Monday, September 28, 2009

Why can't we all just get along?

In this week's readings on Global Governance and Infrastructure, I noticed a central theme of inclusion of different media players and the resulting efforts taken to regulate them all. The NWICO brought to light the exclusion of developing countries as media players and highlighted their sole role as recipient. Since then, efforts have been taken to include more parties outside of major governments in the discussion and implementation of media and communication efforts in attempts to gain a balanced perspective.

The idea of inclusion has resulted in the creation of the United Nations, liberation of the telecom sector, privatization of the satellite industry and more participation by civil service organizations in policy making. Of course, this has all been accomplished with varying degrees of success in equality since large governments and TNC's still control major portions in these areas.

However, the movement towards inclusion of different parties in information and communications brings up an important discussion about how to regulate them and their differing views. In Raboy's first footnote at the end of his article, he uses the UNDP's definition of civil society organizations: 'individuals and groups, organized or unorganized, who interact in the social, political and economic domains and who are regulated by formal and informal rules and law.' Well, who does that exclude? It's a pretty all-encompassing description. How do you regulate and control such a large diverse mass equitably?

An interesting Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post by Michael Gerson, discussed the Internet and how it has become an outlet for racism and hatred that is difficult to regulate because of the First Amendment. ("Banish the Cyber-Bigots" - This is a prime example of Siochru and Girard's ideas of social regulation and the difficulties in establishing a black & white policy on a grey topic.

A simultaneous pro and con of the growing communications industry is that it is putting more and more people in direct contact with each other. With so many diverse players interacting in this evolving landscape, determining how to regulate these interactions will be a critical discussion moving forward.

International media: Monopolies and

The liberalization and privatization of communication products and services has had a global impact. Everything from the seventh round of GATT talks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) has played a role in facilitating and creating this global telecommunications system that is known today. In the U.S., the 1996 Telecommunications Act was a major contributer as well.

I want to touch on the monopolistic world known as international media. Global communications has grown tremendously; the satellite industry has benefited the most because a cheaper, faster way to communicate. As comes with the territory of "dominance"there
are a few major satellite companies that "run the globe", so to speak. The Hughes Network Systems is a major supplier of defence services for the U.S. Lockheed Martin is the largest defence contractor in the U.S. Loral & Space Communications, who owns licenses for the orbital slots of Europe, Latin America, and Asia, is another major player in the satellite communication business. These companies provide highly intelligent communications and surveillance equipment, and the positive is that this field will continue to expand as long as human beings' ideas and thoughts do the same. Unfortunately, depending on which end of the stick, these corporations do not allow much room for newcomers due to mergers, acquistions, and regional alliances.

The case study about Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation is a great example! Murdoch's News Corp. has a wide span and reaches millions of people worldwide via newspaper, books, television, and internet. Sounds like great business and a harmless situation..right? Murdoch's News Corp reaches almost 500 billion people throughout the course of a day. The problem that I and many may have with Murdoch's "harmless business" is that some form of regulation needs to occur because the media have a major effect on its audience by telling them what to think about, according to the agenda setting theory of McCombs and Shaw. The media via television also plays a major role in constructing individual's ideas and values, which eventually contribute and mold their cultures. I am not against great business ideas and ventures. (May the best man win!). However, I do agree with the author of chapter one from Global Governance: A Beginner's Guide, corporate media moguls do have a responsibility to ensure the public that their only intent is to provide undistorted, truthful (yes, I know we are human) yet diverse information. With all that being said, it is very hard to regulate media, as explained early in the same chapter; secondly, the definition of governance is "invented" on an international level, according to Raboy on page 64. No one quite has the answer as to how to effectively and fairly reuglate media, but many scholars and researchers alike agree that something must be done. Media is ever-evolving, and media convergence is the future! Therefore, Raboy sums it up best, "...civil society has already moved towards a new paradigm...[what is important is] developing a communication society, reviewing structures of power and domination that are expressed and sustained through information and media structures.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Media, Regulation, and Culture: A Synthesis

This week’s readings emphasized several aspects of global media that I had yet to consider. After numerous consecutive weeks of reading, I continued to wonder whether media helps to perpetuate or dilute a culture. But, as Siochru and Girard suggest, media may actually create cultures by deciding which aspects to broadcast and emphasize. This suggestion highlights the importance that media has on perpetuating cultures, and, as Raboy argues, the fundamental role that civilians can play in shaping media. This idea also underlines the need for media regulation.

However, the regulation of media should be implemented by a global sphere, or CSOs, rather than through government bodies. In this way, national biases are more avoidable and media becomes more ground for truth. These articles revealed the benefits of the media in salvaging cultures, but failed to truly acknowledge the destruction that media can cause. For example, instances of over-zealous, anti-Western information and images are familiar on Al-Jazeera; the articles failed to recognize that media becomes a vehicle through which terrorism can grow.

