Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Societal Regulation

This week’s readings focus on global governance and the many challenges that privatization, globalization, convergence, conglomerates, and international organizations present to regulating international communications.

In the reading, Global Governance: A Beginner’s Guide, the author starts with a rationale for the importance of media regulation. He explains that the media is the primary source through which people interact and form opinions about others.

I particularly identified with the section that discussed the need for societal regulation in order to “ensure diversity and plurality of the media.” There is no doubt that the media plays a profound role in shaping our social, political and cultural views about others, therefore, the media has a great responsibility to provide its audience with content that is diverse and representative of a variety of view points on various issues.

The author states that the media is “how people learn about their own communities, develop social affinities and form group identities.” This particularly resonated with me as I thought about the CNN special series titled Black in America that aired in 2008 and Black in America 2 that aired in July 2009. The series discussed the most challenging issues facing African-Americans and highlighted leaders in the community making a difference. As an African-American watching the series, I particularly identified with many of the stories and issues that were discussed, as my family, friends, and myself have all encountered similar issues. I also learned a few new things about the struggles of African-Americans in other regions of the country and felt more connected to them because I could understand their struggles. As I discussed the series with my African-American friends, they too felt a greater sense of identity and pride in their heritage as a result of seeing the series. Additionally, I discussed the series with several co-workers from other ethnicities, and we had a candid discussion about issues in the African-American community. This was the first time that our conversation had moved passed superficial workplace small talk and delved into a topic that was a little more controversial. Without that series, my co-workers and I may have never had the opportunity to discuss these topics. My co-workers truly seemed to develop a greater understanding and respect for the issues in my community. The CNN series played an essential role in informing the American society about the plight of African-Americans and opened up a public debate on these issues.

The content that the media produces is critical in enabling people to develop a mutual understanding about topics they may not otherwise contemplate, therefore societal regulations must be in place to ensure that the media content represents a diverse set of views.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meanings, global governance, and WSIS

In this week’s texts the theme was global governance, the first thing the author’s tell us is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the government is involved. Although, as SiochrĂș and Girard mention in their reading, global governance has developed into the responsibility of intergovernmental agencies, this has changed with the increasing amount of private and nongovernmental organizations that have become involved in these structures. One of these global governance structures that Marc Raboy describes in his article is the WSIS.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) concentrates on issues in global communication governance. The creation of the WSIS gives civil society a chance to express their points of view on the communication and information societies and debate with the intergovernmental international institutions that usually regulate and make the decisions on important issues. It is the first time a United Nation’s organization gives an opportunity to the civil society of participating in official conferences and meetings. Although the civil society did not have many accomplishments in the WSIS, creating the Civil Society Bureau and producing the Civil Society Declaration were two big general events and simply having a voice and being taken into consideration were important steps for these types of organizations. Also through the Civil Society Bureau they developed a very organized networks and frames of communication to keep in touch and up to date.

One of the things I found interesting in this reading is the organizations cannot come to a consensus of the meanings of some of the new terminologies that are emerging, such as: governance and the right to communicate. People and organizations have very different points of view as to what these terms should mean. For example, governance, the World Bank gives it a very antiquated, hierarchical definition and the United Nations Development Programme thinks of it as a very dynamic process which includes actors that are not necessarily governments or international institutions. Another example is ‘the right to communicate’, which was not included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because of a lack of compromise about what it entailed exactly. Some thought it included “universal access to all telecommunications” and others thought it to be all the rights that are associated with communication and new ones that will have to be created due to the emergence of new technologies and changes in communication contexts.

As we have seen, different organizations give new terminologies different definitions, depending on their point of view. Governance does not of a single meaning that everyone can agree upon, all that we know is that it includes actors that do not belong to any government.

DC Radio & Regulation

I’ve often wondered about our media structure, specifically with respect to radio. When I was working in arts marketing, public radio listeners were our target audience. While the US recognizes the value of public broadcasting, it stops short of the British model of the BBC, and places the onus on consumers themselves to guarantee that such media exists. What happens, then? Well, three years ago DC had its last dedicated classical music station – something now unheard of in many cities of its size. When its owner, broadcasting company Bonneville International, first became interested in changing its format, it took a route that these articles allude to: it took away the power of the signal. In the medium of radio, signal reigns supreme. After switching stations to a less powerful signal (subtly deemphasizing the importance of the station), WGMS experienced further set-backs and ultimately ceased operations in 2007. As marketers, we were forced to turn to the only other obvious option for advertising classical music: public radio. The heavy restrictions on advertising, however, limited our reach. In an effort to prevent blatant product promotion, public radio “advertisers” were prevented from any copy approximating “promotion” of their product. At the end of our pitches, we couldn’t so much as say “call to buy tickets”. We could merely leave a phone number and a website and hope for the best. Finally, while the best way to sell music is to sample the music itself, we were restricted from playing even the shortest of excerpts.

Does this make sense? NPR, of course, relies primarily on the support of individual donors, many of whom resent forceful advertising pitches and appreciate the more subtle spots run on public radio stations. Living in Germany provided an excellent view into a much different system of regulation with respect to media. As Thussu’s article mentions, Germany was very slow to join in on the rapid changes to media in the 80s and 90s. In fact, Germany is still markedly different from the US in terms of media: while living there, we were assessed a radio and TV usage fee, regardless of whether or not we ever used our radio and TV – we just had to own one to be required to pay the fee. This provided a reliable revenue stream for public media and prevented their programs from being dictated by advertising dollars. (Notably, Berlin had at least one dedicated classical music station, as does every other major European city, and lots of smaller ones too.)

Who has it right, then? In managing the messages, images, and thoughts of cultures around the world, there are going to be challenges to the definition of what is appropriate “societal regulation”, and furthermore, continued differences with respect to who pays to enforce such regulation.

The very first paragraph of the “Introduction to National Media Regulation” article points out a startling yet obvious fact: that media productions should “be allowed to get on with what they claim to do best – producing what people want, measured by what they will pay for?” Is this the only way to measure value? Are we smart enough to pay for that which is best for us, and if we’re not, have we only ourselves to blame?

