Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Facebook: Lighting a Fire?

I don't think that I'm alone in being a bit disappointed with youth involvement in civil society. What happened to impromptu riots, rallies and gatherings? Or even planned ones for that matter? Don't get me wrong, I've heard of the Stewart-Colbert rallies, but the majority of our class hadn't yet heard of the liberal response that's apparently happening this weekend. I say apparent, because 1. I am unsure if it’s this weekend or next 2. because just because something is planned doesn't mean anyone will show up. That is not a jab at liberals. That is a jab at our generation. However, the tides may be turning.

Social networking is one of the latest assets of congregation and communication. Everyone around the world is using it. And its inspiring people. Maybe we won't be bowling alone for too much longer. The State Department even asked Twitter not to undergo a scheduled maintenance because it would coincide with an Iranian revolution. Nations have closed off access to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Bebo. The international community is aware of the growing strength and unity that social networking is providing. So maybe, just maybe, this won't just be a fad, and social networking will become an important tool in facilitating involvement in civil society, not something to put in the history books as an attempted reinvigoration at the beginning of the 21st century.

Google, censored?

Guilty as charged: I get lost in most of the conversations in class that have to deal with media history (or contemporary pop culture for that matter). The pop culture I should do better with, but the media history I'm learning about--and thanks to all of you, quickly. Fortunately, I find the topics both amusing and applicable, so I jot things down to follow-up on. One of them being the "dirty words" conversation.

Inappropriate words in print don't particular phase me. Said on the media, I can handle it. Say it in front of me, and I get awkward. Ask me to say something? I'll clam up. Don't ask me what twisted part of my up-bringing instilled that, because my family and friends certainly aren't afraid to shoot the shit with one another. See that, I can curse in print.

Moving on however to Google. A fellow NH classmate of mine wrote a blog article last week addressing how the internet helps us think. That Google feature freaks me out a bit. However, it is censored. Google is notorious for being anything but censoring, but for its latest feature that thinks for you, it is just that. For example, if you begin to type in a possible offensive or sticky word, such as anal or barely legal, the instant search feature no longer works. You can still type the full word and search for it like you could three weeks ago. But that is so outdated. Who wants to search in the past? Now, if you took a gander at the black list of words, you'll notice that not all of them are outright wrong such as camel toe. Granted, not a personal fan of the phrase and what it represents, but you could very well want to know the anatomy of the Arabian one-humped camel's toes. Good for you--but probably not what most people are looking for. There are still some that are throwing me, such as hairy and meat, because I don't think that most searches of these words fall under the category that should be shielded from the viewer unless certain of intention. Google's working out the kinks right now, but this is the censorship they're sticking with for the time being.

Friday, September 24, 2010


A lot of this Tuesday’s class focused on hybridity and “glocalization”. I still feel like I do not understand exactly what either of terms mean or describe. Talk in class made me think about Calle 13. I don’t know if they apply to hybridity or glocalization exactly but they are a musical group of family members who transcend a lot of musical borders. Their music is a combination of jazz, hip hop, salsa and electronic sounds with intertwined English and Spanish (spanglish?) lyrics. More than just their sounds, the content of their songs is often politically charged, socially pertinent and critical of the status quo. Their style has enabled them to become popular in North and South America. Do they glocalize themselves? Whether it is intentional or not, I think Calle 13 has become really representative of our continuously integrating, new globalized world. And they demonstrate the power of the mass media. “Querido F.B.I” was written about the assassination of a Puerto Rican revolutionary. The song’s lyrics made it into Puerto Rican newspapers, reaching a much larger audience than their own and started a public debate. Their music is an entertainment art form, mass produced with real political and social repercussions. And it sounds really good.
Some of my favorites…

Media literacy who is responsible for its development?

In Brian O'Neill's Media literacy and communication rights article, he talks about the concept of Media Literacy as a critical tool for citizens in nation-states to interact not only within their own physical communities but also with those they interact with online and through various forms of media. This critical tool as stated in various media policies in Europea as "a prerequisite to effective participation in technologically advanced societies" (pg 325), has brought about many revisions and extensions on how media literacy should be achieved and who should be responsible for achieving it.

