Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chips and dip and W.L. Bennett

In the fantastical IC cocktail party in my head (and yes, there's a fantastical IC cocktail party in my head) Elizabeth Hanson is the person who bounces around the room talking to everybody; Castells, et. al. is the circle of people having a heady, fascinating intellectual conversaation you can't quite break into; Jeffrey Juris is the guy who grabs your wrist and leans in a little too close when he talks to you; and W.L. Bennett is the guy you run into by the guacamole and end up talking to the rest of the evening. (For the record, Aronson and Cowhey are the guys you accidentally sit next to on the couch and try to politely ignore until your roommate notices your desperate eyebrow semaphores and comes to rescue you.)

I absolutely loved this week's readings, but Bennett's was my favorite by far. The idea of using ICTs for global/social protests was fascinating to me. Some of the examples were familiar to me (the Zapatista movement, the Madrid election, the Nike and Fair Trade Coffee campaigns) and some were totally new (the Estrada ouster, Korea election, the Coca-Cola campaign). What I liked about Bennett's essay was that he was able to examine the events without getting swept away by enthusiasm for the potential of ICTs or anti-globalization movements, which (in my opinion, at least) gave him leeway to reflect a little more on the implications.

Bennett says that governments and institutions and corporations use communication networks to perpetuate the existing political-economic regime -- a regime which, presumably, already benefits them. BUT, activists have also used the same technology to find creative and innovative ways to challenge that power, which is very similar to what Castells said. So, essentially, these new ICTs are benefitting both the status quo and the opposition. To what degree is obviously a contentious matter, which explains why Castells and co. think the Chinese government won the SARS PR situation and Hanson thinks the people did.

All of this ties nicely back to the idea of the "noosphere" (much as I hate the word, I like the concept) and the idea that political movements are heavily influenced by the stories and ideas people try to introduce into the public domain. OK, I realize I'm totally geeking out over these readings, but I really did enjoy them and now I've got all of these interesting ideas buzzing around in my brain. Or maybe that's just the cocktail party chatter...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Net Neutrality and a Comcast Shout-out

The selections from Cowney and Aronson bring up a lot of interesting points regarding the transformation of power within IC Technology but the point that resonates most is the importance of here and now in the realm of regulation. It becomes clear, through multiple lists and graphical evidence, that the United States will remain in the "pivot" of the inflection point for at least the next fifteen to twenty years. This being said, how will the US strive to continue this domination in the context of growing powers (notably China) as industry production and control mature?

The idea of network neutrality seems to make sense on a very intuitive level but I found it interesting that the evidence from the past ten years is conclusive that the original net neutrality framework was actually a bit counterproductive. The authors note data that indicates that the pricing controls on broadband actually promote discrimination either upstream or downstream. I find it interesting to note, on a personal level, that Comcast was found to be a guilty party "working" the system of net neutrality and, furthermore, followed it up with a shady maneuver at the FCC hearing. I am not surprised nor disappointed to hear that Comcast received a slap on the wrist from the FCC (the customer service gods should do that same) but it serves as a poignant example of the shortcomings of the original net neutrality pricing structure.

Although it has taken a couple of attempts to work out some major gliches in the net neutrality framework, Cowney and Aronson argue that there have been many successes as a result of continued efforts and an ability to maintain focus on the importance of unhindered innovation. A web platform has been created that allows for involvement of content producers and content owners for a stronger and more heterogeneous infrastructure. This platform and innovation ideology are two important factors that I look forward to observing as the new administration continues to look at the major issues facing the ICT governance community.

US ICT Dominance: How long can it really last?

Authors of the book, Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation, Peter Cowhey and Jonathon Aronson argue “the US is likely to be the single largest influence on the global policy agenda”. They argue that the US has the most consistent agenda setter for the global market, has a large lead in ICT stock, has the largest investment base for research and development, is the leader of software, will continue to be within the top three global markets across a full range of ICT markets, and is the leading producer of high value-added content. As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think about how literally days before, while pumping gas, I was reading random trivia facts that were being displayed on a LCD screen. One of the facts, that came up was that Iceland is ranked the number one country that has the most households with broadband Internet access in the world. I later found out that the US is ranked eighteen. Cowhey and Aronson argue that US dominance of the ICT markets will stick around for a while yet, but if a country as small as Iceland is as connected into the global market, it makes me question whether or not there is more possibility for ICT market growth else where in the world? Globalization enables the existence of competition, so the thought is certainly not outrageous. My point is that this kind of growth could happen much faster than Cowhey and Arsonson propose.

Another issue of interest from the reading is net neutrality. Cowhey and Aronson give evidence to support net neutrality from the past ten years and regulatory bodies, like the FCC, to avoid the prioritization of information. The whole concept of net neutrality- not creating a multi-tiered internet for companies to profit- eliminates the space for yet another digital divide within civil society for those in developing countries to overcome. Thomas Friedman argues that we are in the age of democratization of information. But how democratic is it to control information that passes through the internet? There is not arguing that the internet is a technological discontinuity which has forever changed ICT markets. On a wide scale, maintaining a free and open internet in the public sphere is imperative to international communication, cooperation, and lessening the amount digital divides that exist domestically within the US and internationally.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who Owns Information?

Usually, I attempt to answer questions pertaining to IC in my blog but after reading selections from Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation this week, I find myself questioning the ownership of information. Cowney and Aronson’s focus on the changing political economy of policy in the United States, specifically in the form of net neutrality, has led me to analyze the diverse state and non-state actors involved in the creation, transmission and consumption of media messages.

