November 25th Reading

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?


Week 12: Explore Media’s Role in Global Development


These are the issues I found interesting for further discussions in this week’s readings:

1. I found the report on China’s activity in the African sector particularly interesting, since I was not aware of this collaboration before. The Chinese model of intervention in completely different from the Western one and seems to benefit both sides greatly. As presented, this model fosters state-owned media outlets as opposed to the traditional Western model of empowering the civil society. Western-type media is being criticised a lot these days for being too free, too subjective and loosing focus. Chinese media on the other hand is criticised for being completely state controlled and closed. I wonder whether the African model that seems to tai best of both worlds and to create its own system will prove to be the best model and whether in a more far future we could expect African media outlets to train the Western ones.

2. The ‘information-Dramatisation” article was all surprising for me. As consumers of Western, mainly American TV content we are used to the idea of TV having mainly bad influences and promoting violence, intolerance and several unhealthy habits. Using this content to promote habits for more life quality is indeed an amazing idea. But it seems that Western media producers and consumers have gone too far say from this idea. Can this be changed? Can the healthy, the peaceful, etc. become popular? It’s hard to imagine Breaking Bad” or “Modern Family” promoting HRMs or other messages for social change. But can the government/ supra-national organisations/ civil society force this agenda on the media outlets? Do they have the right to? (Freedom collides here with promoting common wealth).

3. The concept of Entertainment Education in Waisboard’s article (p. 12-13) is directly connected to what has been applied in the East Asian countries regarding the HRMs. It made me analyse the original ideas in the Disney cartoons and older kids TV shows in general. If we look at the classic Disney movies such as Cinderella or Mary Poppins (which of course based on existing stories), we can find a lot of educational values there. However examining recent Disney productions, the educational aspect is clearly less evident. What were the causes for that? Can it be changed? What would make educational entertainment profitable and attractive enough to be on the market again? I would say that it’s connected to the general need to reform educational systems in the West.


Alona Volinsky.

Oct 28th Readings

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

Stovepiped –>Coordinated

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?

Oct 28 Reflection

Bollier’s People/Networks/Power echoes some themes we’ve already discussed in class regarding globalization: waning role of the nation-state, abundance of media outlets, and transnational communication networks. What I thought was interesting an new was Bollier’s discussion about how context constructs meaning. Though short, he brings to attention an incredibly important point that meanings are deeply rooted in the interplay of the subconscious and the conscious. Thus, efficient international communication messaging must work within the cultural context of the receivers. An example he points out is the “guilt culture” vs. “shame culture” of various countries. Having a key understanding of receiving cultures ties into what the participants view as important in closing the credibility gap: understand audiences on their own terms.

In Rise of the Netpolitik, Bollier defines netpolitik as a “new style of diplomacy that seeks to exploit the powerful capabilities of the internet to shape politics, culture, values, and personal identity.” It can be argued that this discussion is really one between soft power and hard power. With new technology and the proliferation of news information, soft power has dramatically increased in value. Though hard power is still the dominant arm of most governments, efficient use of soft power is increasingly becoming more important in external messaging.

One of Kalathil’s proposal was “Encourage funding of international broadcasting by a variety of sources, rather than the single-government-funded model.” I would argue that having diversified funding won’t necessarily create multiple points of view. As we’ve seen with the Rupert Murdoch articles, stories can be covered based on the interests of what is best for the business, not ideology.

Week 9: The Rise of Netpolitik


This week’s readings made me contemplate about the following issues:

1. “Key players usually had adequate time and procedures for absorbing information and making intelligent judgments. The process offered no guarantees of political wisdom or strategic insight, of course, but generally there was sufficient time to filter and process the information.” (The Rise of Netpoliti, Bollier, p. 4). We usually perceive the information technology as a stage in evolution to something better. Is it possible that it actually impedes the quality of the decisions we are making? How will this effect the future? Building on the framework from last week- much of the internet activism is not actually executed in the real life, so possibly it becomes more of a burden on decision makers than a advanced tool for shaping policy?