Overall, however, these articles highlighted the remarkable synchronization of so many incredibly different nations, and their overwhelming success in maintaining a culture of cooperation with respect to global governance. Additionally, it is impressive to see the increasing role of non-governmental organizations within the global governance framework. Without neglecting the continued struggles of many forgotten nation-states, it is still impressive that many new voices are being heard through these effective and increasingly powerful organizations.

Murdoch's Media Empire

As an undergrad student, I focused heavily on International Relations - therefore I am very familiar with the attempts at Global Governance from the Congress of Vienna to the failure of the League of Nations; resulting to the creation of the United Nations at the end of World War II. I am less familiar with the new role the media plays in global governance, from reporting on the United Nations meeting this past week in New York to a network stretching across the globe under the domination of one corporation and one media tycoon. Thussu’s “Creating a Global Information Infrastructure” supplied me with the background of the media’s role in global governance, as well as a very interesting case study of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

As an avid watcher of Fox News, I was blissfully unaware of the domination of the media market by the owner of Fox News. As stated in the article, “Fox News has redefined broadcast journalism in the USA, changing the way television news is presented and framed”. Not only has News Corporation changed media in the United States, it has also changed the impact media has across the world. As telecommunications became increasingly privatized, Murdoch was able to increase his share and really develop a global presence. The case study provided by Thussu drastically increased my understanding of the impact of the market on global governance. Murdoch owns now only the Fox Network, but newspapers such as The Times and The Sun in Britain, The New York Post, Twentieth Century Fox, STAR, and HarperCollins. In some way, each of us in not only this class but across the world are informed through one of the various outlets of Murdoch’s empire. Never before has such a corporation had an extreme impact on media, but the development of global media. In a way, News Corporation is a form of global governance. Australian born, Murdoch was one of the first to recognize the growth of media in developing countries, predominately in India, Latin America, and Asia. It has developed and produced country specific channels in regional languages and has also led to regional television shows such as soap operas, and broadcasts of sports such as soccer and rugby. As Thussu states, “with television operations on four continents, News Corporation’s reach into the world’s living rooms is unequalled. Television, delivered by broadcast, cable and satellite, remains the fastest-growing part of the company”.

Fox News always receives a ‘bad rap’ from mainstream media and other critics. I have noticed not only a hostile view of Fox News in class, but from my peers and other professionals. While I am not defending the conservative slant of Fox News, I actually readily acknowledge that it exists; I am defending their impact on journalism not only in the United States but in the realm of global governance. I feel that this week’s readings have allowed me the forum to express these impacts. Recently, many in the international community have noticed a rift in the United States. Through polling, reporting, and the outreach of everyday citizens, I feel Fox News shapes the United States as having problems of our own too. This alone carries a global message as stories transfer from not just the Fox News Channel, but on Murdoch’s other media outlets. I feel that Fox News allows people who may have not been represented by mainstream media before to have an outlet to express their opinions. I feel that the Fox News Channel and Murdoch’s empire of global media allows a perhaps once silent voice to be expressed in ways that were often ignored.

Rupert Murdoch and News Corp: More than just American Idol

In this week's readings, Thussu's "Creating a Global Communication Infrastructure" piqued my interest, particularly his case study of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. While I had of course heard of Murdoch previously, I had no idea just how extensive his media empire was.

Murdoch owns more than 110 newspapers in his native Australia alone. He also owns BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting), to which more than one-third of British households subscribe, as well as the Times and the Sun, two UK newspapers with very different styles (the Times being the more serious of the two, while the Sun is famous for splashy headlines proclaiming the latest celebrity scandal). In the US, The News Corporation is most well-known to us through the Fox Network, without which we would not have such inimitable shows as The Simpsons, The X-Files, and, of course, American Idol. Here in the States, Murdoch's influence is also present in the Fox News Channel, Twentieth Century Fox movies, and the mammoth HarperCollins publishing house. The most surprising discovery for me was News Corp's presence in Asia, especially India and China, with country-specific programming like STAR Plus and Phoenix. To say Murdoch's influence is far-reaching is something of an understatement to say the least.

The News Corporation has proven itself extremely successful, thanks to the business savvy of its head. However, Murdoch has come under fire for what some perceive as conservative bias in his media's news reporting--Fox News here in the US, for example--but that hasn't seemed to affect the reach of his media empire. Fox News, for all the criticism it's attracted for the aforementioned bias, has been the top-rated cable news network for 86 months straight as of February. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/179815-Cable_News_Ratings_) Whatever Murdoch is doing, it works, bias or no bias.

I think the very reason it works is because of deregulation and liberalization in the media and telecommunications industries--the larger subject of Thussu's piece. These policies, begun largely in the 1980s by the US and the UK, have allowed private companies like News Corp to expand their global influence, and focus their efforts on reaching new markets and deepening their presence in existing ones. The News Corporation is just one example of how this deregulation impacts our daily lives. It also begs the question, what next? Is this deregulation and privatization of media and telecommunications positive or negative in the face of a globalizing economy and changing political climate?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Globalization and the Dependency Theory

Elizabeth Hanson’s discussion in chapter three about the globalization of communication was particularly interesting to me. First, she gave a technical overview of the globalization and how technologies such as fiber-optic cables, satellites, computers and the Internet have crossed borders in order to revolutionize the way nations communicate with each other. Then, she detailed how globalization has encouraged mass media conglomerates to vie for, and attempt to dominate the production and distribution of their products internationally in the “search for profits and market share.” Additionally, she discussed the obstacles that many developing countries face when attempting to diffuse Internet technologies.

This directly ties into last week’s discussion about the dependency theory. Hanson describes how developing countries are struggling to establish telecommunication systems due to financial outlays, substandard national telephone systems, insufficient and unreliable power supply and the lack of technical expertise. In an attempt to aid these developing countries, many international organizations have provided assistance to promote connectivity. However, according to the dependency theory, modernization programs will inevitably keep poor countries poor. Even though these international organizations have good intentions in helping these periphery countries develop, the periphery countries are still being exploited by the core countries and will remained trapped in their periphery status. By no means do I think that core countries should refrain from providing these countries with the assistance that they need in order to expand, I do believe that the core countries must analyze the methods in which they provide assistance and should find ways to empower these nations to take a greater role in helping themselves develop.

