Monday, September 14, 2009

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.

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