Week 3 Reflection on Manuel Castells “Power in the Network Society” and Naren Chitty’s “Mapping Asian International Communication”


This week reading is really a tough one as it included several theories and abstract idea on power relationships, intercultural communications and underlying factors that direct them, as contract to the previous week readings that focus on historical developments of international communications in chronological order.

First of all, in Manuel Castell’s “Power in the Network Society” from Communication Power, the author first defined what is “power” and its components as “Power is relational capacity that enable a social actor to asymmetrically influence the decision of other social actor in a way that favors the empowered actor’s will, interest and values. ” This is broad definition that can explain all kind of power relationships from nation-to-nations power relations to individual person-to-person power relationship. It is notable that power is exercised by coercion and constructing of meaning while power relation is framed by dominion which is embedded in institutions.

Besides the definitions, the author characterized the elements of power relationship: power relationships are always asymmetrical that is the power relationships are always reciprocal and there is no absolute or zero degree of influences between two relating actors. Furthermore, there are always compliance and acceptance as well as resistance and rejections toward the influences of empowered actor. When the later has become significantly stronger than the former, the relationship is transformed leading to institutional and structural change or the power relationship would become non-social relationship.

At this point, it need more clarifications on the meaning of non-social relationship, which author defines is the dominion backed by violence of those in power and obliterations of resisting actor. He seemed to refer to the situation where an authoritarian power tried to maintain the former power relationship by exercising forces and non-democratic means, that is why, it is called non-social relationships.

While I am impressed by the author’s attempt to define and characterize the complicated notion of power and associated relationships, I am also doubtful that the real power relationship in real world can be explained in a set of definitions. I believe that power relationships, especially in Asian landscape, are occurring at multiple layers and played by plural actors based on political, economical, cultural, situational and even personal background.

For example, the power relationship between China and South East Asia countries are occurring at multilateral level shaped by a variety of actors and outside factors. The major power relationships are determined by political relations of ruling parties of these countries, but the economics dominions of oversea Chinese in all South East Asian countries, the prevalence of Chinese soap operas, Hong Kong’s film celebrities, widespread of Chinese traditional medicines and martial arts, excellence of Chinese sports teams and showcase of 2008 Olympic games, all play the important role in promoting the dominion of China in South East Asia. Meanwhile, the personal friendships of individuals such as Thai King’s Bhumibol Adulyadej being partial Chinese and deceased Cambodia leader Sihanouk who had close ties with top figures of People’s republic, draws these countries into closer vicinity of China than other South East Asian countries. Sometime, power relationships are totally conditional such as Burma (Myanmar) was crippled by economic sanctions imposed by Western Countries leading to total reliance on China in trade, investment and diplomacy while the Philippines, with strong supports and historical ties from United States, is on a resistance path toward China.


Week 3 Assignment

1. The concept of globalization is one to discuss due to the interdependent society that we live in today. I do wonder what are the negative sides to a globalized world and how does creating a connected environment create drawbacks in the political and economical system

2. I was most interested in the Asian/Western communication dichotomy as I am unfamiliar with Asian culture. I would like to discuss the importance that Eastern culture places on relationships with regards to business transactions and diplomatic relations. I realize the West is more in tune with goal oriented performance which can tend to come across as not intimate or sincere.

3. The article left me wondering if there is a superior communication standard in Asian cultures. Is the “West” not performing to the ability it should to relate on an effective level? And if so, why? I believe it is more than a language barrier or lack of concern.

Week 3, Sep. 16 Readings

Chitty asserts that there is a “single western image of modernity” due to a dominant western cultural influence and that there should be a “pluralism of models of modernization.” If various nations, Asian and beyond, develop differently than this western image of modernity, what would those directions of development be? How can modernization be defined outside of a western lens – technology, democracy, policy?

Castell’s statement, “.. power is based on the control of communication and information..” makes me think back to our Thussu reading on the historical context of IC. As technologies develop to foster international communication, so does technology to protect and destroy communication vehicles. I think it can be argued today that power also lies in the ability to secure modes of communication and information, i.e. NSA, and counterpower is the ability to break through these defenses.

I found Castell’s idea that “societies are not communities … they are contradictory social structures enacted in conflicts and negotiations among diverse and often opposing social actors” most interesting. We routinely see this on the global stage today. US, Russia, and Syria most recently is an example. We’ve seen in the past few weeks the negotiations among these three diverse and opposing social structures.

Reflection #3

While reflecting on Manuel Castells’ Communication Power, I remembered his definition of societies as the antithesis of communities that share the same goals and values. He expressed that a society is composed of opposing actors, institutions, and organizations that reflect power’s structures not the actual community. Actors, essentially create institutions that represent a society based on structural positions. And because of this, there are people at the top who influence the bottom to comply because,“power is relational, [and] domination is institutional” (pg. 15).

