Americans have such a strong sense of nationalism, but have a hard time identifying our own culture? And what distinguishes nationalism from culture?

Finally, in Gary Weaver’s speech to Aoyama Gakuin University, he personally details the field of international communication as a holistic one. He argues that the field of international communication is multidisciplinary, but that it is imperative to be cognizant of culture because “it is not simply a matter of how to communicate to people, but rather with people, in a dialogical manner.” Clearly, throughout the readings for this week, the notion of culture (integrated with political and economic values) is intertwined with the creation and reproduction of realities in the international system and must be included into paradigms to gain a comprehensive view of the world.

International Communication: How Far Can We Reach?

The historical context that surrounds international communication lends itself to a causal interpretation in regard to the “reach” of communication and its perceived effectiveness.  It seems intuitive that the farther that a communication medium reaches, the more successful the empire becomes.  As Thussu notes, this is seen quite clearly from the early days of the Roman empire to the more common advent of the telegraph and even within the business context of modern-day commerce.  In each case, communication that reaches the farthest corner in the most efficient manner is unequivocally the more successful enterprise.  Even prior to reading Thussu’s article this notion seems intuitive and I was hard-pressed to imagine a case where this structure of communication could falter.

The case study that Thussu provides regarding the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment was by all accounts setting up to be another concrete example of how innovative methods of communication will yield successful results.  However, in the SITE example, this is not the case.  The experiment proved to be a failure and I, along with what I assume to be quite a few Indian Government and UNESCO personnel am left frustrated and confused.  Why did this experiment fail with the population in rural India?  It was an an innovative communication technique laced with relevant information, in appropriate languages, that could be assumed would be helpful to the targeted population.  This was not simple propaganda as has been used in many other (successful) examples- this was information that could help farmers yield better crops and help children become more educated.  Yet the “results were not very encouraging” (Thussu, p 29).

I am stricken by the failure of this specific example because of the implication that context and community play potentially determining factors in its result.  As a Westerner, this example seems to be set up in an appropriate manner with an admirable objective and ethically stable motives.  Its failure can only point to the intangible variables within the construct of the experiment and will hopefully yield insightful results as it is (has) been studied more closely.  Is there a certain level of evolution needed for high levels of communication to be successful?  As these rural communities had little form of communication prior, perhaps utilizing such a technologically advanced medium produced a level of distrust within the population.  Without the ability to identify with the programming, these villagers were unable to transfer the communicated lessons into their real life work.  I can only speculate as to where we can improve in using communication for developmental purposes and I look forward to investigating more cases similar to the SITE.

The Truth Within Structural Imperialism

Thussu's article makes it clear that the past century has presented International Communication scholars with a multitude of challenges regarding the transmission of information on a global level.  While modernization and dependency theories are descriptive in helping communicate the deficiencies of the communication systems involving the so-called third world, Johan Galtung's theory seems to have particular merit in conveying the true nature of the West's dominance in the international communication arena.  The relationship between core countries and the periphery countries is intuitively described, overwhelmingly evident in our media communication, and can be seen clearly when traveling within developing countries and observing the extensive reach of western media firsthand.  

Galtung's formulaic explanation of imperialism is only strengthened by his example of feudal interaction.  Given an assumption that communication between developing countries would be beneficial in helping each other's growth, feudal interaction is detrimental to every country involved except that of the imperialist.  If Zambia and Zimbabwe are both on the periphery and both dealing with AIDS related problems across the country, perhaps further intentional communication would be helpful instead of both states acting as "spokes" within Galtung's structural imperialism model and hearing their similar issues with a western slant.  Speaking strictly to the communication pillar of his imperialism model, the information flow within both periphery countries would benefit from being produced by local agencies instead of transnational media outlets in order to bring the news to a personal level which would, perhaps, compel action and further communication across periphery states.

Overall, the "agenda-setting" function of international media is detrimental to the development of so-called third world countries and true improvement is only possible by self-monitoring the information flow to these periphery nations.  The NWICO debate served as a beginning realization of a need to alter international communication policy and I look forward to learning more about the recent developments and seeing how international media fits within the realm of Galtung's structural imperialism in the coming years.

