Thursday, September 30, 2010


Daya Thussu in the article ‘Creating a global communication infrastructure’ caught my attention because he points out with reason that “The biggest beneficiaries of the process of liberalization, deregulation and privatization and the WTO agreements have been the transnational companies TNCs”.

Robert McChesney, in the article called ‘Media Systems Goes Global’ says that “The rise to dominance of the global commercial media system is more that an economic matter; it also has clear implications for media content, politics, and culture”. Then, he explains that there are less than ten global (TNCs), and four or five dozen firms that cover regional and niche markets. Therefore, from the point of view of media perspective, and taking into account his role as the main transmitter and source of information and entertainment in the global arena, we can realize the relevance of these ‘few’ to influence the agenda, the individuals, the public sphere and the public opinion.

After reading the above paragraphs, it is clear to me that was created a global commercial media system using the WTO Agreements. And the TNC’s and the countries where those companies are located dominate that global media system. The riddle with these facts is if the Westphalian state system and the countries that constructed the above mentioned new global media system will disappear in favor of its creation and the new trend of globalization or, to the contrary, will consolidate their power.

Regulation and Media Literacy...on Sesame Street?

Sesame Street was recently rocked by the form of Katy Perry. Katy Perry filmed a version of her "Hot and Cold" song with Elmo that had different lyrics meant for children. The video was fun and colorful, so whats the problem? The problem was Katy Perry showing too much cleavage. When a preview of the episode was posted, parents started complaining that Katy's outfit was not appropriate for children. This is an excellent example of societal regulation in action. Shortly after the complaints started, Sesame Street pulled the episode in respect to the parents. Regardless of my opinion on the matter, this was almost immediate censorship in response to the backlash. All in the name of protecting children.

This brings me to Media Literacy and Communication Rights: Ethical Individualism in the New Media Environment. In this article, O'Neill examines the term "Media Literacy," its opposing definitions, and why it becoming increasingly an area of importance. O'Neill states that the most common definition of Media Literacy is "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and produce both print and electronic media." He describes how intergovernmental organization like UNESCO and the Council of Europe have taken the initiative to bring attention to this issue. A 2006 recommendation from the Council of Europe mandates that member states ensure children are skilled and knowledgeable in communication technology that may be harmful to them.

Now what exactly, is the United States doing to promote media literate children? Well, O'Neill argues that the reason the United States may be behind Europe is that the US fails to recognize media literacy as a right of children. I think this is true. While Americans may be concerned with violent and sexual content reaching their children, this is more of a regulatory approach rather than a proactive approach to educating the children on harmful content. While regulation is certainly important for children, so is their ability to know for themselves what is good and bad.

I think the idea of "Ethical Individualism" applies to the United States as well. In the United States, we often try children as adults in a court of law. Why? Because we feel that they were old enough to have develop their own values and know right from wrong. Emphasis on the individual is key. However I think we must realize that any citizen, let along a child, can't be expected to know good from bad in a communication sense. I think as a country we have a responsibility to equip our children with an arsenal of media literate knowledge that will enable them to be educated future consumers and makers of media.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mind the Gap

How does advancement in technology contribute to the digital divide? Much of the current research around communication technologies discuss how exciting it is for people to be able to come together in new ways. But it seems to me that we have overlooked the divide between rich and poor, as Thussu touches on, as well as the technologically skilled versus unskilled as mentioned by O’Neill (which in turn increases the gap between rich and poor as these technologies are leveraged to a competitive advantage). This may be dismissed as a developmental phenomena, that as developing nations “catch up” in terms of available technology, the divide will begin to lessen once again. On the other hand, if this gap can be seen in America’s workplace, how is it affecting nations whose pace with technology is even further behind? Think about it. The obvious example is the computer use at work, with skills ranging from “Where is the ‘on’ button?” to “I will write a new program with html code”. If the levels are this broad at your downtown DC location, then how can we possibly expect disadvantaged nations to ever converge?

So now we must consider what can be done to help ease this divergence. This is critical in new emerging markets in Asia, especially with the use of smart phones to access the internet. Known as the “Internet’s new billion”, from the BRIC countries plus Indonesia, the online population is expected to double by 2015. Radio Australia had an interesting segment earlier this month on how the government is reacting in Indonesia. Of those who are connected, 60% are under 35 and literacy rates are above 90%. But currently, internet connectivity is only at 17% throughout the nation. So the government is trying to reach out to the rural areas, recently spending $40 million USD to connect villages to broadband. They are hopeful that today’s usage is an urban phenomena, but eventually the gap can be lessened with both mobile phones and netbooks, giving the rural population greater access to information that will be beneficial for their livelihood.

I am cautiously optimistic about the ability to lessen the digital divide. The Indonesian government has stepped forward to take action to bridge the disconnect. This is definitely a step in the right direction. However there are still many countries far behind in internet connectivity, specifically African nations. On top of that there is the tricky issue of what regulations should be put in place regarding content and use and the even bigger issue of who controls the internet (which I may discuss at a later date). With more users online these questions become not only more complex, but also imperative for governments to address, for the well-being of their citizens as well as its implications for international relations.

