November 18 Readings reflection

This week reading is a tough one: including the compilation of important concepts on development communication and two other are long and hard to absorb. I hardly have enough time to cover all of them and reflect on writing.

In “Information-Dramatization: Communicating Health in East Asian Television Dramas”, the author analyze the samples of TV serials from East Asian countries to examine the trends in portrayal of health related issues. The author claimed that it is driven by public demand in response to increased literacy, living standard and urbanization. It is a positive notion that otherwise valueless pastime entertainment programs are now embed with HRM (Health related messages) to educate and entertain the public at the same time.

Good doctor굿 닥터 or Good Doctor is a popular medical related TV series and currently on Air in South Korea

I recalled how the Korean and Chinese (Taiwanese) TV series are so popular in South East Asia. It is not surprising TV programs focused on daily lives of medical practitioners and their work environment garnered more attentions as the people become more health conscious. Also in US, General Hospital which has started broadcasting in 1963, has become the longest-running American soap opera currently in production and third longest running scripted drama series in the world.

This is not a new genre as the famed communication theorist Marshall McLuhan predicted in his 1964 book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” that medical drama genre on TV would be a big success since it “creates an obsession with bodily welfare.”

At this point, I have an insightful question to tackle the profound change in the role of stakeholders in conventional public health education. Is the private sector slowly taking over the role of government in public health education sector? I think the increase portrayal of HRM in TV series is just the response to business potentials from increasingly urbanized, literate and prospered middle class. We should not forget in most Asian countries, majority of people still living in rural societies without electricity, clean drinking water, sanitation and appropriate health care. The demands of basic health knowledge for these low income and grass root level people are usually not heard by private sector and their requirements are still on the hand of government and non-government organization. Thus, I believe, increase of HRM in entertainment programs is not sign of shifting dynamics from government to business oriented private sector.

In other reading, “Family tree of theories, methodologies and strategies in development communication”, it presents theories, concepts, methodologies and strategies for change in development communication. It presents these concepts in a chronological order and compares the approaches. To be honest, it is a long reading with complex concepts that we need more than a week to read and conceptualize the contents. But, as I run through this report by , it refers to theories and solutions to raise the level of political systems, economic growth and education of third world countries to that of first world countries. The author highlights two perspectives in development communication: first, the lacking of information among population and second, power inequality as major underlying problems.

In my opinion, it is the combination of both problem that create the gap between the rich and the poor, ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’. Is the discerning the information alone can prevent the backwardness and bring to prosperity? I know several examples of just knowing are not enough ground for implementing. For examples, in some backward developing countries, non-government organization provide reproductive health information to women as well as contraceptive materials but these women are still prevented from contraception by religious and cultural belief. In these male dominated societies, the voice of women is minimum and power inequality between man and women is enormous. This is the best example that only combination of informing and empowering society could bring them to development.

In another reading, “China in Africa: a new approach to media development”, it reflected China’s growing importance in Africa’s communication sector and its implication on local and western media’s approaches.

In the past years, the world has witnessed China’s rapid economic growth together with its attempts on cultural diplomacy and media development, such as establishment of Confucius institutes, heavy investment in the growth of state run Xinhua news agency and the expansion of Chinese technology companies.

From the reading together with my own experiences, Chinese news agencies approaches in reporting local issues is totally different from that of Western media. Agencies like Xinhua hardly report anything about human rights violation and corrupting of authorities until they become so prevalent or undeniable. Instead, topics like formal meeting between two state heads as well as reports on positive developments of countries like opening of a new facility or establishment of diplomatic links with China, are the most preferred in Xinhua news.

Since they only report on positive happening, government authorities are always delighted and view Xinhua reporters as cultural facilitators rather than journalists. I remember in Myanmar, Xinhua reporters are given VIP status even among fellow journalists as they are allowed to travel with state figures, view confidential documents or enter strictly restricted facilities.

As I listen the below TED talks program by Zambia born intellectual, the conventional leaderships of the West is in question. The question here is apparent: Will China’s approach to development communication be a superior model over that of the US in the future?

Dambisa Moyo: Is China the new idol for emerging economies?



Nov 11 Reading: Soft Power, Public Diplomacy and Social Diplomacy


pic –

This week readings are lighter than the previous ones: an article from annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science and two shorter articles from Huffington Post by the author Andreas Sandre.

I think this week theme for International Communication class is about the Public Diplomacy from the point of view of policy makers and diplomats rather than that of ordinary citizen.