Continuing on from what is power, to how it is controlled, Castells’ introduced the concepts of programmers and switchers, the first and second positions that hold power in the communication field.  These concepts describe an actor’s ability to program/reprogram, and the capacity to influence different networks to cooperate because of their shared goals. The capacity in which programmers work depends on how they frame human action, while switchers work to create a common language or medium. This medium has essentially become money, and the Western world has acquired enough to be both the programmer and switcher.

In “Mapping Asian International Communication” by Naren Chitty, he offers his projection of the future of International Communication through the eyes of regions ostracized in communication power, such as Asia. Using Castells’ definition of switchers, do you think it will take Asian countries very long to switch communication theory and practice to promote their views, especially since the Western world is indebted to them?

Week 3 Reflections: Castells “Communication Power” & Chitty “Mapping Asian International Communication”

  1. This week reading on Manuel Castells’ Communication Power offers a great sense of power in the network society, specifically the key elements of his conceptualization of the network society as they relate to the understanding of power relationship. In particular, I am fascinated how he had differentiate the ideology of power with the notion of domination.  As he mentioned, “power is relational, domination is institutional.”(Castells, p.15),  in which perfectly manifest what the current network society is like, since there is always something called relationship which alter us in every aspects of our life. As each of the living individual, people always have certain degree of influence over one another, at the same time, perceive different levels of influence from them, that’s how hierarchy was formed and performed in this network society. Also in a general sense, how power worked as an ability to pursue and attain goals through this rational society.
  2. Another term I found to be very insightful was how he had defined network with three major features, with flexibility, scalability, and survivability. I have no difficulties understanding the first two terms of flexibility and scalability, which gives the relation building a chance of reconfigure with changing environment and other forms of objective changes, at the meantime, scalability offers a broader expansion of configurations in different styles and ways of perform. However, the last term, survivability was actually quite new for me since to my understanding, in relationship building, the ability of survival really varies upon different individuals, but Castells idea definitely opened a new window for me, as “only the material ability to destroy the connecting points can eliminate the network.” (Castells, p. 23)
  3. In responding to Chitty’s article, it is really interesting to see how his idea has connect to Thussu’ s notion of international communication, especially the dichotomous relationship between Asian and Western interpretations of the international communication are being discussed primarily as a history of counteracting Western dominance over others. Just like he mentioned earlier, “definitions of the field must be provisional because of international communication’s acute responsiveness to geopolitical, technological and social changes. Like Western social theory, international communication theory is fraught with liminality. Constellations of objective conditions around the field change, as does western social theory. Observing the former, workers in the field are nourished by the latter.” (Chitty, p. 182)

Assignment 3; Castells, “Power in the Network Society” & Chitty, “Mapping Asian international Communication”

Castells, pg 9; I really liked how Castells described an aspect of human conditioning as quoted here. “And if power relationships are constructed in the human mind through communication processes, as this book will try to demonstrate, these hidden connections may well be the source code of the human condition”. My question to others is; how have others took action against breaking the conditioning that surrounds us all? I don’t think that is possible to live in any society and not be affected by some form of conditioning, at different points in life. I know that by traveling and exposing myself to other cultures of various types as often as possible and immersing myself in non-local environments for long periods has worked to increase my awareness within my own local society and the conditioning’s of that which I observe in others. I also I find it more helpful to read about in print versus watching a TV program is more beneficial because it leaves open more of an opportunity to ponder what is being said, Even though print is very much agenda based often, I feel that it is easier to read through the dictation easier. Also, I find it most beneficial to take time away from social channels and sit and think in silence what has been experienced for the day, at times, this can be in the form of a mediation as well. I think that this encourages more free thought and less agitation from propaganda.

Chity, pg 7 speaks of Taoism. I am mostly unfamiliar with this philosophy. I would be happy to hear if anyone has any good online resources to read up more on this philosophy. Although that is briefly described, it appears to be familiar with the economic thourhg of Austrian Economics and classical liberalism. A well studied and famous philosopher, Austrian School economist, sociologist, and classical liberal Ludwig von Mises, states the following. “All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.” Ludwig von Mises. I’m drawing comparisons between the two, but I can be completely wrong on this.

Castells, the focus on power during this reading was often critical of the state and then describes the relationship of power. For instance on page 12 Habermas states that “the state reveals itself as an instrument of domination instead of representation. Legitimation largely relies on consent elecited by the construction of shared meaning.” These types of views are also shared in the classical liberal philosophies and Austrian Economic school of thought. French philosopher and author of “The Law” Frederick Bastiat states the following; “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of Everyone”. In essence we grant this power, it is a mutual agreement to allow the state to rule. When describing power, it was interesting to read how each thought of its’ meaning. My best understanding exists on a quantum level. I feel that power is both granted and forced. Individuals accept the force as a legitimate power. But force is used to persuade. One dimension of power and force, that I don’t think was mentioned enough or possibly at all, was the infinite power within us all, that can combat an abusive state. I don’t view force as power. I view that as a weakness actually. The power to operate within a society without the use of force is true power. Force will eventually reveal itself as false perceived power and will falter. True power is honesty,  transparent, and infinite. True power is living in abudance, not scared rational that resorts to force. Force to me, and outdated model to give the impression of power. A great book that I read once was actually titled “Power vs Force” and was written by medical Dr. David Hawkins. His work infuses kinseology and attempts to describe developed consciousness. If anyone is interested in knowing more about this book it can be found at Amazon here http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=the+power+vs+force&tag=googhydr-20&index=stripbooks&hvadid=3997991635&hvpos=1t2&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10333305121418982521&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_34ma201l2h_b

