Friday, December 3, 2010

The most shocking part for me from the article is there are 2.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India and it is the third largest in the world, after South Africa and Nigeria. As the reading says, “Discussion of sex and sexual health has traditionally been a taboo topic in many parts of India – particularly among the traditional and rural communities.” It is a very good point that without the proper knowledge, things get worse. It’s like in China, students don’t learn about sex and protection. Students get raped and pregnant. The more people don’t talk about certain things, the more interested people get. It’s completely the opposite way.

What's the story, Wishbone?

Entertainment has never been so accessible or widespread. Every day we are bombarded with messages in many forms: radio ads for the local car dealer, TV ads for the newest mobile phone or computer, billboards for fast food. But some of what we consume may contain educational content, even if we don’t realize it. The article by Singhal and Rogers discussed the wide range of uses for educational entertainment, whether developed locally, as part of a national campaign, or promoting a policy. Many think of educational entertainment as it is used for health campaigns in the third world, but this is a topic that can be applied to a wide range of areas, from reaching people in developing nations, to educating young children about internet safety in the UK, and could be used more even in the US. Cable channels such as the Discovery Network, as well as shows on PBS such as Sesame Street, and Wishbone, were part of my own personal edutainment growing up. But I fear that with the broad range of alternate entertainment options, consumption has fallen with the introduction of mindless television shows on MTV (because, let's face it, unless you're looking on tips how to use a bumpit, there is no real educational value in Jersey Shore).

In our discussion of globalization and the media, we learned that people tend to consume media which they already agree with. Like slipping extra vegetables into the spaghetti sauce, educational entertainment introduces new idea into the minds of the consumers; it’s good for them, but may be better received if they don’t know it’s there. But it is equally important to consider the neutrality of the content. If the material is seen as propaganda or against cultural values there may be some push-back from the public. However, if this is taken into consideration, educational content is also a great way to reach rural areas or illiterate people who may not read materials being distributed. In the study of of the Indian drama Jasoos Vijay, it is important to note that not only the way the educational entertainment was delivered (here, via television), but the content as well. Interviewees enjoyed the Indian cultural content and the dramatic format. When people felt a connection with the show, they continued to watch and therefore continued to learn. This is a great example of using media to change an audience perspective.

Edutainment: Using media as a social tool for change

In this entertainment world, it seems obvious that entertainment media would be used to educate. However this is a relatively new phenomenon that stemmed from several communication theories.

Albert Bandura's social learning theory came from studying violence in children. This was the first theory to measure "self efficacy", or the extent that an individual feels they have the power to perform a specific behavior. This study on violence was groundbreaking because it was the first time people considered how media can affect behavior, and often for the worse. Later, social learning theory became social cognitive theory which suggests that attitudes and norms can affect behavioral intentions. Social cognitive theory is one of the main theories considered when using entertainment media to educate, as in the field of health communication.

The study of Jasoos Vijay was intended to educate Indians on HIV/AIDS. India has 2.4 million people living with AIDS, and many social norms dictate that HIV/AIDS should not be mentioned in public or spoken about at all.

Jasoos Vijay, a drama series about a detective with HIV, proved effective. This was for a number of reasons, one being that the entertainment aspect attracted viewers and then provided them with simple information. An engaging storyline allowed the viewers to get emotionally involved with the characters who they then began to identify with. Many of the respondents to the study's focus groups said they identified with either the main character or the character of his wife. This show allowed couples to feel like they could openly talk about prevention and protection from HIV/AIDS, which displays a clear change in behavior.

The study shows that not only was behavior affected by watching Jasoos Vijay, attitudes were as well. The majority of the participants in the study said that they believed people affected with HIV/AIDS should be treated as a normal person. This could be groundbreaking in changing the social stigma of HIV/AIDS in India.

The study was a case where "edutainment" was proven effective. However, a knowledge of the culture and cultural norms are essential for making a health communication campaign effective. These communication theories need to make sure to consider the social aspect of a culture and individual, as this heavily weighs a person's perceptions, attitudes and behaviors, especially in more high context cultures.

Embedding entertainment with education!