An example of this is when Hanson discusses the inception of satellites. She explains that satellites are valuable because they can “transmit information and telephone services to landlocked and remote places” and that “satellites provide potential access to global communication systems that would otherwise be unavailable to developing countries.” In order for the developing (periphery) countries to access this technology, they leased capacity from Intelsat, a wholesale provider of satellite communication services. Intelsat, an international consortium, originally started with nineteen industrialized (core) countries but expanded to “144 by the end of the century.” By leasing this technology from the core countries, periphery countries do indeed gain access to a valuable technology however, they ultimately remain dependent on the core countries. Additionally, the core countries are able to profit financially and gain market share. In order to escape this core-periphery relationship, countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico launched their own satellites.

Globalization of communication technology has truly revolutionized the way in which our world communicates and it will be interesting to observe how it will continue to impact the core-periphery relationships of nations.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Globalization Keeps on Spreading...

In this week’s readings, John Sinclair states, in “Globalization, Supranational Institutions, and Media” that the basis of globalization is the control of time and space, and that the media is the channel through which this control is achieved. This is why communication plays a central role in the globalization movement. Through the media we can communicate with people across the globe, through: cell phones, internet, radio, television… there are so many new forms of communication every day; it is a constantly changing and evolving area. Through these types of media is that globalization has penetrated many countries, but television has been the most influential in spreading the cultural aspect of globalization. This is how the cultural fusion or hybridity occurs. You can practically view any channel you want, no matter what country transmits it. We can see hybridity of cultures in movies and television shows, there is always some cultural aspects not only from the country of origin but from other countries and cultures as well in these programs or films, which reach a wide variety of viewers.

Sinclair also talks about Doreen Massey’s view of this movement, which I found to be very accurate. She points out that “globalization is a highly relative phenomenon, but the ideological discourse about it talks as if everyone on the planet is both participating in and benefiting from it”. I think this is true, most theorists simply assume that since globalization is being most widely transmitted by the media or some form of communication system, that everyone on earth is part of it. What about the people and countries in the world that don’t have satellite radio, that don’t have televisions with a million channels to watch, that don’t have access to the internet or do not know how to use it? Not everyone has the same opportunities to be involved in the globalization process.

Finally, globalization has its pros and cons, the appearance of global corporations, the weakened nation-states, the increase of cultural fusion, access to new technologies, to mention a few, and to keep up we must constantly change and adapt. The influences of other cultures, communicating with people from different nationalities, learning to use new technologies are all of this is part of this movement. This new phenomenon is using the media to spread its control to every inch of the globe.

India and the Outsourcing Controversy

In doing this week's readings, I found Elizabeth Hanson's discussion of India in Chapter 5, "Information Revolution, Global Economy, and Wealth" specifically her focus on offshore outsourcing. The importance of outsourcing cannot be ignored, especially in today's struggling economy and in the undeniable shift to economic globalization.

Like many of us, I have had the experience of calling a customer service line and getting computer help from someone sitting in a call center in India. My experience was pleasant: the service rep was polite, knew what my computer issue was, and spoke very good English. Even so, however, I wondered why American companies had to outsource those customer service jobs in the first place. Weren't there enough people who needed jobs here in the United States? This was a few years ago, when the controversy over outsourcing had reached a loud uproar. After the 2004 elections, that uproar seemed to die down a bit, but it resurfaced during the 2008 election cycle. I remember hearing both candidates promise to get more jobs to the U.S. instead of outsourcing to countries like India. While that was a noble intention on their part, I believe, after reading Hanson, that outsourcing is inevitable in today's globalizing economy, and certainly has its positive points. Because of advances in fiber-optic cable, many office tasks and Internet functions can be moved to countries where labor and infrastructure are much more affordable. Companies can also get more work done in a day thanks to time zone differences--Americans can pass on projects to their Indian counterparts to finish when they go home for the day and vice versa. Customer service lines are also open for additional hours--a good thing when your printer decides to start spewing paper everywhere at 11:00 PM, as you're trying to print a paper for class the next morning. (Not that this has happened to me. No. Of course not!) All in all, according to Hanson, costs are cut up to 40 percent between lower salaries and cheaper infrastructure. Especially in this economy, large American companies need to save where and when they can.

A secondary benefit of outsourcing is, of course, the jobs created for Indian IT professionals. The technology field is extremely lucrative in India because of this, and many talented young graduates are able to enter the workforce each year thanks to American outsourcing. I don't, however, believe that providing jobs in India should be the main objective of U.S. companies thinking of outsourcing. But it is an integral part of the new global economy, and providing jobs in a developing country, that will cost less than comparative positions in the U.S., is inarguably beneficial to both the company and those that get the jobs.

I think outsourcing will remain a contentious subject in years to come, especially as India's role in the world economy continues to grow. Hanson's treatment of outsourcing presents both sides of the argument, but ultimately argues (rightly, I think) that it is essential in moving the economy towards greater efficiency and productivity as we go into the second decade of the 21st century.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Globalization, leap-frogs, and Wal-Mart

This week’s articles provided a thought-provoking look into what led to globalization and how it may both benefit and hurt various groups and nation-states. From shedding light on the development of organizations like Intelsat (after years of passing their Oz-like office in Van Ness, I now know what it is!) to adding detail background to the Wal-Mart debate, both Hanson and Sinclair provided a solid framework for understanding the various players in globalization.

Hanson’s discussion of globalization notes the search for “greater efficiency and competitive advantage” by the dominant MNCs that has led to production processes being split between many countries. In many ways, this sounds incredibly efficient, and seems like a good way to draw upon the talents of individual nation-states. Indeed, she mentions later that this trend has allowed small and medium enterprises to even be considered for participation in production processes. I wondered, though, how this is affecting the overall growth of each nation. If a nation is identified as a provider of merely one step in the production process, and remains pigeon-holed into this (potentially non-skilled) step, is that really progress? Additionally, there is no mention of the environmental impact of such “efficiency”. By the time many products have been completed, various parts have been shipped from all over the globe, with little attention paid to the energy used. With artificial or subsidized energy prices, how can we really know what is going into the creation of something like a car, with parts from multiple countries?