As is apparent in the mergers between Verizon and MCI and SBC, AT&T and Bell South, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice work to encourage market competition and the expansion of new communication technologies. A goal of the 2004 “Spectrum of Flexibility,” however, was to allow licenses to more liberally monetize holdings. While some argue that relaxed regulations will result in increased investment and growth, I propose that an economic environment with diminished government control could advance unadvised market-driven (as opposed to consumer-centric) decision making by conglomerates.

Cowney and Aronson’s Chapter five not only brings together previous debates about governance and international communication technologies, but it gives further evidence to support net neutrality and global regulatory measures/bodies to avoid the prioritization of messages and security schemes. Modularity in property rights, advertising and personal networks is crucial to ensure that interconnection discrimination does not exist and users’ rights are upheld.

Ultimately, the question debated in this book and in national socio-economic discourse is “Who owns information?” Although the answer is unclear, my hope is that in today’s participatory information society, policy allowing equality in the transmission and reception of messages will be pursued as the United States continues to seek regulations promoting market development.

Friday, October 23, 2009

To market, to market to buy a fat gig...

For many years, I enjoyed market analysis just a little more than dental surgery, considering it just as tedious, but less likely to induce involuntary drooling. After I was finally persuaded to take an Economics class, I reached a stage of personal development where conversations about opportunity cost and contractionary fiscal policy no longer made my eyes glaze over, but even so, I found this week's market-centric readings a little challenging.

But after I'd buckled down and adjusted to Cowhey and Aronson's writing style (did anybody else think they went a little crazy with the lists?), I found that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say about leadership, pressure and change. From the beginning, they predict that the United States will lead, but not dictate, ICT policy development over the next few decades, largely due to the size and existing strengths of the U.S. ICT industry. They devote pages to discussing how markets in the United States and other national states respond to domestic and international stiumuli and how political and economic bodies respond to changes in the ICT markets. But they only briefly focus on the influence of international institutions -- pointing out that they can initiative global governance shifts and discussing some issues related to principal-agent relationships.

Many of our other readings have suggested that the rising power of international institutions is one challenge that threatens the sovereignty of nation states, and I know that Internet and ICT governance is one area where that has been particularly true. In fact, the Internet Governance Forum (established at the WSIS meeting in Tunis) is largely hailed for establishing a new model of governance in which governments are given no more power than representatives from civil society, NGOs and the private sector. Of course, the IGF is largely a talking body, and Cowhey and Aronson seem more focused on action. While institutions may weigh in, governments are still responsible for establishing policy and their behavior (tragically for me) responds more to political and economic forces of supply and demand.

One of the points I really liked was that changes in technology can raise the necessity for change without dictating its path, which allows a lot of room for agency and explains why individual nations have made such different choices about market regulation and ICT development. What I'd like to know is this: What happens after 2025 when (if Cowhey and Aronson are correct) countries like China and India have risen in significance? Will the absense of one clear market leader lead to greater instability in the global markets? Will it lead to more cautious governance? Will another nation or institution come forward to fill the void? Or will we adopt a more global governance pattern to address the frequently shifting ICT market?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'Information is Power'

The readings this week bring home the cliché expression that “information is power”. In his article entitled, “Communication, Power and Counter-Power in the Network Society”, Manuel Castells discusses how through the use of ICTs, a new form of communication is emerging that he terms the ‘mass-self communication’. He articulates that there is power in this form of communication because it gives rise to the convergence of mass media and communication through the use of social media sites, for instance.

Embedded within the power of communication, Castells also highlights the importance of personality politics and political advertising. Written sometime in 2007, before the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, I am not sure the extent to which Castells was exposed to the marketing of the campaign. However, as I was reading this section, I could not escape the fact the Obama campaign hit a cord with the youth of America by advertising itself and what Obama stands for through the use of email, Facebook, Twitter, and not to mention its own interactive website. He was able to mobilize his supporters and brand his campaign as one representing change. Similarly, candidates are running for the office of the Virginia state Governor. Driving past the signs, on my way to and from school, I noticed immediately that democratic candidate Creigh Deeds is using similar colors and logos within his campaign to appeal to those who voted for change within the Presidential election in 2008. Similarly, I have received emails from the campaign iterating President Obama’s endorsement of Deeds for Governor. Through a similar campaign look, Deeds is attempting to generate “symbolic values and trustworthiness” as Castells mentions in his article. The election has not occurred yet but it will certainly be fascinating to see if Deeds’ efforts will result in a win.

While Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have left their imprint on communications as we know them in the past, it still does not solve the problem that not all voices have the agency to be included in this new form of communication. Castells seemingly falls to address the extent to which a large number of people do not have access to new communication technologies. The fact is that the poorest of the poor in all corners of the world do not have access to ICTs to participate in the ‘electronic autism’ of mass-self communication, nor do they have the literacy to use employ this form of communication even if they did have access. This is not to say that I do not value Castell’s contribution, I just wanted to highlight this weakness.

In conclusion, Castells, Benkler and Ronfeldt and Arquilla all discuss, in some fashion, the importance and power of information in networks and it transformative effects being played out in the world. While the Castells reading particularly struck me this week, I found the other two readings to be similarly thought provoking.

The emergence of Mass Self-Communication according to Castells

      In this piece, Castells defines politics as a socialized communication that has the capacity to influence people minds. He argues that political actors exercise a great deal of control over the media and although media are not holders of this power, they do constitute the space where power is ultimately decided. He then discusses the emergence of a new type of media which he defines as mass self-communication where people build their own system of mass communication through SMS, blogs, podcasts, etc. He also explains that there has been a growing use of horizontal networks of communication. He also explains mass self communication a being self generated in content, self directed in emission, and self selected in reception by many that communicates with many. Mass self-communication offers extraordinary opportunities for social movements, rebellions, and even political scandals.