 In the first article, Public Diplomacy and Soft power by Joseph S.Nye, Jr, the author vividly explain the concept of soft power and public diplomacy, their sources and the methodologies to generate them.

For Joseph S.Nye, the power means the ability to affect other’s behavior to obtain the outcomes you want and it can be done by three ways: by threat or coercion (stick), by inducement or payments (carrots) and by attraction to make others want what you want. Here, the author’s thesis is clear, concise and also condensation of complex strategies in power politics and international relations.

The ability to influence others and make them want what you want is called as soft power that a major power emits its level of transparency, openness and prosperity to the rest of the world as model to emulate other countries and steer their direction toward its desired path.

Soft power came from three resources: culture, political values and foreign policies. A country’s cultural exports can be either high culture, which include literature, arts and educations that appeals to its elites or popular culture which focuses on mass entertainment.

Here, I have got some doubts on the role of Soft power, is the use of Smart power the ultimate solution in international affairs? I don’t think so. By using soft power, a superpower nation may able to influence other countries inclinations but that will not change its basic requirements and cannot quell the nations’ struggles to get them. For example, the soft power of Great Britain may suspend the quest for American Independence for a period of time but cannot deter the desirability of Americans for a new nation. It is the same for US’s soft power which may overwhelm the daily lives of Chinese citizens but it doesn’t change the reality of China’s huge population and scarcity of domestic resources that led the Chinese government to set policies on securing the natural resources beyond its boundaries, sometime against the interest of United States.

Next, the author distinguish the difference between the power of resources and power of outcomes in which some countries/stakeholders may have more resource power but could end up losing in power battle. Understanding the distinction of these two aspects of power is important for relationship between Soft power and public diplomacy.

In further definition, the soft power of country or organization is produced by its values or culture which sets its policies, internal practices and the way it handles its relations with others. Mean while, public diplomacy, in my understanding propaganda, is the instrument that the government uses to mobilize its resources in communicating with public of other countries, with activities such as broadcasting, subsidizing cultural exports, promoting its language through cultural center and exchange programs.

In this article, although the author has no evident, it portrayed that US’s cutting the investments in Soft power after Cold War, particularly for Arab and Muslim countries, resulted the anti-American sentiment and the rise of terrorism countering the US led globalization. In this case, I like to raise another question: Is the rise of anti-American sentiments in Muslim countries is the results of the cutting funds for Soft power? In other words, will the spending on Public diplomacy in Musilm countries avoid the terrorist efforts targeted at US interest?

In the same article, it has become more difficult to deal with democratic governments than authoritarian governments in promoting US’s positive image among publics. In the new digital landscape of plenty of information, attention rather than information become scarce resource and credibility has become more important than in the past because of “paradox of plenty”.

Meanwhile, in the first Huffington Post article: “Fast diplomacy: the future of Foreign Policy?”, it reveals a dilemma facing in the world of diplomacy.  The use of digital diplomacy is like double end of a knife, it is fast, multipliable and allows you to engage with the mass public but at the same time, create more risks prone environment where mistakes occur in a sudden and unexpected fashion.

In another Huffington Post article “Global interconnectivity, Social Diplomacy and Non-state actors”, it highlight the importance of Social media not only in social lives but also in cross border issues, political systems and foreign policy.

“Today, it’s not only about restricted bilateral meeting, or ministerial summits. Now world leaders and foreign ministers are tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Youtubing, and blogging. Of course, face-to-face traditional diplomacy is important, but it has evolved…..a conversation where all players interact with each other and where governments are part of the game, rather than the one exclusively controlling it.” Embassies in Washinton DC using Social Media

The dynamism of social media has brought several non-State actors including citizens, networks, government agencies, regional groupings, business, foundation and NGOs into international politics and policy making. Below is the analysis on foreign embassies in Washington DC that use Social Medias as a platform to disseminate their desired information. The post is co-written by Dr. Ali Fisher, Associate Director, Intermedia.

Social media use by embassy


At this point, the author assumes that the opinion widely described on social media as the opinion of the public as a whole. Here, I got another question: Are social media true representatives for the opinions of public as a whole? I doubt that since in most countries, the internet and social media users are young people and not true demographics of the whole society.

In the end of Joseph S.Nye, Jr’s article, it provides three dimensions of public diplomacy which I think are the most important information of whole article. First, the daily communication on context of domestic and foreign policy decisions with foreign presses as important target, second, in the view of Strategic communication, to develops special themes or symbolic events as political or advertising campaign does and third, the development of lasting relationships with key individuals over many years through scholarships, exchanges, training, seminars, conferences and access to media channels.

