Communication and Governance

In Taking Direct Accountability Seriously, some points that stood out, the authors argued that crystalized public opinion is necessary for accountability and good governance. Accountability was found to require the activation and mobilization of public demands. This ties in with our readings of people and networks. The melding of horizontal and vertical media systems is making it harder for governments to be immune to public demands or for public opinion to remain latent. Though as the authors pointed out, effective communication is necessary to achieve an informed and mobilized public.

But will the activation and mobilization of public demands lead to development and good governance in the anticipated direction?

In Governance Reform under Real World Conditions, the authors argue that public opinion is a critical part of governance and an essential part of the good governance architecture. The strength of governance reform and poverty reduction was found to lie with the citizens and their ability to voice out their needs. Dialogue is central to these ideas. Reaching the citizens however, may depend on the existing government. This reading ties in with the class discussions on the role of communication for development and poverty reduction. The challenge is to determine the communication model and network that will engage citizens and crystallize their needs for effective poverty reduction.


New Technologies and Diplomacy

by Brinsly

The readings of this week reflected a lot on how networks, new technologies and the information revolution have shaped modern diplomacy. Nations not only have to consider the use of military strength but also the idea of connecting to the general public. It was described as smart power, the effective use of both hard power and soft power in the pursuit of outcomes.

In addition, the new technologies have resulted in shorter reaction times. So, not only do nations have a shorter time to respond, but they must also achieve clarity in the delivery of quality information. This brings to mind a comment made by one of the ambassadors, a part of the panelists in the Bollier readings two weeks ago, who had said that given the speed  of communication and quantity of information now available, he had developed alternate strategies of linking to his home office – sending opinions instead.

Furthermore the readings highlighted again the structure of the networks – global communities. This affects how soft power is used, making credibility more important for nations. It becomes harder for domestic information to stay within. Nations can capitalize on the use of hard power and soft power, with good credibility to advance their interests.

Convergence Culture and Creative Industries

by Brinsly

In Cultural Change in a Globalized World, Castells discussed, interestingly, the shift from broadcasting to audience targeting (or narrowcasting according to Deuze 2007). This was attributed to the fact that new technologies resulted in better ways to reach target audiences. Audiences, in addition, were no longer just passive receivers of information but actively engage in the use of the diverse media technologies available. This resulted in a “paradigm shift” from prime time to my time in media consumption. It was interesting to note the large role played by culture here. Castells discussed the idea of shared global cultures manifest in three levels; cosmopolitanism, multicultural global culture, and consumerism. These three concepts formed complex interactions through increasingly diverse sources of cultural identification played out in a global platform through networked media.

Deuze in Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries, presented a similar picture of convergence patterns in media production and consumption. It was interesting to read Deuze’s ideas of narrowcasting and audiences becoming “filters” in greater control of the content they were exposed to and of gatekeepers becoming gate watchers in the new media arena. An interesting display of role reversal and power shifts to the periphery seen in the readings of November 28 (Netpolitik). This brings to mind the class discussion with Charlie Firestone when he posed the question on the net as a second superpower. Deuze discussed an interesting paradox when he stated “it is interesting to note here how convergence culture signifies increased as well as diminished corporate control over the creative media making process at the same time.”

Miller (2012)  in Global Nollywood: The Nigerian movie industry and alternative global networks in production and distribution, discussed the reality and ability of Nollywood to thrive in interesting circumstances. Despite reduced returns from production and distribution of movies as a result of several factors amongst which was piracy, the Nigerian film industry succeeded in filling niche markets. Through informal distribution channels, the industry achieved greater success in distribution than formal top-down networks thus resulting in Nollywood becoming a dominant part of the global cultural industry networks. It’s interesting to note the role the network architecture played in this process (periphery to periphery) of connecting the Nigerian media to the rest of the world. This touches on our readings of network architecture earlier on in the semester.  It was also interesting to read the dividends to this industry without any effort from the government (Miller, 2012) – the bulk of the cultural diplomacy of Nollywood occurs simply in the actors and  movies popularizing Nigerian manners of dress, speaking, and living…it is a powerful soft power.

Integrating Diplomacy and Social Media

by Brinsly

In the Rise of Netpolitik, Bollier distinguishes the frameworks mediapolitik, cyberpolitik, noopolitik and netpolitik. Netpolitik was described as the “significance of the network form as an organizing principle in the conduct of world affairs.” Bollier discussed on the power shifts from nation-states to include a wider array of players (NGOs, the public, academics, international journalists, church groups) due to new technologies like the internet. These new media (marked by increased velocities of access) brought about the democratization of information, an information revolution that has changed the world. More information and shorter response times meant that governments had to broaden their horizons to keep in front of events. A lot more sifting needed to be done to get good information while bearing in mind that the same message does result in different interpretations based on context. Bollier stated that nations that accept the Internet accept what comes along with it (outside ownership and access to capital, market-based investment and growth, media infrastructure for broadcasting, telephony etc.).

In People/Networks/Power Bollier builds on discussions of Netpolitik. Bollier told of the challenge of hard power (military might and economic leverage) by soft power (reputation, credibility, and values). New communications media were observed to sustain the ideas of soft power which is capitalized on by networked groups that share common values, identities and narratives. Bollier reported that though hard power may win with military might, soft power could remain very potent and prove difficult to extinguish. Messages were subject to greater scrutiny for credibility and the real time environment a greater challenge to governments. The speed of information and need to react could result in inconsistent messaging.