On the other hand, I was encouraged to see the opportunities for many countries that have missed out on past technological innovations to “leap-frog” into current technologies. The cell phone provides the perfect example: without taking the time and incredible cost to install the infrastructure needed to install land lines, many nations are now able to communicate efficiently and relatively affordably through cell phones. This example is currently being pushed in other areas, too – in seeking ways to provide electricity to remote areas, environmental organizations are working to leap-frog coal and other methods and create systems of renewable energy for these villages. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, these systems can empower villages to own their own energy and be freed from energy poverty at low cost.

Finally, Marjorie Ferguson’s theory provided a realistic analysis of the advances in technologies. In short, just because something exists doesn’t mean it is useful for all groups. She acknowledges that in the cases of MNCs, bigger is not necessarily better, and in terms of TV channels, more is not necessarily better. The various theories presented throughout the articles helped show the nuance in the globalization debate, and, significantly, how various nations are working to maintain power over their role in globalization.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is technology killing our culture?

Elizabeth Hanson's chapter on The Globalization of Communication was an interesting summary of the impact different communication technologies have on globalization. What I found most interesting though was the conclusion of the chapter, "The Revolution Continues". As new technologies continue to emerge and we become immersed in webs of connectivity, I find myself asking the same question that researchers have attempted to answer in a book Hanson mentions, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. While our culture keeps evolving, I can't help wondering how not only the internet, but cell phones (blackberry and the iphone) and ipods are fundamentally transforming our culture and if this transformation is a good or bad change.

I remember the good old days of dial up internet in middle school - coming home after a long day to talk on ICQ or MSN instant messenger with friends. The internet made life easier, we could talk online instead of talking on the phone where our parents could eavesdrop on our conversations. Similar with television rules in our household, growing up my siblings and I were limited to 1 hour of internet time a day. My parents believed that while technology was beneficial, we didn't need to spend our entire day watching tv, talking on the phone, or conversing on the internet. There were many more important things that could be done - playing outside, doing schoolwork, or helping with chores. Even during my high school years these rules remained in place in regards to the internet. Then came college and hello facebook and AIM. Now the internet was a full blown necessary part of my life - keeping in touch with friends from home and making new friends at college were essential and the internet provided a way to do that. While living in the sorority house, my roommates and other sisters would AIM each other from the same room or across the hall instead of getting up to go ask them a question or share a piece of gossip. I wonder what my parents would say if they knew of the laziness that the internet brought to college life, and life in general. The first thing to do in the morning was to check facebook, and it was also the last thing to do before retiring at night. We mastered the ability to gather in one room, watch a movie, write a paper, AIM people across the hall, and facebook at the same time. What multi-taskers we became. Did we really need to spend so much of our time on the internet? Was it really a necessary part of life? Is it?

I did not receive my first cell phone until first semester of freshmen year. Why? My parents didn't think it was necessary; that's what land lines were for. It took my 65 year old grandmother convincing them that I should have a cell phone in case of emergency since I was now living 5 hours away. Even then my parents balked - so I was put on my grandparents plan. And there I reminded until my junior year (2 years ago) when my mother finally bowed to peer pressure and got a cell phone plan. Now we have moved up in the world to having unlimited texting, and my mom is grasping the concept of T9word. While this has been beneficial to my siblings and my relationship because we can now text, I don't know how beneficial being attached to a cell phone 24/7 is. My father remains anti-cell phone (but interestingly has a facebook account) and when on vacation every year, refuses to be surrounded by any form of technology. From blackberry's to Iphone's, are cell phones killing our culture slowly too?

Now I present the case of the ipod. I did not buy my ipod until last summer while interning on Capitol Hill. Riding the metro would have been unbearable I figured unless I had music. Now, people have their ipods in everywhere - on the metro, bus, walking around campus. It's the walking around campus part that disturbs me the most. I remember as a freshman and sophomore in undergrad walking down campus and talking to everyone that passed by. I noticed towards the end of my senior year that those same people had their ipods in. Goodbye saying hello to anyone or holding a conversation, we walk like robots passed each other, not even acknowledging the presence of our peers.

I do not know if I think technology is killing our culture, or furthering it. Right now, I can see the extreme negative impacts of the effects. We change our facebook or twitter status while watching TV, texting, and listening to music. Why take time to talk to someone face to face when you can text them, talk to them online, or do both at the same time? Why get out of your chair to go down the hall to talk to a sorority sister when you can just AIM her or text her? Why build a relationship on human contact when you can have an entire relationship online? I see these technologies as necessary evils and I understand their importance, especially if you are one with family not in the same country. But to those of us who are not faced with that issue, what is our excuse? Why do we spend so much time updating our facebook status and talking online instead of making plans to talk in person? These technologies have furthered our creativity in more ways than I can fathom and have also added to multiple words to our dictionary. Now I am fearing the day where I go into an interview and answer a question with "idk" because my brain has morphed from an intelligent specimen into someone who only talks in text or facebook lingo and no longer knows how to hold a conversation in person. Is that where this growth is taking us? Killing our culture, slowly, and changing it into one we barely recognize and full of people who are texting their mothers, writing on their grandmother's facebook wall, updating their status on twitter, listening to their ipod, and walking down a campus mall, never making eye contact with anyone around...because everyone only exists in their globalized communication world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diasporas in International Communication

After finishing the assigned readings for this week, the one that impacted me the most was Karim H. Karim’s, “Re-viewing the ‘National’ in ‘International Communication’: Through the Lens of Diaspora”. It impacted me, because I can relate to the points Karim makes in this reading, having recently moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. Some of the points that I found to be most important are: the linkages the media and new technologies provide diasporas with their home country and culture, the hope some diasporas hold of returning home at some point, the nomadic like migrations with the objective of obtaining better career and business opportunities, and the comfort of interacting with people you can easily relate to, from places similar to your country.