Though the debate over media regulation persists, I agree with Siochru and Girard’s argument that “free media” is unfathomable, as there are always barriers to entry that restrict viewing for certain socio-economic classes. However, the authors’ suggestion that media needs to permeate the rural villages and low economic classes is crucial, as the members of these spheres, with little or no access to televisions, radios, or newspapers, are often not considered in the media representation of their culture.

On a separate topic, Raboy’s article mentioned the role of the United States in governing global media. He specifically mentions the United States’ control of media in Latin America. His critiques, along with Kofi Annan’s speech in support of decentralizing America’s role, urge me to wonder: does the United States’ control of Latin American media negatively influence its ability to develop? And, if culture is created by the media, have we, thus, reduced their culture by regulating their media?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Potential for Global Governance: The UN

In the Siochru, Girard and Mahan chapters, the distinction of governance versus government in the ICT sector sector is discussed. The authors' conceptualize governance as "a set of processes that are employed to assess, weigh, and balance the different (and possibly competing) values and objectives inherent in societies' diverse interests and actors" (15-16). Traditionally, global governance has been used to avoid mutually destructive warfare and to enable mutually beneficial interaction. The outcomes of global governance are not always equitable and may not promote development. However, global governance structures do provide predictability and order within their area of influence and lessen confusion and friction for global flows, transactions and interactions. Particular attention is paid to the role of the UN as an institution for global governance, and it is on this organization's effectiveness (at least in the eyes of America) in this role that I will now focus my post.

In a general way, the US has always been reluctant to join organizations that have the potential to usurp the power and sovereignty of the nation-state. One can see this from the rejection of American membership into the League of Nations after the First World War. It seems that the UN particularly has been the target of this generally negative perception of supranational organizations. Alternating between the argument that the UN is an ineffectual bureaucracy with no teeth and that the UN will take away the ability of Americans to govern themselves, US/UN relations seem to fitfully fluctuate on a love-hate scale.

On page 20 of the Siochru, et. al. book, it is stated that "moral authority is one of the main pillars on which global governance rests, and it is easily eroded." I briefly want to discuss how the structure of the UN erodes the organization's moral authority and how this sense of ineffectiveness is then exacerbated by American media. As the chapter states, the real power in the UN rests not with the General Assembly but rather with the Security Council. The Security Council is comprised of 15 members, 10 of whom are permanent. These permanent members all have the right to veto any decision made by the Council, in which the state's interests differ from those of the Council (in essence the rest of the world). Since many instances of global conflict result in economic, social or political gain for at least one permanent member of the Security Council, the ability of the UN to intervene in a conflict on behalf of the international community is severely stilted.

The American media in turn uses situations in which the US is in favor of a Security Council resolution and is vetoed by another member of the Security Council to highlight the ineffectiveness of the UN, while also reenforcing the role of the nation-state. However, when the US vetoes a Security Council resolution, it is my perception that there is a lot less media coverage. What coverage there is basically says that the US government thought it better for, most importantly, America and (in the fine print) the international community to not pass this resolution, further delegitimizing the UN and strengthening the posture of the state.

I do not disagree with the general consensus that nation-states are increasingly losing the ability to influence the forces acting on and within their countries. However, the ability of the UN to act as an effective institution for global governance is still highly suspect. The irony of IGOs taking on the responsibilities of global governance is that their effectiveness is inherently linked to that of the state, since it is through the state that IGOs acquire power.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Media's Role

After reading Hanson’s chapter 3, “The Globalization of Communication,” I recognized the stark contrast regarding the purpose of media in Western versus non-Western countries. When describing Western intentions, Hanson notes, the United States encouraged “liberalization of trade and services, its most important export sector” (66). This quotation demonstrates the economically, export driven intentions of Western media and the encouragement for international corporations and investments.

However, the objectives of Western media contrast those of non-western nations. It seems that non-western nations are often more concerned with preserving individual cultures rather than using media as an export commodity. As Hanson notes, media in developing countries began as a form of educational and cultural preservation, rather than as a defense tactic as it was used in the United States. The maintenance of cultural identities persists today through processes of localization. For example, India preserves its culture through language retention and promotion by broadcasting local media in rural villages and in native languages. This localization strategy, through which countries such as India, Brazil, China and Italy have adopted American media programs, such as MTV and altered them to suit their national preferences, demonstrates the non-western desire to preserve national cultures.

As Hanson notes in Chapter 5, many scholars would argue that global digitalization creates a dependency on the West. I agree that developing nations are initially dependent on the West for media infusion, but nations then alter the media to satisfy the demands of their own culture, thus becoming independent from the West. For example, India brought media and advanced communication to its rural villages during the Gyandoot project, in an attempt to maximize the relationships between citizens and government officials by reducing corruption and increasing communication. This project depended on Western technology but morphed the usage to benefit itself.