The Increasing Power of Self-Communication

Castells begins by stating that "power is the structural capacity of one social actor to impose will over other social actor(s)." He articulated a point that we have discussed multiple times in class regarding the "framing" nature of the media and the space where information is presented to the public as being the front lines of the power struggle. It is this arena that the new communication technologies expand and create more information- and information resources- available to the general public in order to be a more informed player.

The example of Current TV is a great example of a type of self-produced media in which s an alternative source of information and news that has risen to compete, especially within a younger audience, with the larger news corporations. I personally thoroughly enjoy Current for its original and unique content as well as its ability to take on controversial topics while seemingly portraying the "everyman" persona. Current has created a market of trust with its viewers, perhaps because of its tendency to come off as a lower budget, produced "for us, by us" type of programming.

Of course the struggle for power is something that will always be an issue of constant change. The advent of social utilities like Twitter and Facebook are most recent in a long line of seemingly innovative communication technologies and there will be many to come. These types of self communication may be, as Castells points out, not intended for public information (32% of blogs made for public) but it nonetheless becomes part of the sphere of global communication information. Social movements through these new communication realms are now more ubiquitous than ever and, from my end, are a welcome shift from the historical institutional power structures.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Identifying Power Struggles Imposed by Modern "Network Society"

The theme uniting the writings of Castells, Benkler, Ronfeldt and Arquilla is media’s role in the power struggle between government, industry and the public sphere in contemporary “network society.” Although the authors describe modern trends through varied approaches, the control gained from the transmission of messages is central to each essay.

Castelles’ view of the relationship between communication, politics and power is best portrayed when he defines media as “the space of power making, not the source of power holding.” With the emergence of mass self-communication, Castelles describes civil society engagement as a possible counter power to market-centric failures of political legitimacy and global oligopolies.

Benkler, on the other hand, focuses on democracy as a networked public sphere that people must take advantage of in order to make the most of social policy and economic power shifts. Unlike Castelles, Benkler stresses the frailty of laws and institutions that make up our economic infrastructure in wake of increased consumer production and multidimensional knowledge flows.

Continuing the theme of increased knowledge capital in “network society,” Ronfeldt and Arquilla propose that the impact of communication tools and the proliferation of NGOs will encourage diplomats to redefine emerging realms of information as the Noosphere and modern soft power or noopolitike as the replacement of traditionally hard military power. They suggest that participatory information structuring could positively amplify democracy in the public sphere or incite dangerous resistance to Western norms and governing systems if state actors do not become more technologically literate.

Although diverse in their approaches, these authors present prudently optimistic views of the expansion of participatory “self communication tools” in the management of contemporary “information society.” The writings of Castells, Benkler, Ronfeldt and Arquilla give the reader confidence in trends toward multidirectional power flows and increased civil society control over modern political, social and economic discourse.

Fan Fiction: The Devil and Manuel Castells

(In honor of our fan fiction conversation last week.)

Our story thus far: Political hopeful Johnny Freeman has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for help on his campaign for world domination. After collecting the necessary signatures to run for Supreme Global Senate, Johnny’s campaign is floundering and the devil has come to claim his due. Manuel Castells has agreed to help the devil set up a Twitter account, in exchange for some extra time to get Johnny’s campaign up and running. The devil has also agreed to renegotiate the terms of the contract if Johnny wins, allowing the politician to keep his soul in exchange for some basic lessons on tweeting. The three men sit in Johnny Freeman’s living room with the shades drawn….

The stranger sat in the corner, muttering and counting on his fingers, and occasionally pecking at the keyboard in front of him. Castells turned his attention to the hapless campaigner.

“Let’s talk campaign strategy,” he said. “How have you been interacting with voters?”

Johnny pulled out a box of leaflets, posters and newspaper clippings, but Castells brushed them aside.

“I’m talking about the network,” he said. “How are you communicating with the people?” He grabbed Johnny’s keyboard and typed a few words into Google.

“Oh boy,” he said. “You realize you have almost no online presence aside from your opponent’s Google bombing? How do you expect to spread your message if you don’t take advantage of the media and interactive horizontal networks?”

“Inter- what now?” Johnny asked. The stranger chuckled in the corner.

“Blogs! Websites! Texts! Tweets! What century is this?” Castells demanded. “Power relations are shaped with this technology! You can’t effectively challenge the institutionalized power structure without taking advantage of the public sphere. You need to set up networks with powerful people in government and organizations and with individual voters! You need to spread your message through those networks. That’s how you rise to power.”

“What about when I released those photos of my opponent to the Huffington Post International? The ones where he’s cutting up an E.U. flag to make swim trunks?”

Castells sighed. “You realize scandal politics contribute to widespread cynicism about the democratic political process in general, right? This is a mess. You have no online presence whatsoever,” Castells said. “A hundred years ago you might have been able to win this campaign, but today there’s no chance.”

The stranger cheered and stepped forward to claim his prize. Johnny turned grey with fear.

“Whoa there, buddy,” Castells stepped forward and placed a hand on the stranger’s lapel. “I’m going to have to stop you right there.”

The stranger sputtered, but Castells stood firm.

“First, let’s point out the obvious that Johnny doesn’t need to win this election to achieve or exercise power. While we’ve been talking, my TA has been setting up a website, facebook page and Twitter account, and my friends have started ghost-blogging on his account. His message is out there. Besides, the power of the state is weaker than it was before the ICT revolution began. So participation in the Supreme Global Senate isn't the only way to effectively achieve or exercise power. And globalization, expanding NGOs and scandal politics are challenging state sovereignty even further. With the right tools and strategy, Johnny can communicate and exercise power quite effectively without ever leaving his computer chair.”