All data from the Radio Australia broadcast, “Asia to Change the way the Internet is Used”, September 3, 2010. Available at

Monday, September 27, 2010

Offsetting threats to mainstream media

Sean O Siochru and Bruce Girard with Amy Mahan (2000) in Global Governance: A Beginners Guide in Chapter 1--Introduction to National Media Regulation: Why Media Regulation?--lists two justifications, societal and industry regulations. The writers draw a fine line between media diversity,which pertains to diversity in the contents of the media, media plurality, which relates to different types of media.

But conglomeration i.e. cross-media ownership and convergence of information technology are posing a threat to both media diversity and media plurality. Thus, constricting "the public sphere" or "ideal communication sphere". The writers in fact make a case for citizens media in which people become involved in media not simply as consumers, but as producers and broadcasters.

A free-market economy and conglomerates have emerged as the major threats to the freedom of the press. In many cases, advertisers, who have become the economic lifeline of the media, not only determine what news is to be published but also what qualifies as "news". Conglomerates are in fact'private ministries of information' that generate their own news and control others. An outcome of the free-market economy, media moguls encroach on the marketplace of ideas.

Conglomeration is nibbling away at the audience's choices and resulting in the uniformity of opinion. When diversity of opinion gives way to a uniform world-view, democratic discourse comes to an end. The present media give news in fragments that makes it difficult for the audience to connect the dots and have the big picture. It becomes difficult for the common people to follow the development of a particular issue over time.

This situation promotes apathy and cynicism at the expense of political participation. Common people become mere spectators in a democracy which otherwise should be a participatory business. Democracy and a free media are sacrificed at the alter of the free-market economy which the linchpin of capitalism. this down-slide of the media can be balanced by the emergence of the citizens' media which is run by the community instead of a corporation. In a citizens' media the common people are part of the journalistic activity. This instills in them a sense of belonging.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


It is very hard for me to understand the term nation. According to the reading it is “based on the idea of a shared ethnicity of the population that lived within a particular territory”. In China there are 56 ethnic groups. In some urban area you can only find one particular group and in some area you can find a mixture of the groups. We all live in the Chinese territory but we do not share ethnicity. And as the reading says “national borders have more often divided tribes and linguistic groups.” There are uncountable tribes and linguistic groups in China. There are people speak Mongolian in north part of China as people in Mongolia, and there are people speak Korean in China as people in north Korea and south Korea. All those people belong to the same linguistic groups and they all live next to each other. Should they belong to the same nation?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Cyber-house Divided

Hi everyone, I'm posting a quick 2nd entry for this week. I was catching up on reading the Economist last night, and ran across this article on e-communication and society. It relates to my discussion earlier, about how people communicate among and between groups, and how this media affects their point of view of the world.

In today's Web 2.0, many hope that social networking will allow for greater communication around the world, and perhaps include communities that were previously overlooked. Yet the author argues that today's social networking simply allows pre-existing groups of people to come together, rather than breaking down any barriers.

He writes:
A generation of digital activists had hoped that the web would connect groups separated in the real world. The internet was supposed to transcend colour, social identity and national borders. But research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.

You can read the entire article at ... go check it out!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Globalization and Nationalism; Nothing new under the sun.

I'll be discussing this article today. Go check it out.

This week in class we talked at great length about Nationalism in light of Globalization. I think that the above article is a great example of what we were discussing. After World War II, a great deal of Muslims immigrated to Germany as a part of the guest worker programs that were instated there due to the  overall loss of population and infrastructure. Today, there is a very appreciable population of Muslims in Germany, a fact that causes no small deal of tension.

The issue in question, of course, is the seeming refusal of Muslims to integrate into German society. How does this relate to our discussion in class? The Muslims in Germany are part of a Diaspora. Like any group outside of their cultural homeland, they seek to preserve their cultural identity in their "host country." Having traveled in Germany myself, I can attest to the fact that there are strongly Muslim (often Turkish) areas within German cities. According to the article, however, there has been increasing resentment about these "isolated" groups, similar to what some groups in the United States have said about ethnic minorities

As we debated in class, it seems that a highly globalized world, full of varying cultural media is not enough to prevent a significant increase in support for more radical conservative sentiments (significant because it could mean a far-Right fringe party will have seats in the legislature). But the increase in right-wing sentiment is not just based on cultural friction. It also has to do with the dissolving borders of the nation-state. The above article also mentions German frustration with EU politics, especially the Greece bailout. German citizens, who may feel no particular need to be "continental citizens," much less "global citizens" are perhaps hunkering down in order to protect what they see as their own nation's needs first. The result, of course, is a reevaluation of who is included in that nation; apparently, for some Germans, Muslims are out.

Is Globalization stomping out Nationalism?