Transmission vs Ritual Model of Communication

Carey’s first chapter mainly focuses on two different views of communication including the ritual and transmission views of communication. By the end of the chapter, it is clear that Carey truly favors the ritual model of communication, although the transmission model appears to be the model most commonly used since the 1920’s.

Carey mentions that the main idea surrounding the transmission view of communication is that it’s a process where messages are transmitted and distributed in space in order for the control of distance and people (15). On the other hand, Carey defines the ritual view of communication as being directed towards the maintenance of society and the representation of shared beliefs. He finds that the main objective is the maintenance of an ordered world (18). Carey continues to define communication as a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed. He feels that to study communication one must study the actual social process where symbol forms are created and used (23 and 30).

Carey concludes the chapter by mentioning that we have an obsessive commitment towards favoring the transmission view of communication, but feels that we must refocus our efforts towards the ritual model of communication in order to have a better understanding of the true process of communication and in order to reshape our culture.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

IC Theories

Theories have their own history and reflect the concerns of the time in which they were developed.

In “Approaches to theorizing international communication,” Daya Thussu supports this opening assertion by discussing some of the prominent theories put forward to analyze international communication and how they reflect the social, cultural, political and academic environments in which they arose.

The bulk of Thussu’s writing focuses on theories that arose following the second World War, beginning with modernization theory, which first rose to prominence in the early days of the Cold War, when the West and the East were engaged in an ideological battle over developing nations. Modernization theory examined how international mass communication could be used as a tool for bringing Western-style values to “traditional” countries, including formerly colonial states in Latin America.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many of those states were in turmoil, and history has shown that much of Latin America’s economic and political strife during that era was caused or exacerbated by U.S. corporate, economic and political influences. These decades saw the rise of dependency theory, which held that developing countries were heavily influenced by transnational corporations, often supported by the government of the corporation’s home country, and that development frequently served the interests of the corporations more than those of the developing nations. This relationship extended not only to politics and economics, but to cultural imperialism as well. Dependency theorists had several views on how information flows contributed to this structure, such as Johan Galtung’s argument that northern dominance was supported by a southern elite whose interests coincide more closely with those of the dominant forces than with those of the disenfranchised people in their own countries.

Critical theory, first used in the 1940s and appearing throughout the following decades, focuses on the impact of what critical theorists call the “culture industry,” and argues that industrial production of culture in capitalist countries encourages the development of a working class ideology that serves those in power. Thussu cites Jürgen Habermas, who argued that corporate influence of the public sphere has reduced its ability to function as an independent arena in which the views of the citizenry can develop. The impact of culture industry has grown and changed with the improvement of entertainment technology and information management like lobbying and PR.

None of these theories are flawless, as Thussu points out. Modernization theory, for example, often ignored the social, political and cultural ramifications of Western “modernization” and the impact of increasing income disparities. Dependency theory often overlooked the role of the cultural consumer. And Habermas’ public sphere has “very male, Eurocentric and bourgeois limitations.” But each sheds light on important aspects of international communication.

Thussu’s chapter concludes with a focus on how the international communications debate has shifted in recent decades to a greater emphasis on culture, the information society and globalization. U.S. control of information and communications technology has long supported the nation’s ability to promote its global agenda, but the continuation of U.S. hegemony is not a given. Thussu describes the potential for “a world communication order led by transnational business and supported by their respective national states,” but ultimately, it is impossible to predict anything about the future of international communication with absolute certainty. Nonetheless, under the right circumstances, Thussu believes international communications could have an important role in bridging borders in the years to come.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Metaphors of Progress"

With the passing of time, advances in technology have globalized the transfer of information and hence, initiated international regulations relative to the evolution of communication. To support this proposal, I identify “metaphors of progress” (Mattelart 26) revealed through The Emergence of Technical Networks, described by Armand Mattelart and Daya Thussu’s The Historical Context of International Communication. These metaphors, including the growth of administrative mergers between nation states and the appearance of peaceful assemblies to study and revise international communication, offer ethical prospective on the geopolitical dissemination of information.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, advances in sea travel and railways weakend geographical restrictions on the transmission of information and prompted states to more strongly unite in efforts to manage global communication tools. The development of the Postal Union exemplifies the emergence of administrative state alliances. In order to address “black cabinet” abuses of privacy, prevalent throughout history, and to propose international postal rates, the Postal Union Organized in 1875 and set the stage for the contemporary organization of social networks by international regulators. Despite states’ initial economic concerns with shared postal reform, such mergers maintained the global integrity of postal services and increased the accessibility of information to the public. (Mattelart 9).

