Sunday, September 26, 2010

Economics inseparable from culture in global media

The pending merger between Comcast and NBC Universal is yet another example of the convergence trend in the globalizing media industry.

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.”

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


The question: What is globalization can be answered in a variety of ways, and it has.  Globalization is the tofu of international relations in theory as well as in practice. Like tofu, globalization has been around for a while, and it effects everything we now do (eat).  Like tofu, new definitions of globalization have penetrated our sphere of understanding of the way the world interacts, and how we must behave in this new setting. Understanding globalization is to understand the connection between people all over the globe and the flows of information that travels between them.
Over time, globalization flows reinvent cultures and change the way people see the world and see themselves. In class, we discussed the idea of a ‘global product’ and I discovered that students in general do not really attempt to understand what does not come naturally to them, or the communication channels that do not seem clear to them.  When watching media, it makes sense for people to shy away from something they do not understand. Why would anyone watch Italian news when they are not Italian, they do not live it Italy, and they do not speak Italian? The product is clearly not made for people who fit this description.  
In order to communicate effectively there must be a transmitter and a responder. If the transmitter does not present the information in a way that the responder can comprehend, there is no point; communication did not occur. If I speak Italian to someone who speaks Russian about cooking, there is no communication.  (That is, if the communication attempt was solely verbal.) If there is a visual involved communication becomes much more facile. If an Italian speaker is speaking to a Russian speak about cooking while the Russian speaker watches me cook and point to objects, naming them in Italian, the Russian speaker will not completely understand, but will have a much better grasp on what is going on.  The same is true for watching television. Watching any form of visual media will facilitate understanding. This is not about visualization; it is about creating a product that is universally understood.
Today I would like to look at creating a globalized or a hybridized product.
Gogol Bordello is a band that I love. A girl in class (I’m sorry I forgot your name) was wearing a shirt that had their logo and I was surprised to find someone else who enjoyed the same band. As I was talking to her about Gogol Bordello, it had occurred to me that everything they stand for correlates perfectly with the lesson.  
Gogol Bordello’s band members are truly an international bunch. The hub of the band is Eugene Hutz, the lead singer and guitarist whose place of origination is in the Ukraine. Because of his placement within the band many of the songs are in Ukrainian, Russian or a combination of the two. He is also Romany, which means he also places himself in the larger nomadic group of Roma people.
The Roma people spread out from Western Europe to Central and South Asia. The travelling group takes some aspects of one culture and seamlessly blends it with others. If there ever was a rainbow nation, one would find it in the Roma. The other members of the band come from all over and have a variety of ethnicities—Russian, Spanish/Latvian/Israeli, Polish, Ethiopian, Ecuadorian, Chinese, Thai/American, and Italian/Swedish—Trinidad and Tobago. While not EVERY ethnic group is represented, the idea of having someone ‘like them’ in this particular band makes it appealing to a large group of people. That’s just visual.
As for the audio, the music, like the people, comes from everywhere. Every song has multiple languages, some tunes are remakes of traditional folk songs, and the beat is something I can only describe as primitive.  The underlying beat is something that catches the individual’s core and there is the X factor that hooks and magnetizes people to GB music. And then there is the message. While some songs are just for fun, many of them are very socio-political. Many of the lyrics (in songs such as Tribal Connection or Forces of Victory) talk about the very primordial connection of people to each other that transcend national and ethnic boundaries; other songs are songs of protection from people who would seek to create divide.

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)

While this might seem like a GB advertisement, what I am attempting to show are the many factors that go into creating a globalized or a hybridized product. People have to see it, people have to hear it, and people have to feel it. The product must create in the individual something short of a sensory overload.  The product that it affecting the senses also has to be one that is acceptable by the people, of course no one wants to be overloaded with something that is perceived as foul.  What is important about this hybridized group is their connection to the people and satisfies people’s need for reflexivity.  ‘Globalization forces us to look at ourselves and be protective of our own culture.’ GB presents an idea that individual identity is very important—that we must not forget who we are and where we come from—but also that international unity is also important—that knowing who we are will help us to understand others and connect on a deeper level.

Political attitudes of are driven by emotions. In fact, we can usually say that for a most attitudes. Fear of globalization is just that—fear. GB reassures us that while the world is changing, and that people are coming together and moving around, and jobs are being lost and gained that everyone is sharing in the same experience, that while we are individuals, we are not alone.  