Thus, I find that an essential difference between western and non-western media is the use of media as an export and liberalizing medium in Western nations, whereas many developing nations import Western formats of communication and shape them to satisfy local and national cultural identities. Rather than promoting cultural identities as an alternative to Western ideals, many nations, such as India, actually aim to preserve national ideas through containment and broadcast of local news.

Another interesting idea created in the Hanson reading is the concept of freedom and democracy in media. Hanson mentions the extremism that develops within the Al-Jazeera network, such as the flagrant images of dead American soldiers. Thus, with the rise of private, democratic, and international networks, news media is changing. This encourages me to question the purpose of media. Is it to retain national languages and cultures, through localization and containment, such as in India? Or is it to promote and globalize anti-Western cultures through international networks such as Al-Jazeera?


Globalization this week was summed up best by Sinclair's opening sentence, "'a key idea by which we understand the transition of human society into the third millenium.'" (p. 65). This weeks readings tied together well, and I am going to give my overall synopsis of it all.

Globalization has been occuring for years now. Telegraphs, fiber optic cables, transatlantic telephone calls, Sputnik, AT&T, computers, satellites, and the internet have all created and contributed to the globalization of the world. Exposure is key, and the more exposure nations, people, individuals can gain, the better. Political agendas, record sales, etc all depend on globalization in some form.

Chapter three in Hanson's book began with a quote from Marshall McLuhan, a scholar who was way ahead of his time. McLuhan believed that the 'medium is the message" and the world would become a "global village." McLuhan's ideas couldn't have been more on the money. Technological advancements, especially dealing with the internet, have connected the globe in some unimaginable ways. From large super computers to minature, hand-held laptops and cellular phones, the internet has created a new media environment. As with anything new, explosive, and expansive regulations must be placed because certain groups will gain power and others' power may be limited. Mergers and acquistions formed due to new regulations against "powerful" monopolies. (i.e. AT&T) The Telecommunications Act of 1996 offered some deregulations that ended up opening the door for cross-media ownership and today's powerful media conglomerates. Chapter three also sheds light on the global media markets of Saudi Arabia (creation of Al Jazeera) Latin America (Televisa, which became Univision), and India (quick conception and availabilty of international television channels).

Then Hanson's chapter five raises questions and discusses globalization in terms of finance, trade, production, and information and communication technologies, etc. Some main points that stood out were how many countries are becoming more dependent on trade as an economic growth. A classic example today is China. In terms of production, outsourcing and offshore production is the trend. Wal-Mart and Nike are epitomic examples. Finance and the global economy is a very relevant to Americans today since we have borrowed tremendous amounts of money from the Chinese government. Other governments also have stocks and bonds invested in our economy as well.

I could discuss globalization and give examples for days based off of the last few readings, but what is important to remember is that for "every reaction there is an equal and opposite and reaction." Globalization offers some positives and negatives for all parties involved. Sinclair suggested that "globalization is a highly relative phenomenon..[because] one man's imagined community is another man's political prison. Especially if he's a woman." (p. 68). For instance, the invention of the internet was priceless. Many cannot imagine a successful world without it. However, a digital divide is relevant to some of India's poorest villages. Media imperialism does connect the world and provide a plethora of advertisements and entertainment; however, some feel that it forces an ideological influence on developing countries because a select few manage what content will be aired.

In the end, we are still faced with the similar questions of how to maintain cultural identities while globalization is inevitably a part of the human society. As time progresses culture becomes more and more mulit-faceted and macro-regional. Is globalization really the key to wealth and knowledge?

Development and the Digital Divide

I found Elizabeth Hanson's section on the Digital Divide in Chapter Five (p163) particularly compelling because of my current work with an INGO (International Non-Governmental Organization). We work with rural communities in Nepal, India and Bhutan to build community library and resources centers. Among many other details in the project construction, an important component is a section for a computer center with Internet capabilities (when possible).

Our computer sections have had varying degrees of success due to many of the reasons that Hanson listed. In Nepal specifically, the major problem is electricity. While Nepal has bountiful sources of hydroelectric power, much of it gets funneled off to the surrounding superpowers of India and China leaving little for the local population. Last winter in Kathmandu, they had load shedding of up to 18 hours - this means they had days where they didn't have electricity for 18 hours. This is in the capitol city so imagine the outlying areas (unless they have created an independent power source which is becoming more popular). My INGO can bring computers and give training but if there isn't any power, they are no more useful than giant paper weights.

Another huge obstacle is the cost. Nepal has not created an official Internet backbone or network across the country so it is an assortment of private lines and the cost to use it is ourageous. So now, even if there is power, they can't afford to link the computers to the Internet and access all of the information out there.

Hanson also discussed the idea of developing countries being able to "leapfrog" intermediate stages of communication development (Chpt 3, p67). I have already seen this at work in the mountainous , rugged countryside of Nepal. I visited a remote village that took 8 hours of hiking straight up the side of a mountain to reach. There were no roads and definitely no TV or internet lines. However, this village had rigged satellite towers that bounced a signal off various mountain top stations to form a basic wireless Internet connection. This rural community had skipped the wires and gone straight to wireless. However, when we tried it out, the connection failed because it was solar powered and it was cloudy.

