Oct 27, 2009

Hand in Glove Political Economy

I find this blog difficult to write. To be perfectly honest, I don not consider myslef a very politically or economically savvy person. I'm much more of a culture, history, society, psychology person.

But this reading was very enlightening. It's one thing to say that certain companies or organizations can manipulate governments into supporting their intersts, that the large financial gifts they can give influence politicians to be generous or sympathetic to their interests. It's quite another to have economic factions scrutinized and then put into perspective with political parties' agendas. For instance, "Democrats listen to consumer groups that equate traditional copyright with anti-consumer tendencies, but no Democrat can win the presidency without carrying New York and California, the two largest content-creating states. And there are large numbers of congressional Democrats from states
and districts with high tech aspirations that support strong IPR."(p.124-125) It reminds me that once again, geography does matter and that industry interests are mirrored in their regions, that interests do compete and conflict.

We talk about the tyranny of the rich, but we have failed to recognize the flexibility of America's nouveau rich scene - that as interests and technologies have changed over time, so have those who triumph the new come into conflict with the old. The hegemony, at its roots, is fragmented.

There's also been cynicism that our political parties are becoming too alike economically. Yet, this reading clearly shows the rivalries and party wooing that occurs in our political landscape. It reads almost like waves or cyclic contraction and expansion. I was reminded once again, that policy is in the hands of the government, which in itself, is a mass of goals and objectives that here align with some market interests, and there depart from that group.

An inflection point - Personal Network Platforms - concepts I find so hard to coalesce in my mind...

Oct 26, 2009

Democratization of the Internet

Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? Apparently, the medium which was thought to be one of the greatest (if not the greatest) agents of democratization has started going through a process of real democratization only recently. What was it before, then? To me, it seems to have been leaning towards more of an authoritarian structure, although very decentralized, and as the system could not handle this decentralization anymore, it had to reform itself (authority of the government is in its power, after all). Hence, the ICANN “liberalization.” ICANN is only about “name control,” of course, but then naming an object ultimately gives one authority over it (was it the Bible that said this?).

Yes, Cowhey and Aronson put forward several arguments – quite reasonable – suggesting that the US is there to stay, at least for another decade or two, as the “pivotal” power in the net-o-sphere. Seems like it might not last that long, though. Just last month ICANN completed the Joint Project Agreement with the US, ending its “final say” over the “international” private organization that oversees the Internet’s naming system. And whatever debate on net-neutrality was taking place within the US, seems to had taken a slightly different form at the international level… although, structurally, it ran roughly along the same lines: freedom.

Despite being somewhat ignorant of the tech aspect of it all, I still find it difficult to comprehend the arguments against neutrality. Seems like no matter what the content, as long as there is an element of regulatory involvement, a motion is considered to be necessarily bad by some; even when regulation is meant to ensure freedom (supposedly, at least). This is worrisome. After all, we consider the Internet as the ultimate tool of empowerment of the post-modern individual. Yet, it seems that it’s running the risk of falling to corporate interests. Again.

So, what does this have to do with ICANN?

We have been talking about globalization and the power of the networks for two months now. If we are to have a truly democratic global system of “Internet governance,” the major powers would have to give in, eventually, no matter how hard they find doing that. But then, it would allow genuine plurality, as well as true glocalization of the Internet: be it through domain names in one’s own alphabet, or local (i.e. non-state) TLDs [top level domains], such as .nyc for New York, for example. More freedom; more neutrality; more democracy.

Yes, the Internet gives power to the global network of both, state and non-state actors (as the latest ICANN ruling suggests). It is obvious by now that we cannot have a truly democratic global governance system in the real world (not yet, at least). Virtually, however, there seems to be more hope, and the first steps are just being made… perhaps?

The Need for Transparency

As Cowhey and Aronson explored the various forces at work that shape ICT infrastructure and its distribution in society, the overarching theme I took from the reading was the absolute need for transparency in these processes. Cowhey and Aronson make a clear case against technological determinism (and by extension, then, an "automatic" process of governance), showing instead that the political economy surrounding ICT infrastructure chooses winners and losers and has a significant impact on the market. That politicians and government parties with specific ideologies and "brands" to uphold, and that ICT companies and technology firms have a vested interest in what policies get passed, underscores the fact that the most powerful decision makers in these matters have priorities that might not actually correlate with the interests of the public good.

