Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileaks and FP

Since everyone is talking about the Wikileaks, I'm going to add my two cents. I think one of the most significant Wikileaks had to do with a bunch of the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, urging the United States to attack Iran. All of this information, which should have been kept secret, shows an interesting side of the United States relationship with the Arab countries in the Middle East. It seems that in spite of many of these countries spending millions on weapons and defense from the U.S. government, they still want the United States to fight their battles for them in that there appears to be a concern in the region about Iran being a dominating player. Of course much of this is related to the nuclear issue, but it shows that the Arab states want the United States to play the role of the police officer in the region and to fight their battles for them in order to ensure a balance of power that would keep Iran as a weaker player in the region. This information which is now in the public domain reflects to some extent, United States foreign policy in the region purely as an attempt to contain Iran -- which I doubt is to really protect the Arab states (whose political systems do not represent the democracy and development we are trying to spread to the region) but to make sure that we (the West) does not have to deal with Iran as a formidable opponent -- which they would be if they had nuclear weapons. At the same time, this shows the influence that transnational advocacy networks in the Arab states -- and also for that matter, their Israeli "enemy" -- have as a common interest in prevent Iran from becoming a power in the region.

Our Social Reality

In “A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas” (Corman et al.), the authors do a good job of pointing out the shortcomings of the classic transmitter/receiver model, which they refer to as the Message Influence Model. Their call for a new strategy that takes into account the complexities of the “a social reality” in which we live today is a much needed step forward in communication strategy. “Members of the system, routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning. To accomplish this they interpret messages in ways that “fit” the existing scheme, rather than in ways that senders may intend.” (pages 7-8)

This would explain why many recent attempts by the U.S. to explain its values abroad is interpreted as it trying to impose its culture on others. We need to remember that we no longer live in the post WWII euphoria of the American Dream. Today, a lot of people remember our dodgy cold war era military interventions and one
sided trade policies. If you ask people in Latin America if the U.S. can lead in environmental policy, many will be quick to point out that we never signed on in Kyoto, so how dare we try.

To summarized their proposed Pragmatic Complexity Model they argue that in communication between parties A and B:

-The success of A’s behavior depends not only on external conditions, but on what B does and thinks.
-What B does and thinks is influenced by A’s behavior as well as B’s expectations, interpretations, and attributions with respect to A.

Moreover, if you have a B that is fed up with A, they are less likely to want to listen and more sensitive in misinterpreting any message from A as condescending or irrelevant to them.

Is this where America stands now? Has American policy in the last sixty years worn out the welcome of communication? Can we ever go back to having an audience willing to listen and interpret the way we would like?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More in the world of wikileaks

Thought this might be an interesting article...

WASHINGTON — The online website WikiLeaks says it will go ahead with the release of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents in defiance of U.S. demands not to publish the files.

The WikiLeaks website appeared to be inaccessible, and WikiLeaks said in its Twitter feed that it was experiencing a denial of service attack. Nevertheless, WikiLeaks said that publications in the U.S. and Europe would print the leaked diplomatic cables even if it could not.

The group's founder, Julian Assange, also tells the U.S. ambassador to Britain that WikiLeaks won't bow to Washington's demands.

The Obama administration has been bracing for the release for the past week. Top officials have notified allies that the contents of the diplomatic cables could prove embarrassing because they contain candid assessments of foreign leaders.

The State Department has warned that the expected release of classified U.S. documents would endanger countless lives, jeopardize American military operations and hurt international cooperation on global security issues.

The department's top lawyer urged Assange in a letter on Saturday to keep classified documents off the website, remove records of them from its database and return any material to the U.S. government.

Lawyer Harold Koh said the department has learned that WikiLeaks provided 250,000 documents to The New York Times, The Guardian of Britain and German magazine Der Spiegel.

Some media reported the news outlets may post stories on the documents as early as Sunday and said they have also been given to newspapers Le Monde in France and El Pais in Spain.

The U.S. government, which was informed in advance of the contents, has contacted governments around the world, including in Russia, Europe and the Middle East, to try to limit any damage. Sources familiar with the documents say they include corruption allegations against foreign leaders and governments.

