Sunday, September 26, 2010
The proposed media conglomerate would reach viewers in 200 countries and boasts of being the leader in multicultural programming (NBC). The companies are waiting for final approval from the FCC to complete the merger between the telecommunication-oriented Comcast and the film and television programming of NBC Universal. The media conglomerate would become one of the largest media companies in the United States, and arguably the world.
In our readings, Hanson discussed the merging of media conglomerates and how it connects communications and economics: “This trend toward consolidation and vertical integration follows market logic, providing multiple opportunities for cross-promotion and for recycling of material produced for one channel or one medium in another” (Hanson). Hanson goes on to say that these media conglomerates, with their production and distribution power, could possibly create the potential for American and Western cultural dominance in the world.
On the other hand, she argued that local and regional media, with their “linguistic and cultural affinities,” compete with the globalizing trend in communications. Globalization of communications and the media industry is not having as big as an impact as would be expected. “Regional channels, broadcasters, networks, production centers, and news exchange agencies have multiplied, significantly changing the media landscape, especially in the developing world” (Hanson). She gives the examples of STAR TV in Asia, India, Middle East, and Latin America as regions where local media have a stronger foothold than other global satellite options.
Sinclair also discussed the trend of convergence of satellite and telecommunications industries and how these companies would benefit from lax economic regulations of the trade service as enforced by the WTO and nation-specific rules:
“… the global media companies with the greatest size, complexity, and profile have been built on the basis of the media industries themselves. The rapid growth of these entities over the closing decades of the past century needs to be understood in terms of the ideological and structural shift toward privatization and economic liberalization of trade and investment that characterized this era, as well as a range of technological developments, particularly the trend to the convergence of media with telecommunications.”
Sparks, on the other hand, argued that the media as an industry is nowhere near as important as other key industrial sectors: auto, aviation and petrochemicals, and since the media industry and media products are not as “economically important” as the production of physical commodities, it has not yet reached the “primary conditions for globalization.” Although the companies are large and profitable, “they are not exceptionally large by the standards of contemporary capitalism.” (Sparks)
Sparks argued against the significance of globalization in communications and its impact on culture. “The evidence appears to contradict the globalization paradigm with respect to the centrality of the mass media and their uniquely global character.” (Sparks) However, Sparks himself contends that cultural products (i.e. Hollywood films, TV dramas, and some magazines) can be sold in various countries with little changes. This would seem to coincide with the theories of cultural globalization, which is affected by global economic policies.
Unfortunately, the strengthening of private ownership of the media industry is diminishing the sense of public service responsibilities that the global media used to employ. The rise in the commercialization of communications plays impacts the globalization trends in distribution. Sinclair argued that the “defining abstract principle behind globalization” was the ability to control time and space. “The media are central to this control, not only for their technological transcendence of space and time as such but also for the interconnectedness inherent in communications, especially in their capacity to give individuals access to global networks” (Sinclair).
Access to global communication networks is a direct effect of globalization, and the globality of the communication industry is a result of the liberalization of economic policies. Thus, economics will always play a role in the global media industry, connected to culture, influencing the rise of regional and geoethnic media systems.
NBC Universal and Comcast “Joint Venture Fact Sheet.” http://www.comcast.com/nbcutransaction/about.html
Elizabeth Hanson “The Globalization of Communication” (ch.3) from The Information Revolution and World Politics (2008)
______The Information Revolution, the Global Economy, and the
Redistribution of Wealth.” (ch.5).
John Sinclair “Globalization, Supranational Institutions and the
Media” in The SAGE Handbook of Media Studies, pp. 65-82. (2004) (BLACKBOARD)
Colin Sparks “What’s Wrong with Globalization” Global Media and Communication 2007; 3; 133
Friday, September 24, 2010
“Don't believe them for a moment, or a second. Do not believe, my friend. When you are down them are not coming, with a helping hand. Of course, there is no us and them, but them they do not think the same.” (Gogol Bordello, Illumination)
It's fair to say that many people in the world have been exposed to some form of Disney product. It could be an animated classic, one of the many tv shows or one of the theme parks scattered around the globe. Much has been written about how Walt Disney started the trend of taking a European story and modifying it to an American audience. On page 14 of our Sparks reading, he dives into the "universal American spin" concept that we seem to give to almost any story that crosses our borders. A lot of the time, the message Disney puts into the movie is wholly an American one--pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go get that Prince (or let him rescue you), because the whole world and your stepmother is against you! Or something thereabouts. The bad guy is always bad, the good guy (or girl) is always good, and unlike life, there's no ambiguity. Disney packaged the message we like to hear and see and exported it abroad. I would argue that it was not just selling a commercial product that someone can chose whether or not s/he wants to purchase, it was exporting our American ideals and culture.