In addition, cell phones are now used across a majority of the country. Only 10 years ago, one of our centers had a telephone installed so that it could charge a fee for villagers to use it as a successful way of financially supporting the center. Now that business is obsolete as cell phones and wireless technologies have spread and homes that never own a telephone now have cell phones.

These rural networks still have a long way to go before even being close to the level that exist in developed countries. The Digital Divide will continue to widen if developing countries aren't at least introduced to the tools other countries are using so they can hopefully one day compete and interact on the the global digital playing field.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Winners and Losers

The readings this week cover the technological developments in communications and the role of ICTs in globalization. I think that chapter 3 in the Hanson book provides good background information for understanding the evolution of communications technology. However, I will be focusing my post on the other readings concerned with globalization and information technology.

Hanson states that ICTs have both a direct and indirect effect on the distributional effects of globalization. Indirectly, the infrastructure of ICTs facilitate the economic changes associated with globalization. Access to ICTs directly affects "the interaction capacity, employment, and income of states and individuals" (Hanson 159). These effects define the debate as to whether advancements in ICTs have expanded economic opportunity or increased inequality and marginalization.

At the national, supranational and sub-national levels, one can see the disparity in access and use of modern ICTs. Many of the places that lack access to ICTs also lack more basic needs, such as clean water, shelter and food. It is clear that a distinction between winners and losers results from the liberalization of economic policies. Led by the US and other Western countries, this process of liberalization took place globally throughout the 80s and 90s.

When discussing the losers of economic liberalization, most focus on developing countries, but the US has also not wholly come out a winner from this process. I find it ironic that the US push for global economic liberalization, as well as US and Western advancements in ICTs have resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs due to offshore outsourcing. Like the old adage, "You've made your bed, and now you have to lay in it," Americans are now faced with large unemployment problems, exacerbated by the current financial crisis.

The issue of outsourcing was a very hot topic in the early 2000s, and throughout this debate, I continually thought to myself, "the US is a country based on innovation and entrepreneurs and always being on the cutting edge. If we are losing our competitive advantage in one area of business, we need to come up with some other industry or industries in which we can be competitive." Of course I know that the process of coming up with a new industry is much more complicated than just saying to do so. However, I find it very frustrating to see the US advocate some policy that it sees as a benefit for (most importantly) itself but also the majority of other nation-states and then when there are negative consequences, the political tide turns and the government and people try to reverse their earlier support or at least make some sort of exception, so that the US can opt out. Instead of appearing hypocritical, perhaps Americans should put more effort into being on the cutting edge of whatever field piques their interest.

In an international system based on capitalist, free market ideals, there are always going to be winners and losers. Within this world system, the difficulty arises in trying to decrease the number of losers and in trying to mitigate the negative consequences for those who do not benefit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inter+National Media

The readings this week cover various facets of media as a means to connect and/or spread common culture. Among these three articles, I found the chapter entitled "Media and the Reinvention of the Nation" particularly interesting.

The Waisbord chapter puts this week's theme in the context of nation building. He sees the media as an institution involved in "the creation, maintenance, and transformation of cultural membership" (377). Citing the work of both Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson, Waisbord highlights the significance of media throughout the transition from agrarian to industrial societies and the importance of print technologies in the formation of a common public culture, an important ingredient in the development of nations.

However, later in his paper, Waisbord discusses why the idea of "national media" no longer exists in this globalized world. He cites two main reasons for the irrelevance of this term in the current media environment: the globalization of the media business and the "cross-pollination" of media production ideas (381). One media technology that has resisted the forces of globalization and remained primarily a local medium is radio. Especially in developing countries, radio continues to be a source for local news and information due to a lack of access to other communications technologies.

Waisbord posits that the continuing existence of nations and nationalism is dependent on the persistence of national identity as the chosen level of group identity and that currently no other group identity has been able to trump this level. The power of the media in nation building lies in the ability to reinforce national feelings on an everyday basis. If this is possible for the media, why is it then not possible for the media to encourage a cosmopolitan identity, in which a universalist, global consciousness is pursued? Waisbord suggests that cosmopolitanism "lacks emotional grip" (385). I tend to agree with this statement. However, I don't think the current absence or lower level of connection to the global community precludes a lack of common identity in the future. At the beginning of this chapter, Waisbord writes that "neither subnational nor supranational formations and identities offer viable alternative identities to minimize, let alone eliminate, nationalistic feelings" (375). I do not fully agree with this position. I think that there are many subnational identities that for many supersede national identity, e.g. Basque, Chechen, etc. I also think that supranational formations have come into existence in the relatively recent past and thus have not had the time to reach their full potential in forming common identities among their member populace. The EU is an excellent example of this in that since its founding as the ECSC, the EU has developed from a method of oversight for key military-related industries into an economic, political and increasingly social union. Thus, a German citizen is no longer just a German citizen, but also an EU citizen.