The media and new emerging technologies now allow a strong link between diasporas and their homeland. Taking the example Karim mentioned of Univision, the largest Spanish-language U.S. network and how it is also available on the majority of cable systems in Latin America. Watching Univision and Telemundo is a way of keeping contact with the Latin community. Another example is newspapers; right now I can go online and read all the headlines that were in the newspaper today in Puerto Rico, and I don’t have to wait for anyone to let me know. I can also listen to music that is playing on the radio stations and hear the headlines they give on radio talk shows, everything over the internet. Cell phones are another strong linkage to keep alive friendships, business contacts, and get in touch with family.

For many years, Puerto Rico has had a constant migratory cycle with the U.S. Puerto Ricans move to the United States to look for better jobs with more pay and a better quality of life, but most of us plan on returning some day because the cultural bond is very strong and also being away from family is hard. Not all who migrate return to the Island, but many of us do, sometimes various times during the course of our lives.

I personally think that the salad bowl analogy describes the United States better than the melting pot, because although we do acquire some of the cultural values from the American culture be it through: television broadcasting, radio, or everyday life, we still keep most of the values and traditions from our homeland. At first, it is a great culture shock and Puerto Rico is not that far away from the US and we’ve always had some kind of influence from American culture, so I can’t even begin to imagine what people from other countries go trough to adjust. It takes some time to get used to the change, that’s probably the reason why Latin Americans tend to form a very quick bond with other Latinos because of the culture similarities.

With a population that grows more diverse every day, the integration of international workers to the workforce and international businesses to the economy has become an important part of our lives nowadays. As Silvio Waisbord mentioned in “Media and the Reinvention of the Nation”, not even Hollywood is a “pure” American creation anymore. Now Hollywood has investors from all around the world, without which they wouldn’t be able to produce their films. Also now there are different cultural influences (Asian, European, and Latin American) which are reflected in the films. For this reason, international communication is very important so diversity can be managed in a efficient and beneficial manner, and taking the diasporas into consideration is an important point.

Diasporas and Elections

Karim's article on the role of a diaspora in international communication and the importance of this discussion in our field was incredibly interesting. In analyzing the communication structures in a diaspora, he touched on the importance of symbols in re-creating a sense of home. I experienced this myself while living in Germany: while my apartment building clearly existed within German borders, we often joked that when you crossed through the apartment door you were in America. This feeling wasn't because of the furniture (all German), the architecture (German, too) but rather in the areas Karim discussed: "languages, customs, art forms, arrangements of objects, and ideas." Further, when the presidential inauguration fell during a trip to Hamburg, one of our travel-mates begged to be sure the hotel broadcast was from CNN - NOT BBC. It was important to her that the commentary (however minimal) be from an "American" angle. (However authentically "American" that might have been is up for debate, as Waisbord reveals when pointing out the various international partners that work together in creating "national" media outlets. However, he does offer inaugurations as an example of something that "coordinates the life of a nation" and an event that "...put(s) the nation on a center stage (to) show cultural coordination at work.")

The American presidential inauguration example also came to mind in Cassells' article. In analyzing the globalization of issues, the existence of t-shirts that proclaimed "Germans for Obama" being worn by non-voters made more sense. Beyond acknowledging the general international interest in this election, Cassells' article made me consider which issues the international audience was considering when contemplating the U.S. presidential election. Many of the commonly discussed issues fell into the global category, specifically those Castell highlighted - management of the environment, human rights, social justice, and global security. As he discussed, the gap between where these issues arise and where they are managed is both growing and ambiguous, and the role of the global civil society and network state in addressing these issues is a fascinating developing topic. While a leader may represent one nation, there is an increasing expectation that global issues will be addressed. The question is, will it be politicians or "network-states" that solve these issues?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Analysis Question #1- Political Economy

Thussu describes the political-economy approach as the “underlying structures of economic and political power.” Although recently there has been a shift from analyzing the political economy to analyzing the cultural aspects of communication and media, I believe that political economy concerns are still relevant in the discussion of international communication. Within the Marxist theory, political economy focuses on the “commodification of communication” which looks at how those in power use mass media to produce and distribute material. Additionally, it focuses on how the audience consumes the material they are given. Many may argue that with the development of new media technology, people are able to reach out across national boundaries to communicate with each other, therefore, it is no longer necessary to analyze how those in power influence political economy. However, in many countries economic and political power still remain restricted to a “tiny unrepresentative elite” and eventually those in power will develop ways to use new media technology to legitimize their political establishments. For example, in the weeks leading up to 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Chinese internet users were denied access to sites such as: Blogger, Flickr, Twitter, Livejournal, Tumblr, the Huffington Post and Microsoft's Live.com, Hotmail, and Bing. This is a perfect example of how a nation-state controlled the distribution of new media technology in an effort to control communication between people of nation-states. With the economic growth of nations like China, who have the potential to influence the emerging global ‘knowledge society,’ we must continue to analyze the political economy approach in order to understand the way these dominate nations will influence international communication.

Analysis Response

Thussu describes the political economy approach of theorizing international communication as “the underlying structures of economic and political power relations”. The political economy approach focuses on the question of power – who has it, how it is exercised, and how it shapes communication within a nation and the various groups that compose the nation. Karl Marx, proponent of communism, saw international communication as an attempt by the ruling elite to manage and control all facets of communication. The political economy approach was applicable when nation-states controlled international relations and those nation-states did not allow much communication or rights to be exercised by the people. Due to the changing style of communication and invention of new technologies that government and ruling elite can not control, IC researchers need to develop alternate questions regarding theorizing international communication.
New media technologies – Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Youtube have aided in the development of horizontal communication between people of nation-states, whereas communication between these nation-states used to only be exercised vertically from the rulers to the people, or between the leaders of various nations. Ultimate power still rests with the government, but much of that power has now been given to the people. An example of this is terrorist organizations who operate trans-nationally and not within a specific territory. Terrorists make videos that can be seen on the internet, and these videos are not under the control of the government of the nation in which these videos are being watched. The Pakistani government does not control the communication of terrorist groups within its borders. A second example is the Iranian revolution. The government controlled all legal forms of communication within the country, but information about election fraud and people’s outrage were spread through new media sources that the government could not control.
One alternative approach to the political economy theory of international communication is the cultural studies also discussed by Thussu. In this theory, communication and media create values and meanings that can be spread across cultures. Facebook is one of these tools that can be utilized with this approach. Facebook has created its own place in the media spotlight – as news anchors, talk show hosts, and media outlets use it to post questions, gain feedback, and spread their message across national boundaries. This type of communication can not be controlled through the typical political economy approach, as government officials do not exercise control of the message anymore. The impact of Facebook and similar technologies on international communication need to be further evaluated. Similar theories should be the focus of IC researchers, as technology and the role of communication in the nation-state continue evolving.