The focus seems to be on nation-states who in turn create a definition of media literacy before turning to "regulatory authorities and media industry interests [to] play their part in helping to promote and improve levels of media literacy" (pg 328). This makes finding a source for learning media literacy very blurred and ambiguous as one group looks to the other for a solution. One of the main solutions suggested is education, mostly education of youth. A field in which the U.S. is stated to lag in because of its "failure to recognize media literacy and media education as a right that all children and young people have" (pg. 326). But with the U.S. being one of the nations with the most proliferate users of technology is it a failure to recognize rights or is that as a nation that prides individual achievement and creativity, we see children as having the ability to navigate technology in their own way or is it simply that the nation like others hasn't chosen who is responsible for educating individuals namely children to be media literate.

It seems the issue is a universal one with concepts such as the Oslo Challenge created by Norweign government at the 10th Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC), which calls upon the government, educators and media industry interests to promote childrens' media rights (pg 335). This concept along with the formation of the CRC have focused and transformed the concept of media literacy into a basic human right and while that confirms the legitimacy of media literacy as a fundamental part of social interaction and political involvement, it still doesn't address how or who is suppose to initiate this education. Is it the nation-state, the NGOs, private media firms or local education?

States vs. MNCs

In regard to globalization, Sinclair concludes that global phenomena such as multi-national corporations, the media, trade and migration have not managed to overtake the role of the Westphalian nation-state. However, as Hanson points out in her outline of the global economy, MNCs have emerged as features that attest to globalization, at least of the economy. “A list of the top one hundred economic entities in the world…indicates that more than half are MNC.” (page 61) Whether or not you believe that a new global society will emerge to surpass the state, you can’t argue that these MNCs have become prominent players in the global stage.

Moreover, it is important to take notice these giant MNCs are creating their own terms for their operations abroad. Hanson asks a very important question: Who is responsible for sweatshop conditions--the subcontractor employer, the local government, or the MNC? Up until now, corporations have been allowed to dictate practices abroad, and they are not held accountable for work conditions. In this sense, have we not allowed the nation-state to cave to globalization already? Is the case that the states are calling the shots by the simply not interfering? Are states dictating the rules, or are they powerless to the whims of MNCs?

So Hanson’s question remains. Should governments change their policies? Regulation is not rewarding for either the MNCs or the countries that wish to attract them, and the only ones who lose are the people who end up working for them. This is the darkest side of economic globalization. Who is ultimately responsible for these workers?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sajoo = ça joue

For a nation that throws out its Eastern friends, their companies are comically savvy in catering to them. The French language for those of you who have learned (or attempted to) the language, you more than likely were caught up about having to swallow your R’s, or not knowing when you are and are not allowed to pronounce the final 1-4 letters of a word. However, for those who do not speak French as beautifully as it was designed to, Keljob, among others, has devised a phonetic translation of the language.

Though strange as Keljob looks (quel job being the original French version), it really is quite effective. It shares the French media with those who previously tuned out due to language barriers. It allows both relocated citizens living in France to learn the language quicker as well as those of French heritage who haven’t quite plunged into their roots due to appreciate not only French, but what France has to offer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Globalization: Redesigning the Approach

As well argued in Colin Spark’s and John Sinclair’s articles, globalization is difficult to define. This is not only because the concept of globalization is perpetually morphing to incorporate new actors, but because what is the cause and effect of globalization is actually hard to pin down. So what if we leave the definition of globalization open-ended. Consider it more of a lens, through which we can observe, experience, and analyze the reconfigurations and progress of the world’s relationships. A bit wordy I know, but if we (we being the millions of citizens intrigued with the concept of globalization) use globalization as an approach to investigate, instead of as an umbrella term, more time could be used to identify how to use the world’s new interconnectedness to prepare for the changes it inevitably will cause. So let’s take two steps back, clean the slate of jargon (ethnoscapes, glocalization, etc) and redesign the way that globalization is viewed. Instead of using it as a definition in which things fall under, let’s use it a lens with varying zoom features--one that allows us to look at everything from the global to the local. And yes, in that lineation there is still room to look at the nation-states and their role in this morphing world, because as Sparks points out they’re still the biggest head-honcho’s in realm of global actors.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Millenium Development Goals