As the dominance of the nation and nationalism in the world system wane, the power of the media to set the tone for international communications becomes critical to the continued pursuance of international understanding and cooperation in this globalized world.

Analysis Question One

I do believe that many of the concerns that have driven the political economy debate are still relevant; however, there is a major question that must be expanded upon and hopefully answered. "How do the media intervene in the twin movements of inclusion and exclusion...?" (Waisboard,The early concerns of gaining and maintaining imperial power by using the media to portray personal, "nationalistic" ideas are still prevalent today. It is apparent that the global media is here to stay, but concuring with Waisboard inclusion and exclusion must be at the forefront of the debate. Scholars and policy-makers alike must discover a way to allow individualism thorough a global society. Cosmopolitanism must be created. One idea should not become "mainstream media."

Globalophobes and globalophiles both have legit arguments. America does play a major if not majority role in global media, but it contributes to cultural diversity for other households that will never visit America, or their countries strongly lead against American principles. However, another question that needs to be answered that is not addressed by globalophiles is the persistent power inequalities in culutural assumption and production. This fact cannot be ignored.

The political economy is definitely relevant in media production. It's interesting how "nations" express different reasons to be against globalization, but as long as they benefit monetarily it is sufficient. For instance, a Japanese corporation owns major production studios in Hollywood. Univision is the largest Spanish-language US network, and it is in 92 percent of Hispanic households, according to Karim. In terms of diasporic media, Univision broadcasts are availale to most of Latin America. Is this practice a way of providing Waisboard's cosmopolitanism?

Overall, global media as it relates to the political economy has a way of bringing people and cultures together by offering shared experiences. The trick is for nations not to allow one country views to become the "hear all, say all," and began to integrate ideas of commonality and not focus entirely on differences.

IC, Media, and Globalization

Castells chapter dicusses the public sphere and how vital it is to sociopolitical organizations. Castells presents the four interrelated political crises—crisis of efficiency, legitimacy, identity and equity. Each crisis affects countries individual governments. The global civil society is where local ideas are maintained and defended by local civil society actors, which are various grassroots organizations NGOs, and other self-interest groups). Each component of the society has an interest in emphasizing its personal views, building support for those ideas, and limiting or utilizing globalization. NGOs are a great example of organizations that utilize globalization via global media and campaigns in order to reach necessary people and pressure governments to act positively in the favored direction. The presidential election in Iraq this past summer was an example of the movement of public opinion. However, those individuals used the global media (i.e. YouTube, Twitter) in order to shed light on the injustice that some Iraqis were feeling. There are other movements that aim to control the globalization process. I particularly enjoyed Castells’ section about the new public sphere because he offers a great explanation of the current media system.

Karim’s chapter reviews the “national” in “international communication.” According to Karim, the idea of a nation is imaginary. The individuals apart of a nation form their own realities of what a nation is because they form the beliefs, actions, and practices that create the nation. Karim discusses and explains different diasporas and their nomadic practices and links it to modern day disputes and the modern day global structure. Diasporic media are growing exponentially. A real-life example that I experienced was during the digital television transition. I was an intern for the Federal Communications Commission. While in Austin, Texas, the Spanish network was not able to successfully transition. Thousands of its viewers were without that channel. We received numerous complaints and phone calls regarding this issue. Many Hispanic peoples felt they were out of touch with their communities. That one instance exhibited the importance and impact of diasporic media.

Waisboard’s article begins with two answers to the origin of nations. One answer states that a top-down political process created homogeneity and one culture. The second answer states that nationalism preceded political centralization. Waisboard makes a critical point in the beginning of the article, and sets the tone for the ongoing debate of media and globalization. He states that “media need to be understood as a set of institutions involved in the creation, maintenance, and transformation of cultural membership" (p. 377). Waisboard explains the ideas of globophones and globophiles and “national media.” I personally favor the view of the globophiles because technological changes around the globe, particularly with media, do contribute to a more diverse culture. Whereas years ago, some people would have never seen or known anything outside of their own village, city, or state. It is very intriguing how radio still remains a local medium. How did all other early forms of media (i.e. television, newspapers) become victimized, for lack of better, to globalization? Waisboard concludes by suggesting that the idea of the nation will remain as long as individuals establish unity and difference from others. Inclusion and exclusion are essential.

Honestly, I am learning a lot regarding international communication, yet some of the reading is hard to follow because this is not my background. However, if I had to summarize all of this week’s readings, I would simply say that globalization is an ongoing process that will not disappear. It will continue to occur especially as technology progresses.

Diaspora Communities As a Threat to Nationalism?

Both the Karim reading and the Waisbord reading present a unique perspective into the national identity crisis by examining the influence of two subjects: communication and Diaspora communities.