Koh wrote that publication of the documents would "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" as well as military initiatives and cooperation between countries to confront problems from terrorism to pandemic disease.

The lawyer also rejected what he said was Assange's request for more information about individuals who might be at risk from publication of the documents.

"We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials," Koh wrote.

Past releases by WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, an Australian-born computer hacker, contained sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the United States had said compromised national security and put some people at risk.

Anticipating the fallout from the latest publication, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy wrote a letter to the German Sunday weekly Bild am Sonntag that the WikiLeaks revelations would be an embarrassment.

"Regrettably we will soon have something new to see: alleged confidential diplomatic messages from U.S. embassies around the world, including mine. It's hard to say what effect it will have, but it will at the very least be uncomfortable -- for my government, for those mentioned in the reports, and for me personally as American Ambassador to Germany."

The newspaper reported that some German politicians were severely judged in the reports.

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told reporters he was worried about the documents coming out.

"WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people," he said.

The State Department letter echoed concerns expressed by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, airing on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday.

"I would hope that those who are responsible for this would, at some point in time, think about the responsibility that they have for lives that they're exposing and the potential that's there and stop leaking this information," Mullen said.

In October, WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified U.S. military files chronicling the Iraq war.

In a Twitter message last week, WikiLeaks said its forthcoming document release would be seven times larger than the Iraq war cache. A person familiar with the documents said that comparison was based on the total number of words.

An item that was apparently posted prematurely, and then removed, from the Der Spiegel website over the weekend, said the new WikiLeaks cache constituted of just over 250,000 State Department cables and 8,000 "diplomatic directives."

© 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Facebook vs. FARC

“A powerful counter-movement has emerged that has demoralized the remaining terrorist group, the FARC. The origins of the new force were not in government or civil society. Instead, a young unemployed computer technician named Oscar Morales spontaneously started a Facebook group that grew quickly to more than 400,000 members. The group, called One Million Voices Against the FARC, put 12 million people in the streets in a single day in 190 cities around the world -- just two months after it was set up.”
-James Glassman, Public Diplomacy 2.0

I remember that day. The parade was marching down 7th Avenue. I had bought a couch which I was getting delivered to my house but the driver could not cross the closed off street, so the two of us had to carry it over our heads across the march (pretty comical) and up the two blocks to my apartment.

Oscar Morales did not spontaneously start up a face book group that changed the course of history with the FARC. His reaction was a reflection of the sentiment there at the time. The entire country was pissed off over an incident with a little boy named Emmanuel who the FARC lied about having in their possession. HOWEVER, I would argue that the state of the FARC at that point was completely debilitated. They "had" Emmanuel, and they had Ingrid Betancourt, they were forced to lie about one and then the other was freed in a dramatic rescue by the military who had infiltrated the FARC up to ten years before. While there are still thousands of displaced persons in Colombia, and yes, people still go missing and get kidnapped with some regularity, the years of being terrorized by the FARC are long gone. Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t leave Bogota in a car because you were sure to be at great risk. Then people started driving in caravans. In 2006, two years before the facebook group, I drove by myself out of the city to meet a friend in a nearby town with zero fear of threat.

My point is not that Morales’s face book group was not a huge success, simply that the response to it was a reflection of civil society. To say that it created a counter-movement is a big miscalculation. Fortunately, Glassman makes this point later.

“.. public diplomacy – whether 1.0 or 2.0 – is only one tool for achieving foreign policy and national security goals. One blogger wrote last week that “starting a Facebook group called 'Terrorism Sucks!' and getting a bunch of people to join it isn't exactly winning the War on Islamic Fundamental Militancy“…In fact, we never said soft power was a substitute for hard power. It is an essential complement.”

You want a good experiment on the effect of social media? Try this exact same thing in Cd. Juarez today. If you get 12 million people out on the street and your curb the cartels’ morale, then facebook is a winner. My bet is that you don’t. And there is no FARC in Bogota to fight you. But would there be a blood bath in the streets in Juarez. There is, every weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Defender of Responsibiliy--Anderson Cooper?

