Wednesday, October 28, 2009

US power and shift

The authors note that the US dominates ICTs and has much influence over international policy and governance. However, they predict that by 2025, the US will not longer be in the leadership position due to various factors, including the emerge of China in the world markets. Chinese engineers, Chinese firms and global leaders are evidence that China is assuming a global leadership position. The US is currently the leader because it has the largest investment base, is the leader in software and will remain in the top 3 global markets across all types of ICT markets. The US is also the leading producer of value-added content (entertainment).

They state that power is the influence and an ability to set an agenda, but it does not explain the why or what countries see. “Power does not explain what the powerful seek—multilateral cooperation or a coercive empire, for example. Neither does power explain the organization of decision making and action (market governance) shapes how preferences and influence are transformed into decisions.” The authors say that the decision process itself affects outcomes. If the US has indispensiable power, how will this change not only their power and influence, but the roles that other nations play?

The authors state a third shift in global governance is under way and that the time is ripe to confront significant internal changes, reorganize domestic governance and restructure global governance in various powerful markets. They write that we cannot assume each technology calls for a specific set of laws or regulations, but the success of tech type can lead to subsequent governance decisions.

So, as more innovations proliferate will their be yet another type of governance needed? I assume that regulations will continually be changing, not only because of the emergence of new technologies and new actors, but also because of the different interests by nations, individuals and organizations. The process will change, but the needs will most likely stay similar. It will only get more complicated because of innovations and the array of actors. I don't know if the US will falter in in its leadership role by 2020, but it does seem that they will no longer be the only ones dominating. It will be interested to see if China does take a more prominent leadership position or if another country steps up and somehow becomes influential.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Does Facebook Own Me?

While I'm not much for technical jargon or political economy, I thought Cowhey and Aronson did bring up a good question at the end of Chapter 5. "Who owns the Information?" In this world where so many people have personal information on Myspace or Facebook who does that information belong to? Does it belong to the individual? Does it belong to the site owners because the person freely gave them the information? Or is it somewhere in between? Do we forfeit our ownership of that information by making it public (I would say no, but I'm sure many others would say yes).
I recall a few months back an uproar over a proposed change to Facebook regulations which would allow them to use personal information, including people's uploaded photos in basically any manner they wanted. Facebook backed down on the changes after the users angrily protested. I was not pleased with what Facebook wanted to do, but did we all have a right to object? Anything we put on Facebook's site we willing shared with them and many other people. Once we've done that who does that information belong to and who can use it? If one of my friends, or even someone posts a picture, I can copy it and keep it for myself as well, is that legitimate? Do I now have some sort of ownership to that photo?
Personally I would like to think that like Intellectual Property Rights personal information about myself remains under my "ownership" even if I have put it on Facebook. If I freely give my credit card number to purchase something online, that site doesn't own that information and can't sell it (although I suppose if I posted it publicly I'm not sure what type of recourse I would have if someone used it). However I have heard of issues with this already in cases of people not being allowed to see their own credit reports or medical records, for whatever reason. What can we do to keep our personal information under our control in an age when more and more personal data is being displayed for the world? Would we have to stop using things like Facebook or MySpace to safeguard our information from being commodified or is there another way?

Long Sentences, Few New Concepts

Cowey and Aronson start out with an exciting teaser in Ch 1:
"Many assume--wrongly, we think-- that if governments stand aside, the technology will sweep away all obstacles and bring widespread worldwide prosperity. Others assume the real challenge is to get governments out of the pockets of large corporations and to unleash digitally enabled 'people power.' (Benkler, Castells, etc., right?)....these views are mistaken."

Well, alright, I thought, something new! But I don't feel like they ever dove into why those views are mistaken. Or perhaps the way they address it is by saying "ahhh, but it's more complex than one or the's BOTH! shocker!", and then repeatedly stating the obvious. Some of my favorites were:

"Marketplace reforms at home demand complementary actions at the domestic level" (Ch 1, p 13)

"global governance is deeply entangled with power and politics." (Ch 1, p13 )

"responsible governments begin by seeking ways to improve their public and national interests...Powerful markets get more of what they seek than weaker ones. (Ch1, p 14)

Because significant players in individual markets are influenced by their respective politics, when they come together to pursue global interests, the political aspects of their solutions predominate. (me paraphrasing from ch 6)

"Global market important because choices about the design of market
governance influence the winners and losers and the innovation and efficiency in the global ICT market" (Ch 6)