Waisbord begins by suggesting that for many communities, nationalism replaced religion as a form of identity, and that media was a vehicle through which new nationalistic ideas were promoted. The author argues there were two main communication mediums through which nationalism grew: print media, especially in Latin America, and radio. With the development of print technology, national figures and symbols became public and more prominent aspects of the nation-state. In addition, radio became a popular tool for nation building, as its “low barriers to entry” made it easily available and accessible for even developing nations. Thus, while these two forms of communication developed or publicized the nascent nationalism, both authors also claim that certain factors simultaneously threaten the identity of the nation-state: Diaspora communities.

What I found so interesting about these articles was the idea that Diaspora communities threaten national identity. Never before had I truly examined the extent to which Diaspora communities present an opportunity for nationalism revision. For example, Karim notes that “the European concept of the nation-state was loosely based on the idea of a shared ethnicity of the population that lived within a particular territory” (394). But if nation-states are based on ethnicity, how are the outlier communities factored in? Adversely, if a nation-state is based on national borders, as the Treaty of Westphalia suggests, then are the Diaspora communities living within the national boundaries part of the national identity? Thus, does an ethnically homogenous nation exist?

In my experiences, the nation-state with the strongest sense of nationalism is Italy. After spending a significant amount of time there, I noticed the xenophobic tendencies of Italians. Yes, Italy too has a large immigrant community, but the immigrants and Diaspora communities have not formed a strong culture or identity that questions the nationalism of Italy. Italian racism towards immigrants deters the Diaspora populations, in my opinion, from maintaining their former identities.

In conclusion, this week’s articles encouraged me to question the meaning of nationalism, and its development through the media. The media has become an essential tool in legitimizing components of a nationalistic identity, such as language, history, and fables. I was also prompted to question the affect of Diaspora communities on national identity. As ethnic conflicts continue to heighten, we must wonder; do the Diaspora communities threaten a state’s nationalism, or do they actually harness more pride in an effort to deter Diaspora identities?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Analysis Question 1

The debate in International Communications research has been driven by political-economy concerns stemming from government control and goals of international media & technology. The result of these government actions has historically favored larger economies with greater levels of communication control over smaller economies. Political-economy concerns are still valid as there remains a very unbalanced level of control of communications between countries around the world.

The theories that Thussu highlights including dependency, modernization, globalization & hegemony all have their basis in the idea of uneven control models that are still relevant now. Innis’ monopolies of power become a more pressing issue as markets spread around the world allowing monopolies to stretch outside of national borders. All of these theories maintain relevance as communications become more globally integrated and connected.

However, I think that new areas are emerging that researchers and policy-makers should pay attention to as well. One area is the power of corporations and consumerism. What is the impact of global marketing and advertising? How is this form of communication affecting different countries? Transnational corporations are taking more control over media outlets so that they can access larger markets of consumers. Their huge bank accounts and lobbying power allow them influence on government policy as well. In the past, the goal of controlling media was government’s national interest in economic or political gain. Now there is an additional goal of huge corporate profits and increased consumerism.

The political-economy concerns over control of communications continues but as power shifts from government policy to corporate influence, research needs to focus on the changing priorities & goals and the international impact.

National Awareness

Silvio Waisbord’s article highlights an interesting discussion on the current interaction between media and nationalism. I see media enhancing nationalism by drawing attention to it. In this respect, I suggest changing the wording of Waisbord’s title from Reinvention (which implies a change from a previous form) to Rediscovery (which implies a closer examination of something already established).

This rediscovery involves nationalism becoming more defined when societies come in closer contact with different nations. This interaction, which has been intensified by advances in transportation and media technology, allows us to see more clearly what makes our nation unique (including symbols, history, values, rituals) and further bind us to it.

Weaver discussed this in his reflections at Aoyama Gakuin University in 2007. He says, “Increasingly we become more aware of other cultures and our own. As a result our own culture becomes more important to us.” (Weaver, p11) He also gives the example of Fela Kuti from Nigeria who said he did not know what it meant to be African until he left Africa.

These examples support the idea that interactions with other nations help us more clearly define our own sense of nationalism. Media has increased the speed and volume of these interactions making the world smaller and putting nations in closer communication that ever before.

Analysis Question: Political-economy and IC

Political-economy concerns form the basis of international communication mediums. Since the initial design of railroads, intended to transport goods over broad regions for extended trade routes, communication has been politically and economically driven. Initially, communication was brought to the developing world to spread democracy and globalization, while supporting the political agenda of superpowers. While other factors, such as education, socialization, religion, and culture are substantial reasons for increased IC, the political-economy aspects that initially pioneered IC remain the driving reasons behind research and advocacy.