As the use of the telegraph, radio, television and news agencies expanded throughout the twentieth century, joint efforts to assess and amend networks of international communication matured as well. Specifically, the MacBride Commission, established by UNESCO in 1979, provided a global view of developing countries’ need for the democratization of communication. The MacBride Commission found that dependence on Western media and the influence of corrupt political systems impeded culturally appropriate communication strategies as means for addressing national concerns. A New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) was proposed to address these findings. Although opponents to NWICO argued against the regulation of free market media, this case suggests that such countries, including the United States, failed to acknowledge the recommendations of the MacBride Commission on behalf of an ideological scapegoat for maintaining their ranges of influence (Thussu 31). As technologies widen the flow of information, “peaceful gatherings of progress” continue to lead the discourse of international order and ethics in communication (Mattelart 30).

Such agreements between states reflect the networking possibility of complex technologies and the restrains of press directly and indirectly affected by censorship. Although it is yet to be seen whether “progress” will be defined by the freedom or suppression of new mediums, “metaphors of progress” will define the twenty-first century by use of advanced tools in international communication.

New Technology and Censorship

This aesthetic marvel is the Žižkov television tower, located in district 3 of Prague in the Czech Republic. It was commissioned by the Russians during the Communist occupation, purportedly to block transmission messages from Western stations like Radio Free Europe, and was completed a few years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. (The shiny, faceless babies scaling the side are part of an art installation added nearly a decade later.) The enormous tower is one example of the sort of Soviet censorship techniques Daya Thussu describes in "The Historical Context of International Communication."

In "The Origins of the Information Revolution," Elizabeth Hanson describes attempts by political and religious leaders to stifle early printed communication not simply by censoring it, but by preventing its creation and spread. And in "The Emergence of Technical Networks," Armand Mattelart notes that the large news agency networks arose in tandem with a reduction in press censorship in France, Great Britain and the United States. Although none of the writings focus exclusively on issues of censorship, all three describe historical efforts to stifle or promote the free exchange of information.

Thussu's writing opens with the assertion that "communication has always been critical to the establishment and maintenance of power over distance." It goes on to describe how growing use of the telegraph revolutionized military communications and promoted the growth of major international news agencies that helped shape readers' views on foreign countries. The goals of military supremacy and generating public support combined with more sophisticated technology in Cold War propaganda broadcasts, in which the U.S. and Russia both attempted to spread their ideology. On page 18, Thussu describes censorship in terms of military strategy: "Since there was scant interest among Western populations for Russian international broadcasts, Western governments did not have to worry about jamming them. In contrast, the authorities in Moscow tried to interfere with Western broadcasts, seeing them as a network of 'radio saboteurs' subverting the achievements of socialism."

Hanson's writing opens by describing the effects of Gutenberg's printing press, which, among other things, threatened the Catholic Church's longstanding monopoly of printed materials and information distribution. Recognizing the threat, the Catholic Church made a list of forbidden books and saw that printers and distributors of "heretical" texts were arrested or killed. Nonetheless, the new technology enabled dissidents like Luther and Calvin to spread their views and gather followers and weakened the Catholic Church's control—not only of information, but of the population as well.

Mattelart's sprawling essay covers wide and varied terrain, including the rise of international news agency networks. He argues that laws granting greater press freedom promoted the development of mass media, although his subsequent description of William Randolph Hearst's contribution to the Spanish-American war in 1898 demonstrates a potential downside of a too-powerful free press

As these writings focus on the growth of communications technology in recent centuries, each of these writings confirms that communication is an important element in maintaining power, and that it can also be an important tool for challenging power and upsetting the status quo, which may explain why innovations in information and communications technology are often accompanied by attempts at censorship from those in power.