The author aware that even the best advertising cannot sell an unpopular product while the policies that appear to be self-serving or arrogantly presented are likely to prohibit rather than produce soft power.

Joseph S.Nye, Jr defined that the ability to combine hard and soft power effectively is “smart power” and this is what United States has effectively practiced throughout much of Cold War but declined after post 9-11 global war on terrorism. The psychological operations (psyops) are very useful for military but it proved to have negative effects in peace time. Poorly defined global war on terrorism has increased the fears among the civil society that undercut America’s soft power.

Most importantly, his article concluded with its main thesis: public diplomacy is an important tool in the arsenal of smart power but smart public diplomacy requires credibility, self-criticism and the role of civil society in generating soft power. The public diplomacy that degenerate into propaganda not only fails to convince but can undercut the soft power.

Nov 4 reading “Global Nollywood” and “Convergence of culture in creative industries”

The first reading for this week IC class is a research paper title “Global Nollywood: The Nigerian movie industry and alternative global networks in production and distribution” by Jade Miller from Tulane University.

Through this reading, it opens door to Nollywood, Nigeria’s flourishing video industry which is largely separate from Hollywood’s global network of movie distribution.

As I read it through, I visualize the region’s unique environment to develop its own version of Hollywood based on local demand. Although the author explore the Nollywood’s production and distribution pattern, it does not recount the history and development of how Nollywood has become as it is now.

It is understandable that the region’s lacking of movie screening infrastructures like theaters led to home based movie watching practices and the growth of pirated movies on VCDs and DVD. Learning from previous readings, the rise of Hollywood’s movies industry is the results of establishment of major movie production studios in Los Angeles in 1950s. However, in Africa, with no possibility to make such massive investments from both government and private sector, it would led to SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) production of movies and the distribution targeted for local market only.

I think, the next phase of development for Nollywood is largely due to Nigeria’s large population.

As the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria’s entertainment industry would have largest collection of audiences within the national boundry and it would grew faster than that of other African countries. The same is happened in Mumbai, which has become center of movie industry of India that based on massive South Asian audience and also in Hong Kong, which has become the heart of Chinese entertainment industry.

In this reading, the most perplexing thing for me is why Nigeria or West Africa or even all of Africa is left out in Hollywood’s global distribution network. Africa is the not only second largest continent but also has the second populous continent. It should be definitely the focus for Hollywood’s movie producers, or even at least for Foreign policy makers of United States because even with little prospect for returning revenues Africa’s population should not be left out in US’s strategic communication policies.

Secondly, I am not clear what is the lingua franca of Nollywood movies since the author does not explore the language aspect of Nollywood movies. African countries are known for having diversity of tribal groups and myriad of local languages. We should not forget the unique African history that Africa’s national boundaries were drawn by their colonial masters rather than their ethnicities. In most African countries, lingua franca is the language of Colonial rulers such as English, French and Portuguese. I am curious how the Nollywood movies overcome the language barrier to attract the audiences from different countries, especially those of French and Portuguese speaking regions of Africa.

Next, in the second reading for this week, “Convergence of culture in creative industries” by Mark Deuze, it explore the emerging practices in Communication field to adapt the new global culture, which is, according to author, characterized by increasingly participatory media culture. The author point out examples in different branches of communication field, the “citizen journalism” bandwagon in news publication, two way symmetrical communication in public relation and upstream marketing in marketing and “interactive advertising” in advertising industry as examples of phenomena for converging trend. But, I think, the author underestimates the role of cultural forces that keep the people around the world apart. So my question here is: What is the role of culture in uniting the different communication industries as it is driven by profit making objectives?

Week 8 reading reflections

In the first reading for this week, “Networks: Emerging Frameworks for Analysis” by Amelia H. Arsenault, the author explores the importance of networks as a social and political phenomenon: how to define networks, how to study them and their implications for both individual and society as a whole.

As it is define in simplest terms, a network refers to a set of relationships between objects or nodes. According to author, depending on the network or theoretical approach to observe the networks, the nodes or members within a network are always heterogeneous or different from one another.

It is acceptable for definition of what a network is but I am uncertain for the latter argument that all members within network are heterogeneous or different from one another. I might consider the differences among members are the reason to communicate each other and stay in the network. But I found no evident that differences make members to communicate each other. In contrast to what the author said, I imagine the possibility of a network society that is totally homogenous in which members or nodes of networks have exact uniformity but remains in the network and communicate with each other for the benefits of each members.