Jessica F

It's a Small World After All

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-- 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

Discontinuity in the Diaspora: Working In the Transnation

 I recently began working for Machik, an NGO operating in Tibet.  Losang Rabgey is the Executive Director.  Her parents fled Tibet during the Cultural Revolution in China to India. Decades later, after they moved to Canada, the father received a letter from his village asking for help building a school.  Her father took out his retirement money and devoted the rest of his life to supporting his community through Machik. Their journey over the last 12 years provides insight to the modern concepts of globalization discussed by both Sparks and Sinclair. 
            Sinclair writes about the deteritorialization of culture or cultures beyond the boundaries of a state. Diaspora and transnational communities, play a vital role in maintaining a common identity through the media.  What Machik was exposed to was the wide world of diasporic disconnection. When her family decided to build the school, they made the decision to work with the Chinese government, as opposed to llamas and local communities.  It was a risky decision, one which had never been done before because it was seen as supporting communism and the Chinese government. 
            The worlds opinion and understanding of Tibet today is not based on Tibetans in the region, but diasporas, who communicate with other major news media sources such as CNN.  Diaspora that shape popular opinion about the entire transnation.  The cycle of information between the two communities is not adequate enough to form an accurate unified opinion.  What results, is a prescriptive opinion from the Diaspora on how the world should view and act towards Tibetans, but that opinion does not always reflect the actual opinions or interests.  For instance, the outside community took Machik’s involvement with the Chinese government to be a political move against Tibetans culture.  They did not support their efforts and maintained the opinion that the Chinese should not be looked to for such kinds of help.  Whereas, those in Tibet understood the stability that came with government support.  Their favorable opinion can be seen through their donations to Machik (Machik is the only NGO in Tibet to receive funding from the community). 
To link this example back to globalization theory, the Diaspora creates a transnational identity but not a homogeneous and well-connected one.  Sinclair supports the theory that the importance of nations is declining in place of micro and macro regionalism with the growth of geolinguistic media.  However, while its true that Tibetans in and out of Tibet couldn’t communicate the way they do now without these mediums, access to communication does not mean that all people use it or that they interpret information the same way.  Tibetans living in the rest of the world are socialized so their understanding and opinions do not completely reflect those of those in Tibet. Their local cultural and ideology cannot be separated out.  Sparks would say there was not an adequate contra-flow of knowledge.  The international opinion was shaped by a heavily one-sided flow.  So what does globalization theory teach us about this situation?  There needs to be a strong contra flow of information to create a balanced flow of knowledge to sustain a transnational identity.  Perhaps I’ll suggest to Losang a newsletter or video log from the Tibetans on the Plateau for the Tibetans abroad. 
Here is a link to their website, if your interested.  Keep you eyes open for their video content coming soon (that’s  my job)

-Christina Cerqueira

Friday, September 17, 2010

What makes a nation?

The class discussion that dominated on Thursday pertained to the definition of one’s nationality. What was intriguing to me and what I will like to possibly study in the future is the experiences of people as related to their nationality. But first, I think I want to find out what a nation is, before I start doing studies on what people think their nationalities are....