Since I’m posting late I had a little unfair advantage and saw that a lot of people have been talking about Castel’s ideas of global governance, a global public space and the network state. So I wonder if this give and take between the nation state and the global arena can be related/ explain the Millennium Development Goals. Aren’t the MDG’s supposed to be the ultimate symbol of nation state cooperation on a global scale, the global community cooperating by working within their own borders to make the world a better, shinier happy place? Even after four years of SIS I really don’t know that much about the MDG’s except that when they are discussed it is usually from a pessimistic point of view, as unattainable and too idealistic for even the most optimistic.
Then this morning I saw an article saying that China believes it will actually accomplish its MDG’s AND accomplish them on time! Apparently India is optimistic about reaching its goals too. I feel like these announcements just exemplified what Castel’s was trying to get at in his article. The MDG’s are global in their nature. They were created in the in the global arena, and yet in my opinion are a way for nation states to demonstrate their continued dominance. The article states, “According to UN reports, global progress on poverty reduction was largely due to the reduction of hunger in China.” Obviously China has such a large population that reduction in their poverty rates will affect the global scale, but this doesn’t mean that poverty hasn’t risen in other nations. In that way I feel like that’s why Castel ended back with the nation state. The global arena is real; it allowed the MDG’s to come to being. But the nation state remains the actual driving force. There is no way for the MDG’s to be achieved within the global arena, individual nation states have to do the legwork and then try to make the results equal a whole.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stewart's Rally

So the big buzz on the street is Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, which he announced on his show will (hopefully) take place in DC on October 30. In making his argument for the rally Stewart argued that while the conversation in the media on our most important topic is controlled by a small percentage, most people (70-80%) are not being represented most likely because they have shit to do, but also because they “ lack the theatrical flair necessary for today's 24hr a day, seven day a week news media.” (“You may have an assault rifle, but don't think it's appropriate to bring to a rally.”)

In thinking about how a group of people is actually being left out of the conversation and being shut up, I thought of Neumann's “spiral of silence” theory. But the theory says people will remain silent when they are in the minority for fear of reprisal or isolation. If Stewart is right and it is actually the majority who is being shut out of the conversation, why would they feel they need to stay silent?

This led me to think about critical theorists of the Frankfurt school as outlined by Thussu's in his essay “Approaches to theorizing international communication,” He points out how they analyzed the production and sale of media in a capitalist economy as a cultural commodity. The theorists, he says, pinned this on the “the concentration of ownership of cultural production in a few producers.” The result is the undermining of “the critical engagement of masses with important socio-political issues” and the assurance of “a politically passive social behaviour and the subordination of the working classes to the ruling elite.”

This makes sense to me. It also reflects Stewart's claim. It is actually the media dictating the conversation by highlighting the voices of the minority. The call is then for the rest of us to speak up, and Stewart's role will be to make our voices finally heard.

I appreciate the gesture. Jon Stewart should be careful, though, how he allows himself and the media to frame his movement. An unofficial facebook page called “Jon Stewart’s Rally for Restoring Sanity” is already posting how people who attended the other rally are “stupid” and how Glenn Beck’s show is a “comedy”. The risk being run here is that those making the most noise in the media about Stewart’s rally are just as likely to alienate people as their noisy, Foxy counterparts. Will they speak for all of the people for whom this rally is “intended"? Is it actually intended for them, for the Americans who want to take a much needed rational approach to politics? I am beginning to wonder if this group will actually ever have a voice as loud as those at the poles. If the critical theories of communication hold any truth, isn’t it the case that moderate views will never sell and therefore never prevail in the media? Are they always to be undermined?

World Cup fosters South African National pride

South Africa's rich cultural kaleidoscope has historically included art, dance, literature, music, and theater but now they proudly add the title of hosting the 2010 World Cup games.  To some the world cup games are just another sporting event but to South African’s it represents much more.  This national and cultural pride was revitalized primary by the immense efforts of the South Africa's National Arts Council (NAC), FIFA and other international organizations

"[The South African flag is..]not as a symbol of a political party, nor of a government, but as a possession of the people - the one thing that is literally and figuratively above all else, our flag". - Nelson Mandela

The significance of this song to be able to promote and instill a strong sense of national and cultural pride is astonishing.  Modern information and communication technologies combined with South Africa's unique culture helped to spark not only gave South Africans a new national identity but also showed the world that their nation is a nation of diversity that is South Africa.  Coming from such a torn past of apartheid and segregation where many saw nationalism as a entity that conflicted with their own distinct cultural identity, South African's now have their own identity that they not only share among themselves but with the entire world.