So here comes my question: is it necessary for members of network societies to be different from each other? Or all network societies are essentially heterogeneous?

As I digest the concept of network societies from the article, I visualize them in two model. First, the one with the center or the hub that take the leadership role to control and supervise the information flow across the network. Second, there is another possibility of a network society that is totally leaderless in which all members have the same level of privilege to sent, transmit and receive the information in the same way.

As I have some knowledge in computer networking technologies, I compare the models of computer networks to human based network societies as below.


As you can see above, the server based computer network model is compatible to network societies in the countries ruled by authoritarian government, in which the leader or the broadcasting center sits at the center to disseminate information across the countries to units of government bodies which are all created as uniform entities. This kind of countries usually lacks private partnerships as well as foreign entities in communication industry and the State is the sole broadcaster of information. It is also a characteristic for that kind of network society where all of its citizens or provincial units are seen as equal or propagandize as equal just as the computers within a server based network may have equal priority to access information in the server. Society in North Korea is the best example for that kind of network societies centering around the government or leadership for broadcasting of information.

Although societies in authoritarian nations are the ultimate model for this kind of networks, other nations are not free from server based or central government based networks. I believe all nation’s government today has some forms of central control to its citizens or regional units so that they are bounded as one nation.

Secondly, in peer-to-peer or P2P network model, all computers are connected to each other directly rather via the server computer. As it does not have server to supervise and control the flow of information, each computer is free to send, receive and transfer information without limit and restrictions but they are all responsible for all of its networking activities. And characteristically, all are required to maintain separate channels to connect with another one.

I believe this kind of networking societies can be seen in today’s emerging supranational corporations like SONY and organizations like World Trade Organization. In the case of SONY, although it was started out as a Japan based brand electronic maker, it is now extended into many different industries like entertainment, media and electronics and propagated a number of productions centers and governing units across the globe. Although all of these companies are part of SONY group of companies, they running as separate independent units and there is not a central control for communicating with each other and decision making processes. For WTO, all trading nations sit together to set guidelines and procedures to benefit the most for each of them.  Each member nations are free to network and communicate with other nations and it lacks the central body like United Nations’ Security Council to make the ultimate decisions for all.

Here, I am wondering if there any other model for networking societies in any other forms. I think these two models can be seen as two extreme ends of today’s networking societies in which all are somewhere between totally centralized and entirely independently entities. Most of network societies are hybrid of the two.

Finally, I have another question for staying out of networks or rights to refuse to be a network society. This can be seen in theoretical framework of second reading, a research report by three authors on Profiling Social Networking Sites and Activists in China, Latin America, and the United States.

As observing the activism in social networking sites, it can be seen the forces of globalization with the American/Western civilizations at the spearhead is spreading across the world and impacting everyone. But there are still fierce countering forces to reject this Westernized or globalized world. Especially, in Islamic societies, there are strong tendencies to remain in traditional forms of communications and apparently the terrorism is their response to expending globalization. But, these tendencies are not limited to Muslim’s world. If one looks carefully across the globe, there are non-Islamic societies that choose to be out of network societies like tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and tribal societies of Papua New Guinea. These countries are remain in their traditional ways of life just as hundreds of years ago but are seen as backward societies and stand the lowest at international standards index for development and innovations.

So here comes another critical question: Is it possible to stay out of today’s networks or refuse to be a network society?

Oct 14 Reading Reflections

This week reading steer us to a different direction: media but on business aspect. The two articles provide the analysis on three things focusing on global media organizations: first, the structures of global media organizations with specific examples, second: the partnerships between such organizations each other and local media organization and third: its role in shaping global media landscape. \

I have to admitted that I have little background knowledge on business aspect of media and journalism so it take me longer to grab a though of how the media morgues are steering the industry.

First, the article, The Structure and Dynamics of Global Multi-Media Business Networks studied the world’s largest multi-media corporations with diversified media-holdings like Time Warner, Disney, News Corp., Bertelsmann, NBC (owned by General Electric), CBS, and Viacom and largest internet company with diversified media holdings — Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Apple . All of them rooted in west. Since local and regional media are incorporating foreign products, it is the chances for global media organizations to pursue local partners to deliver customized contents to local audience. This process is complicated by introduction of new media markets, favorable regulations, proliferation of new media platforms and convergence of internet and telecommunication networks.