And yet, while conscious of the constructed market created by policies and government decisions, the public, through the market, can still assert a voice in these processes. The difficulty, of course, is that a public response must reach a critical mass before it can have any impact. Thus, regular Joes (or Jackies) like you and me can feel disenfranchised from policy-making if we don't agree with the mainstream opinion, even though the process maintains a place for individual agency.

It is here, then, that the hows and whys of legislation, policy, and governance must be transparent. While I'm no technophile up to date with the latest technology debates, having these processes open to public scrutinization is where the public can make sure that their interests are represented in the winners that get chosen. Overall as a society, we need to recognize that the technology that makes it to the market does not always represent everything that is actually available. In the same way that media literacy is necessary to help people deconstruct the hegemonizing forces of the media, we need technical literacy to understand the processes that construct our choices as consumers.

Oct 25, 2009

What Could be the Downfall American ICT Leadership? Net Neutrality

The readings this week took on criticism of those who say that the dominance of the US in ICT is on its way out because of China's new prominence, less spending on ICT, lack of real broadband access or some combination of all three.

However, what the critics did not see as a limit to the American dominance in ICT is the net neutrality debate. In this video featuring some of the greatest Internet innovators and thinkers (including a cameo by Lawrence Lessig), they all refer to the ultimate victim in a system where the Internet is no longer 'neutral' - American ingenuity and creativity.

The evangelist from Google Vint Cerf, addresses this exactly when he speaks about how the inhibition of Internet access will allow for other nations with more open systems to innovate beyond America.

This video uses the insights of some of the most innovative and intelligent people in digital technology to show that one area in which the open markets have really allowed for small companies to flourish into market and cultural behemoths is digital technology. As the video states, eBay, Google, Yahoo! all started in a basement somewhere and are now international brands that have come to change global vernacular - you don't search, you 'Google.'

To put a barrier on the access that let the minds behind these corporations revolutionize several industries would only set the United States very far back in terms of ICTs:

Oct 24, 2009

ICT Infrastructures

Our readings for this week were sections from Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: the Political Economy of Innovation by Peter F. Cowhey and Jonathan D. Aronson with Donald Abelson. In the introduction, the authors describe their perspective as an optimistic and “upbeat” one, contrasting to the “gloomy” world view about international communication and global governance that seems to have pervaded the world in 2009. The authors feel that the expectations for governance are too high. They argue that “pretty good” governance should be lauded instead of criticized.

The authors argue that there is now a new inflection point for ICT infrastructure. ICT infrastructure is becoming more modular. The authors give the example of lego bricks. ICT infrastructures build upon each other and advance when they are formed so that they “stick” into one another. I feel like this is one of the main points that I am taking away from all of the readings and discussions that we have had in this class so far. The first few readings we had this semester from Thussu and Mattalart described the historical context of developments in international communication technologies. Both authors described each new development as building upon the last one. Each development was described as a continuation of every previous development instead of a timeline of developments independent of each other. I took away the same sort of concept from when we talked about different theoretical perspectives in international communication. Each new theory or perspective built upon the former’s weaknesses or limitations. For example, modernization theory which argues that communication will lift the third world was criticized for keeping developing nations dependent on the West, and thus developed new perspectives on how trade systems benefit the West.

The chapter really talks about the shift towards media convergence similarly to how Hanson described in her chapter “the Globalization of Communication.” The three major branches of communication that Hanson outlines in the beginning of the chapter, telecommunication, audiovisual products, and computer-mediated communication are becoming increasingly convoluted with new products like Blackberries and Apple’s iPhone which allow for phone calls, e-mails, and videos, straddling all three branches of communication.

Cowhey, et. al. describe public policy as the “critical driver” of ICT infrastructures. Historically, governments and policy have been the most important entities in shaping ICT infrastructure. But now, the authors argue, ICT control is more in the private sector (we also read about this trend in Elizabeth Hanson’s chapters).

Oct 20, 2009

The Core - a non-market?

I actually started to notice this trend in some of our earlier readings. For instance, that Amazon.com didn't make a profit until 2004, that Twitter has yet to come up with a way to make money - that some of the most defining online social communities are really not very commercially motivated. Or, if not motivated, at least without a clear commercial plan.

Benkler actually says that this "individual and cooperative nonmarket production of information and culture, however, threatens the incumbents of the industrial information economy."