Oahu-An example of deterritoralization and cultural hybridity

In John Sinclair's, "Global, supranantional institutions and Media", the concept of synergy/hybridity of culture and "glocalization" are no more present then in Oahu, Hawaii. A prime tourist spot, Hawaii brings up a fathum of images including: waves, beach, hula dancers and Leis (all cliches' aside). What often is not known is the hybrid of culture that exists, due in partial to many of the deterritorialization concepts defined by Anjun Appadura. Foreign investment from Japan is a primary example especially its economical impacting force in the late 80's and even now with the down turn of the dollar and the rise of the yen, which has induced a host of new business structures and culture adaptations.

The first example, is the catering of / and to tourism- charters and trolleys once used for travel between local cites and especially to Hilo Hattie's main store (a local proliferate of stereotypical Hawaiian gear )has been transformed into a booming network of JTB and Oli' oli' tour lines-creating a private set of trolley lines for Japanese speakers and tour groups. Stores like Shirokiya, Q-pot, Matsumoto's Shaved ice, Don Quiotes, Karaoke bars, ABC stores and Store 88' have been proliferated and revamped to focus on this sector of tourism alone. Where even the yen is as accepted as the dollar.

Stores like the newly opened Q-pot and the long known and internationally famous 88' stores. These stores are some of the most culturally isolating stores in the area but they represent a growing number of similar stores that instead of catering to their landscape's culture they choose to stand out as different. For example Q-pot is utterly void of local influences and primary focus is on Japanese clientele and those in the know in Japanese "cute" jewelry fashion with a focus on "sweet" jewelry (ie. jewelry in the form of sweets). 88'store is its predecessor with an almost all Japanese clientele, with its claims to be a famous local entity. But ask around and you will find that it is only popular with those from Japan or with Japanese ancestry yet, these stores and ones similar have been increasing in areas of Hawaii and have made a fundamental change in that they no longer wish to blend but stand out as culturally different in the landscape.

Then along side this are stores like Shirokiya and Don Quiotes who are direct imports from Japan but their identity have changed. No longer do they carry only Japanese goods, they have become host of synergy or "glocalization" with local tastes and Asian origins mixing to make up what could be said to be entirely opposite of their original intents. Don Quiotes has gone through constant reconstruction in Hawaii from being a store of mixed media full of mostly useless gadgets and assortment of tourist focused items in its home land of Japan, into a grocery store where it blends its Japanese product lines and local appeal together to market not only tourists that are familiar with the name (Japanese)but gaining the attention of locals as a trust-able grocery chain with local roots.

Thus, local shops, grocery, department stores and transportation have began to focus on tailoring products to meet the hybrid culture over time with such things as: bento lunches, spam musubi, taro mochi and green tea and chopsticks being as available and used as much as Coca cola and a fork. This isn't to say that deterritoralization is a negative thing but that its often not even noticed as unique or representative of a highly influential culture but just a way of life/ a part of the culture local individuals have grown up with.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fish out of Water: Communication by the consumer

Dear classmates, I cannot cut and past into this box, for some reason. Please see my comment below for the actual text. Sorry for the trouble!

Truely borderless?

International communications and technology has been used to theorize a variety of controls and influences one nation has on another. Theories such as the Dependency, Cultural and Hegemony theory have been used as explanations to justify or understand one country's products, language and values having been asserted upon another nation. International communications and or communications as whole have been "viewed as a process and a technology that would sometimes for religious purposes, spread, transmit and disseminate knowledge, ideas and information...with the goal of controlling space and people." (Corey, 17).

Corey's definition states international communications in terms of imperialism of the past and soft-power of today but it is not the only concept/definition of communications to consider. "Communications" is a term that is as intangible as "Culture" is society, as a "symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed," as stated by Carey. Communications in this sense can be used to look at intangible components such as culture, as a way to connect to a borderless sphere, that has integrated itself into the public sphere.

Take the public sphere defined by Manuel Castells, as "a network for communicating information and points of view." By definition a social network such as Facebook and a similar network Japanese version Mixi could fit the bill as a form of public sphere gone digital. No longer are issues contained within a room, within a single nation but the information is able to be transmitted among thousands of individuals from various locations around the global, in which people from one nation can have a say into the domestic issues of another nation.