One of the arguments of globalization debate is that globalization is destroying the nation. Sinclair says that the nation as a cultural force is retreating. He states, "the massive increase in the movement of people across borders caused by globalization has resulted in much more culturally and linguistically pluralistic population in each nation-state." Furthermore he says that "national culture" is now referring to the dominant culture, and not the nation as a whole.

It is true that globalization has enabled diasporas to retain and be exposed to the culture of the homeland. Diasporas may challenge our notion of "space" when it comes to nation, but i'm not sure the effect is actually destroying the nation. As we discussed in class, exposure to media from the home nation may keep the diaspora updated on cultural events, but media in the host country will acculturate the immigrants on its values and experiences. Immigrants making up diaspora communities obviously left the home country for a reason, and are most likely to adopt the new values and culture of the host country to some extent. Therefore, I don't believe the nation is threatened solely based on the existence of diasporas. Additionally, the United States has experienced waves of immigration since the founding of our nation, and I feel like our nationalism has not wavered, rather it has adapted to social and cultural movements that have resulted in the "salad bowl" or "mosaic" that many argue the United States is today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The United ‘Salad Bowl’ of America

This week covered an incredibly interesting discussion of Karim Karim’s essay on diaspora and the nation. With the increased media opportunities brought about by changes in communications technology, “multiculturalism has seriously challenged the idea of a nation as ethnoculturally homogeneous” (4). Enter the idea of diaspora -- a concept that allows communities of ethnically similar peoples to reside together within another host country, with many cultural identities tying them back to the home land. Strengthened by television programming and online resources, many districts are able to retain their native language, customs, and way of life (11). So we have begun to see a shift in the typical idea of the nation. Instead of E pluribus unum, we are suddenly faced with the kindergarten adage about the United States being a salad bowl of people tossed in together, held together by one government, but perhaps not the same values and attitudes.

This bubble of common communication then reinforces the sense of belonging, and perhaps is exhibited in the way these communities interact with society as a whole. Some embrace their home culture while also absorbing local news and information. Others remain solidly entrenched in their foreign identity and lifestyle.
Combined with the media identifying with different cultures, this creates a reinforcement of stereotypes and the potential for conflict. People go off to their “safe spaces” and never dare to venture out. This can even be seen around the District of Columbia. Take a look at this map from Eric Fischer, who took the 2000 Census data from the DC metro area to show trends in ethnicity in the region: Red is White, blue is Black, green is Asian, orange is Hispanic. (The link is for DCist, but click on the link in the post for a high-res image). It gives you an idea of some diasporas in the area. I find it very interesting, since DC is a very transient city and many people move in and out throughout the years, to see where people choose to settle down.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What is wrong with Sparks?

After reading the elaborated article of Colin Sparks called “What ‘s wrong with globalization”, I asked myself What is wrong with Sparks’ article?
It is difficult for me to answer such a question, especially if I liked and appreciated many of his arguments but, at the same time, I have the feeling that he degraded too much the concept of globalization, which it has been a great help in order to understand the new realities that brought to us the revolution of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs).
He concluded his article with the following comment “A theory that is blind to such a facts is blind to reality”, when mentioning that the internet it is not global in reality because “a quarter of the world’s population, more than one and quarter billion people, are today without any access to electricity, and that number will rise over the next 25 years. No electricity, no internet.”
Such statement looks demagogic to me if we accept the following definition of globalization “widening, deepening, and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of social life“. Let me explain myself. The use of the terms “widening, deepening and speeding” means increasing and gradation. And such a definition let us understand that globalization is a trend that shows us the direction in which interconnectedness is moving in the diverse aspects of social life.
The concept of globalization is defining a trend and because does not reflect and absolute knowledge or absolute explanation and comprehension of the phenomena that is trying to describe, does not means that is “blind to reality”. By the way, if we analyze with maturity any theory, we suppose to understand that it is a good chance that, as many theories, will be a simplification of reality but useful to understand better a given fact. There is an expression that says “the map is not the territory”, but it is fact that –even if it is not detailed and tridimensional – the helps to understand the terrain that is representing it.
However, It is important to says that I am agree with Colin Sparks in his critics to the flows of “the theories of globalizations that obscures central aspects of contemporary reality” but without the extreme position of saying that globalization theory is “blind to reality” because has “flows” that are not fundamental in his effectiveness to give us better understanding of a given reality. By the way, there is challenge there. Explain the theory of globalization with more nuances and richness in a way that give us more satisfaction.
Agustin Fornell