According to author, the expansion of global media corporations followed the establishment of World Trade Organization media privatization by IMF and relaxation of media ownership regulations through US’s 1996 Telecommunications Act. But these deregulations allowed the global media like News Corp to expand their reach into the developing world’s media market. As a result, it led the monopoly of world’s media landscape by a handful of global media organization in contrary to intended results of diversification of ownership and increase of citizen’s control over media.

The author’s highlight on the power of global media organizations shed the lights on an emerging trend that all other business has to embraced for their survival today. I like to say this is not just for media. All other local business from retail sales to internet firms today are facing fierce competition from entity of multinational corporation like World Mart or Google. It reminds me of the business landscape in my home country, Burma. There, some local business and state own corporations has grown into national level giants as their growth within national boundary was unrivaled by foreign companies because of economic sanctions posted by Western countries. This situation was changed by unexpected reforms by newly elected government and lifting of sanctions. Today, as the multinational corporations are entering into the untapped market of 60 million people, all local business and corporations fear the losses their strongholds and demands the national parliament to pass the laws for protection of local businesses and introducing mandatory regulations of local-global partnerships for foreign investments.

However, even with these unavoidable market deregulation and foreign competitions, media sector is exception in many countries. In Burma, local media industry is shielded by laws that limit the foreign investment in printed media to less than 50 percent of capital while no foreign investments are allowed so far for broadcast media. Although I am not sure about media laws in other countries, many countries have similar restrictions on foreign entity of local media scene. Especially, in China, despite the massive consumer population of 1.3 billion, the number available media is so minute with dominances of state own CCTV and its branches. Even in the decently democratic country like France, there are regulations that limit the broadcast of foreign music, movies and arts creations to protect the French arts, language and culture. This is despite the France’s leadership role to converge and unite the European countries under the umbrella of European Union.

It is understandable that deregulation of media contents and ownership is always sensitive one since media are uniting or disintegrating forces that can shape and reshape public’s opinions on many issues. Media contents are not just consumer products; it is also a part of national history, a contribution to our knowledge and an entity to the emotions and beliefs. Thus, my ultimate question here is Should media industry be always an exception in as deregulation of markets and lifts of trade barriers has become common in these days around the world?

The reading provides that the diffusion of internet and wireless communication has decentralized the communication network, challenging the monopoly of media ownership. The author refers this as ‘mass self-communication’ since it reaches global audiences and also users individually generate their own contents, chose platform of emission and play an active role in shaping the reception the process. Seemingly, this new hybrid form of media combines the mass communication with individual freedom liberate the media industry from small pool of media owners. But, according to the article, it is apparent that even the internet media still has the concerns for media monopoly. As demonstrated in the mapping, seemingly diversified multi-media contents are still under the control of existing media corporation and a number of internet companies, with crisscrossed partnerships between them.

Besides, since internet and multi-media are technologically enhanced platforms, it is still subject to monopoly and manipulation of those with the most advanced technologies. Although everyone is free to send and receive information on World Wide Web, not everyone has the ability to identify the targeted receivers, send with speed and accuracy, present the content in interactive persuasive way, access the feedback and moderate the traffics. Thus, in my opinion, even the digitization of information and diffusion is not panacea for ultimate media freedom and ownerships. It might be true that the traditional developed world and Western countries are no longer in the position to control the sky of internet and players from emerging countries, like China, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and  some others from developing countries are also gaining control on the new media. But, the landscape is that the elite and local media of these countries are joining hands with elites and global media of developed world for a new form of monopoly.

Will the digitization of information and the rise of multi-media platforms liberate the media industry from the monopoly of media ownership?

Week 7 reading: “Media, War and Conflict”

This week reading “Media, War and Conflict” by Shawn Powers and Mohammed el-Nawawy, analyze the media viewing habits of specific countries for three major media. In detail, it is an analysis of media viewing habit, cultural, political and cognitive dispositions of viewers of Al Jazeera English in comparison of CNN International and BBC World. The article presents two key findings: first, viewers worldwide turn to broadcasters to affirm rather than inform the so the existing stereotypes are likely to strengthen. Second, the longer the viewers watch on Al Jazeera English, the less dogmatic they become in thinking and more open to other alternatives and opinions.

The article introduces that after the dramatic development of satellite televisions, experts think the news media will create a global media sphere which encourages public conversation and cultural exchange between diverse communities. But, in reality, it results in segmentation of target audiences where viewers turn to broadcasters that would fit with their existing norms and opinions.

It said only when we exclude the principles for ‘war journalism’, broadcasters can help improve cross cultural understanding and reconciliation.