This week the New York Times Opinion articles were spangled with excellent features—Omaha’s local businessman (Buffet) gets a special shout-out here. Nevertheless, the article I want to focus on is Thomas Friedman’s Too Good to Check. Friedman uses one of Twain’s most appropriate diplomacy quotes: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The article does not go on to mention Nye’s version of public diplomacy—but the message is there. Friedman applauds CNN’s Anderson Cooper for dispelling the myth that Obama was going to spend $200 million (yes, taxpayer dollars) a day on his South-East Asian trip, and would supplement the vacation with 34 navy liners and a 3,000 man team. These “facts” are not only appalling, but also frightening in how quickly they travelled. These momentum-building details were splashed across all mediums of news without anyone bothering to check their validity.

So thank you Anderson Cooper for protecting our soft power. You not only assured Americans and foreigners alike that Obama is not frivolously throwing money at our greatest job-source competition, but you proved—at least momentarily—that we care about reporting. Many foreigners have strong opinions regarding America’s freedom of press, and our ability to air just about anything we like is our right—but airing the ‘right’ things, well that my friends is our responsibility. No wonder Americans have developed the paradox of plenty and ADD rates are going through the roof—we have too much information coming at us, and we aren’t even guaranteed that it’s accurate! I do understand that journalists and broadcasters take ethical vows. I am not attempting to insinuate that these acts are malicious. I am trying to point out, for the sake of our Public Diplomacy, lets at least be sure to cross-or-double check information before sharing it with the world. We have enough reasons for people to argue with us—let’s at least limit them to legitimate ones.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Al Jazeera Factor

The Gilboa Powers article for this coming week quoted a man as saying that he watches Al Jazeera because it represents the truth and reality of events. Taken with my grandfather’s opinion of Al Jazeera as a terrorist organization, aka “Jihad TV”, the difference in interpretations of this media outlet are striking and to me demonstrate the viewers importance in perpetuating and creating media bias. Even Powers tempers the “truth” aspect of Al Jazeera crediting its positive reputation to the even worse reputations of other corrupt Arab news organizations. Kind of like comparing CNN news to Fox in my opinion, although again if this were my grandpa it would be the other way around… One is only the truth because the other is not.
Powers tries to present Al Jazeera as an important transnational actor, and I too would argue that it is, now more than ever. But in light of the criticism it widely receives in the US, is its transnational might dependent on region? It is arguably a glue factor for Arab countries and Arab diasporas, but how far does that “trans” go? The article really just confused me more than anything. Al-Jazeera is supposed to be a political actor, and has strong influence in the Arab region. It caused 6 nations to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha. Does this mean Al Jazeera was doing its job in exposing unjust practices in those countries? Maybe. But does that do anything to instigate actual political change in those areas? I think this is where the separation of media outlets and other transnational actors would come into play. The need for viewers is always going to trump other priorities. But then again what transnational actors need for followers isn’t going to win out. Is Al Jazeera really triumphing for an alternative representation of the news, putting stories out there that would otherwise be oppressed? Or is it the Bill O’Riley of the Arab world, stirring up controversy to draw viewers in and over to their side of the truth?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Legitimacy of the CNN effect

As someone who checks Google News regularly, I can definitely relate to how the CNN effect has changed the consumer's expectations on how fast news should get to you as a consumer. Google News updates by the minute on all sorts of different issues from news sources all over the world. Personally, I really like the up to date news. However, I've noticed if you are following a breaking story -- almost all the news sources have the same information. It also makes it so that the consumer has not only incomplete information, but often imperfect information since it is coming out so quickly that most of the time the story is not even fully formed.