We read in Spark's paper that if something is made to be commercialized, then having it be modified (a la Winnie the Pooh) for a target audience isn't really a bad thing. But with the world getting smaller and people becoming ever more protective of their cultures, traditions and values, will companies like Disney feel that it's okay to continue to push commercial products or animated features that offend? And what about reversing the situation? Hamas uses a Micky Mouse look-alike to deliver their message that Israel and the US are evil-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8fRMqWOBuM. If you so much as spit on the pavement in Disneyland they'll reign fire down on you, and yet I don't see Disney taking on Hamas over intellectual property infringement(but for some reason I think it'd be really cool if they did). Mickey's icon status, created by Walt Disney in the 1930s, reached so far that it's now being used against the US.
The class discussion and reading made me wonder what our national brand is and what we're doing with it as the world becomes increasingly globalized. When other countries see us, will the see a set of ideals and values we try live by or do they see a Nike swoosh, the cast of "Friends", a Ford Mustang, Mickey Mouse or another Disney Princess? With globalization making the world seem more crowded, more accessible, and smaller, people will undoubtedly identify us with what our companies export abroad. If you caught last night's premier episode of "Outsourced" this came up a few times. Along with typical, cringe inducing, cross cultural moments, the general assumption about American culture was also steeped in stereotypes. If we want to be more efficient in our communication with people across borders, we need to see and pay attention to, what our other have is exporting too.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
What I can deduce from this web of confusion is that the most important feature of a nation is the physical space. While the actual location of the space may not have any bearing on the nation, it is important that the group of people be together, and have ideas in common that binds them over time. You cannot be a one man nation, can you?
I think “well, I don’t agree with her at all, but her view of America, what it stands for and what it means to be ‘American’, is threatened. And that’s a discouraging problem.” I think the same thing when I see this picture
Only switch out America and American for Swiss. Some cultural similarities stop at a country's border, but fear and manipulative imagery has no boundary.
We’re fortunate to live in an era where most of us are literate, and have the capacity to be well informed. The problem I see is that in order to reinforce what we hold dear to us, we use our country and what it’s ideals are as a to isolate or invalidate those who disagree with us. I’m somehow ‘un-American’ if I think taxes help oil the machine that I rely on. I’m not a “real American” because I’m from California and therefore am obviously an out of touch liberal. Not only do some people use Nationalism to set us apart from other countries, but we’re increasingly using it against ourselves. Historically, America and being American, is something that evolved and changed as each wave of immigrant group, each invention, and each policy decision happened. Wanting to dig in our heels and stop being a part of an increasingly global 21st century is like boxing a glacier—impossible and tiring. We also don’t have to jump in whole-heartedly, as inevitably, this is the direction our past and present is taking us. But in the meantime, people around the world and in the States use media to broadcast their message, trying to support one idea over the other, via newspaper, internet or cable tv stations in the hopes of accomplishing…what exactly? Waisbord stresses the importance of understanding media's role in Nationalism. Currently, the people that run the media know that the public is increasingly only choosing to view/read/listen to one message or voice (like Fox vs. MSNBC) so for example, instead of doing what journalists do—inform—they filter and interpret, taking the thought process away from the viewer/reader.
It’s understandable that an increasingly smaller and globalized world can be a startling and scary thing. No one wants to lose their identity or culture. The more aware we are of others, their beliefs and their culture, the more we become aware of our own. We become protective of it, although sometimes without understanding what it even is, because we fear the unknown that change often brings. Being proud of, and in love with, a country is fine. Each country has an amazing history, rich culture and traditions that bring people together, and something that it can offer the rest of the world. But Nationalism brought on by fear of losing that uniqueness, and carried to far by mass media and broadcast all over the world, can cause others to fear where the sentiment may lead.(This is a good example: ) We have much to be proud of in this country, but wanting to be at the top carries a certain responsibility, I think, not to make the rest of the world afraid of patriotic sentiment. One doesn’t have to become a Globophile, as Waisbord mentioned, or a Globophobe, but we have to be conscientious of the messages we broadcast around the globe, the countries and people that share it with us, and our role in effectively communicating our pride.