Whether an international institution that is responsible for the administration of a marketplace is a formal or informal (NGO) organization influences that marketplace. (paraphrasing Ch 6)

The one original assertion they did make and attempt to support was that the U.S. will be the "single largest influence on the global policy agenda" and the "pivot" on which the "Inflection Point" will turn until about 2025. They say the U.S
-has a lead in deployed ICT stock (examples would have helped, so I just take them at their word)
-has the largest investment base in the right areas for innovation
-is a leader in software and will remain so
-will remain in the 'top 3' global markets across all types of ICT markets
-is leading producer of value-added content (entertainment) This is questionable, but they do address it later and reference how long-tail markets and new markets like gaming can make that untrue very quickly. (p 107)

They also say China is not that big of a contender, the decline in U.S spending in ICT is overblown, and have a great discussion of net neutrality that makes me feel silly for saying that they have nothing to say. Clearly they do, and it's about net neutrality. And hwo global governance is important.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Isn't Media a Commodity?

Benkler and Castells only briefly touch on something we have also briefly discussed in class, the topic of p2p sharing, especially in terms of (free) music, movie, and TV downloads. While I'm human and of course want something free if I can get it, the trend of free file sharing and pirated movies, music, software, etc. does bother me. I suppose it is a human trait to want to keep your money and not spend it if you don't have to. After all you worked hard for that money, so if you can avoid spending it on movies, music, etc. shouldn't you?
However, someone else worked hard to produce that media so why do we believe they should just give it away for free? We wouldn't expect a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk for free just because we don't want to have to pay for it. Now there are the arguments that recording companies and studios make so much money off of their products, which it is implied, is undeserved (and I'm not getting into the unfair payment distributions, that's a whole other issue), so why does it matter if we download it for free? But does anyone really think if all media was either produced by small independent labels/companies, who didn't take big profits, or even self-produced it that there wouldn't be such a proliferation of p2p sharing? I seriously doubt it. This system could also make it harder for the small upstart media companies because people have gotten used to not paying for their media and won't want to start just because its a small company trying to get off the ground and make a profit.
We've seen this trend with newspapers too. People don't want to pay for online subscriptions (full disclaimer, I'm totally guilty of this too) and so the companies have to turn to the dwindling ad revenues to keep their sites and sometimes the entire paper afloat.
People still get annoyed if they have to wait through commercials for free online content, as we've discussed in class. However, someone has to pay for the work to be done. If no one pays musicians, writers, actors, directors to produce the media, they're going to find another job that will pay them and our media supply will decline. They might continue to produce media on the side because they like it, but it won't be of the same quantity and quality as if they could produce it for a full-time job.
While there are many issues involved in this discussion, to me, one of the main points it boils down to, is why do we think its ok to not pay media producers for their time, effort, and products? Isn't it a commodity just like everything else we pay for?

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Media, Politics and Regulation

Castell's article, “Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society” introduces concepts that revolve around politics and decision-making in the network society. He writes about how politicians are the face of politics in general. They have to sell themselves using their and image and looks. This is particularly interesting given the time that article was written (2007) because communication technologies were decisive in the last presidential election. Blogs, emails, facebook and other such social media sites were all utilized by the candidates. This perhaps led to the high young adult turnout. Castells writes how credibility and destruction of credibility and character assassination become potent political weapons. This has also been the case recently with politicians personal lives showing up in the news. It is not just about the politics, but about the person. Trust plays a big part. The media can built politicians up or bring them down.

People have built what Castells calls mass self-communication via podcasts, wikis, blogs, SMS, and P2P sharing networks. 52% of bloggers say that they blog mostly for themselves. These kinds of mediums allow for a larger diversity of information that are of “largely autonomous origin.” This begs the question of credibility and reliability that we have been discussing in class. If people are purportedly writing blogs for themselves, than can we believe what they are saying? Should we even bother reading if it is mostly for themselves? Even those who write for an audience, there is an increasingly problematic dimension that the social media technologies have bring. Plurality and diversity of sources and information are very often seen as a positive, good thing because they afford consumers a greater amount of choice. However, there is also those who think it simply too much. We are inundated by information via the internet. Slander, false information, gimmicks included. Celebrities, for example, have been sued over what they report on twitter. Courtney Love said something negative about a brand and they are suing her. Not only that, but there are hackers who have gotten ahold of Demi Moore's account and posted some rather strange tweets. I'm not sure how to control hackers or check the majority of news posts for legitimacy, but this an important aspect that has recently been taken into consideration.