It seems that even social reforms, such as aid to developing countries, are part of a superpower’s desire to develop the country’s economic and political stability, with future trade access benefits. In addition, a developing country aided by the American government is more likely to adapt democratic and other politically important restructuring techniques that positively affect America. Thus, it appears that even social reforms, intended to benefit the developing country, have political and economic components that assist the superpower.

Furthermore, the political regime’s economic dynamic influences modes of communication. As scholar Dan Schiller admits, “in our era, in turn, capital’s demands predominate in redefining the social purposes and institutional functions of world communications”(IC reader, 122). As he suggests, social reforms and others are motivated by economic conditions, such as capitalism.

Thus, the political-economy concerns that initially drove the IC debate remain present today; the early ideas of communication (spreading the practices of an empire) persist. However, other concerns, such as education and culture, are vital factors in developing a country, and may become more important as conflict regions begin to restructure themselves. But until then, our democracy-driven, political-economic reforms, seem inevitable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Analysis Question 1: Driving IC Research

The "political-economy" concerns that have driven the debate in IC research up to this point are still relevant but that does not mean that other types of concerns, such as educational, psychological, religious or other social factors, should not also be impetuses for new IC research. However, I do think that the driving force behind IC research will remain political and economic concerns mainly because these issues are of utmost importance to policy-makers. Thus, most funding for IC research will be channeled into projects that focus on these concerns.

If you consider how much social science research funding in the U.S. comes from U.S. government agencies, the logical next step is to think that most of this funding goes to research issues of importance to the U.S. government. As Thussu states, the role of communication in "the growth of capitalism and empire" has been at the core of communication's usefulness for Western governments since the Industrial Revolution (Approaches 40). Although these political and economic concerns have been emphasized in IC research, I think that within the U.S. government there has always been an understanding of IC's influence as a method for "creating and maintaining shared values and meanings," a more cultural application of IC (Approach 41).

The U.S. has always had a love-hate relationship with this application of IC. One could say that the cultural area of IC research can be viewed negatively as researching ways to impose American values, moral and ethics on non-American populations, even as a form of propaganda research. In a society based on democratic ideals, such as freedom of thought, this is a hard pill to swallow. Also, I think the main reason why the focus in the U.S. in IC research hasn't been on the cultural aspects is because Americans find it very difficult to define what culture is and how it can be defined in terms of an American culture. The fact that there is no consensus on what American culture is stems from the historical fact that the U.S. is made up of people with ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse backgrounds. In addition, one ideal that has permeated American society is the idea of independence, which I believe has attributed to a lack of common identity. Ironically, even though American culture is difficult for Americans to define, most Americans believe that the democratic, puritanical ideals on which the U.S. was founded speak for themselves and that other peoples and countries should just be able to plainly recognize how high-minded and altruistic America is.

In sum, I think that the political and economic concerns that have driven IC research up until this point, especially in the U.S., will continue to remain the focus of research in this area. However, with the growing understanding of current global issues and the forces that shape these issues, I think that more research will focus on the role of social factors in international communications. One of the strengths of the IC field has always been its interdisciplinary nature and its openness to using multiple research methods and often hybridizing and combining methods from many academic disciplines. I believe that this aspect of IC will serve to strengthen future research in the field.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Communication IS culture

The article by Carey intrigued me, and I zeroed in on maintaining "mental notes" of the comparison between transmission and ritual communication. According to Carey, transmission communication focuses on using communication as a means of transmitting messages over distances to people for the purpose of control. The ritual view of communication is directed toward community and commonalities; it is used to maintain society over time. At first I attritbuted the ritual view of communication to religious practices, thereby, associating this communication view with the early found of the New World and the arrival of the Puritans to what is now the U.S. However, Carey caused my thinking to shift because he stated that America has more often than not resorted and basically adopted the transmission view. Then he gives his reasoning which was even more interesting.

We as Americans use the transmission view because our idea of culture is weak and lacking! Very interesting...we are an individualistic society, that separates culture and science (many times applauding our advancements and contributing it to "our culture) and use the word to simply describe various economic classes. However, I would like to just simply look at the transmission view of communication as American culture, or is that not possible? I like how Carey ends the article by stating that a more ritualistic use of communication by enforcing the significance of education and exchanging ideas and experiences.

I also attempted to draw a parallel between the biases of communication with transmission communication. Space-biased communication is associated with territorial societies. Carey used the example of distributing newspapers, which according to Innis in "The Bias of Communication & Monopolies of Power" is space-biased. Within transmission societies, newspapers would be used to transport information very quickly and over a vast area. I also feel that ritual communication views agree with time-biased media more simply because it is durable and encourages media with sacred and moral associations. The ritual view would distribute newspapers in order to maintain and confirm its views.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Control Room

Throughout this week’s readings, I was struck by how all of these theories focused on different aspects of communications control. Modernization Theory noted that control of communications was the answer to helping countries develop. Dependency Theory said communication control was just another way to keep developing countries submissive to the developed world. Structural Imperialists were interested in the controlled flow of news and its filters. Hegemony looked at controlling consent through ideological reinforcement and communications while Critical Theorists studied the control over production of the cultural industry. In addition, Globalization is seen as control over the standardization of communication networks to homogenize and "McDonaldize" society.

