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.

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