Kalathil presents Soft Power, Hard Issues were challenges faced by public diplomacy were discussed. Some of these challenges included how to name the target audience and measure success of public diplomacy efforts. The report presented the importance of integrating new technologies and network principles in public diplomacy strategy in order to amplify the message. Kalathil also discussed China’s use of soft power to advance its economic interests. China’s tactic of citizen use of new technologies while pursuing economic growth, investing in its energy and raw materials future.

Martin and Jagla discussed Integrating Diplomacy and Social Media. They continue the argument developed in Netpolitik stating that though new technologies disrupt the functioning of governments, bringing in new players (youths, etc.) governments would need to adapt to these changes (engage them). I found interesting their application of Darwin’s theory here “it’s not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent, but those that are most adaptable to change.” Also presented in the reading were the types of diplomacies of the modern world; traditional, public, citizen, and business. There was the idea that diplomats should see the social media and the Internet as “a suitcase of new tools with global implications” which they should feel comfortable using (with proper training).

Infrastructure, Stakeholders and Governance

by Brinsly

Harp, Bachmann and Guo present a study on how the digital world affects public sphere and activism in China, Latin America and the United States. In China, online activism was found to coexist with government control, though online media was still able to generate an online public sphere. Here the idea of weak and strong publics was applied. In Latin America, online tools advanced the reach and resources of online activists, the challenge was affordable and accessible internet technology in the region. In the United States, online tools were observed to be used for virtual organizing and youth engagement in activism. The challenge here was creating time for engagement. In general, it was found that activists in the three regions had similar views that SNS was an important digital tool in their kit, helping them generate and participate in an online alternative public sphere. Differences found in social media utilization were; activists in China and Latin America saw it as a tool to foster debate while activists in the U.S saw it as a tool that could help solve the problems observed in society.

In Castells’ Conclusion, he discussed the ideas of network power, networked power, programmers, gatekeepers, network-making power, meta-programmers, network switchers, and switchers (the holders of switching power). He discussed the attraction of the internet to consumers (free interactivity and unfettered access to communication) which was not repelled by privacy and advertising issues. The rise of user-generated content was seen to potentially challenge corporate control of communication. And the rise of global capitalism and subsequent global economies and global financial markets called to question the strength of the regulation in place for financial markets. In all the links described, Castells identified the programmers and the switchers as the holders of power in the networked society. Castells argued that actors of social change could use these networks strategically to exert decisive influence. This brought to mind the ideas of the study of Harp, Bachmann and Guo.

Organization and Management of Information Flow

by Brinsly

It was interesting to read Arsenault and Castells analysis of the Murdoch business strategy in Switching Power: Rupert Murdoch and the Global Business of Media Politics. The authors’ present numerous facts to consolidate their argument that the strategies advanced by Rupert Murdoch are all aimed at building the bottom line through market share expansion and access to advertising and subscription revenues. They build on the idea that global media groups are prominent social actors because of the power they have in shaping social discourse, framing issues and information gatekeeping. It was interesting to read how Murdoch gained both vertical and horizontal integration through strategies such as advancing economic affiliations that grow enterprise. A key strength identified by the authors was the ownership structure adopted by Murdoch which gave him greater ease and flexibility to react to opportunities and threats. In a similar vein, his adoption of the “4S” model of journalism continues to grow his media assets. It would seem that the Murdoch business and media architecture have allowed him greater mobility in numerous markets, some of which were yet to be accessible to his peers.

Furthermore, in The Structure and Dynamics of Global Multi-Media Business Networks, Arsenault and Castells present how Murdoch leverages on political networks to expand globally. Government policies result in decreased citizen control over media, solidification of global and local oligopolies with major corporations wielding large influence and power. A point of note was the battle over control of the public sphere by citizens, consumers, industries, and communities. This brought to mind Habermas’ idea of the public sphere of the middle class with minimal media intervention. Mediated intervention appears to now play a larger role and everybody wants a part. Arsenault and Castells discuss vertical integration as an essential feature of the “big 7” (Time Warner, Disney, News Corp, Bertelsmann, NBC Universal, Viacom, and CBS). However, Murdoch also integrated flexibility by advancing specialization across platforms.  Murdoch’s strategic mix of political networks, economic messaging, vertical integration and flexible specialization across platforms and others, seem to be part of the structure and dynamics of his global business.

Globalization, Media, and Construction

by Brinsly

Powers and el-Nawawy present the results of a thought-provoking study on global media networks and their effect on individuals. They argued logically that individual dependence on particular global media resulted in polarized opinions on top issues. In fact, individuals were believed to choose media that re-affirmed their opinions and not necessarily as a source of information. This would suggest the ideas espoused in the user gratifications theory of media use.

I found interesting the author’ conclusion that “the global news media in general are not facilitating a cross-cultural dialogue, but rather reinforcing  political opinions that may indeed reinforce perceptions of a clash of civilizations.” It would seem that global media builds niche communities of individuals with opinions re-enforced by media reporting type.

Price discussed his perspectives on rating and filtering of information which was observed in both authoritarian societies and deregulated ones. He discussed various countries’ approaches to media globalization. It was interesting to read the scenarios that play out in the international scene. He discussed the rhetorical aversion of some countries that yet do little to intervene with state information. Whereas states that have strong objections to images of mediated modernity take strong actions to limit the cultural impact of such imagery. Others states may set boundaries, allowing people to receive information but place limits on acting on such information. And there were those states that sought ways to allow the greatest access to global information that would be consistent with the states’ existing content standards. Others still, used cultural identity to “mask economic protectionism.” Many countries were in no position to block incoming information flow or to react with external programming. And as Price indicated, all these actions/restrictions were tied to the architecture in place for their media system.