Innis' perspective said that control of the monopolies of knowledge led to an unequal balance between time-biased and space-biased media. A society could not be stable if both medias weren’t in balance.

Carey took a different stance with communication theory and control. He noted “there is no such thing as communication to be revealed in nature through some objective method free from the corruption of culture.” (Carey, p31) Communication creates culture and reality in almost a Catch-22. He thought society would never reach a ritual form of communications until it stopped promoting a controlled transmission form.

This controlled transmission form of communications is what permeates current communication theory and use. Weaver discusses how even radical theories such as Huntington’s fear-filled separatist arguments get disseminated through the White House because governments realize the importance of staying on top of communications ideas. Control of communications equals power. Thussu points out that governments are losing control of communications to transnational corporations (TNC's) who are taking over more of the communication outlets and ultimately the control. These huge corporations spend billions of dollars trying to reach new consumers around the globe so it is in their best interests to control all aspects of the market.

For the time being, Carey’s ideal of a ritual form of communication seems a long way off. This transformation is unlikely until societies decide to step out of the control room and focus on finding a way to “rebuild a model of and for communication of some restorative value in reshaping our common culture.” (Carey, p35)

Communication as Persuasion

After reflecting upon this week’s readings, I noticed a strong correlation between the suggestions in both the Weaver and Carey articles. Both authors imply that communication was, and still is primarily a facilitator of persuasion. While both Weaver and Carey consider the original and present theories of international communication, both authors agree that communication is used mainly as a tool to change or strengthen desired ideas or behaviors.

Weaver demonstrates this by noting that early tactics of IC relied on using the media to influence people and spread Western ideology, rather than to facilitate cooperation or aid developing countries through spreading technology. He says that early forms included communicating “Western ideas to people” in the third world, rather learning how to communicate “with them.” This quotation reminds the reader how Western powers often exploit third world nations by using communication as a medium to manipulate their behaviors and beliefs. It also may provide a reason for the slow growth of communication mediums in the third world.

In addition to Weaver’s assumptions, Carey also mentions the correlation between communication and persuasion. When describing two prominent views, she argues that transmission communication conveys messages and symbols for the purpose of control. Thus, communication is spread in order to persuade the receivers to change or strengthen attitudes, while promoting specific ideas and practices.

This inability of the West to communicate impartially with other civilizations contributed to the spread of Westernization, and perhaps the destruction of other cultures. I believe that the third world never fully developed strong communication mediums because they relied on information transmitted by the West, and used Western models to shape their media. In addition, the spread of primarily Western ideas through the media may relate to the often politically controlled and government biased media broadcasted in the third world.

In conclusion, from both Weaver’s and Carey’s articles, I recognized that communication is a stronger vehicle of persuasion than I had previously thought, especially in the third world. Initially concerned with spreading propaganda during WWII, not much has changed in 50 years. The art of international communication continues to alter social behaviors and beliefs 50 years later, and maintains an ethnocentric tendency, as Weaver noted about early forms of IC. The ability to exploit a weak nation through communication was a primary factor in the spread of Westernization, and remains a dominant force in today’s world.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Common Thread

One subject that all of the readings touched on this week is the interdisciplinary nature of the international communications field. From theories of IC developing out of Marxism to the basis of modern communications theory coming from applied physics, the multi-discipline nature of IC makes it a very unique academic field. It also puts a lot of responsibility on IC scholars to be well versed in many subjects and to understand the interconnections between those fields of study and IC.

In this era, academia and thus academics- as Weaver says- are viewed as living in their ivory towers. We think of them as being removed from the real world, above the fray, an impartial entity, which can be trusted to give the general population an honest and unbiased position on a certain topic. What I found particularly interesting in the Thussu chapter were the assumptions and conflicts of interests held by some post-WWII IC theorists. The idea that modernization was based solely on the definition of development from the industrialized West and thus that traditional lifestyles and modernization were mutually exclusive seems extremely narrow-minded. Also, the revelation that some modernization research was politically motivated is particularly disappointing. By understanding the Cold War context in which the development of modernization theory took place, one can plainly see the benefit for the West in using this take on modernization to bring the third world under its capitalist umbrella.

In the Weaver selection, he narrates the development of the IC field throughout his lifetime, connecting IC to international relations, international economics, anthropology, sociology, physics and other academic fields. Weaver's main conclusion from much of the early IC research is that it dealt with "how to communicate Western ideas TO people in the third world, rather than how to communicate WITH people in the third world," focusing on the ethnocentric bias of IC research at this time (Weaver 2007).

All four readings this week gave different perspectives on the development of IC as an academic discipline and how this theoretical development has influenced the debate on "best (global) practice" for the field of IC.