Nov. 18th Reading Reflections

“China in Africa”- This article provides significant observations made during a workshop aimed at exploring China’s soft power influence within African media. China’s cooperation within Africa’s media systems dates back to the 1950s and has been defined by a focus on media assistance and training. I was surprised to learn that Sino-African relations, especially within the field of media relations, had been established so long ago. This relationship has been defined by China’s “soft power agenda.” However, this particular integration process, although decades in the making, has been met with many obstacles as the Chinese media model was not always readily accepted or adapted by African audiences. For example, the article indicates one of these obstacles as the tension created between Chinese “positive” reporting styles with African developmental journalism. This case study provides a unique example of how intercultural relations develop over time, and how eventually in order to accurately assess African media systems, those indicators and models must emerge from African societal development, not implanted by Chinese institutions.

“Family Tree”- As of yet, I had little knowledge concerning the topic of developmental communication so I learned a great deal from this week’s reading material. Waisbord’s article is a composite look at the communication systems and theories related to these types of development program interactions. I enjoyed his discussion of McClelland and Hagen, who suggested that unique cultural characteristics can predispose nations for economic success. What this theory does is basically explain why the world’s problems cannot be solved solely through monetary aid, because not all cultures have the same values. There are a wide range of personality factors that influence how economic progress and modernization emerge within a country. This theory has been discussed heavily within fields such as social psychology and international politics. In the conclusion of this article, Waisbord suggests a point of convergence on this topic that he defines as “political will.” In other words, the effectiveness of development communication depends on community empowerment. Thus, in countries where the societies are culturally predisposed to “authoritarianism, low self-esteem, and resistance to innovation,” then the ability to put communication systems in place that promote political empowerment is essential.

“Informatization-Dramatization”- This article discusses how East Asian television dramas have become an elemental platform for debating societal health concerns. I found it really interesting the ways in which health-related messages (HRMs) on the transnational level provide inspiration for entertainment content, in this case TV dramas produced in Hong Kong and Japan. The overall goal is to translate tragic health scenarios into positive social messages, wherein the situational, realistic context of ailing patients and hospitals are substituted for struggling social victims and the restatement of traditional values. A more specific example of this type of media manifestation is the portrayal of people suffering from disabilities or terminal illness. In these productions, children and animals often take the lead roles and their unfortunate storylines are used as vehicles to portray positive lifestyle messages. Khiun describes a program where a seeing-eye dog serves as the protagonist, adding: “A central formula is to depict how these protagonists struggle to the very end against cancers, tumors, and other bodily disabilities that threaten to rob then prematurely of happiness and life. Rather than resigning themselves to fate, these protagonists muster their remaining energies to stoically face the dimming moments of their lives, inspiring friends, family, and audiences in the process. This statement resonated with me as being reflective of the cultural characteristics of Confucian-based societies and the importance of face saving.

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One thought on “Nov. 18th Reading Reflections

  1. Brooke,
    You make a good point on the differences in media reporting styles of China and Africa. Perhaps these are some of the reasons, as the article pointed out, that Chinese media development is at the level it is in Africa. Though both countries could learn from each other on how best to present their stories to a global audience.

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