Though there are limits to this "border less" social networking. Returning to the previous example lets focus on Mixi, a Japanese social network that could be considered border less as it can be accessed by users all over the world but at the same time it has limitations, borders if you so choose to call them that. These limitations or borders are Facebook in origin, in that, to initially engage in starting up an account on Mixi, you must have a Japanese cellphone e-mail address and also you MUST be invited by a current member. Some features are strictly limited to viewers only with ISPs in Japan to view say: videos and music. Another is the network is entirely in Japanese (verses Facebook's new multi-language user interface).

While people may see this in a culture context as something distinctively Japanese (another example of in group, out group), one must hark back to Facebooks' origins when one had to have a college address to join and the user-interface was strictly in English. Hence, while technology may be built to allow border less usage, sometimes the borders are intangible things that are brought about by the various way people or social groups view their interactions, and the limits they set on their own forms and ways of communication.

Thus, is international communications truly border less if even with "national" borders gone there are still self-imposed limitations that hamper communications between groups? If so then are theories such as hegemony, cultural and dependency theory one way streets or are is there more then one entity at fault for corruption or saturation of a cultural/society?

A Little Ode to Innis

I have a professor this semester who throws around Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan on a first name basis like Madonna and Cher so I thought I would post on Innis is his honor. Innis picked up on emerging communication monopolies and are no doubt alive and raging today. What is most interesting about Innis is how well he picked up on the effect communication has on culture. I like to think he would agree that the United States is- “unofficially”- attempting to achieve cultural domination, through our McDonalds and through our monopolization of some of the most important communication systems. Reading about Innis, and combining him with Mrs. Mead’s thoughts on what to do with a new introduction to a culture, just makes me think of Stockholm syndrome.
Are we bonding with our captors in order to survive? Technology is a captor. How many people say they are slaves to their machines? And it’s also made way for a band of new captors for the non western world to “bond” with. The spread of American culture by means of increasing communication… Has the rest of the world embraced our McDonalds because they enjoy the dollar menu or because we put them there to stay, whether anyone likes it or not?
Stockholm syndrome may be stretching things a little too far, but Innis knew what he was onto with communication monopolies and how closely tied they are to culture and politics. He with biggest monopoly wins. The West dominates the rest. I would develop Stockholm syndrome if I were them.

Texting - Friend or Foe

Last week independent media stated that following riots in the Maputo and other cities in Mozambique the National Communications Institute of Mozambique ordered all the cell phone operators to block all text messages.  While only two carriers agreed to the order, the majority of citizens were able to call but were unable to text.  In a country with about 5 million cellular users, this was to some a clear blockade on their rights to the free flow of information.  Text messaging was one of the ways that individuals were able to mobilize their efforts on what was seen to local Mozambicans as a infringing on their rights to protest an unfair price increase on bread. 
 "This technology is a new way of giving a voice, of giving power, of giving a means of expression that poor people themselves don’t have,” - Joao Pereira, director of the Mozambican Civil Society Support Mechanism

So was this an attempt of the government to ensure National Security or was it an attempt to use technology to control the marginalized populations?  In international communication there is still the ongoing debate on who should control the circulation of information, the state or the private sector?  

I believe that there has to be a good combination of both.  While the government alone can help bring policies that enable the infrastructure for communication, the private sector is vital for implementing and funding the establishment of that infrastructure.  That being said, the public sector should have some input in how the infrastructure is carried out.  It is a thin line between all three sectors.  Communication and technology can bring peaceful resolutions to many of the world’s problems but without that balance I believe at least in this case peace may only be temporary. 

Thank You Fitzgerald and Ms. Daisy

In response to James Carey’s article A Cultural Appraoch to Communication where he highlights a method of communication used in The Great Gatsby I have attempted to manage (not simplify--thank you Carey) my own space.I’ve designed a map from two important places on campus--the squishy room (our lovely classroom) and the gym.

Mapping the course from the gym to class blindfolded.

Exiting through the double doors to the outside,
you will inevitably hear someone frustratedly attempting to push the pull entrances.
Your nose will lead you in the right direction
Follow the wafting favors of terriyaki, fries, and even a hint of coffee at times.