This has profound implications for shaping how people think of things as they happen in the world. If you are not checking the media constantly, you may only have part of the story as opposed to if news was reported, for example, once a day on an evening news show. Especially in countries where the media that comes out is to some extent limited, which is most developing countries with totalitarian regimes. I think this is in spite of all the other informal news avenues we have -- such as social networking sites like facebook and twitter. However, there is only so much legitimacy in what comes out on these sites as well, because you are relying on individuals who are not accountable to larger organizations for information. This can be good and bad, in that there is less incentive to edit what is actually happening on the ground, but can also result in much inaccurate information that the consumer has to decide whether or not is actually a legitimate source of information.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spinning Cigarettes

Robin Brown’s piece “Spinning the War” was pretty spot on in terms of illustrating media importance in shaping political decisions and outcomes, with the specific example of how the war on terror became what it is today. I’m personally interested in health communications and I think that in some way, the new cigarette health warnings can fit into Brown’s general argument. The FDA has recently required cigarette manufacturers to use more graphic images as part of the mandatory health advisories on cigarette cartons. Some of these images include shriveled babies and a man smoking with a hole in his throat. The decision obviously has some implications for cigarette advertising, but whether or not the new images, meant to shock potential buyers, will have an effect on sales remains to be seen. Graphic warning images are new in the United States, but not elsewhere in the world, and haven’t seemed to faze already habitual smokers. I do however think the FDA’s ruling is a step in the right direction in combating smoking in the United States. The cigarette industry has the money to be a strong government lobbiest and these new labels are at the least a strong showing in the attempt to balance their might. I also think the media is in part responsible for the passing of these new requirements. Anti smoking campaigns, especially the TRUTH campaign, have been given more attention and more air time in the past decade and cigarette ads have been given some restrictions as to where they can be published. Media may not have been the driving factor in the passing of the more graphic images, but it will be important in how the images are received and the extent their impact will have actually deterring people from consuming cigarettes. And for the proponents of even more strict cigarette regulation in the future, this is where I think media spin and politics, especially the politics of cigarette money will come into play. It’s not happening in the main stream right now, but maybe after a while of looking at shriveled babies, the war against smoking is in the cards.

Universal Values and China

The class discussion on Liu Xiaolo is such a perfect example of just how complex cross-cultural communication can be. The question becomes one of deep seeded beliefs and ways of life, often ones that we are blind to. I know that before in this class we have questioned the idea of “individualism” versus “collectivism”, saying that people love to boil the west v. east cultural struggle to these opposites often too easily. But it is worth questioning the idea of whether or not we are too quick to assume that there are “universal values” everyone can agree with. Read about this debate in China here.

Are there such things as universal values? Is it our right to question China from afar? Saudi women’s rights? The Indian caste system? Are we going to take on one culture at a time for not adhering to our system of values?

Here is an interesting quote from the Economist:
Mr Liu writes positively about the growth of civil society in China. But he is scathing about the willingness of the Chinese public to bend to party authority, so long as the party continues to provide opportunities (no matter how underhand) to get rich. Mr Liu is despondent about the prospects for a public push for change in China’s authoritarian system. “The repression by the dictatorial authorities is, admittedly, one of the reasons, but the indifference of the populace is an even greater cause,” he says. -The Economist

Is the “indifference of the populace” enough to clue us in to the will of the people? At least the majority? Isn’t that a democracy?

Would love to know your thoughts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Al-Jazeera's viewership

I think the Al-Jazeera effect has had its good effects and bad effects. First, the concept of news being reported by all and not being influenced as much by politically based funding frees up the journalists to report without an agenda. However, Al-Jazeera does not have as much legitimacy among Western audiences as other media outlets -- primarily because of the stigma attached to anything coming from the Middle East/Arab world/anything that sounds like it might be remotely related to Islam. Of course, this illegitimacy definitely reflects a bias on the part of Western viewers, but you have to wonder how much of that bias has been created by our own media. Al-Jazeera however, has been successful in other countries and has expanded its consumer base because over time it has shown to be a more legitimate source of news. This might be attributed to the fact that more people can relate to the diversity of issues that are displayed and broad-casted on Al-Jazeera.

Christmas Ad

In "Global Communication and the Nation-State" by Elizabeth Hanson, she talks about framing of the news in which the news "frames events in a manner design to elicit public support" (pg 103). Looking at the four ways of framing described: cultural congruence, degree of consensus, amount of control over the flow of information and the nature of the event; I wondered if the principles of framing could also be applied to advertisements.