Castells gestured to the computer screen as the stranger frowned. “As you can see from the results of this online poll and the comments in these chat rooms, the public opinion is clearly opposed to your claiming Johnny’s soul. Also—,” Castells leaned forward and clicked to a new tab. “Right here, look, the facebook group ‘Let Johnny Freeman keep his soul’ has gained two million new members in the past hour. I’m afraid you can’t follow through on your plan without thwarting the opinions currently dominating the public sphere, and seriously jeopardizing your reputation.”

The stranger snarled. “I’ll go to the mainstream media,” he snapped. “I’ll write letters-to-the-editor in all the major papers about how Johnny reneged on his contract!”

“That’s always an option,” Castells mused. “Mainstream media and traditional ICT power players are increasingly taking advantage of the network society. But you did agree that the contract could be renegotiated. And I think you might also want to consider this.”

Castells stepped to the window and threw it open. Thousands of young people stood below waving signs and chanting Johnny’s name.

“My TA also organized a flash mob through her mobile network,” Castells said. “As you can see, Johnny's message has infiltrated the public sphere and mobilized the masses. They've clearly turned against you in this case.”

The stranger stormed out of the house, tweeting furiously on his Blackberry. Castells and Johnny updated Johnny’s facebook status to "un-damned," then toasted their success.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Japanization vs Americanization

Katz and Liebes used the show Dallas as a case study to examine the way in which a show is to be interpreted and understood is largely dependent upon one’s culture. They argue that cultural distance reduces the preoccupation with the question of reality while proximity causes viewers to measure critically how real it is (378). Therefore, Americans would be more concerned with assuring that the show Dallas is an accurate portrayal of their lifestyle more so than someone in China would be.

Iwabuchi’s piece discusses the development of the Walkman and the VCR in Japan and finds that it is interesting how such an individualistic and private technology could evolve and truly flourish in such a collectivist society as Japan. He discusses that the emergence of Japanese consumer goods can be described as a kind of “invisible colonization” that is more concerned with material cultural dissemination. He contrasts this with “Americanization” which can be seen as a type of cross cultural conspiracy that is discussed in terms of production and yearning for a distinctly American way of life. He concludes this piece by arguing that Americanization now seems to be over and that global cultural power is now more spread out between other leading nations.

Deuze’s chapter defines convergence culture as one which provides a mechanism to increase revenue and further the goals of an industry while also enabling consumers to be involved in the production process. He uses Bluffton Today, Counter Strike, Amazon, and CPB Group as organization which have greatly utilized these two important concepts. He concludes by mentioning that it is necessary to train people to stay active and involved in the production process or as he states “stay inside the Truman show and make the best of it.”

While staying inside the Truman Show can we smell culture?

This locus of this week’s readings appears to hover around the role of the audience in emerging convergence cultures. Elihu Katz and Tamar Liebes in their article, “Reading Television: Television as Text and Viewers As Decoders” discuss the effect of television on different audiences internationally. They employ the example of Dallas in their case study and argue that, in Alegria, watching Dallas has displaced the popular pastime of gathering to listen to grandmother’s folktales (IC Reader 378). They conclude that the audience is increasingly bbecome more active by “selecting, negotiating, interpreting, discussing, or in short, being involved” (IC Reader 380). Before moving on, I would like to note that while I, myself, have never watched Dallas, I understand its popularity internationally. However, I was thoroughly amused by the kinship chart provided by Katz and Liebes. Having studied a fair amount of Anthropology as an undergrad, this is the first time I have seen a soap opera’s kinship relations fully charted. That said, while I know that people internationally are not documenting the kinship charts, they do make mental notes of the kinds of relationship portrayed in this soap opera. This allows viewers to draw implications within their own culture based on what they have viewed while objectifying a false sense of American culture.

Koichi Iwabuchi, in his article, “Taking “Japanization” Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered” holds that the rise of Japan refutes the notion of continued western cultural hegemony. Like the Katz and Liebes article, I found Iwabuchi’s article to be a bit dated. However, he explores captivating notions about culture. He articulates that cultures can have an “odor” making them distinct, but that Japan’s culture is “odorless”. He further states that the products Japan produces are created “lacking any nationality” (IC Reader 413). He argues that there is an “Americanization of Japanization”. He says “what is experienced through Japanese culture is actually a highly Japanese version of the American “originial”” (IC Reader 418). He clearly articulates that a cultural presence contains power and sends a message of a state’s status. For me, I interpreted this concept of the “Americanization of Japanization” as an indirect U.S. cultural presence in the production of popular Japanese items. Furthermore, it is clear that as the global neoliberal economy grows there is a greater emphasis on the individual (as also noted in Deuze’s work). This, I presume, Iwabuchi would say is contributing to the Japanese “odorless culture” being dispersed in the form of its consumer products internationally.

Mark Deuze’s article, “Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries”, appears to be considerably more updated in comparison to the other two. He discusses the participatory nature of today’s media. He argues that more and more the audience is driving the direction of the media in creative industries for the “quest for profit” (IC Reader 463). This highlights, as Deuze points out, what Manuel Castells calls ‘networked individualism’. For those who have access to the ICTs that link people and are literate, I agree that there is a cultural convergence going on of sorts that is forcing the media to become more fluid in its reaffirmation of cultural identities as consumers and producers of media content. At the very end of his article, Deuze says, “we have to train people to stay inside The Truman Show” (IC Reader 465). My fear is not making sure people who are already inside stay inside, but rather that we need to broaden the show while carefully maintaining a cultural equilibrium of convergence and divergence (the reaffirmation of "cultural odor") internationally.