Continue past the enticing aroma of calories
and stop when you hear the whizzing sound of a bike going by,
or the blaring radio of someone who is speeding away--late to class.
I say stop, because as you realize, if you do not, you will presumably be hit by one of these vehicles.

Take a step down and cross the street.
Continue at a 10:00 trajectory, you will soon have to stop scuffling your feet and take a step up onto the sidewalk.
6 paces of stairs.
Turn right.
Another 6 to go.

You will now feel the cooling shade of sandwiching buildings,
and if it is night, you will understand that your journey is on course if your nostrils tense up due to the cloud of smoke you just walked through. Yes, the smell of stress.

Onward ho! You will soon be passing sewer grates--if it was a grid-top you would get the heated sensation, at times, embarrassingly enough, powerful enough to lift a skirt. Make a quick left, before you stumble into one of American’s many lovely gardens.

However, don’t stray too far away from the smell of the flowers, as you essentially should be hugging this fixture. Once you’re 1/2 around the garden--from where you started--begin to veer straight. You’ll feel the looming presence of an old building (casting both shadows and pouring humidity). Near the edge of the right front wall you will find a double door. Pull it open and before you’re three strides in the building you’ll already be on the downward slope of stairs.

At the bottom, feel your way to the Alice and Wonderland door (which fortunately for you, will already be open, so you won’t have to eat or drink anything). Turn Left. Continue 25 paces down the hall. You’ll know that you’re nearing your destination as the floor becomes weaker as you approach. Enter the room on the right hand side and you will enter the swampy carpeting of the EQB.

To Burn or not to Burn, Is that really the Question?

“If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed

Mohammad Mukhtar, an Islamic cleric and author of the above statement, is only one man but he is one of many who see this book burning as a controversial and offensive action not only to Muslims but to all of the Middle East.  But where does the problem actually exist? So we must ask the questions, is the burning of the Koran the real problem or are the underlying issues at the core of this dispute?

It is easy for most to dismiss this previously anonymous pastor as just one man with a radical idea that the majority of Americans do not agree with.  However, this whole issue sparks the intense debate on the impact of mass media within international communication.  As Professor Gary Weaver, founding faculty member of the International Communications program at American University, explains 
[mass media] They easily convey images of the beheading of prisoners around the globe with an impact that is just as dramatic as blowing up a building in New York City. We have quickly realized the dramatic impact modern telecommunications is having throughout the world.”  
Although there is no direct comparison between the beheading of prisoners and the burning of the Koran, we can still see the impact that media has played in promoting these messages in the international arena.  Thousands of demonstrators from Indonesia and Afghanistan have protested, the US government has official denounced this pastors actions, members from all faiths have come together to denounce this message of hate and all have used mass media in order to bring their message to the forefront. 

In recent years the United States has begun to implement more public and cultural diplomacy efforts through media, yet in all those efforts one man can make a huge uproar in the international arena.  International communication is at the heart of international relations, and ultimately this leads to cross cultural understanding, yet my question I must ask, how do we use the impact of mass media in a more dynamic and effective way to encourage this cross-cultural understanding?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bye-Bye Borders?

“Cause I’m a gypsy, are you coming with me? I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me” Shakira.

Karim H. Karim highlights important concepts regarding the nation-state and diasporas. Namely, that borders are generally fictitious, drawn around groups of people, rather than separated by physically landscapes. Containing people within these lines--or outside of them--has caused quite a commotion in recent decades: just ask someone who knows a thing or two about America’s budget deficit in regards to immigration.

However, my next example does not have to do with America, but another Western Power: France. Evidently the French, or at least Sarkozy and friends, are not big fans of the gypsies. Interesting enough, the group of Roma that were just expelled from the land of Champagne and chapeaus, are Romanian. I say interestingly enough, because the word Roma has nothing to do with being Romanian. Rather the Roma’s ancestors are from Southeast Asia, mainly India.

Circling back before I get too far off topic--expelling Roma from France is exactly what Karim indicates the Westphalian era has taught us: nation-states believe (and wield a great amount of support) that they have the rights to the land allocated to them so long as there is enough support from other nation-states. Yet, one of the agreements of many of today’s supranational organizations, take the EU for example, are border-less work permits. EU citizens can travel within the EU for, and to, work. The EU is reverting to the traditional means of travel, transportation, and survival by allowing this. And good for them.

