Nov. 25 readings

The final readings of our class presented a lot of food for thought and tied in many of the concepts that we’ve learned throughout the semester. I was especially interested in the readings in “Accountability through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Opinion.”

I enjoyed Mary Myers’article “Well-Informed Journalists Make Well-Informed Citizens…” on journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mention of the practice of coupage, when journalists being paid off to print specific stories, is a reminder of how difficult it can be to escape the heavy-handed propaganda messages in a developing country, not just from the government but other parties including warlords and church leaders. But the success of Radio Okapi as an independent voice and a valuable foil to Radio-Télévision Nationale Congolaise could be a small but important sign that the tides are changing.

The strategy of entertainment-education, mentioned in last week’s Family Tree reading written by Waisbord, comes up again in Myers’ article. The NGO Search for Common Ground has created radio soap operas and other formats to spread messages of good governance which have been well-received by millions of local citizens. As the Waisbord article mentions, there are doubts about the effectiveness of entertainment-education. So I’m curious to know if there are long-term and measurable effects of this entertainment-education campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Communication Technologies for Accountability article presents some stimulating points on the flow of information from the state to the citizens. The author does acknowledge that research on Western countries heavily influences the article due, in part, to a lack of comprehensive studies on developing countries and refers to the “limited scope” of the article. But, in spite of this, I think there are some substantial ideas that were presented.  I think that there is potential for the convergence of ICT with traditional media to grow, over time, to become an effective tool for accountability.

Media’s Role in Global Development

I will be presenting along with Odna Brinsly and Cathryn Panganiban tomorrow on media’s role in global development.  We will start with an overview of development communication theories and then we’ll move on using entertainment to promote health messages in East Asia and China’s approach to media development in Africa. Here are some of our discussion questions:

  1. Can media advocacy be seen as a complement to social marketing?
  2. How effective do you think entertainment media is as a tool in promoting global health and development?
  3. How would you describe Africa’s response to China’s media engagement?

Nov. 11 readings

It was interesting to read Andreas Sandre’s article on fast diplomacy. His observations on the “cheapening” of diplomacy was thought-provoking and brought to mind the Netpolitik report which spoke of an increase in “tension between velocity of information and judgment.” What will this new face of digital diplomacy look like once risk management becomes a component of it?

I enjoyed Joseph Nye’s overview of soft power. On the subject of the decline of America’s soft power, Nye mentions a striking quote from German editor Josef Joffe who “once argued that America’s soft power was even larger than its economic and military assets.” (p 96) Can the US effectively revamp and strengthen its “smart power” (combination of hard and soft power) and gain back credibility?

On page 98 of the soft power article, there was an interesting reference to how the Office of Wartime Information (OWI), created by President Franklin Roosevelt, used Hollywood as an “effective propaganda tool.” It struck me how propaganda, or at the very least, overzealous patriotism is still slipped in mainstream Hollywood films. Last weekend, as a friend’s husband was watching “Olympus Has Fallen,” I watched briefly out of curiosity. The movie is about an ex-Secret Service agent who is trapped inside the White House during an attack led by North Korean terrorists and his mission is to save the President and others who are being held hostage. One could argue that the movie is supposed to be far-fetched, testosterone-fueled escapist entertainment. But the thought of propaganda crossed my mind as I watched the stale storyline unfold of the American “hero” who defeats the bad guys and saves the day.

Nov. 4 Readings

Deuze’s article on convergence culture was interesting and it’s striking to think how far the global digital culture has come since this article was written in 2007. The creation of the Bluffton Today newspaper is definitely an intriguing “experiment in citizen journalism.” Bluffton is a small town and I’m wondering if, in the future, this type of newspaper based on user-generated content could work in a larger, urban market?

It was fascinating to read about the Nollywood industry and to think of how this world exists (quite successfully) outside of the realm of Hollywood. The article brought to mind the discussion of media globalization in the Silvio Waisbord article from a few weeks ago. One quote had come to mind: “The maturation of media industries in several countries and audiences’ preference for domestic content suggest that Hollywood’s undisputed reign could be just a specific phase in the historical development of media industries.” (p. 379) More and more, international audiences are seeking culturally-specific entertainment. An interesting example to illustrate this point is the Panamanian film Chance, released in 2009, about two housekeepers who stand up to their employers after constant exploitation and disrespect. This film was so popular with local audiences that it surpassed the mega-blockbuster film Avatar at the box office. The film’s story of class struggles resonated with the local citizens and is an example of how critical culturally-specific entertainment can be.