Japanization: Globalization via Sonyism

The article by Iwabuchi regarding the idea of "Japanization" within the globalization era serves as an informative look into the other side of the cultural media flow paradigm. While I think the author begins the article with a bit of a "Napolean complex" regarding the lack of respect that Japan has received due to their "culturally odorless" commodities, I think Iwabuchi progresses, along with the reader, into a rational and intuitive assessment of Japan's place in the globalization structure. As Iwabuchi notes, Japan's cultural power has yet to reach its economic prowess and until this balance is achieved, Japaneseness will remain a foreign and exotic notion.

I am very intrigued by the approach that Iwabuchi takes regarding the Americanization of Japanization and he points back to the importance of distribution channels in achieving any level of success in globalization. In this way, I agree with Sklair's argument that Americanization is simply a contingent of global capitalism. America has been extremely successful, as we learned last week, at acquiring distribution channels and growing within the global media structures. It is very similar in the way that Japanese media and technological products were swept into the American media wave and, as a result, became a global media player.

The notion of global cultural flow, or lack thereof in the case of Japan, also results in an interesting concept given the success of intra-regional globalization. Iwabuchi makes it clear that Japan's media success in Southeastern Asia is due to its ability to glocalize which is seen especially in the case of Sony. Japan has taken advantage of the decentralization of globalization and made a stronghold of media power within its regional control. As Tunstall argues, this regional focus and Japanese indigenization of American media products will be adopted by India and China and is seen as a new development for non-western media industries. While the West may not be as aware of the globalization of Japanese culture, spatial affiliation and cultural proximity have been important successes within the context of Japanization and are positive cultural influences within the regional spectrum. I look forward to learning more about these other players in the global media construct and discussing the importance of such balances within the framework of a globalizing society.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Training People to Stay Inside the Truman Show"

Although McChesney and like-minded theorists presume that dominant corporations create what they can most greatly profit from and not what consumers want, I more strongly adhere to the beliefs of Deuz and the theory that individualized media consumption and participatory media production are “training people to stay inside the Truman Show and make the most of it.”

Katz and Liebes similarly tackle this issue of whether media reflects consumer desires or whether media ascription sets consumer demands. While Katz and Liebes admit that producers’ intended messages permeate media, the prevalence of active receivers has made them more responsible for media’s messages than the senders. Contemporary receivers control nearly every aspect of the media they consume, making each participant their own gatekeeper. Collaborative messages from consumers and creative industries increase transparency and revenue in a market that was traditionally stagnant with corporate-centric media assumptions.

Deuz highlights the market as a reflection of consumer demands through case studies on Bluffton Today, Counter-Strike, Amazon and CPB. Each company focused on diverse niche markets but all utilized networked individualism in both production and consumption to establish greater P2P (peer-to-peer) responsibility, identity, creativity, advertising and transparency.

Active receivers influence economics as much as cultural influence and should be regarded as co-producers in modern “convergent culture.” Deuz concludes that people must recognize their impact in the creation and consumption of messages and commodities in order to maintain collaborative control of the market and their own media gratification.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cherry-picking in the creative industries

Am I the only one who thought Mark Deuze's essay was a little weak? And this despite the fact that I agreed with a lot of his conclusions -- I just wanted him to take it further. Take his case studies, in which he cherry-picks four examples that support his argument and presents them as more "symptomatic" than "representative," without ever exploring whether less optimistic examples might be equally symptomatic of the industry climate he describes. While I won't dispute that his examples are symptomatic of the merging of media consumption and production processes, I think his argument is incomplete without an examination of the equally symptomatic negative effects.

Sure, Bluffton Today merged a daily paper and community news site to create a participatory, transparent news product. But what about papers like The Washington Post, which has significantly increased user-generated content both online and in the hard copy of the paper (with blogs, online chats, contests and sections like the XX update in the magazine, which reproduces content generated on the XX Factor website) and is still hemorrhaging money and subscribers? The creation of Counter-Strike is an uplifting example of collaborative work to improve a popular gaming program, but there's a fine line between modification and piracy and there's plenty of evidence that not all game modifiers are as conscientious as Minh Le and Jess Cliff.

As for the Amazon case study, I found it a little baffling. Was he really suggesting that Amazon's popularity is partially due to its enabling people to upload product photos? Or its supposedly unique customer-first attitude? There are plenty of online marketers with great customer service, and an unscientific study of people in the room with me suggests that user-empowerment ranks well below size, comprehensiveness and price in terms of Amazon's attractive qualities. The CPB group has had tremendous success with its interactive campaigns, but the same technology that enables so much of this interactive advertising can also be turned against a product, as when Chevrolet created an interactive campaign where people could create mashups of previous Tahoe ads to promote the 2007 Tahoe SUV. It was pulled days later, after the site was flooded with anti-SUV ads.

Ultimately, I have no qualms with Deuze's main arguments. The boundaries between makers and users of media products are blurring. Consumer empowerment and corporate profit-seeking are both features of this developing environment. New media are unpredictable and constantly evolving. But I think in Deuze's failure to examine any but "best practice" examples, he missed an opportunity to explore the greater complexities of this changing media environment.