Globalization and culture

Today we discussed in the class that 'globalization' forces people to go back to their roots, which I mean is culture. John Sinclair says that globalization experts like Arjun Appadurai and others give different theories of globalization. However, Colin Sparks says that theories of globalization are basically aspects of capitalist development, "and in particular the imperialist phase of capitalist development, than as the products of some new and distinct social phenomenon called 'globalization'."
However, this is a fact that globalization is the compression of time and space. Globalization as a phenomenon is not something new. It has been there even when there was no information technology. The advent of information technology spurred the pace of globalization, with some saying that the world has become a global village.
This has prompted intellectuals, especially cultural experts, that globalization is homogenizing cultures. But the fact is that culture per se is a multi-layered phenomenon and globalization just adds another layer to the multiple cultural identities. Globalization sets the arena for the different cultures to come in contact with each other. And this coming into contact, instead of leveling, sharpens individual differences of the these cultures. This is so because we become aware of our culture only when we step out of it and come in contact with another. Otherwise we take our culture for granted; without knowing or even realizing it.
At the top, globalization creates sort of homogeneity, but at the base they resist each other.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Symbols and culture

In class we talked about symbols and someone said it is hard to tell what is not a symbol and anything could be a symbol. In my opinion it is hard to talk about symbols without two things. One is culture and another one is context. For example, when you see a picture of turtle on somebody's birthday in China it is a symbol of longevity while in the US the story of the tortoise and the hair it is a symbol of perseverance. When we see a turtle we have as pet at home, it is just a turtle. So it is hard to explain a symbol without talking about culture and context.

Mass Media: fragmenting the world?

Mr. Silvio Waisbord in Media and the Reinvention of the Nation makes a very pertinent argument that "media organizations typically resort to cultural narratives and stories that resonate with home audiences rather than seeking to understand developments and contexts better."
This reminds me of the U.S. Public Diplomacy that it runs through 42 different language transmissions of the Voice of America (VOA). Soon after the 9/11 the VOA launched special radio transmission in Pushto with the name of VOA Deewa to target Pushtoon ethnic group in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the objectives of this transmission is to improve the image of United States and wean Pushtoons away from Al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Like with every language broadcast, Deewa radio resorts to cultural narratives and stories. Here is the flip side of the whole venture. If every language broadcast sticks to its particular cultural narrative, the listeners will fail make a holistic picture of the world. Resultantly, the society--and the world at large--will remain fragmented. It will also inflame nationalism which is rooted in chauvinism.
To give the audience a cosmopolitan view, the listeners should know about the context of others too. When people understand context of other nations or communities, only then a cross-cultural understanding can take place. By giving news in fragments in order to suit them according to local taste, it will increase a sense of distancing among people from fellow world citizens.
In this age of globalization, which is spearheaded by the mass media, the different nations of the world need to be brought together by knowing each others' context. By imposing a global context on people or isolating and insulating them by only local context, nations will fail to understand each other. This situation leads to "chauvinistic nationalism" and "xenophobic discourses."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mass Communication and Modernization

The modernization theory links back to the past spread of communication, as well as a reminder of a lesson for the future. According to Thussu, the modernization theory stems from the idea that mass communications is used to “spread the message of modernity and transfer the economic and political models of the West to the newly independent countries” (43). Media is seen as a mode of modernization, speeding up the slow social growth by allowing “mass media to transform traditional society” (43). I find it quite interesting that this study of the path of development, beginning, in the 1960s, stems from the idea of bringing Western norms to Eastern European and African countries as a way to eradicate the notions of ‘backwardness’ from society (43).

While the theory might be a relatively new concept,, this usage of international communication as a means of transmitting ‘correct’ ideology is not a new one. Going back to our discussion of the history of communication, take for example, the Catholic church spreading their message of Christianity throughout Europe in the sixteenth century, as discussed in the historical chapter of Thussu’s work, International Communication: Continuity and Change. It is fascinating that the modernization theory assumes that the media is actually a neutral force in development, since we have discussed the fact that the general population is not a passive recipient of media content. Instead, we now understand that the process of media transmission is a two-way discussion: yes, media may be persuasive, but we also influence, to some extent, what content is available.

And yet, some media runs the risk of becoming more of a political attempt to change the values a country, rather than simply being an aid to development. Thus, I would have to conclude that the modernization theory aligns itself more with the concept of ‘Americanization’. While American companies try to aid development by bringing technologies to developing nations in an attempt to better the existing culture, it is seen instead as forcing American culture onto others. This is a fine line to walk,and is something that development agencies should keep in mind in the future.

The Facebook Revolution

I remember starting a Facebook to look at someone's pictures. After neglecting it for awhile, I re-discovered the site when I started college. What was once novel has now become such a large part of my life. The reading by Castells got me thinking about how Facebook is becoming an online form of the public sphere. He mentions how physical space such as universities and cultural institutions have always been critical to developing the public sphere. Even though Facebook you could argue doesn't have a physical space in this sense, it has provided an "online forum" of space where people share opinions and form groups with "friends" and networks. According to the article provided by Professor Hayden, people spend more time on Facebook than Google. That is a lot of time people are talking about something.

In addition to becoming an outlet for sharing values and debate, I think Facebook is further uniting diasporas with their home country. Karim states that while the internet and other media connect members of a diaspora, it also makes assimilation into national population difficult. While I think this could be true with websites specifically for members of a certain group, I feel like this wouldn't always be the case with social networking like Facebook. The fact that Facebook allows you to have "friends" from any country makes it easy to connect with people from other networks. I think that while a member of a diaspora would stay in close contact with other members, they would still be likely to network with the host country as well. Because this communication with different networks on Facebook is so easy, I think it actually encourages diversity in relationships.

