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.

1 comment:

  1. I also thought the interdisciplinary nature of International Communications was an insightful discussion. I thought Weaver's comments on Margaret Mead's research on introducing transistor radios to different villages really helped highlight this point. She found that different villages reacted differently and necessitated a systems approach. "We have to look at cultures as systems and consider technology as a form of communications." (Weaver, p11) There is not and never will be a correct blanket answer for communications issues around the world. IC researchers need to incorporate many different disciplines before attempting to apply their theories to different societies.