Now, I am not taking a stance on the Roma issue (a bit tacky I know) but this post is designed to instigate a debate on whether or not our world is heading back to a border-less system, or whether more of the Roma of the world will be confined to a permanent location.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

English v. American Media Traditions

“Two distinct types of national radio broadcasting emerged: in the US, the Radio Act of 1927 confirmed its status as a commercial enterprise, funded by advertising, while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), founded in 1927, a d non-profit, public broadcasting monopoly, provided a model for several other European and Commonwealth countries (McChesney, 1993).”
-Thussu, page 14

Public vs. Private seems to be the debate of the hour, in an era when the government that epitomizes capitalism is accused on a daily basis of turning “socialist”. But aside from Tea Party-esque fanfare, the question is a valid one. Who can be relied on to be the provider of information?

On the one hand, you have the US model, where we say to have the freest media in the world - free from censorship or influence, where we can say what we want and listen to what we want. By “free”, of course, we me mean that major media channels are privately owned by large corporations who often let non-journalists enter the field of providing information, entities who may or may not have a political agenda of their own. They have the liberty to report the news they see fit and construct the language that they use because, well, they own it.
On the other, you have the state owned model in Britain, where the BBC tries to maintain it’s reputation as “more internationally credible than any other broadcasting organization in the world” (Thussu, 23) and is trusted by the English public more than the government itself. Of course, the BBC is not immune to weakness, especially that of seeking personal gain in the mad pursuit to “break the story”, as became evident in the Hutton Inquiry over the “sexying up” of government documents. The inquiry faulted the BBC for hastened and embellished reporting, lying to provoke, much like the yellow journalism of Hearst that fueled the Spanish-American War. Far more shady than pressure from the public, however, is the notion of pressure from the government - of how free from government influence state owned media can actually be. Daya Thussu notes the indirect influence the British government has had over the BBC. Despite its culture of criticizing its own government, the broadcaster has always been subject to the government direction of its output and transmission.

And that close to blasphemy in this country.

Here in America, people seem to have no faith in the role of government at all. Even if in Britain they are skeptical of the government, at least they trust that the government can fund a news agency without putting its hand in what is being reported. The government is at least trusted with protecting the right of free speech, even against itself. It is inconceivable to us in America that the government could run an agency without doing it solely for their political gain.
It seems the only thing we do trust in this country is the market. We tell ourselves that because of market forces, the best products will prevail, including news and information. But we seem to be a little too comfortable in putting our faith in system that at the end of the day is fueled by advertising. Let’s not forget that advertising has a money making end aimed at appealing to our emotions. Advertisers compete for our attention while watching us draw our wallets. Do we want our news sources to be in competition? Competition may lead to innovation, but a great part of innovation is invention - creating something new that isn’t already there. Competition makes people take steroids. If we happen to think that information is knowledge, we should value information like we value a baseball hero. Do we want it doped up on anything?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Soon?

“He [the modern man] is turned into a restless, dilettante spectator, and arrives at a condition when even great wars and revolutions cannot affect him beyond the moment. The war is hardly at an end, and it is already converted into thousands of copies of printed matter, and it will be soon served up as the latest means of tickling the jaded palates of historical gourmets”. Nietzsche The Use and Abuse of History

It seems that with today’s immediacy of information, yesterday becomes the past quite quickly. Individuals have so much information to process on a daily basis that recent events are often pushed further back into time than they actually belong. When Nietzsche wrote this excerpt media was nowhere near as contemporaneous with time and space as it is today with modern technology, thus making the past even farther removed than it was a century and half ago.

Yet perhaps it is also the component of entertainment media that causes this chronological rift as well. As we are all fully aware, media presents itself through a variety of vehicles, the messages often being the same without the intentions lining up. Fiction writers (for screen, print, or audio) have become so good at their work that they can bring to life seemingly unimaginable things. Yet, what happens when events of similar magnitude actually occur? Take the current floodings in Pakistan, or the gang rapes in the DRC as examples. It is almost incomprehensible to grasp the realities of these situations, despite the pictures, interviews, and tales that are being streaming to us. There are some people that stash these events away as stories, distancing themselves from these catastrophes by appreciating the account without digesting its reality. Yet whose fault is that? Or is it even a problem?

