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.

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