In class, I basically stated that nationality is a group of people with a common bond, history, present, future, and culture. At the time, in my view, all of these factors needed to be present. Recently, a new idea has popped into my mind. What about the United States? Someone might have mentioned it in class, but perhaps it just didn’t resonate. So now I think I thought of something new. The United States: it is filled with a multitude of ethnicities, and a multitude of nationalities. The same is true for many diverse countries, and (though the course is on international relations, I know more about my country of citizenship, and where I’ve lived for the past 21 years, so I feel like more of an expert on the US) their ethnic and national diversity has shaped the greater (meaning larger, not better) nation.
I’m even more confused about the concept of the nation than I was just 24 hours ago, so maybe if people are still interested about speaking about this topic, this would be a good place for people to possibly come to a consensus or even, be slightly less confused than before.
The United State is a state. In the state there are many ethnicities, who are also American (or, United States-ian, because Canadian, Mexicans, and people from South America are also Americans. American (or United States-ian) is not an ethnicity. So what is it? Is it just a citizenship? Or is this the nationality that Professor Hayden was speaking about when he said that nationality was tied to the modern state? I imagine so, but then we have the dilemma that I also brought up in class, that is, this just a geographical definition now? Does it matter what groups of people are in the nation? Is a nation tied to a specific group of people or ethnicity?
*The possible reason why this term become so confusing and hard to define may be because no one really knows the reality of its definition, and therefore use the term incorrectly, thus increasing the possible meanings of the word, until it has contradicted itself. (not exactly an IR or IC text, but the general populous has accepted its validity) has four commonly accepted definitions of ‘nation’. So let’s look at each as see how/if they work, AND if they work TOGETHER.  Another problem I believe we find often in IR is many times we want to find a definition that can be explained in one phrase. The professor asks a question, and the students are expected to think of a comprehensive, all encompassing, answer. That’s just not possible.  
1.a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or topossess a government peculiarly its own: The president spoke to the nation about the new tax.
2.the territory or country itself: the nations of CentralAmerica.
3.a member tribe of an American Indian confederation. aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, oftenspeaking the same language or cognate languages.

To address the first, ‘a large body of people, associated with a particular territory’ that pretty much covers what most of the students agreed upon in class. So were we wrong? Probably not, but mostly, our ideas were not complete. Now we can use the American example. In America, if you are a citizen, you are an American.  The example that is presented about the president presents the nations as subjects of a kingdom. This means that a nation is a group of people who are connected not only with each other, but in their roles as citizens, their roles in the workplace, school and home, and their roles interacting with their government. One is a member of a nation when they can fit into a framework responsive to these roles.
The second definition is incorrect in my view. The territory or the country itself is very important to the nation as defining where the people of the nation reside, (which allows for participation in their roles) however, the physical space is not the nation itself.
The Nation of Islam, the Cherokee Nation, and the Chickasaw Nation are three of many examples of groups of people who consider themselves a nation. This view of a nation has no strong psychical boundaries, however, nations can and do generally trace back to a particular region. This act created that shared common bond (Anderson’s imagined communities) of history, present and future that works as glue for the people. Other than a common physical source, people who identify with a particular nation also have ideological ties. Ideological ties are not difficult to have in this particular instance, because people who share the same religion will usually have very similar ideologies and people who are within the same family are raised to believe in what everyone else in the family believes in.
Persons within the same ethnic family, connected by languages should also be considered a nation.  This is a very wide-scope view of nation. This idea could potentially negate the first and third idea as being connected by physical space. The connection with language is seen to be more important, and ethnic history can replace the physical space. So what happens when the Indian population, spread all over the world as a result of British colonization, still speak their native language? Does that still make them a nation, even when they are not bonded to each other in a physical space?

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?

Jessica F

I Heart My Country

In our reading, Silvo Waisbord suggests that Nationalism means different things to different people. “One nation’s intolerant chauvinism is the flip side of other nations’ patriotic sense of difference and community.” (Waisbord, pg. 376) When I see this picture

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:

Globalization: A Buffet of New Personalities?