2. The same report discusses the idea that internet gives access to information but it does not give knowledge and the result is creation of a skeptical society that is not capable of evaluating information.How can this issue be addressed? Is it the education system that should be trained to emphasise ability to critically process information? Should this be an issue dealt with o a family level? A state level? Who can set the rules for what is scepticism and what is intelligent critical evaluation?

3. The concept of “empowering the other” (Soft Power, Hard Issues, p. 16) is broadly discussed in the second report. It is highlighted that empowering the other should be preferred over exercising power. However from the discussion it seems that empowering the other is just a nicer term for exercising power since it’s still done through the same tools- mainly by promoting democracy. Is that the right attitude and it that what the people (as opposed to decision makers) have in mind when public diplomacy is discussed? Is t all about promoting democracy and freedom of speech or should this term distance itself from the classic understanding of soft power and create an entirely new concept? (This is what I would suggest…)

Internet Media and Power: Infrastructure, Stakeholders, and Governance

Hello All, below are my thoughts on this week’s readings:

As Castells concludes his research into Communication Power, he summarizes the data-driven research he did into Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, and Murdoch as a major network unto himself.  I appreciated the challenge for others to do similar research into others likewise wielding tremendous power as “network switchers.”  He has herein provided a theoretical and research structure for similar investigation.  It made me want to investigate “switchers” in the U.S. Department of Defense, in the National Security Staff (formerly called the National Security Council), in former White House chiefs of staff, and other U.S. public policy figures, addressing both domestic and foreign affairs.

To begin, one would need the beginning of a story, because each of these positions transition, initial background would be needed to identify the beginning of the story.  For the military, I would start with Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift” about the shift in American military policy since the Vietnam War.  Not because she is an expert in this area, she’s a pundit – her job is to talk about what other people say – but because in her research of that book, she identifies what I see as the beginning, and one of the first “switchers” in modern military policy, U.S. Army Commander Creighton Abrams, Commander during the Vietnam War.  While General Patton, the famous World War II commander would be a likely choice, his army was not the army we have today, so we must begin with the shift to modern policy.

The same would be needed in other areas, for the presidential-campaign-turned-public-policy-wonks we refer to as ‘White House chiefs of Staff,’ I would begin with Jason Johnson’s book, “Campaign Management: One Day to Sell.”  And so on down the line.

Regarding the article on the internet and social media in activism, I’d first like to acknowledge academic research on the subject that did not use the Arab Spring as an example.  The Arab Awakening, as it was also called, is a fascinating case, and worthy of much study, but it is also such an extreme example that underlying principles of the theme may be difficult to distinguish so soon to the events’ history, and present if the Syrian civil war is to be included.

That being said, I appreciated mostly what the research revealed about how the three regions’ populations felt about the internet, social media, and activism.  I appreciated that Americans saw and still generally see the internet as a hopeful mode for equality and change; that the Chinese citizens polled saw these tools as useful to circumvent censorship and get direct access to journalists; and that Latin Americans saw the web platform as a place to increase debate.

Chief concerns were/are also telling.  I generally think of the North American characterization of South America as ‘developing’ as neo-imperialist and negative – but to read that 15% of those polled had no access to the internet in their homes is a shock.  That is the reality in parts of the world, but I did not expect to see that in the Americas.

I think that each of our regions may have something to learn from the chief concerns of the other.  While we don’t deal with much censorship as such in the U.S., our government does over-classify information, which is a more centrally-held form of censorship, censorship the citizen in unaware is taking place.  That aside, Americans are less concerned with debate than our Latin American neighbors.  However, research shows that international, borderless information platforms like the internet and international news networks do not encourage debate with people of differing views, instead, viewers follow perspectives close to their own, thereby becoming more entrenched in their original viewpoints.  Likewise, China might emphasize change along with their very real governmental-censorship problem, and Latin America might look to their own censorship issues in their post-dictatorial regimes.