Wow. How - anti-capitalist.

I'm also in a Global Knowledge Economy that deals intensely with what drives innovation. Financial incentive is considered one of the most important aspects. However, there is an acknowledgement that other things may drive scientists: prestige, reputation, internal drive, etc. But these are considered more minor.

This is in contrast to the historical understanding of art. In the book "Creative Industries" edited by Hartley, there's a discussion about how St. Petersburg was resisting a conception of art as a good, specifically for consumption. They viewed 'pop art' as a contradiction in terms. Art was supposed to be intrinsically motivated, untainted by the desire to 'please' the masses (basically commercialism), supported by a patron so as to allow an artist to be unfettered by financial concerns. ('Should' being the operative word.)

If this nonmarket emerges as "the core" rather than periphery, will this be a return to that idea? That cultural production will 'once again' be returned to nonmarket pursuits? Or will it just degenerate into a popularity contest? Not to mention, cultural industries would at least partially become free time pursuits, rather than full-time. A good chunk of today's internet creative cultural content by individuals or even small collaborations is done without funding in people's free-time. Therefore it becoming the core may actually be a negative effect as cultural content becomes more dominated by nonmarket interests, the market may be too threatened to continue funding cultural content.

I find this such a provoking idea.

So you say you want a revolution

Are you ready for a revolution? Benkler seems to be. In this week's readings, he seems to pose nothing less than a revolution of our media institutions from market-driven transactions to non-market activities. For my part, I remain skeptical.

Benkler states that with the networked information environment, the barriers to media production have been lowered such that we can all participate in the production process. However, Benkler doesn't seem to address the issue of how to get over the digital divide. He proclaims the grand potential of the "networked information environment", but overlooks the fact that many people in the developing world still don't have access to basic telephone service or a consistent food supply, let alone computers with networking capabilities.

He also envisions the potential for non-market actors to drive activity. But of the sites that you regularly visit, how many are truly independent, and how many are the sites of traditional, market-based institutions in the hunt for profit? His view of peer popularity taking the gatekeeper function of traditional media also doesn't seem plausible to me. To an extent we've seen this, with the "viral video phenomenon" such that even long-standing corporate institutions are trying to get into the viral marketing game. But where do we go to watch viral videos? Youtube, which is owned by Google, which is a out to make a profit.

Benkler's emphasis on the information that gets passed through networks, however, is something I can get on board with. Even though we're well into the Internet revolution, and using the internet has become a natural part of most of our lives (at least, a natural part of the lives of those of us in class), I still marvel at how Google can help you answer just about any question. When do classes start in January? I could try to navigate through American's website to find the academic calendar, or I could just google, "American university academic calendar 2009-2010". Bam, there's the info.

But while I'm more accustomed to thinking about the internet as a huge repository of information, I rarely think about the people behind that information. That is, I rarely think of the network behind that information. And Benkler's emphasis on the network struck a chord with me. It's true that the glory of the internet is not so much in the information available on it. Because if you think about it, that information exists or doesn't exist, whether it's on the internet or not. Rather, it's the people that bring that information to the internet, those nodes in the network that constantly supply and update and edit that information that makes the internet such a valuable resource. Without those constant connections to people, the internet is essentially just a big, un-dynamic encyclopedia.

I think Benkler captures a lot of the potential for transforming our society heralded by the Internet era. And I think what he proposes should be considered carefully and deliberately, as he notes the potential social implications for such a revolution. But he doesn't actually detail how such a revolution could be achieved, and until he does, I'll remain skeptical.

The Noömanagement Crisis

   That information is power or that the media are the space where that power is decided is not news. What is new, however, is the increasingly near-“perfect” information that can be transmitted and accessed by virtually anyone (at least in theory), unquestionably giving power to those with the ability and shrewdness to manage these flows to serve their interests, be it states, companies, civil society groups, or insurgent movements. What they have to do is just to overwhelm the “info market” with the right information, which will then transform into their desired result (propaganda, advertising, public relations, strategic communication, etc…). As Castells put it, “What does not exist in the media, does not exist in the public mind.” So they key is to put the “right” image in the public mind. But that image has to live up to its promises, even if partially.