I came upon this thought at work (were many of my thoughts on readings occur) when watching what my company calls their "company programing". Included amongst its heave logo, slogan and values reinforcement there is a preview section of upcoming advertisement that will be broadcast across the nation in the weeks to come. Christmas being around the corner, the focus was linking home improvement projects with Christmas decorating. I was surprised to see the companies possibly first commercial solidly in EspaƱol to be featured in Mexico and on Spanish speaking channels in the US in limited quantity.

I found three distinctive features of the commercial that differed from its US counterpart in possibly negative ways. First, the imagery, nativity scene decoration, santa and then a Feliz Navidad sign on the lawn at the end. Now while these are just symbols of various traditions in the culture its also doesn't cover anything in the cultural context beyond the stereotypical. Unlike the american version, family is almost entirely missing and the shopper near the end was portrayed as someone hitting a bargain sale at machismo I assure you. Granted I am far from being a expert of Spanish, Mexican or South American culture but it seemed to be lacking some core values and I'm sure one of them is family.

Second, the commercial speaker was FAST, while obviously fluency is a given, the music and tempo didn't match the imagery, as if the music from the US commercial was thrown in along with the announcing voice hap haphazardly. Almost in a way of saying, we could care less about the quality as long as for 15 seconds you hear this commercial. There was even a spot near the end were the voice almost didn't make the cut at the end in which it was announcing the discount on exchanging lights out for new LEDs. I believe this is could be considered a control on the flow of information, in which the limitation of the programing and long with the way it is framed show that the value of the commercial is less important then the fact that its in another language (note I have seen their soccer commercial and the quality was WAY better).

I remember clearly listening and watching this commercial over three times to see if it was just a value judgement on my part but still I can't help but feel that the framing of the ad elcited a very culturally insensitive feel, void of the importance of the add and suggesting that by its very nature as an ad for a limited viewing space that it wasn't worth the effort they purposely put into the English version. So I ask, what does this kind of advertising say about the company and the customers its aimed at? Can we use Hanson's suggested framework of news to evaluate it?

Taking the Lead? Not so fast.

A common theme in this week's readings had to do with the media taking the lead on issues, not following them. Granting this is jumping the gun a bit...but I am more worried about the fact that if the media is leading, that means that others are not. Due to the CNN effect, curve, complex, factor--call it what you will--consumers expect to be informed immediately. This necessitates that those generally providing the news--managers, government officials, experts--are forced to provide statements before fully familiarizing themselves with the issues. This is not a new topic, I realize this. However, when I was reading these articles one image kept playing in my mind. President Bush's photo staring out the window onto the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Recently, since Bush's return to the media, he has again voiced his remorse for having this photo taken and published. He did not think of the consequences at the time, and the media--and thus the public--was demanding some sort of a statement. What is equally as frightening is that these rushed statements and photos will never disappear. Granted, I suppose you could use microfilm to pull up clippings from a century ago, but with today's technology the past is the present whenever someone uses the Google search feature. So what is the solution? Working on that one for now. But in the mean time, I'll give my sympathy vote to those being splashed around the press when their intentions were to appease the people's call of producing something.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Google Maps

After last week's discussion on Google taking the go-ahead with maps and deciding on its own borders (at times disputed by the states themselves) I thought that this article would be a good addition to the dialogue. I find it interesting that Google uses the State Department's information to draw its borders. And I find it interesting not because it follows America, but because it follows any one country's stance on national boundaries. Though, I do suppose that it has to base its information off somewhere, and one data-set is probably easier than picking and choosing--and thus setting their own agenda.

Friday, November 5, 2010

International Media Influencing U.S. Foreign Policy?

Recently, the U.S. and the international community has been paying a lot of attention to Iran and its nuclear program. Ironically, this has made Ahmadinejad a very sought after man in the media. Ahmadinejad has been on NPR and Larry King, to name two. If anything, all of the hoop-la surrounding the Iran situation has provided Ahmadinejad with a platform to voice his political opinions to the world, as evident by his various interviews with U.S. media sources. This definitely cannot be good for the momentum of the opposition movement in Iran. Last year, Ahmadinejad basically stole the elections and this year as a result of international media hype over Iran's nuclear program and most of the media is focusing on Ahmadinejad as the primary source of all things pertaining to Iran. If anything, I think this sort of hype by the media can drive policy in that if the media only focuses on one political figure as opposed to other voices, including dissenting voices, public opinion is bound to be more influenced by the redundancy of the international media representation of Iran as Ahmadinejad.


