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.