Sept 16 Readings


-Globalized interaction networks: do they grant more freedom through expanding the flows of communication, or do they actually have the opposite effect? The NSA surveillance system comes to mind. While it is true that we are now able to perceive transnational communication patterns and dynamics at a far greater scale than ever before, we are also subject to greater surveillance than before. Global social movements can begin locally but just as effectively gain momentum and garner support globally through social media. Let’s just remember the powerful, quickly-rising and quickly-faded campaign to capture Kony in 2012. Let’s think about Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring Revolutions, the 15May movement in Spain, campaigns against elephant poaching, against sexual trafficking, campaigns in favor or against same-sex marriage, drug decriminalization, and so on. All these phenomenons had in common their potential to reach far and wide. But they also imply something else. Your views, your convictions, your fights, it’s all out there on the web. Your public face is exposed because you want it to be. But your private face suffers as well. And that is a new challenge. There is now the notion of being monitored and the power that this grants the programmers and those who take your place as switchers, by being a step ahead of you through the information you grant them. Then there is the power of being able to change something through interactions, which now imply putting yourself out there publicly and privately. What are the costs-benefits of this reality?

-The global network society is, as usually happens, driven by contradictions. On the one hand, we have come to regard consumerism, capitalism, industrialization as synonyms of globalization. On the other, we see, with rising frequency, tendencies such as the Green Movement galvanizing other similar activisms that favor embracing policies that distance themselves from globalization. They do this through the use of globalized tools. There is the desire to return to a simpler lifestyle, but it is possible only because we are now aware of both the up and downsides of globalization. Castell considers the global network society dynamic and highly malleable. In the sense that it moves notions around the world, I agree. But to what degree is this network society actually capable not only of raising awareness of different issues around the globe but of actually influencing public policy? Do you perceive as effective the many initiatives and pledges that circulate online for this and that petition, asking leaders worldwide to stop a specific practice or enforce better conditions for a given situation?

-As future leaders in the field of international communication, what is our role in diminishing the gap between those excluded from the global network society? What are some ways in which we can practically influence the networking power for the greater benefit of our societies, both locally and globally?

__Naren Chitty

-“His view is that rather than a preoccupation
with West-Rest relations, other problems, notably consumerism, fundamentalisms
and new forms of cosmopolitan citizenship, should engage us in the future”. (Murdock, 2008 in Chitty, Naren, p. 189).
This called my attention because I have often wondered about how much of a difference we could make if instead of focusing on the quandary of ‘West-Rest’ relations we focused on the real challenges that we are presented with in our daily lives. The excuse used in many Latin American countries, mine included, is that cultural imperialism by the West, especially the United States, is to blame for our underdevelopment. As it stands, it is just that– an excuse. Therefore, I believe International Communication could more efficiently solve problems and present solutions by focusing on the new challenges that exist, without a uni or multipolar view of the world, especially because, even though the US and the West continue to have uncontested power, there is more evidence of a multipolar world, and international communication as a field is one of the vectors that has made it so.

-I think the concept of “development communication” (mentioned in p. 190) is interesting in so far as it brings forth a notable aspect of the field of IC. Communication, as we have seen in the previous readings from Thussu and Monroe Price, is a fundamental tool that has been used throughout history as a way to bring about development- or to stem it. I do not mean to imply that the level of communication in a nation is indicative to the level of development (indeed, this is the concept I raised questions about during last week’s readings). However, I have been witness to the power of communication as, for instance, and educative tool. Moreover, it is also interesting to consider expanding the term of communication, especially of international communication, and converging it into new fields such as “international development communication”, “international social communication”, “international economical communication”, “international (multi)cultural communication”, and so on. In other words, right there is the potential of this field.

– And in relation to the point mention above, I would like to agree with the author when he concludes depicting international communication as a wider field. He poses a question of harmony as coexistence between cultural or political views. I would like to display it as a coexistence of both cultural and political views, as well as economic, social, religious, and even personal views! Because the main point is that whether it be Asia-centrist, Euro-centrist, exclusive or inclusive, IC as a wider field has the potential to reach many arenas that we hadn’t even considered yet, and that could have a specific, measurable effect over international affairs, intercultural relations, and personal everyday situations.