Castells contends that there is a “new media reality whose contours and effects will ultimately be decided through a series of political and business power struggles.” This made me think of an article I read yesterday about the White House and Fox. The media, as we have discussed and as Castells writes about, has the power to change people's minds and affect the decisions they make. The White House and Fox News are now in a battle. The NY Times article notes that the fight for 'truth' is not easy. The White House can't have a 'truth-o-meter' or a 'reality check.' So, the author of the article says that perhaps it is time to restore some imperiousness to the relationship. I don't think this is the best idea, but I'm not sure what either party can do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"The empires of the future are the empires of the mind"

--Manuel Caste--I mean, Winston Churchill. ;)

I also considered naming this post "Stealing my Thunder" but it's kind of ridiculous to imagine my thunder is even worthy of being stolen by Manuel Castells. Basically, reading Castells was really deflating because it was like reading the article that I have always dreamed of writing, but clearly never had the foresight or intelligence to write. In "Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society," Castells touches on everything that I feel like I talk about with anyone who will listen obligingly, and then he actually managed to ground all of it it in this amazing body of research and theory while still keeping it accessible, relevant and free of jargon. He even cited danah boyd!

Moving past my jealousy, awe and hero worship (he's been knighted by 5 different governments, people), I will attempt to look at the article with a more critical eye. While I fully agree with Castells about the direct link between " and politics, the politics of scandal, and the crisis of political legitimacy in a global perspective," and I like his discussion of 'mass self-communication,' I was at first taken aback when he argued that "the media have become the social space where power is decided," though I would very much like for that to be the case (Castells, 2007). If nuclear and biological weapons didn't exist, sure, maybe we could say that, but until that sort of physical power isn't a concern anymore, isn't soft power still just soft power?

From what I can tell, many would now argue that weapons like that really are irrelevant now, at least in terms of wars between nations, but what about the horizontal networks formed through social media technology? Those networks are comprised of citizen media mavens and masses of people self-communicating and picking and choosing what they read, sure, but I wish that Castells had included a discussion of how trans-national terrorist organizations wield power in these networks as well. I suppose they would naturally be included as actors in the battle for the mind he outlines?

Daya Thussu concludes in Mapping Media Flow and Contra-Flow that "one should not lose sight of the fact that 'soft' media power is firmly underpinned by 'hard' political and economic power," and while she may be right, she may not be taking into account the 'hard' political power Castells shows to be in the hands of those in the 'horizontal networks' who can and do question the narratives put out by those with the 'hard' political and economic power (Thussu, 2006)...that power sometimes subverts, questions or even overrides the hard power of institutions like government and TNCs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Karim Karim and tribalism

I don't know why the Karim Karim reading in particular got me on this train of thought-- there are surely hundreds of scholars who have asserted something along the lines of:

"the roots of the contemporary global system of nation states are to be found in colonialism," as he does in "Chapter 24: Reviewing the 'National' in International communication."

But all I can think as I read that sentence is "ok, sure, but can't you replace 'colonialism' with 'tribalism'?" Groups of human beings have been banding together and fighting each other for territory, resources and power pretty much since we started hunting and gathering, right? Even when tribes lived in peace it was because they respected certain tribal boundaries and codes of conduct. Furthermore, each tribe had oral histories and myths about themselves and their enemies that they passed on to "create their reality through communication," just as we tell ourselves stories about good guys and bad guys over and over and over again through film, journalism, TV, and now the interwebs. Yes, modern technology certainly made it possible for that to occur on a larger scale, but I can't see what has really changed except the size of groups and the scope and scale of their influence.

Discussion Question 2

Given what we know about the role of media in culture and conflict, it is most certainly time to revisit older concerns about media ownership and rights of information, and it is also time to reframe them in a cosmopolitan way.

For example, 2 key things Waisbord writes in "Media and the Reinvention of the Nation" are:

1. "cosmopolitanism lacks allied media orgs willing to become vehicles for transnational or post-national cultures" and

2. "cosmopolitanism does not offer social and political entitlements" (385)

In other words, you could say that:

1. 'cosmopolitanism' lacks an International Public Broadcasting Corporation and

2. 'cosmopolitanism' (at least as Waisbord uses it) is not so unlike "the U.N." or "global civil society." So far, neither offers enough enforceable social and political entitlements (or limitations) to its members to be effective in achieving its goals.

Eventually, a global media governance solution might have to be similar to or a part of the U.N. -- some sort of international body that represents "the global public interest" and holds the global public media corporation accountable. Ideally this branch would be part of a U.N. that has improved on the inherent power imbalances in its own governance structure, such as the current Security Council set up.