The author Hafez, K challenged the view that satellite TVs homogenized the cultures saying that there is not enough evident. He said only significant chunk of humanity has technology to access foreign broadcasters and majority of people’s media habit and how they organize their lives are not changing as much as assumed. He argued that media ‘follow’ rather than ‘lead’ the public opinion. The news media typically work toward the ‘affirmation and legitimation of national politics’ instead of ‘challenging people’s perspectives or providing competing world views’.

He thinks the scholars are overestimating the role of media as the Fourth Estate. It is true that media should provide balance and fair views of cross border issues but it is still within the boundary of running a business. Needless to say, challenging the prevalent beliefs or taking sides with others, would results in losses of readerships or viewers and then losses of revenues and advertisements as well as the influences. No mainstream media, except the one running on funding from foreign sources, dare to defy the opinions of majority and follow the existing trend. Being a outcast is death sentence for media.

On the other hands, professional journalists believe that media doesn’t need to ‘educate’ the people. The famous quotation says that media does not tell the people ‘how to think’ but tells them ‘what to think about’. According to this belief, the media should merely serve as the reflection of public opinion and not required advocacy or urges for change.

This view seemed to be right until extremism and ultra nationalism kicks in. One would argue against it pointing out pre-World War II Germany and some fundamentalist societies of today. It is arguable that when the majority favors upon the path to extremity and confrontation, it puts the media in difficult positions and ethical dilemma of whether to merge with the majority’s views or not.

Here comes my ultimate question: if the majority in a society committed to the norms and cultural beliefs that are not fits with universally acclaimed rights and standards, should the media serving that audiences resist the prevalence views and provide opposing views risking of its own survival?  

It is notable that the increasingly globalized media seemed to be shaping a globalized civil society but actually, the global public has been becoming balkanized as they choose specific media and communication networks that are in line with their existing ideological views. The survey conducted by Pew Global Attitudes Project revealed how the mainstream media failed to improve the cultural understanding, given the negative perception of the Muslims and Westerners persists on each other.  Critically, when it comes to covering international conflicts, the balkanized media are far from mediating and even potential of deteriorating them.

The author Shinar.D argues that since the media’s professional standards thrive on drama, sensationalism and emotions, it is more compatible with war than peace.

Similar account of author Daya Thussu and Wolfsfeld G affirms that the nature of media favor the conflicts, riots and war than peace time filled with tedious closed door negotiations. Therefore, news media has more incentives overstatement, sensationalization and trivialization of violence and conflicts to maintain viewership and audience attentions. Rather than informing to a variety of people, today’s media are often target particular segments of people reflecting ‘dominant national frames’ in contextualization of international events.

For these reason, I found that Conflict reporting has become focus of many journalism trainings.

I think the increase supports for discussion and training in Conflict reporting for emerging journalists could alleviate the intense but there is still underlying needs to please the majority of audience.

Question 2: What could be long term solution for the media to avoid them from framing international issues in their national and cultural context?

At that point, I believe the author Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” thesis is relevant with the current landscape. As the world and societies become more and more globalized, increased interactions between communities makes their civilizational identities stronger than ever and critical of others that challenges their social norms and cultural mores. Thus, the media serving the communities are more likely to response to culture bonded perceptions and national benefits. It is evident that despite their appearances as international entities, CNN’s reporting on Iraq war is more positive and focused toward United States national security while Al Jazeera’s reporting on the same issue was more critical of US invasion on Iraq and explored the dark sides.

Generally, Samuel Huntington’s prediction ‘the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future’ is plausible and it is almost absolute truth in observing the current conflicts around the world. The ethnic conflicts in Kosovo, escalated defiance toward Russian government in Chechnya, separatist efforts in China’s Xinjiang provinces, communal riots between Buddhist and Muslims in Burma, advances of Muslim rebels in southern Thailand, tension between India and Pakistan and undeclared war on Israel by Arab nations, all of these major issues are reflecting the Samuel Huntington’s thesis because these are all clash of different civilizations occurred at borderlines of two different civilizations.


However, a closer look on world international conflicts and diplomacy will give you a different thesis: persisting war between two Koreas and Taiwan’s resistance on China’s claims are potential triggers of a full scale war. But these are nothing to do with the Culture and more of clash of ideologies. In additions, the overlapping territorial claims by China and South East Asian countries on South China Sea are another possible flash point for future conflicts and surprisingly Vietnam, the closest cultural cousin of Chinese civilization, is the main defender of its national benefits against China’s territorial advances. In close observation to Asian diplomacy, it would found the intertwine alliance between China, Pakistan and North Korea at one side and Japan, India and South Korea at other side. The simple idea of “Enemy of enemy is my friend” seemed to be working well while nations and societies likely to rally on cultural similarities in some cases.