The United States: A Country of "Diasporas"

Of the various readings this week, Karim H. Karim's "Through the Lens of Diaspora" struck a cord with me. The United States is viewed as melting pot or a salad bowl, and how we became whichever of these terms you believe revel ant, is through the various Diasporas that have migrated here over the past hundreds of years. While the term Diaspora was originally referred to the Jewish migration out of Israel, it now refers to a growing list of ethnic communities that have left their "homeland" or geographic location to settle elsewhere. These Diaspora's vary in their level of connectivity to their original nation, leading Karim to make the argument that "transnational communication [is] affording individuals and groups the ability increasingly to remain in contact across countries and continents". Often, groups remain very connected to their heritage, while others attempt to fully assimilate into the "American" way of life. These Diaspora's lend themselves to an important part of the American political landscape and the American culture.

My last name, McCullough, is Scottish for "son of wild boar slayer" (I know, you are very jealous right now). My ancestry is composed mainly of German and Scottish peoples, with dashes and sprinklings of Native American thrown in for good measure. The German and English migrants can be argued to have fully acclimated into American life. While I am German, my family does not cook German food, celebrate holidays in typical German fashion, or even really know much about our own heritage. There is no push from political parties to win the "German" or "Scottish" vote, and there is not a strong connection between German-Americans and the country of Germany. It can be argued that German-Americans are not really German-Americans, but our rather just Americans due to the fact that most of us have lost any connection to our country and ancestry of origin.

As Karim discusses, the most well known Diaspora is the outpouring of Jewish people from Israel and other European countries following World War II. Unlike those of German or Scottish heritage, those of Jewish heritage maintain a very strong tie to their homeland. These strong ties have manifested themselves within every characteristic of the American political landscape. With strong lobby groups, including the most well known, AIPAC, political parties strive to win the Jewish vote. The American-Israel alliance is arguably one of the strongest, and this is only influenced further by the strong connection Jewish-Americans have to Israel. Jewish-Americans have probably not fully assimilated into American culture, as they maintain a strong relationship with their home country.

One of the largest Diaspora's is still occurring right now - the migration of immigrants from Mexico into the United States. Some of these are legal, some are illegal. This stresses the point that Karim makes, "Governmental systems have resisted the accommodation of people without fixed addresses". While we encourage legal immigration, we do not encourage illegal immigration. Most of these migrants have also not fully adapted the American lifestyle, clinging to their heritage and their home country. However, they have integrated into the American political system very well and there is always a debate between the political parties of who is going to win the Hispanic vote.

One of the founding principles of our country is the acceptance of other cultures and peoples that have migrated here through Diaspora's. While this enriches our culture in various ways, it continues to fragment our culture. Especially recently, differences continue to be the focal point, rather than the similarities that may unite us. Instead of uniting various cultures, they continue to be divided as people attach hyphenated names to the word American. We will never think of ourselves as just Americans, everyone will always think of themselves as whatever their hyphenated affiliation is + American.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Media's Important Role on 9/11

I read Silvio Waisbord's "Media and the Reinvention of the Nation" on Friday, which was the eighth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. While I hadn't been reading the piece with the attacks in mind, one portion of Waisbord's piece led me to bridge my memory of the attacks with his ideas about media and national identity.

He states that "If nations require collective experiences and shared memories, the media offer a suitable environment and resources to nurture national identities." Viewed from the tragic perspective of 9/11, I think this statement really resonates. We all watched the horrific events of that day unfold via the media. Most of us were in school that day, sitting numbly at our desks as we saw the plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The television media became a reluctant window for the country and the world to see the towers collapse, the smoke unfurling in thick clouds from the Pentagon. Americans sat open-mouthed in shock as the world changed in front of their eyes.

I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school on 9/11. Prior to that day I had thought of history as something that came to life through books or through other (older) people's experiences. Not mine. But as I watched people covered in dust running away from lower Manhattan, I knew that I was watching history being made, and the media was bringing that history to me. Waisbord echoes this in venturing that " 'Media events' are examples of those experiences, moments when the daily lives of entire nations come to a full stop to watch or listen to the same event." My parents had told me what it was like when President Kennedy was assassinated--everyone was glued to their TVs, disbelieving, but united in that disbelief through the common experience of watching the events on national television. I think the same thing happened on 9/11. When I went home from school later that day, the streets were eerily empty, and they stayed that way for the next few days. Everyone was inside watching TV, feeling a multitude of emotions, but for certain united in their grief. I think that the presence of the media was an essential part of uniting Americans on 9/11 and the immediate aftermath. Without the media, both print and broadcast (I'm sure the Internet played a role as well, although at 15 I still got most of my news from the newspaper and TV; also, blogs and forums weren't as developed as they are today), we wouldn't have had such a common experience of the attacks.

As much as we would wish otherwise, the 9/11 attacks are a part of our national identity. They are part of who we are as Americans. I would venture that the vast outpouring of patriotism after the attacks--flags on lawns, "God Bless America" stickers on cars--might not have been as profound if it weren't for the role of the media. We knew that everyone had experienced that day through the same mediums as we had. Although our personal reactions to 9/11 may have varied--there are a plethora of emotions associated with that day, and we all have different recollections of how we first learned of the attacks--we all lived it by watching TV, reading the newspaper, or going online. On 9/11, the media brought us together as a nation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Theorizing International Communication

Thussu’s “Approaches to Theorizing International Communication” discusses several theories of communication that reflected the concerns of the time in which they were developed. These theories are the free flow of information, modernization, dependency, structural imperialism, hegemony and critical. In particular, I found the modernization, dependency and structural imperialism theories to be the most profound in illustrating how the Western states attempt to influence developing countries and its people through communication.