Lastly, it seems like Facebook has given a new meaning to interpersonal relationships. For instance, important events such as births and weddings are now commonly announced through Facebook. I guess no one needs a mailed announcement anymore. As we discussed in class, even deaths are announced on Facebook. It's as if posting a status equalizes calling all of your friends. Or I might go three months without talking with a friend in person or on the phone, but yet through Facebook we are able to keep tabs on each other and send messages.

Whether you think Facebook is having a positive effect on communication or not, you most likely use it and are therefore part of this Facebook revolution. I think its safe to say its changing how we communicate, and it'll be interesting to see in the future just how much.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two questions as conclusions: we could ask ourselves if there are better clues that globalized Public Sphere and Public Opinion to forecast ...

Two questions as conclusions: we could ask ourselves if there are better clues that globalized Public Sphere and Public Opinion to forecast the new international order that we could see in the future? And …

In the Castells’ article, under the title of Public Sphere and the Constitution of Society, it’s mentioned that according with Habermas the public sphere is ‘a network for communicating information and points of view’ that lies between the state and society. Then, he says that “The public sphere is an essential component of sociopolitical organization because it is the space where people come together as citizens and articulate their autonomous views to influence the political institutions of society. Civil society is the organized expression of these views; and the relationship between the state and civil society is the cornerstone of democracy. Without an effective civil society capable of structuring and channeling citizen debates over diverse ideas and conflicting interests, the state drifts away from its subjects.”
If we consider for a second to the Public Sphere –under the fact of globalization- as the international arena where take place the interactions that give birth to a given Public Opinion about a given fact in a given moment, then we could ask ourselves if the relevance of the state will the same considering that for the Public Sphere and the Public Opinion the borders are less important each day with globalization? And even more, we could ask ourselves if there are better clues that globalized Public Sphere and Public Opinion to forecast the new international order that we could see in the future?

Nationalism, Burn a Koran Day, and Youtube

Before you start reading the meat of my post, watch these two videos.

This week in class, we very briefly touched on the subject of nationalism. What happened last weekend on September 11th is an incredible outpouring of nationalism, the likes of which the United States has not seen in recent years. In each of these videos you see people - American Citizens - screaming, chanting, waving signs, and making their voices heard at a the newest place of national and patriotic significance in our nation's history. What really makes this significant to me, is the battle over whose cause is more "right," or who has the claim to the nationalist cause. Really, though, both individuals who are against the Ground Zero Mosque (Tea Partiers, Conservatives, and Fundamentalists mostly), and those who support its construction/location (generally more liberal or moderate groups), both have a claim.

The conflict here comes from what Manuel Castells calls The Crisis of Identity, one of four crises of governance that he states are the hallmarks of the conflict between nation-states and the progress of globalization. The second video, showing the burning of a Koran at Ground Zero, is particularly telling in this regard, and also demonstrates some of the realities of the limits of a nation state in the Youtube Age. The man in the video is gleefully destroying the holy book while enduring criticism and warnings from the photographers and videographers around him, all while declaring his right to free speech and pride as an American. While Terry Jones' organized event might have been a ploy to gain notoriety, based upon his dubious past, the individual burnings on September 11th are pure expressions of nationalism from Americans who feel like the country has gone astray.

The US government's pleas to refrain from burning Korans are inconsequential to these individual actors. The resulting diffusion of the videos on Youtube and other social media websites illustrates two other hallmarks of the nation-state/globalization conflict. The first, a Crisis of Efficiency, in that the government s unable to manage the conduct of its citizens - possibly jeopardizing its diplomatic efforts, if the angry reactionary protests in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern nations are any indication. The second is the Crisis of Legitimacy. The traditional political parties seem to be losing touch with their constituencies as the culture and beliefs of the United States seem to be under assault from foreign sources; the current upsurging of support for the Tea Party also bears this out.

It's an interesting and exciting time to be living in the nation's capital, and it bears noting that our Congress is currently in the electoral process. Given that there is so much activism going on right now, there could be some fundamental changes in the composition of the next legislative body. The eyes of the world are on us, to a certain extent. Interesting times indeed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Evolution of International Communication as a Field of Study

I think is very interesting when Professor Waever mention in his article that cybernetic system model was more sophisticated than the earlier stimulus response model. The cybernetic system he defined as a group of elements –sender, encoder, medium, decoder, receiver and feedback- which are interconnected by communications links and the whole operating as one to reach a goal.

When analyzing the diverse elements of the cybernetic system model I am wondering if could be a good idea to consider the element Receiver as individual on the one hand, and, the public opinion, on the other hand, as the Receiver, defined –meaning the public opinion- as a group of people with beliefs, criteria, opinions, perceptions, etc., about a particular issue in a particular time.