Oct 14 Organization and Management of Information Flow; ARSENAULT & CASTELLS

Pg 5 castells . “global media organizations are not truly global, as local media organizations are not truly local. What is global is the networked organization of media companies.”

I thought that this statement touched on a couple of major issues in just a few words. I agree that the global media organizations are mostly global in their outreach to volumes of people and diversified profit taking, but not nearly global enough in its ability to be representative of all global cultures, which is why I think it is failing and will continue to fail. What may work for them may be an approach where they provide a platform for local media representatives to express their view to the rest of the world similarly to how internet giants, provide the access to many diversified views, versus actually producing the news and other programming. It could also work similarly to how a stock market functions; for instance the NYSE provides a market for other companies to sell their shares to the wider public. The global media giants can provide the stage for many companies across the globe to sell their media products to a vast array of customers. The media giants survive by offering their platform to deliver to the global audience in exchange for a fee. The smaller institutions agree, because they otherwise may not have such readily available access to such a wide audience. The internet is already doing this in many facets, but the existing media giants are in a position to better streamline video productions.

As far as “local media organizations are not truly local”; I couldn’t agree more. Local media does indeed focus on the mainstream segments too. I feel that they see this as a “safe play”. They may view national and global wide stories as a safe bet to keep viewers, because it is probably already assumed that the majority of the public has already attached their attention to the popular news stories, so it can be assumed that by also covering the mainstream view, they shouldn’t lose viewership, by covering stories that have already been approved by a wider audience.

Diagrams pg 11,11,9 showing the cross-ownership of media companies and conflict of interest.

I kind of saw this as a Self-sustaining Monopolistic Eco-system. I would be happy to hear what other thought of this diagram and how it functions. Not to mention that the media giants/dinosaurs are becoming behemoth bureaucracies as well.  I kind of want to relate this to the collapse of financial system in 2008. A link here from the Financial Times , shows an interview with famous NYU professor, economist, and author of “Black Swan”, Nicholas Taleb. He became famous because he successfully predicted our financial crash. In this interview, he states that the crash existed because of “too much centralized control” and because bureaucracies are “running the show with no skin in the game”. I will come back to what he meant by “no skin in the game” in a minute”, but first I want to point out that the monopolistic media giants are acting in a centralized manner, as was seen in the diagrams, with their cross corporate reach and very few if any competitors. In reference to “no skin in the game”, he makes the claim that bureaucrats having nothing to lose because they sort of make the rules and do not have to suffer the consequences. In a monopoly, the rules that are established strongly represent the giant players, and are so big and influential that no matter what decisions they make, they will be profitable, because they have a monopoly. But, everything has a life cycle and all monopolies must come to an end. If what we see in the diagrams is indeed a Self-sustaining Monopolistic Eco system, is it sustainable and for how long?

This is sort of how I see how things are progressing in the world of media. I’m calling it; Moving into Media 3.0, 1st government monopoly, 2nd privatization monopoly, and 3rd is the decentralization of the privatized monopoly. The decentralization of the privatized monopoly can be described as a more free market approach that shares the landscape with existing dinosaurs, medium sized conglomerates, small niche media outlets, and personal media companies like youtube casts. As I mentioned before, I believe that the existing media giants can survive and thrive if they provide the “stage” or “platform’ for delivering local media projects, otherwise it can become a very long and hard fought battle for them.  I believe one theory stands, that the dinosaurs actually died out, because they where too large and became too big of targets, and had difficulty sustaining life because of their mere size.

In terms of Ruport Murdoch, I don’t see much of a difference between how his corporation functions and how the other giants operate. It was well supported that Ruports company appears to be more independent, but this is just one step closer to decentralizing the media monopoly. His company also benefits largely in the same ways that any of the others do, except his company is focused on acquiring more social internet sites and financial market news, and may not be currently as big of a behemoth as the rest.  In Media 3.0, even this company will have great difficulty if they do not truly embrace and respect local cultural media needs, because the behemoths are the true minority. Although his company may appear to be more nimble now, it will continue to slow.