A great model for public media is the BBC, and I think they are the closest the world has to a public news organization that endeavors to 'serve the public' if only bc the BBC has, for the most part, avoided the problem of having to worry about clashing with corporate sponsors, owners, and even their own government (I think) at least in part because of the way its governance is structured. Recently, the BBC has had to go more and more towards a commercially-funded model, so it's possible this is changing or has already changed, but if their worldwide credibility is any indicator, the change has not been significant.

So short answer: I propose a near impossibility that is probably naive. While some writers like Raboy have focused on WSIS as a space for the voice of civil society to come through, or more regulation enabling 'local/smaller competitors', I'm not convinced that any local or smaller provider-- no matter how empowered by global/national regulations--will be able to compete without dropping their 'public interest' model (if they even start out with one). To compete with what is popular and be accountable to their bottom line, as any business is at the end of the day, they will likely have to adopt the successful formula of conflict-based, dramatic, sensational infotainment supported by corporate sponsors. I guess I am saying that while the role of civil society in WSIS was encouraging, business interests and the public interest just don't naturally go together.

And since I am imagining pie-in-the-sky media governance solutions, I would add that this international public media corporation would present a new formula for presentation of information and news that is of global public interest. Instead of simply reporting on a situation, reporters would give context and background, and make an attempt to answer questions like "how does this affect me/my family/my country?" and if it is a catastrophic situation, questions like "what can be done to improve this situation/what can I do about this" I suppose it would be a sort of social justice-oriented public media...?

What keeps coming up on our group blog is trust and I would say that if we (the 'global public') want a global media corporation to produce news and information we feel we can trust, it has to be 100% a global public media corporation, if that makes sense, governed by a global committee whose governance structure is transparent, democratic, inclusive, and egalitarian.

This begs an unfortunate question, though-- who would watch? If the world is conditioned to enjoy news as "light entertainment" as McChesney puts it, why bother watching something so distressing?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Americanization of Japanization

Iwabuchi begins his article about Japanization and cultural globalization with a discussion about ''mobile privatization,” that is, technology that gives people greater choice and mobility. Sony's Walkman, for example, is a Japanese product that became quite popular in many countries. He says that the Walkman and other Japanese consumer products like Japanese animation do not evoke images or ideas of a Japanese lifestyle, “even if consumers know it is made in Japan and appreciate its Japaneseness in terms of its sophisticated technology.” American kids wanted Pokemon or think that Japanese animation is 'cool,' but there is no real appreciation of the culture nor do they really understand the product as a cultural symbol of Japan because as the author later states, “Japanese consumer products don't seek to sell on the back of a Japanese way of life and they lack an influential 'idea of Japan,' unlike the U.S.” The lack of 'selling the idea of Japan' is due to animation directors and cartoonists choosing not to draw realistic Japanese characters. They tend to be modeled on Caucasian types. Is this a Westernization of Japanization? Do animators and producers of technologies think about the ways they can make the products more attractive to a transnational (Western) audience? If so, there is no doubt that these consumer products lose the Japaneseness, and therefore explains further why those young consumers in the U.S. watching and playing Pokemon are not aware of the products' origin, much less of the cultural symbols of the country of origin.

Iwabuchi admits that Japan has been successful, but not in the same way as America. He mentions that the US power has been successful at getting others to want what the U.S. has and what the U.S. wants. Why has the US been successful in attracted others to the U.S. way of life? Can we thank the media conglomerates, including the advertisers, for the ways in which they have been able to spread consumer products, American shows, movies, and broadcasts to people worldwide? Interestingly, Iwobuchi writes that the Japanese media industries and cultural products cannot successfully become transnational players without partners. Later, he mentions that Pokemon was successful with the help of U.S. distribution and marketing. “Japanese animation industry is becoming a global player only by relying on the power of the Western media.” He quotes two authors who point out the strategic patterns of activities for global media corporations, which, are dominated by American industries (2 out of 3). Is there any way to get out of the Western web? The partners Japanese media needs, are they necessarily Western? (Sony did team up with Hollywood). It would seem that there is a trend to try to emulate or use formats and models that work in the West (or join them). The author sums it up by saying that the “global is still associated with the West.”