And if you’re not doing anything October 30, I can’t resist a plug: http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com
|Ekbar's Facebook Profile Picture|
As a nonsequitur, but relevant to the study of communication, here is an article on the power of text messaging from worldlingo.com.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Due to the China’s state-controlled media and censorship of Internet content, media globalization has not affected China the same way it has affected other nations. Determining whether or not media globalization lessens or increases a population’s sense of nationalism is difficult to determine. Media globalization could possibly reaffirm people’s sense of nationalism due to the accentuation of differences found in the media; or, it could influence a heightened sense of cosmopolitanism by exposing people to pluralistic cultures.
Does China’s state controlled media promote a greater sense of nationalism in its citizens? It would be difficult to study this situation in China due to the government’s censorship of media and intimidation of uncooperative journalists (Council of Foreign Relations). One is left to assume that China’s sense of nationalism remains high due to the constant exposure of nationalistic narrative and symbols and limited access to global opinion and dialogue.
Many journalists in China adhere to self-censorship in order to avoid being hassled by the government (CFR). China sees the west’s various media portrayals of the Asian nation as false narratives and myths, and its communication infrastructure perpetuates a vision of nationalism.
Thomas L. Friedman’s column on Wednesday, “Power to the (Blogging) people,” speaks directly to the connection between media and ideas on nationalism.
“With an estimated 70 million bloggers, China’s leaders are under constant pressure now to be more assertive by a populist- and nationalist-leaning blogosphere, which, in the absence of democratic elections, is becoming the de facto voice of the people,” wrote Friedman.
Apparently the bloggers are encouraging a deep sense of nationalism, and holding their leaders accountable to any “pro-American” stance, which they deem unacceptable.
Friedman relates the story of the Chinese government exerting its power during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Yang Jiechi, China’s foreign minister, claimed China’s control over the South China Sea ignoring the other nations present as well as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Friedman discussed the issue with a blogging expert in China, who said that the widespread sense of nationalism among Chinese bloggers is the result of their education:
“China for the first time has a public sphere to discuss everything affecting Chinese citizens,” explained Hu Yong, a blogosphere expert at Peking University. “Under traditional media, only elite people had a voice, but the Internet changed that.” He added, “We now have a transnational media. It is the whole society talking, so people from various regions of China can discuss now when something happens in a remote village — and the news spreads everywhere.” But this Internet world “is more populist and nationalistic,” he continued. “Many years of education that our enemies are trying to keep us down has produced a whole generation of young people whose thinking is like this, and they now have a whole Internet to express it.”
Despite the innovation of communication technology, China is able to censor and control the media, which perpetuates the strength of it national culture and identity.
CFR – Council on Foreign Relations “Media Censorship in China.” 27 May 2010
New York Times article:
Friday, September 10, 2010
Weaver showed support for the fact that Cross Cultural Communication training helps reduce the dropout rate for government and businesses alike, saving time and money and increasing efficiency. In the past 50 years, it’s become increasingly obvious how international communications must be linked with international relations and international economics. It has also become clearer just how much our communication can impact cultures all over the world. In some cases, as Margaret Mead’s study concluded, what communication technology we introduced was absorbed, giving people knowledge or opportunities they did not have before. In other cases it was rejected (the radio was the example, and if the battery ran out, well, it’ll be a lovely box the children can play with) or it destroyed. Weaver explains that many people outside of the US, view modernization as “Americanization,” which should give us reason to pause when we eagerly wish to impart our technological advances and democratic ideals to developing countries.
With all our knowledge about other cultures and how they mix or stay separate, we should have a greater understanding of how important our culture becomes to us. Of course, there is no “We Are the World” moment, because globalization makes people more protective of their own culture and increases their awareness of it, but it can also increase our ability to see beyond ourselves and our borders. The unfortunate flip side, Weaver notes, is that the more one absorbs about the world, the increased chance there is that fear will be a likely outcome. Samuel Huntington’s Clash of the Civilizations is a good example of this. His fear of multiculturalism brings to light people’s confusion about how presently the United States is walking the line between assimilation and acculturation—being absorbed wholly or keeping both cultures (speaking English in the public sphere, and Spanish in the private sphere, for example).