Analysis Question #2: Global Governance Concerns of the Global Media System

It is clear that how the current world order is perceived varies from theorist to theorist. Some theorists differ by degree while others can be perceived more radically dynamic. Manuel Castells in his article “The New Public Sphere” postulates, “the decreased ability of nationally based political systems to manage the world’s problems on a global scale has induced the rise of the global civil society”. He also argues that we live in a network society in which there is a ‘space of flows’- flows of capital, communication, technology, and media. Daya Thussu argues, in his chapter “Creating a Global Communication Structure”, that there is a clear global shift away from state regulation to market driven policies within the ‘liberalized global communication regime” and transnational corporations are the beneficiaries of this change. Robert McChesney holds that this globalization- deregulation and privatization-of the ‘global media system’ has dangerous international political consequences. While his pessimism about social change is intense, it sheds light on an extremist view of the direction of the world’s economy and civil society.

Given the current international economic crisis, the link between the media and the economy is becoming stronger within the ‘global civil society’, especially as new ICTs are emerging. It is for that reason that nation-states should actively be thinking about revising the global governance of media systems. There needs to be more action for the concern of the vast disparities between in the rich and the poor internationally, and even within regions, nations, and localities. Just as nothing stays the same, global governance should be revised to meet the needs of the citizens of the world. This means that nation-states should be coming to the table with an understanding of what revisions can best improve the quality and content of the media for its citizens. Through the process of glocalization, there is a false sense of what is local news. Furthermore, the increased acceptance of the ‘global civil society’ as an international actor is vital to the revisions of global governance. So much of the global media system is dominated by conglomerate TNCs. It’s for this reason that if a space is not created for the ‘global civil society’ within global governance, it will be ignored in the shadow of the large TNCs dominating the media today.

The global media system is a deregulated and, as such, Castells eludes that there is a growth in global propaganda. I believe that there should be better awareness of the origin of the media and the ideological perspectives being offered from each media source. Education levels complicate this notion internationally, but because so much of the media is dominated by TNCs, increased awareness of ownership of the media is important. It is certainly better to be holistically informed of differing viewpoints than it is to be completely ignorant of them. The West, and its respective TNCs, is guilty of not allowing ‘contraflows’ and a ‘plurality of voices’ has discussed by Cottle and Rai. The global media playing field needs to be leveled and slowly different organizations and companies are attempting to bridge the digital divide. Unfortunately, this process will not be as fast as the global climate demands, but at least it’s happening. I would propose that once there is an equal flow of media coming in and going out of, then maybe there will be better understanding and cooperation internationally.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Response to Analysis Question 2: Addressing the Concerns of Media Ownership

Global governing bodies and the increased participation of civil society are crucial to concerns of media ownership in this current historical moment. Although the global financial crisis of 2007 to today is defined by the market dominance of transnational corporations (TNCs) and nation states working to advance their interests, the regulation of monopolies and subsequent increase in multidirectional flows of media could encourage a more “free free market” system if commissioned by an international regulatory body with the representation of the public sphere.

As many global monopolies have gone bankrupt, reorganized and become property of multiple countries, global governance of media is necessary to guarantee consumers the best products, prices, access to technology and freedom of use. This unique economic environment lends itself to a form of pure, never before seen global governance with the representation of global civil society. International state and non-state actors should manage media regulations in industry and society and reflect the values of their nation-states. Siochru and Girard theorize that while members would remain sovereign, the implementation of international relation principles would allow for greater transparency among participants and may help protect from the development of neoliberal democracies.

If I currently represented the public sphere in an assembly concerning global governance, I would promote increased multidirectional flows of media. In order to globally pluralize media offerings, competition against TNC monopolies should be encouraged through the regulation of technology and program prices on an international scale. Rai and Cottle describe the success of this approach when discussing the pluralization of media in the non-Western world due to cheaply priced locally and internationally syndicated programming. In modern society, global citizens should not pay exorbitant prices for either media produced locally or non-locally as disparities in price, often a result of “oligopological” control, limit global access to media and have lead to Western media dominance.

In contemporary globalized society, an international approach to media governance is necessary just as today’s network society, says Castelles, calls for the inclusion of civil society in addressing the concerns of conglomerated media ownership. With these advances, market dominance by TNCs and affiliated nation states may dissolve at increased low-cost competition and international plurality.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Local vs Global Media

Almost all of the readings touched upon the influence of local media versus global media. As Tunstall clearly points out, local, national, and regional media tend to have a stronger influence than international media. Thussu states that the localization of the global media’s main objective is to merely make a profit. Even with the emergence of satellite television and an increase in the number of channels, the majority are merely at the national and regional levels with only those dominated by the West ever reaching the international level. Mcchesney relates the structure of the current global media system to a neoliberal democracy which has resulted in a populace that is passive and apathetic concerned more with consumption than any kind of actual understanding.

Wan-Ying Lin’s piece was the one that interested me the most which spoke upon the importance of geo-ethnic media and the role it plays in both integrating minorities into society and also helping preserve their own culture. Its storytelling role also helps to bring the community together and became active participants within the host societies. I do think that Lin brings up an important point though that ethnic media’s role can be taken to the extreme where immigrant populations are more concerned with home news coverage than with what is actually taking place within the local community. I believe that geo-ethnic media has truly reached its goal once it has been able to provide citizens with both information on their home countries and local news and opportunities in order for them to become more incorporated into the community.

Global Media Perspectives: Mogul Strategies to Consumer Ideology

The readings for this week comprise a number of related notions regarding the spread of media from an international perspective. Beginning at the top with the media giants and their ability to distribute across the global frontier and ending with ten person geo-ethnic "daily" publications, ours is a day and age of ubiquitous communication. But to what end? In an attempt to synthesize the material in my own mind, I will briefly reflect on the areas that caught my eye.