In Deuze's article about convergence culture, he brings up several interesting phenomenons that are currently taking hold. More specifically, the use of mobile internet devices, social media and a global participatory media culture. The convergence of technologies has made it easier to share information, images, and videos. Deuze writes about 'a new humanism' that is a shift towards a more engaged emancipatory and participatory relationship between media professionals and the public. This kind of participatory culture could possibly ameliorate some of the discrepancies between North/South, not only by sharing information freely, but also in terms of marketing consumer products internationally. I'm thinking about Iwabuchi's article. The Japanese could try to engage with the audience and public to understand what they like and want to consume. If a company wants their products to be popular transnationally, they can chat or interact with Western or South American people, depending on where they want their products to sell. Japan and other countries could become more global, without relying on the West.

In terms of news and information, the convergence of technologies and media-making has made it easier for people with access to these technologies to produce content. Citizen journalism, bloggers, etc. are all prosumers. 'Prosumerism' is a trend that will likely not subside any time soon, but as is mentioned in the article, there is a need for some kind of regulation. Deuze rightly mentions that new media is uncertain and unpredictable. We are overrun by information on the internet from numerous sources. Individuals, companies, and corporations all have content, advertising and disseminate information far and wide. (The other day I got a text from some kind of loan company! I hope this is not a new trend.) There is one word in the article that we must think about, that is trust. With so many content producers and participants, how do we know who to trust?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I think I'm Turning Japanese?

In the article on "Japanization" Iwabuchi asks us to reconsider cultural globalization and more specifically Japanese influence on global culture. However, while reading the article, I couldn't help but think of how dated it felt, even though it was written in 2002 (according to my Google search). While I don't know what kind of influence Japanese culture has on other parts of the world, it may have a far greater influence on countries in Asia, in the United States it seems that influence has seriously waned since the 1990's.
Starting in the 80's and into the 90's Japanese technology and culture seemed to be everywhere. There were anime cartoons, from Sailor Moon to Pokemon, tamagotchi pets, and walkmans followed by discmans (discmen?). Students were encouraged to learn Japanese because the country was a rising economic superpower.
Now there seems to be little talk of Japan's world economic and cultural influence. Japanese cultural exports have achieved "cult" status with gruesome horror movies, manga, and Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku girls. While they are widely known of, it seems that they only absorbed and put into practice or use by a small number of people. If so then what is Japan's contribution to global culture (if the situation in the US is similar to that of other regions)?
I'm not sure what led to this decline in Japanese influence on US culture. Maybe it was the continued "economic slump" in the country mentioned by Iwabuchi. Maybe it was the rise of China as a new world superpower (although China doesn't seem to have exported much culturally, at least not yet). Perhaps if Japan's economy rebounds with the rest of the world it's cultural exports will rebound as well and we'll be hit with a new wave of Japanese culture.
This of course leads to a larger question. Why has Japanese cultural influence waned whereas US cultural influence seems to hold steady across the globe? Is it because US culture is so ill-defined and mainly thought of on the basis of a consumer culture? If a culture of consumption is all the US exports it is possible that such a vague and broad influence would endure, whereas something more specific such as facets of Japanese culture might increase and decline over time depending on public interests. If the US had a more defined culture would its cultural influence wax and wane or would the control of the media by US conglomerates allow it to hold steady?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Analysis Question 2

It is time to revisit some of the older concerns about media ownership and rights of information, but it is also important to continue to keep those in mind. As McChesney noted in his article and as we have read in previous articles, the transnational media conglomerates have increased their presence in new markets, including in some nation-states that have little local media. The Murdochization of the media has made it difficult for less developed nations to compete with Western conglomerates that have such a far, wide reach. The TNCs provide India, China and many other countries with foreign and localized programming. The formula has worked for the big companies thus far. They are maximizing their profits by infiltrating new markets and also forming partnerships with local companies that have a presence and/or infrastructure already in place.

Local media need opportunities to become more competitive in their own countries against the conglomerates. There is no way to reverse or downplay conglomerates' presence in non-Western countries, but there could be a better way to govern them to allow the local media companies to be more competitive. I believe that these local companies would eventually like to expand and become more global like the big transnational corporations, if given the chance. For now, it is a matter of the local companies stepping up and becoming competitive to provide their citizens with authentic local programming. There are a few countries like India and Brazil that have been somewhat successful and have been able to export their media to other countries. These 'subaltern' flows, as Thussu calls them, from South to South or South to North are rare. The Western TNCs produce more and have a wider range of holdings, thus there are more North to South flows. Smaller, local companies will no doubt look to the TNCs business models and methods for some ideas and guidance. The current economic climate is a good time to start making decisive moves and take big risks in order to carve out a niche in their own countries.