   As all of this week’s readings pointed out, the new media are changing the structures of information flows, robbing the formerly powerful players of their ability to shape public opinion, and making the latter more malleable and susceptible to “counter-power” influence. This is not necessarily bad, but can be used to serve many not-so-friendly goals, too, as the success of various insurgent movements has come to prove. Networks such as Al Qaeda or Hizballah have utilized new media and the communication space not only for achieving financial sustainability and waging their war of ideas (which are among the key components of Mary Kaldor’s “New War” model), but also for achieving legitimacy outside of their own local communities. They have successfully created a new set of goals and ethics – be it the fight against a hostile foreign nation state (US or Israel, in these cases), or the provision of local support networks vital for the day-to-day survival of the local population due to the total absence of functional societal or state institutions (Qandahar or Southern Lebanon) – and have proved to be consistent in matching their deeds with their promises.

(Although the cartoon makes a "somewhat" different argument, it's still one of my all-time favorites! Courtesy of Cox & Forkum)

   Despite the increasing prominence of non-state actors, the nation state has not lost its status completely – yet – as many states are still attempting to manage the information flows so as to contain the “counter-power” influence over state objectives. Prominent examples of such attempts, to name just a few: the American efforts to embed reporters within military units in Afghanistan or Iraq; Russia (or Georgia and NATO, for that matter) flooding the international media with biased reports on the war in South Ossetia in August 2008; the desperate attempts by the Islamic Republic of Iran to control the web-space in the post-election debacle this June. And when these attempts fail, all the state can do is finding a clearly identified scapegoat to blame: Al Jazeera, NATO, or "The Great Satan." 

   As it has become increasingly obvious, addressing Noöpolitik with Realpolitik has not only NOT been successful, but has further discredited the attempts of the state to maintain legitimacy. To use the America example – after the alleged “win” in the Cold War, the US simply stopped its efforts in maintaining its international image, and even the eight years of “War of Ideas” have not brought it back to senses. Just as it is currently being discussed - openly - despite all the fluffy names, such as “public diplomacy” or “strategic communication,” effective coordination is nonexistent and the government has no clue as to what is REALLY being done, how to gauge the efforts and their success, or how to manage them more efficiently.

   The incumbent “powers” in the international sphere will need to adapt if they want to survive; otherwise, the increasing number and influence of the global “counter-powers” will deem them irrelevant in the Noosphere age. Arquilla and Ronfeld say that this would require rebalancing of relations among state, market, and civil-society actors. But then, why not match the rhetoric with deeds, for starters?

Oct 19, 2009

Noopolitik and Soft Power

I thought that “the Promise of Noopolitik” by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla gave a very interesting perspective on international communication. Noopolitik is an alternative to realpolitik or hard military power. Noopolitik is about how nation-states and non-state actors (Ronfeldt and Arquilla cite Al Qaeda as an example) are using soft or “ideational” power. This shift in the way we view power is indicative of the extent of which we live in an Information Age.

Furthermore, the authors argue that non-state actors like Al Qaeda are practicing noopolitik via the Internet and social media more effectively than states. This reminds of the discussion we had in class about “spinternet”- the ways in which governments are using the internet to “spin” their images. For example, we talked in class about how many governments are editing Wikipedia pages to appear more favorably.

Al Qaeda the Embodiment of Noopolitik?

Arquilla and Ronfeldt talk about emerging state models and communication tools but while reading their ideas for noopolitik and the noosphere I was left with more doubts and questions than anything else.

Like most theories surrounding the ability of communication tools (in particular digital communication) to create societal change, much of the description of noopolitik and the noosphere were very nebulous and almost 'pie in the sky' visions of what states should act like.

However, states simply do not act like that.

In Iran during the summer Presidential election the establishment went to great lengths to disable both outside communication coming in and on the ground information from Iran reaching the globe. The establishment's success in fighting the information war was marginal at best, but the hard power of the Basij and other state forces did prove powerful. For the most part, people did still come out in droves despite violence, but the state was set on maintaining hard power and for all intents and purposes it still does.

When the state did vie for soft power through communication it was Khameini's Jummah prayer sermon full of red herrings and allegations, a method that has been duplicated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself. Though the civil society of Iran may be vying for a noopolitik ideal for their nation, the establishment is still stuck in realpolitik. The establishment wants to maintain control.

In Afghanistan, satellite television stations have proliferated and 25% of the population is cell phone enabled but even with an illegitimate government, the establishment is set on maintaining and maximizing their power.