The modernization theory, which strived to promote development in the Third World, utilized international mass communication to spread the Western economical and political models to newly independent countries in the south. Thussu states that exposing southern countries to events in a far-off place made them reassess their traditional way of life “and made them aspire to a new and modern way of life.” I believe that this theory might have actually had the reverse effect and made the southern countries embrace their traditional values even more after witnessing events in modern societies. Last week’s reading, “The Historical Context of International Communication,” discussed the SITE case study which was a project that attempted to bring about behavioral changes among the rural developing communities and help them reject traditional social attitudes which were seen as antithetical to the goals of modernization.” The project was unsuccessful because TV programming played a limited role in changing the behavior among its audience and instead resulted in indifference towards the medium as well as the message itself. Similarly, I believe that the messages spread by Western states as described by the theory of modernization, played a minimal role in influencing the independent countries in the south.

The dependency theory stated that development initiatives by transnational corporations (TNCs) in developing countries were “shaped in a way to strengthen the dominance of the developed nations and to maintain the ‘peripheral nations in a position of dependence.” Structural imperialism states that there is “a harmony of interest between the core of the centre nation and the centre in the periphery nation” and the core nation maintains its dominance over the periphery nations with the help of the periphery nation’s core. Additionally, the vertical principle states that relationships are asymmetrical from the more developed state to the less developed state and the feudal principal states that there is no interaction from one periphery nation to another. After reading this, I immediately pondered to what lengths, if any, the core countries go to ensure that there is no cooperation among the feudal states. Or perhaps, the feudal states simply make no attempt to connect with other feudal states because they believe they have no influence on the global market.

Although these theories were developed to reflect the sentiments of the time in which they were developed, they all highlight important methods developed states used to control the flow of information in developing states.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Communication between Developed and Developing Countries

While reading the Overview of Harold Innis, what he calls the time-biased media and the space-biased media seemed to have a very strong connection with the dependency theory Thussu mentions in, Approaches to Theorizing International Communication. Based on the explanation of the dependency theory there are two types of nations: the developed nations or centre nations which try to implement new necessities in the peripheral nations or the developing nations, for as to create a dependent relationship and at the same time control the peripheral nations. The example Thussu used was how the countries in the South created a dependency towards the hardware and software of communication and media from the Western (developed) countries like the United States.

Harold Innis states that there are two types of media, the time-biased media that encourages such things as the maintenance of traditions and cultures through time by mediums like speech. In contrast with, the space-biased media which travels long distances and encourages the expansion of empires by mediums, such as paper.

Relating the dependency theory to these types of media, the time-biased media would be used by the peripheral countries which have a very defined culture because of the knowledge and traditions that have been and continue to be passed down from generation to generation. The space-biased media, is utilized by the developed nations that transmit their communication media and with it their particular lifestyles, ways of thinking, and culture to the developing countries.

By imparting their ways of thinking through the media towards the developing nations, the developed nations gain control of the peripheral nations, and these create a dependence on the developed nations. This statement also coincides with one of the definitions of communication James Carey gives us in A Cultural Approach to Communication; he says “communication is the transmission of signals or messages over distance for the purpose of control”. All three authors agree that the developed nations are using communication as a way of controlling the developing countries.

Inconsistent Policies or Inconsistent Communication about Policies?

As we draw near the eighth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I found Gary Weaver's A Personal Reflection of the development of International Communication very pertinent. As an undergrad, I was very focused on International Relations and never considered the importance or impact of communication about International Relations. It was not until I took a course in Intercultural Communication that I realized the role of Communication in International Relations.

Many researchers have attempted to explain why Islamic extremists hate American culture with such a passion. It is not hard to see why: Americans thrive in a culture that defies the ordinary: success can be gained through hard work, determination, and straight up will to succeed. How we communicate that with the rest of the world is what causes problems and issues in regards to foreign policy and decision making. Many argue that the Bush Administration took it a step to far in the wrong direction, focusing on demonstrating the strength of the American culture through military might and other means (which in turn reminds me of President Teddy Roosevelt sending the Great White Fleet around the world to showcase America's naval superiority). However, I can argue that the Obama Administration has hurt our standing in the world just as much. While giving a speech to the Muslim World in Egypt is a good idea in hindsight, it has given the wrong impression to many. As Americans, we are proud of our hard work, determination, and success and feel that a president apologizing for all of our past actions does not correctly communicate the importance of our standing in the world. It is a sketchy line when it comes to International Communication...do we "beef" up our branding of ourselves in the world, or do we diminish it to make us appear "more like everyone else"? Should we be proud of our culture, success, and the differences that make us stand out, or should we shy away from pointing them out to other countries as though we should apologize for being great? This is a line that all Presidential administrations attempt to define in their own way along their own ideological terms. Is their a right way or wrong way to communicate American culture in terms of achieving foreign policy goals? While our democracy is enriched through the differences and the direct participation of the people, I almost feel that in order to accomplish foreign policy goals it is necessary to have a streamlined, non-changing approach to foreign policy, and not one that changes every four to eight years.

I grasp the fact the International Relations is a dynamic, changing discipline and the approach taken to it is based upon current events, I just wonder if it would benefit our standing in the world and take out the uncertainties present if our government settled on specific International Communication strategies to convey our foreign policy agenda more consistently. Right now, the Obama administration has opened a can of worms in a probe regarding terrorists interrogations used under the Bush Administration. Ignoring our own political leanings, whatever they may be, what message does that communicate to our foreign policy allies and foes? If the next administration investigates the Obama's administration's techniques, we change our message in the international arena again. This appears to be an unsolvable question to an unsolvable problem, but once nonetheless that should be considered and evaluated. I do not have the answers, I do not even know where to begin about discovering such answers. I do however feel that such a conversation should be taking place among the International Relations and International Communication scholars in the United States foreign policy arena, especially as we look back on the attacks of September 11th in just a few short days.

Images in Media

I read Carey's article first this week and have been thinking about his comparison between the "transmission view" and "ritual view" of communication for the past few days. Earlier this week, when a media furor erupted over the publishing of photos showing fatally-wounded Marine Joshua Bernard, I wondered how these theories could be applied to the various reactions to the photos. Based on Carey's analysis, responses to this issue go beyond a partisan response (while even party leaders contend that their support of or opposition to the photos is not a political issue).