Nation-states governments have the power to control the flow, content and to some extent even the audience. In India, for example, Murdoch got into some hot water because of some of the culturally inappropriate content on one of his stations. This is a similar issue with journalism in some countries where governments keep reporters back and/or they have little access to controversial information and are forbidden to report on certain issues that may damage the governments reputation. The nations' culture, religion and governmental bodies influence the content and ways in which information is dispersed. In all nations, there needs to be freedom, subjectivity, and transparency in media. Ideally, audiences would be more in tune with what they are watching, where it's coming from, and if and how it is bias. I don't think the majority of people who watch news, or even entertainment programming scrutinize the content as we have been doing in class. It is an issue of media literacy. As this weeks readings point out, first there has been a rise in participatory media outlets, citizen journalism, and the creative process of consumption. Advertisers, as well as other media business execs realize the need to give the consumer choices and the ability to create, produce and consume content. This is what should be available in all nation-states.

I don't believe that government regulations and interventions are the answer. No one wants their government controlling the media, as is the case in some countries today. Chavez has much of the media in his hands in Venezuela, in Peru, when Fujimori was in power he controlled all the news programming. He bribed and had someone edit the news footage before it was aired. There are many other cases like these where the governments have too much control of the media. It is not the kind of governing that would be well-received in most countries, nor does it provide many outlets and choices for its citizens.

The WTO, UNESCO, ICANN and other governing bodies have been tried to impose some measures to regulate media, but it is becoming more difficult as it becomes more globalized. The US government is archiving congressmen and women's tweets. Celebrities have been sued for twitting something unfavorable or gossip about someone else, a company or a brand. Recently, in the NY Times there was an article about blogging and how bloggers writing about a product, need to fully-disclose if they got the product for free, if they are getting paid to write about it, etc. The rise in technology and internet media is making it difficult for anyone to regulate individuals online. It will take many organized groups to effectively enact regulations and govern individuals who are writing with their own interests in mind. Or dare I propose that we regulate and govern ourselves?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Analysis Question 2

Whether or not a state should revise its rules on media ownership depend on the rules of each nation state. I believe that countries such as Iran and China with tight control on the media and ownership should definitely reconsider their legislation, however, as their present governments' remain in power, that seems unlikely to happen. While these examples seem obvious, other countries that should probably revise media ownership rules, are more ambiguous.
While the number and type of outlets may have risen, oftentimes they are just another facet of a larger company. I knew that Disney, Time-Warner, and other companies had media empires, but didn't realize their full scope until last week's readings. So while it may seem that having more outlets, would provide us with a greater range of opinions and programming, in reality that may not be the case depending on who actually owns those outlets. If we have two more news channels pop up it may sound like we'll be getting different views, but if they're both owned by Time-Warner, we'll probably just get copies of CNN.
From our previous readings we've heard that the US used to have boundaries on the amount of media one company could own, but it was eventually abolished, thanks in part to lobbying by the large transnational corporations. While I doubt it would be possible to re-limit ownership, it seems that there could be something done to improve access to the "contra-flows" of information coming from other regions/countries. As we discussed in class, the US tends to export a lot of its media, but imports very little. I think competition from non-US sources could improve the quality of media that we receive. While MSNBC, CNN, and FOX have no real competition they have no reason to improve their operations and we're still stuck with the same sources.
Luckily new media has made it easier for us to access these sources, if we know where to look. As we talked about in class, I think educating people on how to be media consumers would be beneficial and teach us where to find these other media sources and how to critically evaluate media as a whole. As for overall regulations, I guess I'm a bit pessimistic and feel like it would be overly influenced by lobbying from the corporations. However, if the public as a whole learns to become better consumers, we may be able to influence change through the free-market, which is what those large companies are always lobbying for anyway.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Neoliberal Global Economic Order