I’ve always assumed that globalization impeded on cultural sovereignty.  I assumed it was part of the culturally constructed definition of the word. It wasn’t until reading Waisbord that I realized globalization didn’t always mean the glittery smooth overtaking of a helpless culture by George Clooney and Britney Spears and that globalization could actually strengthen local identifies.  The degree to which western culture overshadows local identity, I believe, is dependant on the depth of the existing culture.   When there’s a strong national or societal identity, than the flow of western culture mingles and co-exists with it.  But, what happens in situations where there is no strong codifying culture?  What if a society identifies itself by only several key elements, but not as a collective whole?  Or, what happens if the individuals are becoming disillusioned with their collective identity?  Does western culture have greater power to fill in in the vacuum?
I ask this because I have a friend who comes from one such cultural background and his personally identity sheds light on the effects of western media and globalization.  Ekbar, or Eko, was 20; his father was Palestinian and his mother Syrian.  He was born and raised in Saudi Arabia until he went to College in Rennes France, where I met him. He had an afro, wore a denim jacket with “Peace and Love” on the back, played harmonica and the guitar, and assured everyone on his stance of free love. He identified himself with the peace and love generation, “I’m all about Rock and Roll, baby.”  The first thing he would do in the states, he said, was hitchhike route 66.  Then, he would bring his little brother and get him into the NBA.   His brother was a devout NBA fan, who thought of himself as a “baller.”
At first, I though his style was a feeble attempt to pick up les filles Americaine.  But the more we spoke the more I realized that Eko honestly considered himself to be the last remaining vestige of a generation he was neither chronologically or geographically a part of.   How did this happen, I wondered?  As Eko explained, the culture of Saudi Arabia is based mostly on Wahhabism, which discouraged most art forms such as music and dance as distractions from religious principles. Saudi Arabia had a limited entertainment, media or culture sector, which is largly responsible for the cultivation of a collective identity.  The country has been exposed to a wide range of American movies and television.   When I told him I was from Ohio, he said, “Ohio… Cleveland.. LeBron!!” He knew more about the NBA than I did.  He was put off by my astonishment whenever he mentioned U.S. TV shows.  He also ate pancakes at restaurants and his mom was learning how to make them at home.  How did the American culture manifest itself so strongly in him?
Ekbar's Facebook Profile Picture
I only once picked up on a sense of nationalism or pride in Saudi Arabia from him.  When he drives from the airport to his home, he passes three oil refineries: “Yeah,” he exclaimed, “all the world is going crazy and fighting over oil and that’s my country!  Its all right here, everyone fighting over us.”  Well, so much for peace and love.  My interpretation of Eko, is that in the void of a real sense of national or cultural identity, he assumed one when he left Saudi Arabia, and one which he believed fit him best.  I don’t think he donned this personality with conscious intention, but rather began acting the way he always thought was cool and befitting of his high self-image.  In the case of Eko, I would say that in the absence of a strong national or cultural identify, the power of globalization does impede on cultural sovereignty (or lack there of).  
As a nonsequitur, but relevant to the study of communication, here is an article on the power of text messaging from  
In September 2003, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported a hysteria in Khartoum, capital of Sudan.[6]
Sudanese victims were made to believe by force of suggestion that their penises would melt away after they shook hands, shared a comb, or received a verbal curse. The so-called "penis-melting" has been blamed on Zionists trying to wipe out the Sudanese people by making their men unable to reproduce.
The hysterical reports were spread throughout Sudan by means of cell phone text-messaging.
Sudanese police investigated the claims and have found no evidence of anything supernatural, and that it is likely a hoax which victims believed through the power of suggestion. Mr. Abul-Gasim Mohamed Ibrahim, Sudan's Minister of Health, issued official statements to calm the public's fears.
Local media also contributed to the idea's spread. The Sudanese columnist Ja'far Abbas (a satirical writer) has warned visitors to avoid shaking hands with "a dark-skinned man". In reference to the electronic comb which was supposed to have caused one man's penis to disappear, Abbas writes, "No doubt, this comb was a laser-controlled surgical cyborg that penetrates the skull, [passes] to the lower body and emasculates a man!!"
The phrase "Penis-melting Zionist cyborg combs" has been coined to describe this humorous story. It was originally incorrectly attributed to Wall Street Journal's James Taranto writing in his "Best of the Web Today".[7] However, the article in question has no such phrase, nor anything similar beyond the aforementioned quote.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chinese bloggers encourage nationalism

The population’s lack of access to media globalization has enabled the Chinese government to maintain a strong sense of nationalism amongst its citizens, based on a shared history, strong political and educational institutions, and culture.

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

The Effect of Communication on People

Professor Hayden often asks the question ‘what happens to people when…?’ I feel like this is the best way to start any question. The question explores cause and effect relationships, and then we attempt to apply these relationships to reality by looking at history and our present day actions and interactions. Two things caught my attention in the reading. I would like to take these two concepts, and assuming that both are correct, see the process towards affecting people.

This segment is on communication flow and how people within their societies can be transformed. This does not exactly produce any answers, but I would like to pose a few questions in the interest of…I want to change the way you think about affecting people. Perhaps the discussion is a little more philosophical than one might expect, and maybe some might find it too simplistic, but otherwise my goal had been met by posing the questions anyway, and that goal is to affect people.