Because our cultural differences don’t disappear upon contact or after extended periods of exposure, our need to understand and effectively communicate comes in to play. And the focus must be on communicating with people. Our solutions might be great for some ideas, but not necessarily for all, which is why Weaver ends by suggesting that the US needs to listen and contemplate input from other countries in order to move forward successfully.
James Carey in particular offers two different historical understandings of communication: transmission and ritual. Transmission centers on space and transmitting “signals or messages over distance for the purpose of control.” On the other hand, ritual focuses on time and the “maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs.”
Concentrating on the social aspects of the act of communicating, we learn how time and space methods contribute to maintaining the social status quo and promoting a social hierarchy, aka the prevailing image of how the world should work. The images or stories the media delivers to society communicates the reality of social order and how individuals identify themselves – gender roles, racial roles, supervisor, teacher, etc.
In his article, James Carey discusses how society (usually the middle class) creates historical reality and news as a cultural form, driving the “hunger for experience” that the news provides.
“This ‘hunger’ itself has a history grounded in the changing style and fortunes of the middle class and as such does not represent a universal taste or necessarily legitimate form of knowledge but an invention in historical time, that like most other human inventions, will dissolve when the class that sponsors it and its possibility of having significance for us evaporates.”
The proliferation of information technologies is highly dependent on the middle class and what it sees as important to their lives. The radio, TV, Internet, and mobile phones became popular and widespread due to social group perpetuated their importance. Each of these technologies drastically changed the way people communicate and exchange information as well as defining social norms.
In class we discussed how Facebook fits into this social aspect of communication. According to a recent Washington Post article, Internet users now spend more time “socializing” on Facebook than on any of Google’s sites. Clearly Facebook is a ritualistic way that people are communicating today. It represents a maintained act of communication, a medium for a different way to interface, becoming a social structure in itself in which people identify themselves and their community.
Carey would probably agree that Facebook has radically influenced social aspects of communication in the same way it has also continued to promote social hierarchy, as it is predominantly a tool of the middle class.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Our readings largely dealt with the history of new communication strategies, how new technologies affected people who were directly and indirectly in contact with them, and laws governing how the technology will be used.
As far back as ancient times, roads were the main venues of communication. These roads transmitted orders from the heads of government, all the way down to travelling traders, spreading culture, ideas, and goods. Now, the information highway has led us to abundant use of cell phones and internet to communicate with one another.
The entire purpose of new and better technology is self-explanatory. It’s new and better. Not only that, but it also streamlines communication. The world is shrinking due to increased capabilities—people no longer have to wait days, weeks, or even months for information to get to its destination. That’s no longer the case. However, increasing the ability for people across the world to communicate with one another also increases the need for states to attempt to control this information movement.
In the United States, the basic freedoms as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution allow for freedom of speech, press, and association; in addition, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches. The communication between cell phones and between internet search engines and their servers, by a literal interpretation of these amendments, should not be searched without probable cause, nor should language be censored. However, many will argue that for national security reasons, this still occurs. Because the United States enjoys these freedoms, it is the belief of many that these rights are universal rights.
In late January 2010, Hilary Clinton’s gave a speech on internet freedom in conjunction to addressing the then-recent earthquake in Haiti. Referencing a saved woman and child’s life—due to their ability to send an emergency text message while trapped underneath cement rubble—Clinton expounds upon the idea of information as a basic necessity. In addition, Clinton looks to private corporations who conduct business internationally; Clinton warns countries that limiting access to information hinders growth, of their population and population productivity, hinting to China, whose information debacle with Google has proven that Google can be censored provided that (in my opinion) they are paid enough. In a similar situation that was also brought up in class, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have plans to block BlackBerry IM services for want of the access to transmitted data. This came as a result of BlackBerry’s owners, RIM (based out of Canada), refusing to create proxy servers nearby to be monitored by the state governments. In class, there was some concern over the future of the proxy servers: Will RIM go the way of Google and give in? What sign does this give to foreign governments about our stance on communication freedom? And finally, what does this mean for the future of information and communication freedom in the world?