The reading does eventually refer to Al Qaeda and it seems like they may be one of the only groups that are successful at using noopolitik ideals for their aims. After all, Bin Laden was ousted from Saudi Arabia to the Sudan for being critical of the monarchy much in the same way as he has been critical of Saddam Hussein and other leaders of Muslim states. Al Qaeda has become very adept at using print, broadcast, and online media to disseminate its propaganda. And in the end, Al Qaeda is all about doctrine. So it seems that by definition they have been the most successful at using this method for advancement of their cause and challenging the power of states for what they believe to be a greater societal "good."

In the end, I found the theory to be very interesting and worthy of excitement but one has to wonder what nation-state would give up realpolitik ideals (even if all they possess is negative sovereignty) for a system that would require true collaboration with the people of the nation and the world for a greater good?

Oct 13, 2009

"Nothing new under the sun" and yet...

Deuze deals with the "Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries" in his article. Having a whole book of articles on Creative Industries assigned for a different class, I was able to appreciate this text in a whole new light. However, it was something simple that stuck with me.

In his concluding discourse, he admits his reasoning "requires partly letting go of some well-established, deep-rooted and arguably valid assumptions about the impact that a mass media-centric culture has had on us." (p.464) These would be the assumptions that mass communications has been obsessing over for the last century, ever since the sudden society-wide propagation of certain philosophies. Nazism horrified us, communism scared us - and we began making attempts to counteract potent forces with the machinations of 'strategic communication.' Surely the one with the biggest, widest, deepest speaker wins.

Yet, we have all noted that this overlooks the role of the individual, the local. In the presence of mass and global, it is far too easy to overlook the small particles that make those two up. Has society always been defined by the top-down? For centuries, the answer has been yes - and thus culture has been defined as the artistic creations and endeavors of the court or nobility or elite. Deuze admits that intense collaboration and exchange is not new, but he only uses examples from high culture. Only belatedly have we recognized that the 'bottom' has had its own culture, its own rituals, beliefs and practices.

But in the case of mass occurences, the generalizations based on tradition - how did they come to pass? In the face of limited or nonexistant written communication, mass loses some of its coherence. Culture, values, practices were transmitted by relationships, word-of-mouth between insiders (parents, elders, friends, innovators) and outsiders (visitors, travelors to capitals or other regions). Thus, culture was both alive and living (growing) in a local, individual context. If change occured slowly, it was most likely simply because there was a lack of outside sources to even suggest the idea.

It was only the creation of mass literate societies that turned culture into a product of education, newspapers, and government policy. And somehow this shift of cultural definers, or more appropriately mediators, went to the institutions' heads. These mediators have never controlled culture, but only served as primary 'suggestors' of culture. The local and individual of course maintained their presence, simply using these outside sources as complements.

And now we are returning to this idea of local and individual influence, realizing that these factors have not been lost in the 'global' revolution. Deuze remarks on the 'end of the persuader-as-manipulator', (p.463), without acknowledging that the very concept of such was flawed even as it was imagined. People and localities have always been in a flexible constant flux of enforcing or resisting, or even both in different ways, power schemas. The idea of a personal information space is merely the externalization of inner workings of someone's mind. We take in media and always tend to remember some parts, discard others, read, skim or skip - the only thing that's changed is our sheer forced exposure. And yet there are people among us who don't own TVs, don't use social networks, take in media only very selectively. Yet these are always glossed over by the idea of the 'mass' or 'majority'. (The whole argument: what is the norm?) Now those muttering, partial resistors have a more visible, transparent voice that can broadcast natural responses on a global scale.

It seems now that global sources and contacts have joined individual and local contacts in the 'work' of building identity, community. If we are now networked individuals, surely we have always been, but now on a much more visible and global scale. The commercial media world is treated with far more skepticism and distrust (we are not fish, we swallow all parts of the bait), thus leading to this new avenue where commercial interests want to be our 'buddy.' Shall they succeed? Can producers and consumers merge into such a level that they truly are a community? 'A new humanity'? (Though sad in that it deals only with consumerism.) Perhaps we shall move into a new era where ideas of elite are qualified - and the center merges with the periphery. (But granted who the 'mass voices' belong to, it won't be anytime soon.)