We all know the story of the 1920s. The government told people they weren't allowed to drinking, and what happened? The best recipes for moonshine emerged. Fast-forward a century later and prohibition is still happening in many forms—the one I’ll focus on today is China’s Great Firewall. As this weeks’ group presentation indicated, China’s has one of the most heavily monitored Internet usage in the world. A slew of sites are banned, and by a slew, I mean lots. But what is the aftermath of these bans?

Homegrown versions of Facebook, Twitter, and the like are widely used throughout China, and low and behold the government itself uses the local version of them. They use it both to promote their own messages, but more so to closely track who is uploading (and viewing) banned material and when. The armies of detectors that weblo, China’s version of Twitter, uses is enormous—but not impossible to get through. As the Economist article Breaching the great firewall mentions, the banned news that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo received the Noble Peace Prize spread like wildfire. However, China can now go back and trace the sources through the controls China has on the weblo servers. So is it worth it? Surely it is. But how long will it take before you don’t have to be technological savvy to have your voice heard in China?

Framework at work

In Elizabeth Hanson's "War & Peace in the information Age", she talks about how the news "frames" events in particular ways. She exclusively talks about four methods of framing (cultural congruence, degree of consensus, amount of control over flow of information and nature of the event)as a way of explaining the perception the news gives to the public viewer, thus eliciting a certain response from the viewer. I personally got a taste of this "framing" today at work, in viewing the latest set of hurricanes to hit the already earthquake recovering island of Haiti.

The news cast centered around Hurricane Tomas which caused extensive flooding in camp/villages in Haiti. What caught my eye was that the news report followed some of the very same concepts expressed by an earlier reading,Lillie Chouliaraki's "The Symbolic Power of transnational media". The entire broadcast showed only maps of the devastated area, scenic/panoramic views of the flooding from above and when it did show individuals, they were in dryer regions holding a regional flag stating something to the effect of "this is nothing, we've seen worse". Ultimately giving the impression to the viewer (at least to me), that action need not be taken. The event was something mild and didn't require my attention nor my assistance as Chouliaraki puts it "do nothing, care not".

This inicident, small as it was, gave me a realization of just how easy it is for the media to down play an event and influence the actions of others. In this case, I was not aware, as possibly many individuals that saw this broadcast, that the area hit was already suffering from Cholera and most inhabitants still living in tents from the earthquake that crippled much of Haiti in January. It took searching it up on Google, under "Hurricane and Haiti" to get any news coverage that indulged more on the event and the details of the inhabitants.

The nature of the event, the flow of information and maybe even the political outlook on the event possibly wagered that it wasn't important enough to be given a detailed portrayal. Being a flood that only killed a few, damaged an already damaged area wasn't pertinent enough news to bother the American public with it. Thus, it was framed in a way that simply informed others of the winter destruction that comes with hurricanes and nothing more. This was more obvious when the event following it was the local weather outlook.

Therefore, it seems the news and the political outlook on a situation of possible crisis can have further ranging effects then are first realized. Resulting in a framing and portrayal that can be detrimental to those in need but everyday news for those viewing it from afar.

On Bloggers and Revolutions

Can new media can be credited with political action and social movement? There are a few reasons why it could be doubted. First, even if the internet makes political action easier, you still have to be an activist, take the initiative and follow through. But this has been going on forever without the internet, and activists have always found a way. Online action is not enough, you still have to go out there and follow through, but most people probably won’t. In other words, it is mostly talk. In the report Bloggers and Bullets, the authors point out that “new media could make citizens more passive, by leading them to confuse online rhetoric with substantial political action, diverting their attention away from productive activities” (9) It just seems to easy to “opt out” of it, as had been mentioned in class. We can consider a conversation without jumping in.