This simplification could be –in fact it is for me- a very useful way to analyze the public opinion ‘point of view’ and her role as an actor -sender or receiver- in any process related with international relations, at the domestic level or the international level.

when you say modernize, you really mean Americanize

It is very true that we cannot divide culture and international communication. Yet when we talk about communication today is very different from the past. It affects our daily life and reinforces globalization. In Weaver’s article he talked about “ when you say modernize, you really mean Americanize.” I think somehow it is true. It is like McDonalds, Starbucks, Coca cola almost exist everywhere and of course Hollywood movies. I remember in 1997 when the first McDonalds came in town, it was the most expensive, fashionable “restaurant”. (When you buy a combo, the money you spend can buy 5 meals in a local restaurant.) People waited in line for hours to get their food. And people who went there were rich and considered modernized. Why? Because that was an American “restaurant”, and the only foreign “restaurant” in town. Now it makes me sad when I think about it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Communication and Development

The proliferation of the mass media, especially radio, in the wake of World War II convinced many in the West that "international communication was the key to the process of modernization and development for the so-called Third World" (Thussu). Political scientists like Daniel Lerner thought that in order to develop, the traditional societies needed to be modernized first because their cultures and traditions are a barrier to their development. This is called Modernization Theory.
In short, Lerner and others like him, thought that to develop means to Westernize first. They probably took this view from the role of communication in development in the Western world. What they failed to realize was the fact that in the West, the mass media took their birth and then gradually developed as the Western society moved ahead. We can say that the creation of the mass media took place in the light of the needs of expanding empires (all of them Western) and their indigenous societies.
Mass media are part of the whole, which is called society; it is not something outside of it. If mass media affects society, it also gets affected by the society, as Harold Adams Innis says that there is a "dialectical relationship between society and technology: they influence one another mutually." The problem with the Third World countries was--and is--that they had not developed enough while a developed and powerful media 'invaded' them. Since it was not in sync with the new media, it's use--though created more wealth--increased social, political and economic disparity in the Third Word countries.
Innis makes a nice argument that "new media threaten to displace the previous monopolies of knowledge (which is power), unless those media can be enlisted in the service of the previous power structures." And exactly the same happened: the imperial West enlisted the new media in its service and it enhanced their power (Global monopoly). While in the developing world the so-called elites monopolized the new media and in the process became more powerful (Local monopoly).
Resultantly, the haves gained more while the haves-not suffered. In a nutshell, the West was not developed by the media; the case is vice versa. Yes, the new media expedited development in the West, but the Western society shaped the new media according to it's own needs. The developing countries have to harness the power of the media for their development, while the West instead of defining reality for them, has to take their reality too. As Earl Shorris (1997) says when anyone other than the poor defines poverty, the definition itself becomes a force against them. Therefore, development has to be defined by the developing world itself which is possible only if it has its own mass media.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

National Burn a Qur'an day Thankfully Canceled

I'm sure that you've all heard about Florida Pastor Terry Jones' misguided attempt to create "National Burn a Qur'an Day" on the 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The drama has been a sordid one. First, Jones declared the event as a protest against the religion of Islam. After a brief promise to consider the pleas and criticism of President Obama and General Petraeus, Jones stated that he and his congregation would not
back down from their goal, and would burn 20 of the holy books. After a massive public uproar, entreaties from religious and government leaders around the world, and even allusions to secret meetings with the Imam of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque, Jones finally canceled his book burning. Although this is certainly a good thing for the United States (or at least better than if Jones had gone through with it), it could be said that the damage has already been done. There is a great deal of anger around the globe, and the US flag has already been burned in Afghanistan in retaliation. According to reporters, some cries of "Death to the Christians" could be heard.

While going through our readings for this week, I thought about how this scandal would fit into IC theory. I believe that in some way, it is related to the two models of communication that Carey discusses in "A Cultural Approach to Communication." Carey describes two models or modes of thought regarding the use of and reason for communication systems. The first, the so-called Transmission Model, defines Communication as a tool of control and influence, where one entity transmits its own message or set of information to another, where it is absorbed. This is the most common and traditional mode of thought concerning communication in the US, Carey states (Carey, 15), but it is not the model that I am particularly interested in, despite the distinct lack of focus in the US' international media that would indicate that the Transmission Model has broken down here.

The second model that Carey discusses is the Ritual Model, which concerns the use of Communication as a method not of control, but of societal preservation. Consider this: Terry Jones, along with his followers, felt that the United States was slipping away from its proper place in the world, or at the very least needed to assert itself. This idea is not uncommon in the US, and our country has in many ways slipped out of "First Place," as far as our overall standing in the world. To Terry Jones and his congregation, their book burning was an act of protest, and was intended to show the world that the United States was not taking any insult lying down. To much of the rest of the world, of course, this appeared to be a provocation for further violence. Arguments that Jones' intent was to provoke violence from the start should look to his hesitation in the face of criticism.