Oct 12, 2009

The Japanese West and Western Japan

I was very interested to read Koichi Iwabuchi’s article, “Taking Japanization Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered” having studied abroad in Japan. The article discusses the significance of the rise in Japanese cultural exports to globalization and cultural power. Iwabuchi identifies several areas in which Japanese cultural exports have permeated American culture including toys, television, comics, film, fashion, electronics, and industrial organization models.

I feel that Iwabuchi emphasized the Japanese products coming into American culture, but did not really address the influence American/Western culture has had on Japan. I think that cultural exchange still goes both ways despite the concept of American and western hegemony that Iwabuchi wrote about.

I studied abroad in Japan two summers ago as part of a research grant to study traditional Japanese theater. I visited Osaka and Nara, but I stayed mostly in Kyoto for over a month. I had never been to Japan before this trip and I learned a lot about Japanese culture. What really struck me about Japan was the mix of traditional Japanese and “modern” Western culture. One of the most striking examples of this was seeing people walking around on the streets wearing traditional kimono next to people wearing Western-style business suits. Busy modern skyscrapers were built next to ancient centuries-old shrines and temples.

Youth fashion in Japan was very interesting to observe from a cultural perspective. Remember when shirts, jewelry, and tattoos with Kanji characters that supposedly meant “love” or “peace” or “friendship” were really popular in America in the ‘90s? It is very fashionable in Japan to wear tee shirts with English phrases written in large letters. Only the English phrases don’t really make a lot of sense. For example, I purchased a tee shirt that reads in English, “I am now absorbed in dream wings.” The phrase doesn’t exactly make sense in English, but it’s the idea of displaying something Western that appeals to Japanese youth. It really makes me wonder how many Americans are walking around with tattoos, tee shirts, and jewelry with nonsensical characters...

Cold turkey for a Facebook addict

A great piece with a [cheesy] personal touch on BBC to go with whatever I have been talking about in my latest post.


Oct 11, 2009


After reading Iwabuchi's piece on "Japanization" I'm starting to see how the forces at work in the mediasphere have evolved over time. We started with nascent national industries, media as bastions of national culture and identity. Then came globalization with Western-dominated media flows spreading out around the world. This raised concerns about cultural imperialism, positing media as potentially threatening to national culture and identity. In this context then, "glocalization", which Iwabuchi to some extent frames as Japan's answer to America's consumerist dominance, is a clear response to cultural imperialism, aiming to work with national cultures, rather than define them. The glory of glocalization, from a corporate standpoint, is that it still allows companies to pursue global dominance and capitalize on economies of scale in international markets, yet it also maintains consumer interest by not offending nationalist sensibilities.

I wrote earlier about the two-sided nature of glocalization. On the one hand, by softening the foreign origins of a product, it furthers transnational corporate interests, thereby supporting media conglomeration and power in the hands of the few. Media conglomeration becomes less transparent to the ordinary consumer, and its hidden nature, couched in local adaptations, takes on an insidious quality. On the other hand, the fact that media companies are recognizing and catering to consumption patterns unique to each audience, and the realization that globalization does not ipso facto lead to a single global culture seems like something to be lauded. Recognizing that audiences prefer homegrown entertainment that speaks more closely to their own experiences, and then accommodating those preferences within a larger scale media production process should be a win for the consumers.

As you can see, I'm still struggling with whether I think glocalization is a good thing, a moral thing, if you will. Does it empower the consumer, and allow for a more cosmopolitan reading of media texts? Or does it saliently reinforce nationalistic tendencies while covertly supporting a global oligopoly?

Facebook taking over...

This Saturday I spent an hour online that cost me a fair share of my weekly stress allowance, observing (and, perhaps, participating in) an event in a way I would never think possible even two years ago. (By the way, this event will most probably change the fate of my nation for the decades to come, at least.)

I had just logged on Facebook when the news broke: “The signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols delayed indefinitely for unknown reasons.” And that’s how it all started. A large part of my Armenian “friend” population suddenly came to life with status updates and shared links, discussions and comments… I tuned in, and within seconds I was reading tweet and news updates on Facebook from reporters in Armenia and “on the ground” (i.e., Zurich, where the event was taking place), going through articles hastily put together by the wires, having protracted discussions through comments on friends’ Facebook/Tweet statuses and shared links… simultaneously watching (rather, listening to) two TV news live streams online, while skyping with a friend on the same issue. By the end of the hour, when the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey finally signed the much-debated and controversial agreement, I had updated my Facebook status five times, shared some six-seven links, and made dozens of comments and tweets… When I actually stopped and looked back at it all, this week’s readings started making more sense than ever. Within an hour I had probably communicated with more than thirty people, consumed and shared multiple media, smoothly fitting in the Armenian wave that swept the information sphere that day... all that without even leaving my chair.