It is interesting that the authors point out that more traditional forms of media had more of an effect on getting information about Haiti and “put[ing] pressure on the U.S. Air Force to allow relief flights into the Port-au-Prince airport” (5) than new media. New media is somehow not yet engrained in our culture, it does not come naturally, nor does it include everybody. There is a division between the connected and not connected, and most people are not on twitter. New media cannot yet be exactly called a part of civil society because it only represents the online society. Certainly, at least in this country, most people are connected, but I still see it more as a social tool than an ingrained part of our civil life that seamlessly enters our political consciousness. As a matter of fact, it seems that “new media may also alter or reinforce political attitudes.” (9) “A study of the American political blogosphere demonstrated a pattern of partisan clustering that may suggest a polarizing effect for new media.” (8) It seems that these conversations are reflecting our politics rather than shaping them. Activism takes place outside of this talk in the real world, not the virtual one. Also, I don’t believe that Twitter causes revolutions (like the Iranian Revolution, the most significant of the anecdotes for social movement because of new media).

Not yet, anyway.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just catching up

So to catch up for last week I've come asking a question. If we have a beef with the scenic shot via google earth (my yard might have been a mess that day), the what do we do about it? The answers aren't clear and in the reading for last week, the solution seemed to be to disregard old tactics and play with some new ones, that really aren't that new.

In Kumar's "Global Media and Communication: Google Earth and the nation state", the answer to fighting off big transnationals is hardly hopeful. Actually, its exactly what I was wondering when I wrote my midterm. What does a nation do to limit the actions of a transnational?

Well from what Kumar is suggesting out of the example with India's beef with Google and its program Google earth is that all you can do is: plead (he calls it negotiation), ban the products (so no Google for you), develop a similar product (so anyone heard of dubai?) or take evasive measures(I'll throw a shoe at you? or shut down my satellite system). Ultimately your best hope is that the CEO of Google just happens to be in your homeland for a weekend and decides to play nice. That the old means set down in the Treaty of Westphalia don't apply.

The plead, ban, develop or evade methods are the only ones that nation-states can take against transnationals that unlike their predecessors are not restricted to the boundaries of the nation they were developed in, they can influence and penetrate into the homes and lives of other nations. That they are entities that are border-less and thus are exceedingly hard to deal with. There is something Kumar doesn't mention though and that is the fact that in all the issues with Google and its program that no state turns to the U.S. for action, they turn to the corporate branch of Google in the US but not the US government. Now the concept of turning to the U.S. might be futile in making Google change, but is worth noting that many influential people within Google are buddies with the government. Thus is it truly out of the question for a nation to request another nation to deal with its own entities? Or is Google a media unbound to its place of birth? Is it to be treated like another nation? From what Kurma suggests, that transnationals like Google are beyond the nation-state status and thus a nation-state must be on the defensive if it wish to limit the influence or effects on its own sovereignty.

Therefore, if I still have a grudge with my yard being seen by millions of potential viewers after hearing all of this. Well, I guess I better hope I have the physical power and influence to enforce my views. I must either simply shut the system that irritates me out or live without access to the system and hope it still needs me enough to work with me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can Social Media really boost voter turn out??????

I didn't actually go to the Stewart-Colbert rally, but I have been fascinated by the way that our generation has been particularly drawn to comedic news commentary shows as legitimate sources of news media. I think that the turnout at the rally is a prime example of this. This article on CNN sort of questions whether or not the rally was an effort to boost voter turn out. I do not think that was the purpose of the rally, in spite of Glenn Beck's nervous comments.

In terms of the Stewart-Colbert rally, social media played a huge role in getting the word out. Their facebook groups for the events were the primary event invitation for the gathering. Each page boasted tens of thousands of RSVPs for the event. While this form of social media was effective in getting the word out for people to go to the rally it may not be effective in getting people to go to the polls. Stewart and Colbert's fans do tend to be of the demographic that support Obama, but I think the gathering was less about using social media to promote a political agenda than it was to provide a response to the Glenn Beck rally. In this sense, social media was used to mobilize a demographic block different from those who turned out for the Glenn Beck rally. Facebook probably would not have been an effective means for Glenn Beck to get people to show up to his rally.