Here comes my next question: What is the role of the culture in media? Is Culture ultimate factor in shaping the media portrayal and should all media portray those with similar cultures positively and those with different culture negatively, if their individual interests are not included?

These are my thoughts and questions on this week’s reading.

Sept 23 Reading Reflection Monroe Price, John Sinclair and Silvio Waistboard

This week reading is swamps with theories on globalization and the role of media  in the formation of nation states. The two author Sinclair and Waistboard presented theories and make the recommendation in the conclusion part on how to handle the upcoming challenges made by globalization and globalized media system.

  • First of all, in Sinclair’s article, he tried to define the term globalization with Arjun Appadurai’s definition- globalization is unlimited flow of people, media, technology, capital and ideas around the world but he argued that these flows are disjunctive or not depended on each other. While other theorists tended toward cultural homogenization, particularly “Americanization”, Arjun ‘s views is more of proliferation of cultural fusion or “hybridity”, which means global culture would be absorbed and adapted into the host cultures.

Another aspect of globalization is deterritorialization – in which the modern day media found no boundaries to make impact to people around the world. Example given is the growing prevalence of international satellite televisions that allows people to receive daily news from countries of their origins and their home become a virtual reality.

Next, it was Anthony Giddens who emphasize the idea of “time-space distanciation”, in which spread of capital nation states, transnational corporation, rise of military order and industrial division of labor, which are all mechanisms of modernity have become global in these days.

Afterwards, Michael Richards and David French’s concept provide the conceptual framework for thoughts on globalization dividing it into three dimension: structural, ideological and empirical. First, there are always political economics structures as in supranational corporation and non government organizations. Second, ideologies on globalization are propagated by corporate interest groups as World Economics Forum and finally, there is empirical dimension of globalization, which can be observed as a process. It is noticeable for Marjorie Ferguson’s argument that in globalization age, the bigger is better (as in corporate merger) and more is better (as in television channels).

In amidst of optimisms, Doreen Massy’s “power geometry” has cautions on globalization which said “there are always winner and losers, the globalizers and globalized. Now-a-days, physical location in space does not matter anymore but location in social hierarchies, notably class and gender, continues to be determinant.” It reflect the Appadurai’s critical point “One man’s imagined community is another man’s political prison.”

  • In Waistbaord’s article “Media and Reinvention of nations”, he argued the validity of nationalism as the foundation of nations building. As nationalists believe nationalism provide unity in the nation states as well as segmentation on some states. One idea suggests that political centralization is the reason for nation States to emerge which eliminate the differences and impose the different language, religions and traditions into one homogenous identity. But, the other idea reject the former one showing nations and nationalism already exist before the process of political centralization while there are countries that cannot be merged into a common culture despite the presence of political centralization. Both ideas accept the importance of social institutions like education institutions, civics society and media.

Waistboard article vividly retold the history of mass media in parallel with history of formation of modern nation states. First, the birth of mass media has begun in first decades of 19th century in United States and European countries with growing number of printed literature among bourgeois circles. But in the latter decades, followed by rising levels of literacy coupled with technological developments in print, photography and the design has changed the conditions. The rise of consumerism and advertising has played important role to fuel the newly form media industry. At the turn of 20th century, the coming of film and radio technologies has expanded the media resourcing in shaping the national cultures. The massification of film and radio products makes literacy no longer a requirement nor distances an impediment in formation of national consciousness.

Among the theorist, Ernest Gellner debates the role of nationalism in creation of nation states by citing the experiences of European nations that although many pre modern ethnic groups were precursors to modern day European nations, some nations were just created during the modern era. He argued that elaborate nation state systems together with markets, industrialization, divisions of labor and social mobility are incorporating the people into a news socioeconomic order. However, in most arguments, discussing the role of media in state building was minimal due to the birth of mass media has just started and low literacy and technological limitations.

In a whole, Gellner stated that media played a crucial role by bring together disparate population under the same cultural roof.

Another theorist, Benedict Anderson, has influential works that marked media as nation builder in which the media are at the center of nations, as he discussed, or imagined communities. He cites the examples of formation of post colonial Latin American nations with the crucial role of printed media.

