The readings this week were very long yet equally thought-provoking. Each focuses on improving international development and global governance by emphasizing accountability through a citizen-government lens.
My initial reaction to the readings was that communication must play an integral role in the efforts to inform a nation and mobilize the citizens to hold their governments accountable.
Here are my questions:
1. What is new about the concept of accountability in the context of this article? The authors describe “accountability” as the new buzz word, but hasn’t it always been important? What innovation do they propose int his respect?
2. Are communication efforts strongest means to facilitate accountability? What does that mean for the other fields and sectors?
3. The readings touched on international development needing accountability. It made me wonder about the importance of accountability in developing nations as opposed to developed nations. Are these initiatives needed at the genesis of a developed nation or can they be implemented after a strong institution is already in place?
The reading China in Africa: A New Approach to Media Development left me a bit confused. While I find it interesting that China is investing in Africa and serving to counteract the Western paradigm of national media, I did not quite understand why China is interested in Africa. The article never touched on why China is investing in Africa. What incentive does the Chinese government have for investing in Africa? Is it purely a soft-power move? Moreover, how does this investment effect other continents? How does it affect the Western influence in Africa?
As I am growing increasingly interested in Global Health Communication and strongly considering a concentration in this field, my favorite reading this week was the Khiun piece Information-Dramatization: Communicating Health in East Asian Television Drama. Khiun underscores the power of television entertainment as a public influencing force in health practices. As the article points out, this can be both positive and negative. The beauty/modeling industry is a prime example of how the media can promote negative health practices. The idealized size of young models contributes to increased rates of anorexia and bulimia, for example. I think that it is very innovative and pertinent that East Asian TV producers are using the same strategy to promote positive health behaviors.
My questions after reading this article are:
1. With such vast differences between eastern and western medical practices, how does the diffusion of these programs across borders affect foreign audiences?
2. Given that health research changes at such a rapid rate (for example, researcher A could say this practice is really healthy whereas researcher B could say the opposite), how do these producers keep the messaging consistent?
I’ll be sure to bring these questions up in class, because I really would like to discuss them.
The readings this week really touched on my favorite topics in International Communication: Public Diplomacy and Soft Power. When I interned at the State Department this past winter, I worked in their Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) which is at the heart of soft power communication initiatives at the State Department. So yes, going into the readings this week I was beaming.
Andreas Sandre’s pieces on Public Diplomacy were particularly of interest to me. In both articles Sandre makes the case for the importance of soft power working in tandem with hard power and the pertinence of giving more presence to soft power in the information age.
At one point Sandre points out that social media is “cheapening” public diplomacy. What does Sandre mean by this? I glean that Sandre is equating public diplomacy with a fine art that takes time and extensive knowledge to facilitate. In this regard, is it the speed, accessibility, and transparency of public diplomacy what is “cheapening” soft power? I would like to discuss this in class because it really intrigued and confused me.
In terms of more and more people having their hand in soft power efforts, is this what Sandre argues is degrading the process? Is it the lack of credibility that has accompanied the boom of social media voices chiming in to the news world?
What would add value and credibility back to the process?
I really liked the readings this week as I feel they finally breached a subject that I have been interested in for the length of this course: the role of the consumer in these globalized media networks.
The consumer’s role and the personalization of media was a theme found in Deuze’s, Miller’s and Castell’s pieces this week.
Deuze highlights that there is a convergence occurring between media production and media consumption. He provides examples from across the media scope, from gaming to advertising to journalism. When he used the term “Interactive Advertising” I instantly thought of online videos — particularly on Hulu — that now prompt viewers with questions and/or choices as to what advertisement the viewers want to watch, whether or not the viewer would like to take a quiz, or whether or not the advertisement content was relevant to him or her. More and more, viewers are having a choice to personalize their media experience, or at least are given the impression that they have one.
Castell’s wrote about the shift from “prime time” to “my time,” another example of this customized consumer relationship with the media. With the age of the Internet, viewers are able to record their favorite shows or watch their preferred content on their own time.
My question is: If the consumer is becoming increasingly capable of demanding personalized media, if their role in the production of media content (from advertising to journalism) is growing, where are the lines being drawn between what people demand and what they need?
To what limits can consumer demand distort and or limit media production?
Or to the contrary, is this personalized media really providing the world with an abundance of diverse produced options?
A theme that I pulled from the readings today was the changing scope of communications and how this global communications system must adjust in a world where technologies transcend time and space.