McChesney, in his article regarding a global media system, points out the "increasingly intertwined" nature of media and global capitalism and illustrates this in a number of ways. His continual references to Rupert Murdoch's strategies (and reputations) around the world show the complex nature of the media industry that Murdoch has indeed fostered. The evolution of the media industry from a "West to the Rest" philosophy is still in the development stages but it becomes clear with Murdoch's international strategies in India that the media giants recognize the importance of local interests. As opposed to the notion of "Americanization" it is instead a notion of commercialism that surrounds the media progression and the quote from the head of Norway's largest media firm puts things in perspective, "We want to position ourselves so if Kirch or Murdoch want to sell in Scandinavia, they'll come to us first."

Tunstall provides an interesting perspective using population as a metric to argue that the term "globalization" may not be the most apt term for the current international media situation. The four distinct and self-sufficient media regions of the world provide a framework for international media to access but, as Tunstall point out, the biggest competitor for national media is not international but rather a more local perspective- regional media. As 74% of the world's population falls into these four media regions, it becomes increasingly important for a media firm to establish strong distribution ties within each region in order to be successful. As McChesney had pointed out, Murdoch needed distribution ties in India in order to have an opportunity to be successful, and this notion carries as the rule in global media strategy today.

Turning the reflection to a much more street-level view, what about the notion of geo-ethnic storytelling and its role within a local ethnic community within the larger perspective of media in the area? My mind focuses on the importance of print media at this time for these daily geo-ethnic stories to have relevance. Although many of the stories are simply borrowed from internet sources, the print media remains an important avenue for an immigrant to stay connected with the homeland. It remains important, however, for a balance to exist between stories from home and stories from the neighborhood. There is value in feeling connected to home but it is equally important that the immigrants connect with the community around them.

All in all, the readings provide a plethora of viewpoints from which to contemplate global media structure both from the mindset of a mogul like Rupert Murdoch and on the level of a local citizen with a non-Western perspective. It remains to be seen how successful the implementation of some international media strategies will prove to be but it is certainly an issue to follow as we move further into the 21st century.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Notions of Power

All four sets of authors from this week’s readings- McChesney, Thussu, Tunstall, and Rai and Cottle- would agree that there is global media system that is constantly refashioning its global flows of information. I also believe that they would probably all agree that knowledge (or in other words, information) is power- power that is being used to shape the ‘global public sphere’.

McChesney, in his article, “The Media System Goes Global”, discusses the rise of the global media system and how just a few U.S. media firms have driven its emergence. Within his analysis, he examines the global commercial media system that McChesney holds will respect no tradition or customs (McChesney 202). This section of his article made me reflect on my on my trip to Spain this past summer. I spent a significant amount of time visiting with my cousins while I was there who are in their late teens and early twenties. They were talking up a storm about Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and ER. As I was reading this week, I remember thinking to myself as we conversed about American television, that it was incredible that as foreign as our surroundings may have been, our conversation allowed us to connect about something we could all understand but also that could transfix them with such excitement. They continued to say that they really did not enjoy watching too many Spanish television shows because the American ones are better (even though they are dubbed). I am sure if the owners behind the top TNC’s were in the room, they would have been quite pleased with what they would deem a success. I, however, was slightly disappointed that we could not engage in a conversation about, what Rai and Cottle call, a ‘contraflow’ or even something within pop Spanish culture that was just as distinct as something within pop American culture.

McChesney also contends that with the depoliticized environment, there is more room for economic liberalization (within the context of neoliberal democracy) to expand the global commercial media system’s reach and the extent to which it is embedded. With the information in the hands of a limited group of rich corporations, they have control (or power) over what and how information is disseminated and to whom. Within McChesney’s examination of the global commercial media system, he cites Disney as part of the holy trinity of the global media system because it is “the ultimate global consumer goods company”. I believe that since this article was written, Disney has expanded into the adventure tourism market by offering family tours to Machu Picchu in Peru. This demonstrates the extensive power of what economic liberalization can do within the global commercial media system.

Thussu concludes that ‘soft’ media power is firmly underpinned by ‘hard’ political and economic power (Thussu 236). We do have to be conscious that even though over time global capitalism has emerged, is expanding, and becoming more deeply embedded in the concept of the ‘global public sphere’, that it is not the only form of political and economic power that exists in the world. With the power of dominating ‘soft’ media power comes some responsibility to beware that how news and information is presented could greatly affect the stability of the world system. This is especially true given that today, there are so many information flows internationally which are contribute to global, regional, national, and local cultures.

Tunstall also makes some interesting points about power within his article, “Anglo-American, Global, and Euro-American Media Versus Media Nationalism”, that I would like to highlight. First, he says that the term globalization is of U.S. origin. This term is thrown around so much, that sometimes it is very easy to lose sight of that. The word globalization is associated with power not because of what it means, but because of the power behind its origin. Second, within Tunstall’s argument, it is evident that population size must be considered within the three global media systems he identifies- national, local, and neighboring nation-state. Third, he argues that there direct and indirect media exports and extrapolates how indirect media exports are latent with power from where the media is exported, translated and/or edited. Third, Tunstall’s point is that nationalism is still relevant even as a the global media system takes off strong because people want to get their local news in their local languages from journalists with their distinctive cultural history. India and China are the most populous countries in the world. Imagine if they dominate or play a key role in the global media system. If this ever happens, the global public sphere would be forced to dramatically change.