In this week's readings something in the McChesney article really, really, really bothered me. He says that the so-called neoliberal economic system works best with a formal electoral democracy but with little public input in any other way (he clearly doesn't agree with this however). According to Friedman profit-making is the essence of democracy and that democracy is permissible and any government supporting "anti-market" policies is "anti-democratic" no matter how much popular support it has.
That's funny, I thought the essence of democracy was popular support for governments and policies, not just supporting capitalism. McChesney exemplifies Friedman's position with the military overthrow of the democratically elected Chilean government in the 1970's because it was interfering with "business control" in Chilean society. According to McChesney the overthrow resulted in 15 years of military dictatorship and an eventual return to democracy, however under conditions that made it very difficult, if not impossible for the public to challenge military and business control of society. While I will admit that I know virtually nothing about this situation, other than what I read in McChesney (and saw on a recent "Law and Order" re-run on TNT), this doesn't sound like much of a democracy to me, it sounds more like the continuation of a dictatorship.
McChesney goes on to say that this neoliberal economic order thrives on a "weak political culture" and that the global media system is a beneficiary of it, most likely in that the global media system is controlled by transnational companies and therefore benefits from policies that allow it to pursue capitalism in whatever way possible. He says this leads to an apathetic and cynical public which only perpetuates the cycle. This rang so true to me. Even in this past election with Obama's messages of hope and change, how many people felt like their vote still might not matter, or that even if their candidate did get elected, it wouldn't change much anyway?
While McChesney says the global media system and its conglomerates benefit from this structure, I think that the global media system (most likely not including the conglomerates) could be a huge catalyst for changing our apathetic and cynical views. Instead of pushing the pop "journalism" of celebrity gossip and scandal, media could be used to better inform people about the issues, get them to think about what is going on in their country and the world, and form their own opinions. While there are people who are trying to do this now, it seems that you have to deliberately go out of your way to find them, instead of looking at what is easily available from the media giants, who seem more interested in their bottom line than informing the public. As the market has become so saturated with these conglomerates, who seem to control every outlet I'm not sure what the remedy could be. Would a larger public media, such as PBS, NPR, and the BBC, be more focused on media for the sake of public information instead of profit? Should we turn to a number of smaller private companies to hear a variety of views and then put together our own picture of the situation? Should we all take up our own blogs, letter writing campaigns, and other initiatives to try to get our voices heard? In a democracy it doesn't seem like it should have to be so hard for the people's will to be heard over that of big business. I wish we could find some answer, because it is very disheartening to think that world governments are more concerned with the interests of businesses and not the people, who they are (in democracies at least) supposed to represent.

Monday, October 5, 2009

When The Mind Is Somewhere Else

“The concept of ‘geo-ethnicity’ was first introduced by Kim and associates (Kim et al., 2003b), who contended that ethnicity or geographic location alone was not a sufficient factor to explain some distinctive communication patterns in a multicultural setting. Rather, the interaction between ethnicity and location, or geo-ethnicity, produces a unique effect on immigrants’ communication behavior and neighborhood engagement.”

This was Lin and Song’s introduction to the idea of “geo-ethnicity” in their article on geo-ethnic storytelling in contemporary ethnic media. Based on this explanation, I expected the article to deal with a topic we’ve touched upon in a previous classes: how immigrant groups relate to their ethnic identity and its relationship to a home country in an age when communication technology and the media have eroded traditional time-space boundaries and given people the option of imagining their own community in unprecedented ways. “In essence, geo-ethnicity highlights the contextual factor and allows us to move beyond simply looking at ethnicity as a single independent variable to explain the contemporary social environment,” they wrote. “Geo-ethnicity has thus proved to be a better predictor than ethnicity or geography alone to explain immigrants’ community participation."

Instead, the article took this idea of actively formulating one's idea of community and community participation and associated solely with one's current geographic locality. The researchers explored the characteristics of ethnic media in four distinctive ethnic communities in the greater Los Angeles area, including details about the circulation, target audiences, and content of the local publications. One of their primary interests in this study was examining the focus on geo-ethnic storytelling-- content that dealt with local community issues and encouraged community participation-- and it's impact on actual civic participation in the communities being examined.

What the study found, however, was that the majority of the coverage in the publications had to do with the “home country.” While the article did not romanticize this finding, avoiding the suggestion that people stayed abreast of political, economic, and entertainment news from the home countries primarily for reasons of nostalgia, it did draw a correlation between the focus of an ethnic group’s publications on the home country and that group’s difficulty in integrating into the host society. In such a case, the press is less the idealized “tool of democracy” and more a conduit for staying in touch with the home country. This in of itself is not a bad thing; but it can enable a reluctance to expand one’s horizons and explore the possibilities for engagement in an individual’s current local community.

Based on my reading of this article, if an organization interested in promoting civic interest wanted to engage an immigrant community, I would suggest contacting local ethnic publications and offering to submit articles and events for the community calenders (aka. bulletin boards). The articles could overtly or tacitly encourage community participation and convey the ways in which such behaviors would be economically and/or socially beneficial to the group in question. Some people remain insular because they are afraid of change, while others are just indifferent; and these can be attitudes groomed by home country culture or second-generation upbringing as well. According to this article, most ethnic news publications are geared towards first-generation, bilingual or non-English speaking immigrants. This media outlet could be a powerful tool for influencing people with the biggest language and cultural barriers to take advantage of the opportunities to improve or enrich their experience in the U.S. by taking an interest in their local community.