A quote I particularly liked from the “People / Networks / Power” article reads:
The new communication systems are not simply conduits of information; they constitute a wholly new sort of global nervous system
I was drawn to this quote because it underscores how these innovations in technology and the way we communicate are not just affecting the mediums of communications but also the information itself. The entire core system of how we communicate is changing and thusly having an effect on every aspect of our world from culture to politics.
This is evident in the article “Soft Power,Hard Issues” when they discuss the old and new forms of public diplomacy. Our communication world has evolved into such a interconnected, network-driven “nervous system” that it trickles down to our way of engaging in public diplomacy. It affects how our country engages with others– moving us away from a unilateral, polarized state towards a multilateral, cooperative, “network” state. These changes (shown below) are all more about interconnectivity and teamwork than about individualism and polarization. My question is, is the way we communicate/the changing scope of communication the main force in this change in relationship with foreign countries?
About us –> About them
Bilateral –> Bi- and multilateral
Managing images –>Building relationships
Reactive –> Proactive
A second point that I found interesting was the connection between the role of communication in national identity. We have spoken about this theme quite often in class and it was a topic on our midterm exam. In the readings this week, they discussed how some countries’ governments authoritarian rule is strengthened by it’s ability to harness the Internet censorship (Asian states, Middle Eastern states, and Cuba, for example). In contrast, as we have discussed often in class, in most parts of the world communication and culture are no longer confined within national borders. There are many efforts in highly censored countries from individuals or groups to counteract the government censorship (as we read last week in the activism article). I would like to see more date on how successful those efforts are/how successful the governments are at controlling these voices. Is there any way we could know this information?
There seems to be a theme in this class that communication is largely tailored globally to fit into local contexts. This idea was present in the readings for this week as Harp, Bachmann, and Guo observed the relationship between social networking sites and activists in China, Latin America, and the United States in their research publication.
It is clear that in all three cases, social media is an important tool in mobilizing voices to support a social or political cause. As described in the article, it is cost effective, and identifies a collective identity. However, social, political, and economic factors (all of which differ greatly across these three observed regions) play an enormous role in the relationship between the social media and these activists.
When discussing China, the researchers explain that online activism in China “always coexists with government control” and that there is a constant censorship. They briefly point out that activists in China find ways around this censorship. As I have shared in class, my sister recently moved to Beijing and was blocked from using Facebook. After a couple of weeks however, she was able to find out ways to get around the censorship and access her Facebook page. My sister speaks no Chinese and again she has not been in the country for more than a month, yet she was able to work around their system. I would like to know more about how these activists are bypassing the system and moreover, what issues are they trying to bring to light from outside of the government censorship?
As for their analysis of the Latin American online activism, they left the reader with a cliff-hanger. The authors describe that Latin America has struggled with internet accessibility across the region (which is understandable, considering that of the three observed regions they are the only that includes multiple countries. I wonder why they did not focus on a specific country in Latin America. It makes the comparison inconsistent). Where they leave us hanging is when they explain there has been a huge increase in social media and internet use in Latin America and that they do not have conclusive data on how online activism fits in to equation. What will happen to online activism in Latin America next? Will it become more influential?
A theme I gathered from the readings this week is the power dynamics within the media and how control of the media – though becoming largely concentrated – depends heavily on the players’ capability to balance multiple components.
Key players in the global media business world include political, economic, and media players. In Arsenault’s article at one point she underlines the balance between capital/production and content. Arsenault explains that while capital and production is largely globalized, content is localized. The truly power players are able to harness and facilitate cooperation between all of these elements (political, economic, global, and local). In the conclusion she observes that global shapes local but local also shapes local. I was not quite sure what she meant by local. Does this mean local media, local consumers, local culture and values, local politics? I assumed it means local audiences, but it really could mean it all.
This leads me to my next point. Diversification is a term that was used in the reading this week. It is aligned with this theme of multiple components strengthening a single power player. However, as I read I kept assuming the term was referring to cultural diversity. It must be my American minority perspective that automatically attributed diversity in a context of global media as pertaining to content and cultural relevancy. I soon realized that I was a bit off, that they were instead referring to diversity of platforms (ie the Internet, TV, social media etc). Was it too optimistic of me to think that these multi-national global media organizations would prioritize culturally relevant content?
As we speak about media power players (the Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorps, the Googles, and the Apples of the world) I want to know where are the consumers? If acquiring power depends on harnessing a multitude of components, how does the audience’s voice fit in? If the local also influences the local, I would like to see some examples of how that works. My first guess would be social media, but as we discussed in class, there is no sort of accountability that comes with social media.