Implications of Innovation and Competition in International Communication

Collectively, this week’s assigned readings set the stage for how different modes of international communication evolved and the implications for how those modes advanced international relations over time. While the readings outlined several themes, there were two that I found to be particularly captivating.

First, the theme of innovation is apparent in the readings. Without innovation, international communication would never have progressed as it did. In Elizabeth C. Hanson’s chapter entitled, “The Origins of the Information Revolution”, Hanson credits the printing press with the greatest social and political impact of any field. It is evident that innovation breeds more innovation. As invention after invention were created, notable improvements and ramifications in international communications followed. For example, once the printing press was invented, there was a movement to print in the vernacular languages people spoke rather than in Latin. From there, the electronic telegraph propelled the creation of the first global communication system that occurred in real time. The telegraph not only linked imperialists with their colonies, but also reiterated the fact that the British empire held a hegemonic status in the world at the time. In Mattelart’s chapter, “The Emergence of Technical Networks”, he explains that the French began documenting names and addresses of senders for reasons of state security when the telegraph was invented. Years later, broadcasting made its way into the international scene. It played an enormous role in the forming public opinion in international affairs. During the Cold War, broadcasting became particularly vital because it was used to transmit propaganda to the masses listening. Furthermore, the use of propaganda gave rise to the idea of obtaining “objective” news, whether or not countries were stealth producers of propaganda for international consumption. My point is that with innovation comes dynamic societal implications.

Secondly, each invention, within the international market, was affected by imperialism and capitalism. Whether it meant that European governments would introduce the electronic telegraph around the world (because it was a cheap way of communicating) or provide colonies with the shortwave radio, clearly, international communication is deeply embedded with the concepts of imperialism (mapping communications with colonies across the world) and the notion of technical advancement for the sake of profitable economies. Through the discussion of the electric telegraph and wireless telegraphy in Hanson’s chapter and in Thussu’s article (titled “The Historical Context of International Communication”), it became clear to me that regardless of the development level of countries, the expansion of the telegraph was global. Indeed, it was imperialism that connected countries (between the North and the South) but it was also imperialism that restricted them from prospering. Imperialism laid the foundation for the creation of an imbalanced world – one with transparent distinctions between those with power and money and those without. Competition, resulting from capitalism, also affectes international communication. News agencies supported by governments became obsessed with providing international news presented in the fastest, most “balanced” manner while maintaining (as Thussu articulates) a “cartel” on the influence of the media on world opinion. Notions of imperialism, capitalism, and innovation and its respective societal implications are inexplicably linked.

Finally, I would like to briefly discuss international communication and development. Once the gap was formed dividing the North and the South, UNESCO officials decided to use international communication to attempt to rectify the development damage in the world’s poorest countries. The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) used satellite technology to broadcast programs to educate people in rural communities in India. Ideally, this experiment should have made a profound impact. However, the modernization theory behind the implementation of the experiment failed to account for Indian culture within the context of educating the rural people. Devastating, the result was failure to empower people to view the programs that were transmitted. I suppose that this example exemplifies the power of culture, innovation, and competition within the international system.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Response to “International Communication: How Far Can We Reach?”

I would definitely have to agree with you Nick in that I was truly very surprised that the SITE experiment in India did not seem to be very successful at all. The experiment drew upon development in several key areas such as education, health and hygiene, and even agriculture.

Thussu does seem to mention that it was successful in that it did help to develop India’s own satellite program in the future, INSAT. Also, it was important because it was able to help create awareness about social problems and brought audio visual technology to rural communities.

Unfortunately, Thussu also goes into detail in where SITE seemed to fail. First, it seems that it did not bring about much change in the areas of both school education and also did not seem to help encourage the use of birth control. Although, Thussu does state that women were often times discouraged from viewing and advice that was given on agriculture only seemed to applied to the wealthier farmers and not to the majority of the rural population.

Overall, it seems that SITE did not bring about that many significant changes or improvements to the region, but I do believe it was a great first time effort to attempt to use technology towards fostering development