SO, first of all, how important is affecting people? How important is changing the way people think? How important is changing the way people act? How important is changing the way people communicate with each other? How important is changing the way people look at each other and themselves? There are no real answers to these questions, it’s mostly a matter of opinion; however, I want to emphasize the role of communication in all of these answers. When you have decided this for yourself, then I believe that communication will become even more important in your lives, because then you will have a communication goal in mind.

And how does communication travel? Claude Henri de Saint Simon likens the flow of blood to the heart and throughout the body to “communication routes (roads, canals and railways)” (Thussu 40). This is one of the earlier explanations for communication transmittance, and I believe one of the most important because it actually uses a physical system to compare a semi-abstract concept; one can visualize communication traveling on roads and railways in the same manner that blood flows in veins and arteries. Carey looks at communication transportation in a similar manner, and realizes that information flow could be used to control people. “Communication was view as a process and a technology that would…spread, transmit, and disseminate knowledge, ideas, and information farther and faster with the goal of controlling more people” (Carey 17).  (This is pretty exciting to me—the idea that people can be manipulated through something so simple as language…and super-villains are constantly thinking of magic potions!)

Take the concept of information transmittance, and transfer it over to modernization theory.

The theory of modernization contends that “international communication is the key to the process of modernization and development for the Third World” (Thussu, 42). Using the mass media, the west (or the Global North) would help transform traditional societies (the Global south and/or NICs). D. Lerner theorized, using people in the Middle East as a model, that “media helped the process of transition from a ‘traditional’ to a ‘modernized state’, characterizing the mass media as a ‘mobility multiplier’… forcing [individuals] to reassess their traditional way of life. (Thussu 45)” The mass flow of information into an individual, disrupting their senses and beliefs in order to transplant new ideas is another interesting concept. While I do not believe that they are correct in assuming that Western ideals are modern, and vice-versa, it is important to look at the method itself. Let’s say that this IS how to modernize a country or a group, you can pump information into them like an IV, letting it flow like blood into their hearts and minds, and you can actually change what they think and how they feel. In the interest of modernization, we could look to the New Modernization Theory, as written by Inglehart and Wetzel, whose third pillar of New Modernization is that Modernization is not Westernization. This idea allows people to be modern, but still keep a majority of their customs. 

That is, as opposed to getting a complete blood transfusion from donors with different blood types, the body receives some new blood from the same blood type, and their blood is passed through a blood filter and reintroduced.  

Jessica F

Cultural Studies Perspective and Modern Perceptions of Communism

Christina Cerqueira

Most people consider McCarthyism to be something that happened years ago, something we moved well beyond.  For the most part, this is true; however there are still lingering vestiges of institutionalized political discrimination.  A Political Science professor of mine at Union College, is a member of the Marxist party in Argentina.  Every time she enters the U.S. she is fingerprinted for her political affiliation, which appear on her records at customs. 
While working in a senator’s office last summer, I received many phone calls from concerned constituents who repeatedly confused communism, Marxism, socialism, fascism and Nazism.  At first it was funny to hear people in a huff throwing around these terms with inflated indignation and fear.   But, as I listened to more and more people tear up on the phone to me, terrified for America’s imminent transformation into a communist fascist Nazi regime, my sympathy grew.  How scary to live in a world where your new president is going to completely dismantle everything you believe in and create a totalitarian state, like the ones you read about in history class, compounded with death panels and a radical religious ideology.  It is absolutely terrifying. But how did they come to believe that?  How did these American’s become so scarred and assured that this is actually going to happen?
The cultural studies perspective helps answer this question. This model holds that culture is more important that the informtation itself, and that culture shapes political realities.   The U.S. perception of communism is predominantly one sided.  The fact that this ideology inspired so many people around the world and galvanized them into political action, should speak to its value.  It is illogical to assume that a belief, which was and is supported by so many around the world, could be intrinsically “evil” and devoid of reason or merit, as many Americans believe.
Yet, popular culture, shaped by the 1950s, leads American's to distrust communism as the enemy of the beloved way of life.  With McCarthyism, the House Committee on Un-American Activity and the Hollywood Black list, the government had a pretty direct hand in shaping cultural opinions.  But in the last few decade the perception of communists have been purported more by the general media.  As Thussu points out, although “media in the west are notionally free from direct government control, they nevertheless act as agents to legitimize the dominant ideology.”  Cultural perceptios of communism and other political demons, perpetuated through TV, news reporting, books, history lessons, movies, etc. shape the political realities of many American today.