Is it that we have grown to expect a certain kind of "appropriate" information from our newspapers that we find these photos so shocking? That we have grown accustomed to being shielded from the most upsetting views of war in our mainstream media that we resent their appearance in our living rooms while we experience our morning "ritual" of news-reading? Some societies are more accustomed to this type of communication. My sister reminded me of the shock she experienced when living in Mexico, where stories on murderers were accompanied by full-color pictures of the victims - post-attack. In the US, however, unaccustomed as we are to this type of communication, do these photos assist in making these events more real? In the case of war photos, I'd venture that they do - that they go beyond having mere shock-value and remind us of the authenticity and human cost of our on-going involvement in war.

Carey goes on to discuss how "news is a historic reality. It is a form of culture invented by a particular class at a particular point of history..." In our current reality, does war not include the death of American military? (February's announcement that the media can now print photos of fallen soliders - with permission from the family - changes then President George H.W. Bush's 1991 restriction wherein "the media has been barred from photographing the flag-draped caskets of about 3,850 U.S. servicemembers killed in action since 2001."

Do we really want to look at these photos? Maybe not, but perhaps more accurately, should we, in creating a more accurate reality, at least have access to these photos? Much like Carey's example of drawing a map to provide the most accurate symbol for relaying directions to a child, do photos provide the closest "symbolic form" with which we can understand events occurring across an ocean? Or by looking at them are we reducing "news" to simply "drama"?

I went on to read Thussu's history of the many men who have influenced international communication theory (yes, all men - thankfully Gary Weaver's article acknowledged Margaret Mead's role) and was interested in and also shocked by how "politically incorrect" many of these theories now seem. I wondered if many of the theorists were simply acknowledging what they believed to be the trends in international communication, or if they believed things should also be that way.

Finally, Harold Innis' assertion that stable societies were a result of an effective balance between time and space based media seemed especially relevant, especially in this period of explosive growth of new - and often temporary - media. In a time of expanding types of communications technologies, his assertion cautions us not to neglect the more permanent expressions of communication as we work to maintain a stable society.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Fellowship of Communication

Among this week's readings, James Carey's "A Cultural Approach to Communication" really struck a chord with me. I admit that before I read his piece, I thought of communication in the transmissive sense: defined as "imparting, sending, transmitting, or giving information to others." I liked his explanation of how this definition developed in relation to geographical distance and the spread of empire (which of course hearkens back to last week's readings about the historical basis of communication). I also liked the way he connected transmissive communication to the American experience--movement in space to leave the old world and discover the new, which we kept doing via westward expansion all through the nineteenth century. Our previous readings haven't presented the study of communication from the American perspective, and it was useful to link its definition with our country's history.

Carey rightly recognizes, however, that the transmission definition of communication is not a complete one. He presents a second definition--a ritual view of communication--that really piqued my interest because of the way he integrates religion.

I survived sixteen-plus years of Catholic school, including four years at a Jesuit college, and we naturally did a lot of talking and writing about religion and faith. Carey states that the ritual definition of communication is "the maintenance of society in time; [...] the representation of shared beliefs." I found this view very easy to relate to, having learned quite a bit over the years about the ritual of the mass and the roots of fellowship, both of which he touches on later in his explanation. He compares ritual communication to "the sacred ceremony which draws persons together in fellowship and commonality." While this view is not overtly religious (nor should it be, in order to win acceptance in a secular society), it does favor the more personal, the inner workings of us as individuals and as members of society. For example, I appreciated Carey's example of how the act of reading a newspaper is very different in the ritual view than in the transmissive view. Newspapers in the transmissive definition are seen as conveying and imparting information to readers, and not much more. In the ritual view, on the other hand, Carey compares newspaper reading to "attending a mass, a situation in which nothing new is learned but in which a particular view of the world is portrayed and confirmed." I never would have compared reading the Washington Post, or any other newspaper, to attending a mass, but upon reflection I agreed that he has something here. When we read the paper, we actively participate in and experience the emotions of the stories' subjects, whether it's the happiness that comes from our favorite sports team's victory or the heartbreak of a family who lost one of its members in a Middle East bomb strike. We are integral parts of our society through the shared medium of news, and communication as a whole. We share our lives with each other through that medium, not unlike the ritual of being at a mass or other religious service and sharing fellowship with others.

News as a form of communication connects us to other people on a very personal level, and in reading it (or watching it, as the case may be), we participate in a fellowship of being human. Language, the basis of human communication, makes this fellowship possible; without it, our world would cease to exist.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Information Revolution

This week’s reading on the Origins of the Information Revolution by Elizabeth Hanson provides a great overview of the different technological innovations that have impacted the way society communicates over long distances. From the printing press to broadcasting, these technologies have revolutionized the way in which we communicate and share information across borders. Hanson does an excellent job in explaining how each of the technologies (printing press, telegraph, telephone, and broadcasting) play a role in disseminating information domestically and internationally.

One of the more interesting points that was highlighted in the chapter is the discussion of how domestic programming, in particular newscasts, “helped to shape images of other countries and interpretations of international events, providing a potential influence on individual opinions about foreign policy and conceptions about world politics.”

If I had to expand Hanson’s list of technological innovations to include modern day technologies, I would add Internet-based technologies such as social networking sites, blogs etc. There is no denying that many of us, myself included, use these mediums to gather information, spread ideas, and influence the way our friends, family and people in our social circle think about an issue. This has allowed individuals to directly influence each other’s opinions more than any other time in history. Therefore, as we utilize these technologies we must be responsible in making sure that the information we disseminate is accurate (although “accurate” can be a relative term).

Not to be left out, the government is beginning to take a more active role in utilizing these mediums as well. For example, the U.S. State Department currently has accounts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a social networking site on its own web server. This will allow the State Department to play a more active role in directly influencing the opinions of individuals on its own terms.

As more people seek internet-based networking sites to access information, and governments increase their efforts to shape public opinion through these mediums, broadcast (radio and television) will, if not already, become an obsolete way to shape public opinion.