Global Media System, all US

As we have been discussing in class the past few weeks, media certainly plays a role in the daily lives of many people all over the world. We have been delving our discussions into the kinds of influence the media has and what kinds of regulations, and governance should be taken to prevent misuse and ideally have a more equitable system. We have also discussed how globalization affects the media and people in countries on the periphery. It is interesting what Tunstall notes in his article; if you group ten countries together, only about ten percent of their viewing audience tune in to foreign media. In his article, Chesney states that the global commercial media system is closely linked to the rise of a more integrated neo-liberal capitalist economic system. Chesney portrays the commercial side of media, dominated by a few transnational conglomerates. In class, we have been discussing the ways in which media can positively and negatively affect a nation-state, for example, how the US media conglomerates share information and their ideas to other countries. What we have not discussed is the market-driven aspects and how profit-maximizing strategy shapes the media and the global system. As Chesney states, the global media system is linked to the global market economy. What are the motivations behind the big media conglomerates? Do they want to educate and inform the masses? Or do they simply want to make money? I believe they want both, but they are in pursuit of profit and thus they must give the audience what they want, at the same time adhere to the top exec's vision. News Corporation wants Fox News to disperse the news to as many people that will watch because the more eyeballs, the more money. As Chesney mentions, the system is oligopolistic and it is dominated by less than 10 TNCs. He writes, “thus, our world is being remade before our eyes by the execs of gigantic corps, in dogged pursuit of profit.” Companies are focusing on the best returns overseas and are always looking at markets who will help maximize profits. Thussu, in his article about Global Media Flow notes that the media companies see people as consumers, not citizens. Later, he mentions the commercial imperative, “glocalization strategy,” that is “not so much a regard for national cultures, but a communication imperative.” Cartoon Network, for example, 'indigenised operations' producing epics such as Ramayan and Mahabharat. Since only a small amount of people are watching foreign media in a country, the conglomerates incorporate local languages, culture and ideas into programming as a way of getting more eyeballs, (money). Is the inclusion of local programming done by foreign corporations with local people in mind or simply done to maximize profits? Do the people get what they want or simply a diluted or slightly changed version?

One of the issues is the mergers that are creating media giants. The list of Time Warner's and Disney's holdings is quite long. “Third world” media corps. are also turning global, and they are in fact advocates, but will they be successful competing with the Western media conglomerates? Chesney argues that these smaller companies have no choice but to go global, but there is no guarantee that they will be successful. Some countries, such as Mexico, Brazil and India have been able to enter in the global sphere thanks to Bollywood and Telenovelas. This is what Thussu describes as the 'subaltern flows.' But it is clear from Chesney and Tunstall's articles that it is the US, and to some extent Britain, that have the reigns in their hands.

Since English is the dominant media language and countries are trying to protect their 'cultural flare,' there have been formal measures taken to try to curtail cultural imperialism that many believe the global media is doing. EU passed a law in 1997 to require 50% of TV to be Euro-made and there was a meeting in Ottawa to set 'ground rules' to protect cultural flare, which stated that culture should be kept out of WTO control. Thussu quotes one author as calling it a “transnational corporate cultural domination.” Indeed, some view the global media system as a form of cultural imperialism. I do not think, however, that the media powerhouses are simply out to inculcate non-Western countries with Western ideals by showing Disney cartoons or even necessarily with news broadcasts. The media does have this power, but I don't believe the Execs sit around and discuss this in most of the big corporations. ( I could be wrong) I think it is simply about what sells. Hollywood films sell overseas in many countries. 50% of their sales come from overseas and countries are fighting against the Hollywood juggernaut, but again, I don't believe Hollywood writers, directors, producers make films for cultural imperialistic reasons. Most are artists, writers, directors and producers who want to make money by selling their product, films, to as many worldwide viewers as possible. That is why many French directors are now making English films, for example, to have more widespread distribution. A film director noted that if the European market does not integrate into a single market, there is no way to compete against the American market. The film industry is dominated by Hollywood. And as I have mentioned, so are many of the media conglomerates. The majority of Chesney's article focuses on US Media. The media system that he says is closely linked to the rise of a more integrated neoliberal global capitalist economic system, is the US system. With this system taking over and English becoming the media language, will other nation-states turnaround and innovate to create more media that comes from within or will the Western global system continue to dominate and expand?