Media’s Role in Global Development

This week’s readings on development were a fair introduction to what’s going on in the field, though I determined this is not the field for me.  Hah.

I thought Khiun article on health communication-dramatization was a useful reminder that infotainment – presenting ideas in a realized form – is more digestible in an immediately effective way for audience persuasion.  It’s why mass consumerist culture works so well in the market for loyalties.  Media helps shape identity when it is attractive and the audience buys-in, and becomes a willing distributor of the idea.  Infotainment’s challenges are to give the audience what they’re looking for, make them feel good about the actions and want to modify their behavior, and also to maintain their attention as long as necessary to effect attitudinal and behavioral shifts.  Infotainment that masquerades as information almost has a harder time, because there is a different expectation of credibility.  Entertainment-based infotainment is free to claim that it has no intrinsic value other than entertainment if it gets into trouble with its audience or other stakeholders. I’m thinking specifically of CNN vs. The Daily Show.

The China in Africa summary of the forum held in London didn’t have much new to say.  Though it is likely the first and only inquiry of its kind specifically into the Chinese role in media in the sub-Saharan continent.  I thought it was less interesting that they used Egypt as one of their examples, because China’s presence in Egypt does not at all typify it’s activity in the main continent.  More action would be interesting, but it must come from the sovereign nations in the region themselves, and should be held on the continent also.  This report reads like ‘no news here.’  Although one very interesting point was about how the Sino approach to diplomatic engagement with African partners would inherently be very different from the western approach, as both Sino and African cultures are community-based.  I don’t think any African is buying the ‘we’re both misunderstood brothers caught in the western media market’ schtick.  Though it is a valid point.

The methodologies and theories of Development Communication chaffed me; I found them uninformed, neo-imperialistic, arrogant, etc. – though these were the vanguard of the industry, and they were right to pay some attention to communication tools in development, in their way.  Thankfully, the theories continue to evolve, but I do not think that telling the avialable complex, dynamic, disparate continental community in Africa an American story is likely to lead to their development.  Not if they are not going to do what we do.

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MEIDA ROLE IN GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT

In China in Africa, the workshop participants provoked the possible example that a nation’s soft power could affect overseas. China’s “non-ideological” no-strings-attached approach actually attached the strings of most of the African country needs, which being perceived as an opportunity to challenge some of the consumptions and prescriptions that have guided media development. Instead of “media assistance”, both China and African countries are preferring to use exchange and corporate to define their media activities. Therefore, the impact of media soft power can be positive in the ways of a globalized point of view, however; also detrimental to the local culture as well as western influence. Exactly as we discussed in class, as Nye indicates that soft power is “the ability to affect others through the co-optivemeans of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes.”, promoted China’s soft power both domestically and globally.

In Informatization-Dramatization: Communicating Health in East Asian Television Dramas, I found the role of media as an educational tool to be very insightful, which “aimed at cultivating what are deemed informed, socially responsible, sensitive ways of living healthily. Protagonists—no longer only lovers and heroes/heroines—become patients, medical professionals, caregivers, and educators as screen portrayals of health and illness grow to encompass not only dramatic critical life-and-death situations but also more ordinary physical and social challenges.”, as the author described. Apparently the audience’s role becomes more complex in switching from the perceiver to the conductor.

My question for this reading would be: Could drama be seen as another platform of soft power?

 

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?

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 18reflection

-China in Africa

The most interesting concepts from this reading, to me, are those of “positive reporting” and “developmental journalism” as a vehicle to achieving the ‘harmonious society’. In contrast to “communal communication”, developmental journalism points to the specific role of those in charge of spreading news stories and framing them in such a way as to impulse proactive action on the part of citizens, governments, NGOs, and all actors that can participate in the process. Developmental journalism, then, must be focused on empowering communities through information as a tool for knowledge, and, therefore, for the power to be actively engaged. Furthermore, I believe journalism as a field should no longer be simply “journalism”. It should live up to its original promises of bringing unbiased news to the citizens for the purpose of allowing them to make informed decisions about the different issues that pertain them. It should consider how incorporating and covering international news, which sometimes feel to alien to local and national communities, can actually foster the view of the “harmonious global society” and make it possible. Bringing stories together can actually bring people together. They learn that around the world, there are others who are just like them in many ways. They also learn that those immediately surrounding them can actually help build the welfare of the communities. The focus of journalism, then, should shift from covering rivalries and conflict all the time to turning the stories around and showing people how to actually avoid those clashes. The way I see it, journalism has a unique potential in building bridges between intercultural communities and fostering development. The question, then, would be how to achieve that still utopian goal of journalism for development and peace.