Of course, the latest reports on this story have revealed that Jones has a history of abuse and exploitation in Germany, where he established a mission in 1982. It is certain that this story will continue to unfold over the coming weeks, and it remains to be seen how "pure" Jones' intent was; did he intend to preach a particular brand of Christian faith, bolster the ego of the United States, or was he longing for notoriety and influence, as Andrew Schaefer and the Rhine Protestant Church claim?

For further reading, cehck Ewen MacAskill, Richard Adams in Washington and Kate Connolly, and Matthew Weaver and Tim Hill in the Guardian.

Edit: As of right now, Jones has stated that the event is only suspended, not canceled. He believes that he was lied to about the possibility of the Ground Zero Mosque's location being moved. It remains to be seen what is true.

Week 3: 'Americanization' of International Communication

Thussu discusses the development of international communication in chapter two of his book. Over time, communication was first seen as an aid in industrialization; then as a tool for governmental propaganda; and more recently with advanced technology, as an instrument to aid economic and political power. Today we see communication technology as a part of mass culture, where communication is no longer one-sided, but media gives meaning to society, and society gathers greater information from these media outlets. In Western culture, particularly the United States, capitalism has sprung up around this “free flow of information”, and is also seen as a means to assist in the development of Third World countries.

This certainly circles back to the theory of how communication allows for greater access to information, and in turn, economic growth, as evidenced during the Industrial Revolution. These same concepts are being used in developing nations today. As the author argues, mass media speeds up the process of development as a “vehicle for transferring new ideas” (43). This theory, known as the ‘modernization theory’, was in the 1970s a top-down approach to communication, with information flowing from the government or aid organizations to the people. But as we see today, communications infrastructure is also crucial to development, to allow the public to both access the information and use it for further progress; just giving information to the public is not quite as beneficial.

Today the challenge is how international communication is being influenced by the strongest cultures, ie the “Americanization” rather than “globalization” of new media. The strongest power has the greatest effect on today’s communications. However, from a cultural perspective, it is important to assess the “interactions between cultures” (61), making sure these new technologies are actually being used in a constructive manner, and that it is not just the loudest voice forcing an opinion or change.

Making Sense of Communication Theory

While I was reading chapter 2 of Thussu, I noticed that all the theories of communication seem to have valid and logical points, all depending on the medium of communication in question and the goal of the communication. For example, American broadcast television seems to exemplify the "free flow" doctrine in reflecting freedom of expression and the role of "public watchdog." The public watchdog role of the media allows criticism of the United States government. Therefore the media set its own agenda and don't solely promote the message of the government.

I think the theories of modernization and dependency seem to go hand in hand. The basis of modernization is that international mass communication by developed countries can be used to modernize newly independent countries. This in my mind, could then continue to lead to dependency theory, where the new independent country is now dependent on the Western or developed country.

Galtung's "feudal" interaction principle says that there is interaction from the "centre" country to the "periphery" country, but not from one periphery nation to another. An Example used in Thussu is how this theory relates to global news flow to periphery nations. For example, a country that receives information from a developed media source will only receive information from neighboring countries that has been filtered by the developed country. This allows for media bias to flourish because there is no competition of media sources.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Technological Misinformation

International communication is key to creating and building solid international relations, both on the individual level and in a larger sense between businesses or governments. Without the tools of international communication mistakes and misunderstandings can occur. Sometimes these are small in scale, but often miscommunication has led to large scale problems, the most obvious of which is war. As technology has progressed, new and interesting ways to communicate globally have been created. The available outlets for communication, including television media and the internet, offer immediate information transfer and ways to respond to that information; however, these mass information-spreading tools often cause more damage than good. Information that is either falsified or has no reliable source is often found on the internet and in news programs on television. To the average viewer, this information (or misinformation) is often taken as-is which can potentially create ignorance and prejudice towards other groups or organizations shown in a (untrue) negative light in the media.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Week 2: Google And Verizon's Deal: Good Business or The Beginning of the End?

We've only just begun to discuss Net Neutrality in class, but I think that this story is just too important to leave alone for too long. Google and Verizon have announced that they have signed a massive deal, and of course, any deal that includes the word "Google" in it sends shock waves throughout every part of the business, entertainment, and internet community. The biggest question on everyone's mind of course, is "What does this mean for my internet service, whether in my home, my work, or even on my phone? The fear, of course, is that Verizon would be able to create a tiered system of internet access, which would grant certain users or websites (those that pay a premium) faster speeds, wider coverage, or even access to larger stores of information.

Optimists could cite Google itself as an antidote to this process - after all, Google's own Code of Conduct is prefaced by the phrase "Don't be Evil." But, sadly, Google has crossed over to "the dark side," and proposed that net neutrality rules should no longer apply to wireless access, as well as a wide range of additional rules for wired access that have received much negative criticism.