Miller’s article discussed how the Nollywood industry’s major global economic connection is via the supply chain (by purchasing equipment from multinational brands such as Sony). But, on the subject of distribution, I wonder if there would be any interest in the future from major media streaming providers, especially Netflix? I’ve noticed that Netflix’s selection of Indian and Korean movies has greatly increased over the past few years and, given the moneymaking potential (in my opinion),  perhaps there could be a market for Nollywood movies as well?

Oct. 28 Readings

In The Rise of Netpolitik: How the Internet Is Changing International Diplomacy, the concept of netpolitik ties in previous themes that we have discussed so far this semester such as the role of media in shaping politics.  Madeleine Albright made a series of insightful comments in the report such as “The rise of CNN and the Internet has greatly shortened the time horizons of diplomatic decision making,” and then “All these large numbers of information systems make diplomacy much harder to carry on because the information comes in very fast and you have to make decisions much faster than you might under previous circumstances. Everybody wants an answer right away.” This brings to mind the recent news about the US bugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone which has snowballed over the past few days. Not long after dealing with a similar scandal with the Brazilian president Dilma Roussef, the US is scrambling once again to do damage control. I wonder if there can ever be balanced information as nations have to deal with what the report describes as “tension between velocity of information and judgment?”

 

People/Networks/Power summarized many challenges with which the US struggles in its diplomacy efforts in the Middle East. This report was written in 2004 but, almost a decade later, the improvements in relations with Middle East haven’t significantly improved. John W. Rendon, one of the roundtable participants quoted in the article spoke of focus group studies, mostly in the Middle East, which highlighted “three Americas…
whose images are based on personal relationships and experiences; multinational corporations; and U.S. foreign policy.” Following on to this assessment, I was curious to know if the proposal for “Radio Understanding” talk radio station mentioned in the Soft Power, Hard Issues report led to the actual creation of the station. But, unfortunately, it appears that the project didn’t get off the ground.

 

Oct. 14 readings

I had a general idea of the giants in the world of global media, but it was striking to read both of this week’s articles and really see the more detailed breakdown of the “Big 7” – who owns which company and, interestingly, who’s partnering with whom. The number of mergers over the years is mind-numbing and the complicated, incestuous web of players shows how there’s a fine line between competition and collaboration.

In addition, in the Switching Power article, it was alarming to read the details of Murdoch’s far-reaching power in the media world (and the number of politicians from both sides of the aisle that were in his grip). It’s hard to feel optimistic about receiving quality news from the larger media outlets. When we’re receiving news from the larger media outlets, should we assume that there will always be behind the scenes machinations to manipulate the stories?

In the Structure and Dynamics article about how “media industries built around cultural and political identities can flourish in quasi-parallel networks.” From an American perspectivie, it’s interesting to note that the internationally recognized and highly profitable Bollywood and Nollywood film industries are largely unknown to the average American. I’ll be curious to see if, in the next 5-10 years, if the continued collaboration between these film industries and global network giants will lead to greater recognition for them in the US (not that lack of recognition in the US is a hindrance to their financial success).

Reflection on Oct. 7 Readings

The article Al-Jazeera English and global news networks: clash of civilizations or cross-cultural dialogue? presented some intriguing and critical points. It was fascinating to read about Al Jazeera English, the self-proclaimed “voice of the South” and to think how this nework, in less than a decade, has become a critical major player in the international media sphere. It will be interesting to see if, in the coming years, a larger number of Western viewers seek to step outside the box and seek out alternative news sources instead of the usual, cookie-cutter options.

I was drawn to the concept of “contextual objectivity” mentioned in the article as “a term used to describe the necessity of television and media to present stories in a fashion that is somewhat impartial yet sensitive to local sensibilities.” I wonder if it is realistic to think that the media can ever fully escape this type of “necessary” bias?

I was also interested in Thussu’s theory mentioned in the article. He stated the demand for the 24-hour news cycle has created “sensationalization and trivialization of often complex stories and a temptation to highlight the entertainment value of news” is a telling statement. There has already been a cause for concern that American news networks, including CNN, have succumbed to melodrama and sensationalism in the interests of increasing viewership and bringing in the dollars. It makes one wonder if the idea of a national “trusted news source” in the US will exist in the future?