Blossoming enlightenment or Technologically uneducated?

Does seeing mostly a beneficial side to technology hamper ones ability to judge a new form of communications potential? Does technology provide the same benefits to those outside a western ideological standpoint or can it degrade a nation of its identity?

These aren't questions that came to mind the first time I stepped foot into class but as a typical American(assuming I have a similar thought process to my peers) focusing on the possibilities of new technology and communication as something that connects people and brings them closer seemed like a positive, progressive thing. This comes from someone who sort of grew up with an emerging technology namely the computer and the communication form known as the internet. I always saw things like: E-mail, IM, Chat, Skype and (holder your breath for this) Facebook as something that allows/ed me to keep in-contact with friends and co-workers that I meet abroad or even through forums (yes, I am one of those that meet people and took cyber-friendships out into the real world and wasn't unpleasantly surprised). It wasn't till I took a step-outside my realm of positive thoughts and really took a good look at many of the concepts brought up in say The MacBridge Comission we discussed briefly in class, that I began to question my previous thoughts regarding the use of certain forms of communication outside my own nation.

The MacBridge Commission in 1977 looked at the problems that exist in the study of communications, things like the current state of world communications, the problems surrounding a free and balanced flow of info. and how the media could be the vehicle for educating the public about world problems. What peaked my interest and maybe opened my eyes a bit wider was the amount of focus on the nation-state and the political, if not cultural propaganda that was introduced shortly after a new technology and communications that became readily available to the public. I wasn't aware before this class of the massive influx of information that wasn't centered on understanding variations of cultures or bridging gaps, but rather that with every form of new technology formed, some new way of exploiting it for national gain occurred, often hampering or causing retaliating affects from other nations and non-governmental organizations.

Take the radio for instance, beyond being a new way to connect people, it was soon distributed, broken into long wave, short wave and medium wave bands, restricted to government, private and then public use. Beyond this the positive gains of hearing from other countries: their music, radio shows, opinions etc. Things like unending propaganda programs/ messages and culture up-rooting education were introduced. Turning what was undeniably a military tool gone entertainment into a political or soft-power tool.

But I wonder with all this spewing of good intentions gone bad is: what do we take from this? How do we balance the good intentions and benefits of a new form of technology (say the new i-pad or i-phone) and the grayish intentions of organizations and nations as they use it to promote their own ideals?

Tech&Com: A Long Distance Love Affair

Technology and communication are the chicken and the egg, which one comes first? Who drives who to succeed? Is it a healthy co-dependent relationship? Even though I don’t larp, the evolution of technology and communication has played out in my own life. I am one of the most technologically challenged people to be born into my generation. I am also severely lacking in communication skills. I barely know my way around a word document let alone a website, and I’m somehow biologically resistant to returning calls. Maybe if I had taken this course before I would have had a historical excuse to blame my lack of relationship upkeep on. And then in the span of 6 months, my communication world underwent the same kind of transformation Great Brittan took when it went from the Dark Ages to the industrial revolution. While I’m not exactly an empire to be reckoned with, international communications came to define both of our existences. Great Brittan found itself a great source of natural resources in South America and I found myself a man.
Suddenly I can appreciate how people give value to technology; our personal needs drive technological innovation. Great Brittan needed a way to stay in touch with its colonies and so the telegraph came about. I wanted my relationship to continue, and so, Skype came into my life. I now had this great need to use more and different technologies -and my father’s frequent flier miles- to allow my relationship to continue to grow and expand. It’s been two years now and I’ve covered in that time what was done in 200 years of technological innovation and communications advancement. I’ve mastered calling cards, Skype, how to send a message from a phone into an email inbox and even peaked when I set up my own internet!
Now thanks to the innovation of some good immigration lawyers my foray into long distance communication is coming to an end. But I don’t think ill regress into my stone age communication techniques of two years ago. I won’t have any need for Skype anymore, just like not many have need for the telegraph, but my communication style has been significantly affected by the technologies available to me. While technology gave meaning to my relationship, its existence is due to people before me whose communication needs spurred the innovation. All politics aside, it’s a perfectly healthy co-dependent relationship.