Cultures Without Borders

In Dr. Weaver’s speech, on The Evolution of International Communications as a Field of Study in 2007, he introduces the seemingly obvious idea that domestic and international issues are interrelated. We won’t have success going abroad and representing our country, as diplomats, soldiers or tourists, if we don’t understand our own culture and what is going on within it. Businesses won’t have success if they assume that doing things the American way (or the white, male way) is the best and only way to do business.

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.

Facebook influences social aspects of communication

Communication theories provide a framework by which we can analyze current trends in international communication and information technology, giving us tools to explore the underlying realities of our symbolically created social hierarchy.

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

Can the Actions of Communications Corporations Affect US Foreign Policy?

One thing in particular struck me in class on Thursday: the willingness of the US Foreign Policy in conjunction with US-based corporations to quickly alter, and renege on what is meant to be all-encompassing policy. This concept is one that can be explored from many perspectives, but for the sake of this communication focused blog, we will look at this issue from the stance of communication.

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.

Jessica Fayne

Propaganda Through Non-Propagated Information

Discussions over propaganda and public diplomacy probed my peripatetic mind while I walked home from class.  I couldn’t help but wonder, if the term propaganda is not just taboo, but outdated, then is propagandist activity still going on in America today? And, if so, who is targeting what to whom?  I tried to think of government-funded ads on TV or the radio, but none came to mind.  We do not have a governmental department that releases media per se.  The FCC monitors content, but its mostly for obscenities.  Although, its classifications for “appropriate” material certainly promotes an “American” ideology.  But I couldn’t think of anything particularly jarring.  A friend of mine from Zimbabwe told me about a political ad she saw on her last trip.  It showed a small car driving through an intersection being by a large SUV.  The title said, “Don’t commit suicide, Vote Mugabe.”  America doesn’t have such a clearly pronounced message

So, if it’s not the government directly at hand, than the control of information must be coming from other powerful sources.  In searching for examples, I remembered an out of print book my friend recently bought online.  It was called, “We Charge Genocide.” The book detailed William Petterson and Paul Robeson’s petition to the UN charging the U.S. with Genocide for the lynching of African Americans. How outrageous! America has been charged with genocide and I never knew about it.  I had never heard of this book or any attempts at a formal accusation of genocide in the U.S. How did this information seem to stay out of my civil rights units in high school or my classes of international organizations and human rights in college.  I suppose its not surprising that the book is kept quiet, how could the U.S. take a firm stance against a nation where genocide of hundreds of thousands is occurring without being hypocritical.  It would gunk-up the cogs of political action by undermining the moral high ground on which the U.S. hegemony rests.

The romanticized conspiracy theories of my generation are overplayed:  repudiating the notion of a free society and bashing America’s contrived information machine.  But after examining the history of propaganda and its subtle implications, its difficult for me to rule out those opinions. We think that information control happens, “over there,” in China with goggle or in the UAE with Black Berry’s.  It’s comforting to learn that there’s enough research to deny the “laser beam” affect of political indoctrination that we can and do think beyond what is presented. Suppressing certain information to promote an ideology is a form of propaganda, than how do we avoid it if we don’t know what is not being communicated?

-Christina Cerqueira

Information technology impacts social and communication norms

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

What We Don't Know Won't Hurt Us...Or Will It?

During our lecture and reading assignment on the history of IC, I picked up on a topic that I found still resonates with the media and society: censoring visual images during war. Our reading indicated that The Crimean War--the first to be reported on and photographed--laid the foundation of wartime censorship. Photographer Robert Fenton took pictures depicting the war in a way which contrasted with the wire reports people read (or heard) about. Our reading implied that there was a high demand for war photographs, since graphic images of carnage hadn't been seen before, and people were frustrated from a lack of accurate images. Stateside, American Civil war photographer, Mathew Brady, felt compelled to document glory battles and their aftermath, most notably at Antietam, due to very little censorship and an initial high demand. I'm not sure if it was overexposure or simply exhaustion from war--or both, but Americans stopped paying for, and lost interest in seeing, graphic and tragic battle pictures.

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?