Theories of development have been propounded and debated since the end of the World War II, and more so after the end of the Cold War. This is so because development per se means many things to many people since the emergence of development theories. All theories have emerged in a socio-economic and political environment and no theory is value-free.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and other socialist states emphasized socio-economic and cultural development, while the capitalist first world put more emphasis on civil and political rights. This was the global political and idealogical environment that shaped the different theories of development.
Traditional societies were considered backward or underdeveloped for being traditional. Therefore, in order for them to develop, they have to change their traditions which can be done by the introduction of technology in traditional societies. In 1995, Everett Rogers came up with his diffusion of innovation theory, saying that an innovation passes through five sequential stages before it is adopted by a person or society.
But development is a phenomenon that has been in flux--and will remain so in future too--because it changes its meaning from time to time and from culture to culture. It is more akin to Maslow's hierarchy of needs: every society has priorities in terms of development just like in case of their needs. No two societies rank the stages of development the same way.
However, there are no two opinions that education is the mainstay of development. But education in developing countries is stunted by poverty, which itself is the result of lack of education. Thus developing societies are stuck in a vicious circle where ignorance and poverty play a symbiotic role.
The mass media can play a vital role in lifting traditional societies from the rut of poverty and ignorance. To gain attention of the poor, the mass media need to embed entertainment with education to make the latter more attractive. After all education empowers people, and empowerment comes first and then development.
Empowerment enables people to decide for themselves how to develop by finding home-grown solutions to their own problems. There is no single recipe for development because no two cultures are the same. People can decide for themselves how to develop once they are empowered.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Public Diplomacy as the New Wave

Wikileaks has hit the press in a major way with the grand revealing of cables that concern countries and leaders around the world. One of the major questions on everyone's mind is "what does this mean for diplomacy?" With so much "dirty laundry" set out for the world to see, it might be hard to conceive of diplomats having the ability to honestly and effectively proceed on their normal agendas. The solution to this dilemma lies in public diplomacy. As we discussed in class, public diplomacy can have wide reaching, yet subtle effects, many of which may not manifest for years.

The benefit of Public Diplomacy over traditional diplomacy is in its subtle nature. Although many world leaders would love to have the ability to transmit a message and have opinions and beliefs instantly change (the Transmission Model of communication), this simply does not work. Public Diplomacy is more about changing attitudes over time in increments. The most prevalent way that this is done now is through international television and radio broadcasts, such as Voice of America. The method is simple: attract individuals rather than coercing them, through programming that appeals to cultural or societal wants. There will never be a good substitute for original national cultural content on broadcast channels, so programmers should not try to completely push it aside. Coopting values and current interests of a society, while still maintaining some subtle message about the intended goal (even if it is just positive feelings in the content) can ultimately provide a greater payoff than overt messaging. For example, Sesame Street has taken off in South Africa because it tailored the show to the South African audience in all aspects. The ultimate goal of the show, promoting good citizenship, social values, and good life lessons, is intact, while still reflecting the current issues in South Africa.
The US, as a country, has traditionally had a hard time keeping a good relationship with the world at large, partially because it is traditionally bad at subtle forms of diplomacy. The US Government should learn from programs like Sesame Street, if they want to gain true effectiveness and garner global support down the road.

"Echo Back Power" understood as the resonating capacity of the public diplomacy message

In an effort to go ahead in understanding the phenomenon of public diplomacy and soft power explained by Joseph Nye in his book Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics, I would like to share with my classmates the concept of “echo back power” that I have elaborated in order to improve our understanding. Constructive critiques are welcomed.

According to Nye, the soft power of a state includes the ability to shape the preferences of the public opinion through attraction, such as using the attractiveness of its culture, political ideals, and policies, rather than through coercion or payments. And, if we take into account –again according to Nye- that Public Diplomacy is supposed to be the long term action of a country communicating on a permanent basis with the purpose of informing and influencing the public opinion targeted abroad, then it is valuable to understand and explore the importance that the resonating capacity of the message has on the receiver, based on the soft power of the sender, and in the tuning and rapport* created by the sender or by the content of the message itself, which could be called “echo back power”.

*This a concept used in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which explore the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate (linguistic) based in our patterns of behavior, emotion and subjective experience.

Agustin Fornell

Friday, November 26, 2010

I found the Shannon and Weaver's communication Model very interesting. Especially how the message is received by the other person. The message is sent via some channel to the receiver. Sometimes mass media plays the role of this “channel”. There are many flaws about the old model. It is not true that a message can be simply translated. There are many other elements that are can effect the meaning of the message too.