As far as what we've read in class, this sort of situation shouldn't seem unfamiliar. In Chapter 1 of Thussu's "Continuity and Change," (p. 7) Thussu explains the business model of the first wireless telegraph, created and marketed by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901. Much like the wired telegraph, Great Britain controlled the lion's share of wireless traffic as well. This allowed them to dictate that only transmissions sent on Marconi devices would be received and processed, much like their policy on wired telegraphs in the years prior. The difference between the politics of Marconi's transmitter and the current Google-Verizon deal is that competition from other countries made negotiation and compromise a necessity, whereas there is no other ISP-"Google" deal in the works, and there isn't really another Google.

Without any strident opposition from the FCC, or any competition from similar business conglomerates, we are likely to find ourselves in a time of increasingly private control of the Internet. There is, however a fair amount of criticism from groups such as and Free Press, both of which champion the cause of Net Neutrality. It remains to be seen whether groups like the above two, as well as further public criticism, will coalesce enough to bring Google and Verizon to the negotiating table.

For further reading, check out Josh Silver and Bianca Bosker at the Huffington Post,
 Edward Wyatt, Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft at the New York Times.

All of the linked articles were used for reference and sources.

Technology and Cultural Imperialism

I think the concept of cultural imperialism being linked to technological developments in the history of communication is important to note. Its not just luck that the Roman Empire was so successful in its time, and its not just luck that England, the United States, and Germany emerged as global powers.

Technological developments in communication such as the telegraph did for Europe and the United States what a great infrastructure did for the Romans. With the invention of the telegraph, Britain jumped at the opportunity to connect with its colonies. According to Hanson, Britain and India were joined by 1870 and by 1895, British cable linked France to the majority of its colonies but North Africa. The telegraphs also quickened business transactions trans-Atlantic and revolutionized news transmission, leading to the development of the first news agencies-British Reuters, French Havas, and the German Wolff.

Later, broadcast emerged as a crucial outlet to reach the masses. Especially in wartime. As Hanson notes, while the Soviets were the first country to use radio to internationally broadcast government opinion, others followed suit by WWII. Germany became the largest broadcasting network in the world and the Allies had to quickly figure out how to catch up. The power of radio to broadcast propaganda was an integral tool to advance wartime efforts.

As Professor Hayden mentioned in class, communication technologies don't determine historical events, but rather determine our actions. If these global powers hadn't capitalized on the technology, be it the telegraph or later broadcast, who knows where we would be today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 2: The CNN Effect

This weeks’ lecture covered an historical overview of international communication and its significance in international relations, as well as its effect on society and politics. The evolution from telegraph to radio to television to the Internet today has allowed people to spread their message to a broad range of people more quickly than ever before. And key players in international policy are paying attention to the public opinion. This phenomena, known as the “CNN effect”, occurs because of this 24-hour news cycle. A constant stream of updates from abroad demands attention from the world, and strains political decision making as the global community looks to its leaders for a response. We discussed and example of this about the media coverage of the war in Iraq.

Another similar, related development is the use of technology and social media to connect people to take a stand on political issues. One great example of this is the so-called “Twitter Revolution” during the Iranian post-election protests in 2009. The new media technology Twitter was supposedly playing a major role in organizing people during these protests, so much so that US policymakers stepped in to persuade Twitter to postpone maintenance services and continue running at full strength. On the surface it was believed that Twitter was a great help in getting information outside Iran, but in actuality it was mostly Americans tweeting. However, you can see that this constant news feed and buzz from current events may affect policy makers around the globe to speed up the decision making process, instead of gathering all the fact first.

You can read the entire Washington Post article here:

Wires and Empires

Prof. C. Hayden, discussing the history of International Communication, made a very apt remark: "Communication and empires have a very symbiotic relationship." The more 'wired' an empire, the more powerful it had been. A case point is the British Empire. The invention of telegraph in 1837 provided the British empire a tool crucial for the unification of its vast territories. Control over information enables a political administration to have control over its population. And this what the early communication system did.
The invention of printing press and the telegraph system, which gave birth to news agencies, gave a monopoly of information to earlier colonial powers like England, France and Portugal. However, the early information system had never been used for the public good--at least in colonies; it was used for colonization, reinforcing colonization and economic and commercial purposes.
Like Thussu says that the overhead telegraph installed in Algeria in 1842, proved a decisive aid to the French during the occupation and colonization of Algeria. However, Thussu's, Mattelart's and Hanson's writings show that until the invention of shortwave radio, the United States had been out of competition for global influence. However, the invention of telephone and radio brought it to the world scene which it dominates till date. Till the World War I Britain dominated the cable and the U.S., telephone.
A point, which is missing in all the three texts we read for this class, is that postal service, spying and flow of information had a common origin in early information system. With the passage of time they grew out into three distinct institutions with the information system per se becoming journalism. All the three writers also gloss over the contribution of early rulers in India who, before the invention of cable and of course printing, added speed to the flow of information by enlisting horses. Called Barid (Arabic word for horse) system the Indian rulers had established a well-organized and efficient system of information across the land.
Faizullah Jan