Rai and Cottle also discuss notions of power within their article, “Global Mediations: On the changing ecology of satellite television news”. They argue that the media is becoming more localized and is contributing to the greater ‘global public sphere’ of 24/7 satellite news. Rai and Cottle allude to the ‘regionalized colonization’ of the media in certain places as a result of 24/7 satellite news. Beyond the power of the West over the East within the media, it is also important to note that there are notions of inequality of the reach and/or access to media in poorer countries.

Ideally, the ‘global media system’ should be fair for all. However, I am not sure that will ever be the case as long as global capitalism remains the dominant international economic and social system. In conclusion, I am very intrigued to watch as the ‘global public sphere’ and the ‘global media system’ plays out as varying degrees and notions of power challenges them.

Modern Oligopoly and the Decline of Eglatarian Democracy

The concept I found to be the most intriguing in this week’s readings was not provided by Thussu, McChesney or Tunstall but, however, by George Orwell in his assertion that neoliberal democracy is a setting in which “unpopular ideas can be silenced and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban.” Prior to uncovering this proposal in McChesney’s article, The Media System Goes Global, I did not recognize the danger associated with modern oligopoly and the subsequent decline of egalitarian democracy.

McChesney asserts that political pessimism is needed to maintain electoral democracy and economic order. Contemporary society has seen the emergence of a system that offers services based on profitability and not founded on consumers’ wants. Media literacy and political awareness are crucial in preventing wealthy dominant conglomerations from wielding absolute political and economic power gained from global consumer reliance.

Although I traditionally viewed the emergence of globalised society and the continuance of institutional democracy as measures of progress, I found Orwell’s unpublished introduction to Animal Farm to be an eerie premonition for ungoverned free market media. While Thussu’s discussion on “glocalization” reveals culturally specific media as potentially beneficial to the consumer and profitable for the producers, I am weary of the lack of media literacy and political voice granted to civil society as transnational corporations (TNC) become increasingly powerful, greedy and faceless.

Like Orwell and McChesney, I fear that neoliberal democracy, if not monitored, will become an opiate to the people in which the ability to vote secures nothing but TNCs' ability to act, unencumbered, in their own commercial interests.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pipe dreams and the future of global journalism

Whether nation-states ought to consider revising the global governance of media systems could fill an entire thesis at least, but I'll try to condense my opinions into a few pithy paragraphs. There are three essential factors to consider here:
1) Economic pressures are rapidly changing the face of domestic and global journalism, and it seems likely that following a twentieth century model will lead to the demise of journalism as we know it.
2) Global media and journalism are increasingly dominated by a handful of transnational conglomerates.
3) Media have been documented to influence culture and conflict within and between nation-states.

Economically, it seems clear that media must change. Print journalism is an economically unsustainable model, and in the West at least, media giants seem to prioritize commercial appeal above civic and educational value. If we accept that communication and power are closely connected, we must be wary of any policies that empower an already influential corporate oligarchy. But is it possible, or even desirable, to break up the existing media powerhouses? Perhaps the solution lies in the creation of a publicly funded international competitor, a sort of global public broadcasting hydra to battle the existing media behemoths.

The corporation would produce news and cultural materials with a cosmopolitan flavor. Each nation on Earth would contribute to the funding by paying dues proportional to its GDP, and it would be staffed by a cosmopolitan collection of journalists and entertainers and governed by an omnilateral board in which every nation would have one representative and equal voting power. No doubt such a corporation would struggle to compete with the existing media giants, and it would feel the same pressure to privatize that many public news sources have felt in recent years and it would certainly be subject to all the problems that plague international bureaucracies. But perhaps its governance structure and mandate on promoting transnational issues would enable it to avoid some of the disadvantages of the existing system, in which Rupert Murdoch and his counterparts have such a disturbing degree of power in the global public sphere.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hegemony isn't everything

Somewhere, deep within a secret lair carved into a live volcano, a gang of Western-bred cultural imperialists is no doubt muttering in dismay at this week's readings. How disappointing to learn that pushing out billions of dollars worth of cultural media products can't ensure omnipresence and omnipotence.

I think all of the writers would agree that global media markets are growing, and that open economic policies favor their continued growth. I think they'd also agree that a "global" media market doesn't mean that all points of the world import to and export from all other points of the world. Western producers, and the U.S. specifically, dominate global media production and export markets. And I think they'd agree that, with a few exceptions, national and regional media tend to exert more influence than global media.

McChesney follows the globalization of media culture to a rather bleak destination: a politically apathetic nation of contented consumers more concerned with market freedoms than social activism. It's not an inevitability so much as an ideal environment, but I think a lot of the symptoms of media globalization that McChesney describes--the consolidation of power, a compliant consumerist populace, the increase of escapist entertainment--have an Orwellian tinge about them.

Fortunately, there seems to be a consensus among the writers that Western cultural imperialism isn't a forgone conclusion, since the technology that's enabling Western media giants to extend their reach around the globe is also empowering national and regional media producers. Ultimately, the global media landscape is far too complicated to meet traditional assumptions of core-periphery or modernization paradigms. As Cottle and Rai assert, Understanding what "global media" means and what its social, cultural and economic impact will be requires a more empirical analysis of information flows.


OK, here's my post-class update as of October 7: Perhaps I've underestimated those cultural imperialists. No doubt my naivete would inspire some crescendo-ing villanous laughter from the lot of them. On my first reading of this week's texts, I think I overestimated the strength of the media contraflows, but after talking about it in class last night, I feel like they're not really strong enough to counterbalance the effects of cultural hegemony. It's sort of like shining a flashlight in a lighthouse window. Sure, you're casting a feeble little beam in the opposite direction, and maybe you can even illuminate a few pockets that the beacon doesn't reach, but in terms of strength, distance and influence, there's really no contest.