“Communication has always been critical to the establishment and maintenance of power over distance.” (Thussu) This is one of the most important lessons to learn in communication. Because communication is so vital in its connection with power, it is very important for a state’s foreign policy decisions to be somewhat solid, and communication clear. A lack of this solidarity and clarity could potentially cause other states to attempt to undermine the former.
I believe the answer to the title question is yes. When the US attempts to create a stance on international communication that is very anti-censorship and anti-invasive, corporations such as Google undermine that stance by allowing themselves to be censored. While the US government has little direct influence over Google's actions abroad, perhaps changes can be made to reduce the censorship of Google in China.
And then, its important to consider that it may be better to have a censored Google in China than no Google in China.
Throughout the history of information technology innovation, we see examples of how this evolution has impacted the social and behavior of the day.
A story in yesterday’s Washington Post illustrates how new technology continues to influence the structure of mass media and how information is communicated locally and globally.
The first news report of the Discovery Chanel hostage situation was not released by a TV station, radio station, or newspaper. Employees in the building used Twitter to let the outside world know what was transpiring through “tweets” and photos. Only then did other news agencies hear of the story and go to the scene to report.
This notion of citizen journalism, or any person being able to be a reporter by simply owning an iPhone or Blackberry device, is a transformation in how we receive news. It inspires debate about whether it is in the best interest of the public to have instant access to any news event, or if it’s better that the authorities or government have control over what information is available.
The use of Twitter as a social transformation tool has not proven to be unequivocally effective. The Twitter revolution in Iran failed. In class discussions, we learned that the Iranian government, also being tech savvy, was able to monitor the use of Twitter and identify the leaders of the political movement and quash the movement’s momentum.
This raises the historical issue of government control and regulation of emerging communication technologies.
Twitter, like radio in the early 1920s, started as a hobby and also another tool for social networking. In the early stages of radio, amateurs, or “hams" as they were known, dominated the airwave frequencies. Eventually the frequencies became overcrowded and it was difficult for the government and military to communicate effectively. According to Hanson, the Navy heavily advocated for government regulation of wireless technology. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 finally motivated the government to take action. This eventually led to the Radio Act of 1927 in which government took control of radio frequencies requiring licensing for any station that wished to broadcast.
The argument over what is the government’s role in regulating information technology is as big now as it was then. Twitter, and other Internet tools such as Wikileaks, affects the power of the government to control sensitive information. The Internet is a mass medium for the exchange of knowledge, current events and a forum for public debate.
This issue also relates to another discussed in class: what is the effect of social and political factors on communication technology? Did Twitter exist and therefore change the social norms for communication and news gathering? Or did the social need for alternative news sources prompt the Twitter innovation?
Either way you look at this debate, Twitter’s impact on social and communication norms cannot be denied.
Washington Post story:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
While we didn't dive too deeply into this topic in class today--I'm sure we'll cover it later in another class, I thought I'd bring up some thoughts for feedback. Censoring war photos goes back 160 years, and I'm sure it wasn't difficult for people to realize then, as we do now, how scaring visual images could be. World War Two and the Vietnam War are two contrasting examples--one with heightened censorship, with visuals selected and screened, and the other broadcast into living rooms around the country every night. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that some censorship is necessary for security purposes, yet I think the government seems to have difficulty walking the fine line between between informing the public about the consequences of warfare (risking a loss of moral) and keeping the public in the dark (risking ignorance and detachment). I remember censoring Iraq War photos was a big deal a few years ago, especially whether or not to show the flag covered coffins coming into Dover. There was some back and forth between the government and news agencies if they had the right to, and if it was in good taste. A few of my college professors declared that the Bush administration learned a lesson from Vietnam about limiting exposure to maximize moral.(Not to mention what we're seeing now from the Wikileak video showing civilians killed by American artillery, which took place a while ago and has only come out in the past year.) So that's what this week's reading made me think about and I thought I'd throw out some questions for your view points: When is it appropriate for the government or media outlets to start or stop censoring what we see? If we see to may images, graphic or otherwise, are we in danger of being even more detached or desensitized than we are now? How does our international standing hold up if we choose not to view or publish what damage we inflict or what war does to our soldiers, or theirs?