 

-Family-tree of theories, methodologies and strategies in Development Communication

I agree with the view that advocates for the convergence of modernist and developmental theories as applied to the field of communication for development. However, I wonder, in practice, how it can be achieved in circumstances where the best strategy would be for them to come together, but where politization and rivalry is so great that it is not easy to break the barriers. Mobilizing diverse social forces implies a great deal of compromise, and sometimes that seems like too huge a task to complete. An example that comes to my mind is the culture of smoking cigarettes in Ecuador. In order to create conscience and in an attempt to get individuals to smoke less, cigarette packs are now more expensive because of added taxes, and it is forbidden to smoke in a lot of public places. Clearly imprinted in black, big bold letters in the cigarette pack is the slogan “SMOKING CAUSES CANCER”. Every time a consumer buys them, he is reminded of the consequences that his health might suffer. The big tobacco companies agree to sell the packages with the warning on them because they acknowledge that consumers smoke at their own risk. Campaigns advocating for a healthier lifestyle are common. And yet the number of smokers is not declining. The civil society is not willing to quit, for whatever reasons. The message is not being transmitted effectively. Or is it that the different actors that should merge to obtain the desired result are neglecting to do so? Or is it that the message is ineffective to the “public opinion” because, in communication, opinion is not really public? Since campaigns are usually directed by specific actors, even if they aim to target society as a whole, they are not really focused around public opinions and perceptions, but rather on the objectives the different campaigns seek to obtain. That might be one reason why communication for development fails at times, and why it is difficult for different sectors (and theories) to converge for the attainment of those goals– the public opinion is not really taken into consideration

 

-Informatization and Dramatization

I would like to take the case studies that focus on Asia for this reading and expand them to the Latin American realm, where infotainment still rules over edutainment. Although considerable efforts have been made in order to advance the latter over the former, the truth is that informatization is still predominantly commercial in its outlook. As such, it fails to consider how the message can be applied widely beyond the sphere of the elites. For instance, telenovelas, especially Mexican ones, became symbols of an aspired lifestyle, one where all “common individuals” could have the opportunity to become famous, rich, and beautiful one day, just like the characters they admired. In that sense, the message conveyed superficially touches upon the real issues because they focus more on the dramatization than the actual information. Many telenovelas are based on daily life stories of drama, relationships, economic, religious, and spiritual struggles, and the like. They try to incorporate the different characters that make up society, but still mirror the typical elite lifestyle. The outcast characters are still outside of the elites. This, on the one hand, makes it attractive for different spectators to watch because they all feel represented in some way or another. But on the other hand, they fail to offer alternatives to the metanarratives and social inequities that exist. The focus on drama, then, becomes more of a vehicle for entertainment and a moment for commoners to gain distraction from daily work, rather than educate them to avoid or adopt certain practices that might allow them to develop. There is, however, much potential in how these shows inspire people to aspire for more. Furthermore, though birth rates in Latin America remain skyrocketing, the case has been made that in Brazil, telenovelas might be contributing to decreased birth rates. A report by the Washington Post a couple years ago interviewed working class and middle class women in Brazil who said that they desired to achieve the same level of success (both economic and social) that the characters they revered in their favorite shows has attained. That meant that they were now thinking about having less children (if at all) in order to advance their professional careers first. In conclusion, then, I believe edutainment should move past the discourses of the elites and become more inclusive, precisely because I acknowledge their potential to subtly empower viewers to make decisions that might transform their lives for the better (or worse, when entertainment or infotainment are merely superficial and based on detrimental practices for society).

Explore Media’s Role in Global Development

While reading “Family Tree of Theories, Methodologies and Strategies in Development Communication” I found myself contemplating how these theories  can apply to developed countries, and their role in development, in particular dispersing relief aid.  It’s evident that humanitarian aid is a successful example of how social marketing can solicit donations. But even with all of the available media resources, there is also a lack of interpersonal communication between these organizations and their efforts. After reading an article written in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-help-the-philippines–but-not-like-we-helped-haiti/2013/11/15/8b8a890c-4ca5-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_story.html, I realized that the communication in the Western world needs to be developed more when considering foreign aid dispersal. The article in the Post stressed that, “the response to Typhoon Haiyan can and should be the first major relief effort in which all humanitarian organizations and aid agencies publish the details of their planned and actual spending and activities online, in real time, using a common format.” There obviously has to be better communication policy in how we view development and administer it between organizations.

I applaud China’s attempt at developing Africa’s media resources, but I was burdened with the fact that their efforts expand to several different countries that have different needs and power structures that weren’t all stated in the study. Far too often, the Western world will clump African countries into one and generalize their reaction to China’s investments. And it brings up how we analyze development in general. The study would have been more in-depth if PCMLP focused on one African country’s experience with Chinese policies, while using the modes and methods that that particular country would prefer.

I am interested in the participatory influence of health officials in the programming identified in ”Informatization–Dramatization: Communicating Health in East Asian Television Dramas”. And also, did rates of infectious diseases or other unhealthful practices decline after a certain time after these shows premiered?

November 18th Readings

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.