  • In Sinclair’s article, the rise of Supranational organizations UN, World Bank, WTO is seen as the precursor of world controlling body although many of these organizations are struggling with criticisms for perusing the agenda identified with rich countries and global corporations. Other examples of conflicts interests, supranational organization like Amnesty International and Greenpeace, often confront the sensitive issues that led the people choose between the interests of national government and global corporations and interests of humanity as a whole.

UNESCO is described as the classic case which dedicated for peaceful purposes and world development but disrupted by conflicts of interests between member states. For UNESCO’s commitment to liberal principle of “free flow” of information across borders was seen as grantee for diffusion of Western models of live and cultural values through the media, 77 countries of non aligned movement demanded a “New World Information and Communication Order” and won the vote to shift UNESCOs news principle as “a free and balanced flow”. But it came at the cost of withdrawal of United States and United Kingdom in 1985 and 1986 respectively, leaving the organization in debate on freedom of press versus the rights of government to control information flows. The absence of two major powers weakens UNESCO not only by its legitimacy and representativeness but also by financial contributions. This is best example of how far supranational organizations can go even with benign purposes.

In discussing the business sector, as international corporation extend their presence around the world, their ownership has become interpenetrated with other companies and their operations more decentralized, which Lash & Urry referred as “disorganized capitalism”.

At first, mostly American companies like Coca Cola have paved this way but more recently followed by European and Japanese companies. He argues that it was Sony that initiate the steps of truly “glocalization”, the tailoring of global products for differentiated local markets with the fusion is finely managed so that products appear in the marketplace without the evidence of their ultimate national provenance in Japan.

According to Sinclair, the rise of global corporations is an entity to globalization which is made possible by a range of technological developments, particularly the convergence of media with telecommunications. In these days, the regulation of media industries, that permitted the wide-scale privatization of TV systems and private-public ownership of TV satellite has paved way for a culture revolution where TVs has become the most implicated medium in facilitating the culture for globalization.

Sinclair predicted that the merger of cable, satellite and internet services can be expected to intensify in the future, particularly with technological advantages of digital television and commercial advantages of subscription services on direct-to-home basis.

In Global culture: Another Layer of Complexity, Peter Golding summarized the trends associated with the emergence of a global culture. First, the decline of nation as a cultural force (as well as economic and political one) relative to supranational influences. Second, the growth of supranational organizations is occurring not only above nation state but also below it that is at the local level. Third, the diffusion of global culture is facilitated by “syndicalization of experience” in the form of globalized consumer goods and the role of dominant world languages.

Sinclair reasoned that the decline of nation states as cultural force as well as economic and political is seen for two reasons: first, increased movement of people across border caused more culturally and linguistically pluralistic populations in all nations where diverse population can retain stronger ties to the language and culture of their origin and second, the concept of national culture fall into disrepute as national cultures are now criticized as the preferred culture of the dominant strata, not the nation as a whole.

I feel enlighten and adored to define the culture from the new perspective.  Traditional concept of culture is rooted in terms of the “organic” way of live of a certain people fixed in a certain place. Now, culture seems more about people on the move, a form of adaption to displacement and changing circumstances and always “hybrid” rather than “pure”.

In the new definition of culture, the diasporas of people ethnic groups play major role in dispersing and shaping a global culture, in which “oversea Chinese and Indians”, created global social networks which can be thought as “third tier” of supranational connections, after global organizations and nation-states.

In additions, commonalities of language and culture will also play important role in shaping a common culture, especially in the case with English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, countries with historical relationships of colonization will seen as closer ties among other nations of different language and cultures.

In Cultural Homogenization subtitle, syndicalization of experience, defined by Golding, can be seen as the spread of globally branded consumer goods around the world and a new modern culture of consumerism being integrated to it. Export of consumerism is the return of cultural imperialism, in Sinclair’s striking smile, it is like an unwelcome guest thrown out of party but sneak around and come back in the back.

Besides, Sinclair also talked about trade zones such as EU, NAFTA, MErcosur and APEC as precursor of globalized trade without tax barriers.

In conclusion, Sinclair noted that together with the rise of global corporations, the movement of media and people across border, the drive to free drive, supranational organizations are yet to replace the nation state. It remains as effective unit of economic, political and socio cultural authority in the world, while struggling with supranational organizations above it and plurality of social and cultural differences opened up below it. He also noted that nation states have differences in wealth, strength and prestige as well as receptiveness toward globalization.

For these reasons, Sinclair recommended that nation states should ensure that it fulfills its responsibilities in mediating globalization rather than throwing itself under the juggernaut’s wheel.