Engagement and convergence: the key words this week. The digital media have indeed transformed the relief of the information sphere, not only flattening the industry hierarchies and empowering the reader to get active in the interpretation and discussion of the issues, but also indirectly making them participate in the entire production process. The beauty of it, however, is that anyone (given they have the means, of course) can take part, basically controlling what gets “out there” and connecting with people from virtually anywhere around the world. The trend seems to have started with mIRC, forums and blogs, but the boom of the social networking sites and various widgets gave it a whole new dimension. Of course, we cannot really measure the actual amount of consumption around the world, let alone its impact, but taking Facebook as the most successful and well-known example one can get a fair picture. Here are some of the official statistics on Facebook use:

- More than 300 million active users
- Average user has 130 friends on the site
- More than 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
- More than 2 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
- More than 2 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each week
- More than 70 translations available on the site
- About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
- More than 15,000 websites, devices and applications have implemented Facebook Connect since its general availability in December 2008
- There are more than 65 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices (and these users are almost 50% more active on Facebook than non-mobile users).
- There are more than 180 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products

Revealing, to say the least. And that’s just Facebook. Web pages have started making active use of the “share” tool, many providing some 90-100 different share options and widgets (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Windows Live Favorites, Yahoo Bookmarks… to name a few). So if you’re “connected,” it is basically impossible not to get involved, especially when sharing a valuable/interesting piece of information with friends is just one click away. And with the increasingly mobile global population, where despite the distance people can stay connected – virtually – means that the explosion in consumer digital technologies is here to stay (for a while, at least).

So what is left in the industry for the traditional media content producers? Singer is right to suggest that their roles are transforming from reporters and filters to monitors and managers of information flows. This basically ties in well with Toffler’s “prosumers,” whose product mainly aims to engage consumers and thus, induce further content creation. Consequently, despite transforming professional functions and tremendous shifts in the trends, approaches, and means of production and advertising, profits are there to be made as the industry has proven to be fairly resilient in adapting. As for the consumers… they run the risk of becoming tools themselves, just by engaging, acquiring virtual lives and identities, and, ironically, becoming ever more alienated despite being increasingly connected.

Oct 9, 2009

Analysis Question #2: Is regulation outdated?

Drawing on my previous blog post, ruminating on how we, as the Western dominant players in the mediasphere lose out by not having access to contraflows of information, I feel the issue of global governance should be raised to address the dearth of this kind of programming. That said, I don't actually think that global governance would help. For one, the death of the nation-state has yet to occur. As such, there can be no truly GLOBAL governance of media, no international regulation on what countries show how much of what content from where. This means that the power of regulation still resides with the government of the nation-state. And nation-states being what they are -- that is, perpetually working to ensure the continued dominance of the nation-state itself -- no nation state is going to willingly open its doors and say, yes, we need to make sure we have X amount of foreign programming coming into our households.

For non-media dominant states, concern over governance is motivated by concern for national industries. In this sense, too, global governance can't work, at least not regulation alone. Regulation does not ensure investment in media technologies and industry, which is what is needed for non-Western players to adequately compete on the global state. Further, international governance cannot dictate that national governments invest in local media production. Hopefully without sounding too much like a "pick yourself up from your own bootstraps" preacher, nation-states have to WANT to produce their own information flows and communication technologies in order to do so. Our readings have touched upon the success that India and South Korea have seen in these regards, with media industries, especially in the latter case, coming to prominence as a result of national investment in these sectors. Given the inequalities of production values at work on the global level, protectionism alone cannot make a minor player into a global competitor. The Davids of the media world need real incentives to take on Goliath.

On the one hand, I can sympathize with Siochru and Girard's assertion that because of media's intimate relationship with culture, we cannot leave it entirely to the whims of the free market. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the merits of competition and how the free market, aided by the right incentives, spurs creativity. The last thing we need is to have new barriers of access erected due to government regulation.

I think concerns about media ownership and rights of information and communication continue to be relevant. Yet governance and regulation seem, dare I say it, somewhat antiquated models with which to deal with these issues. The cynic in me questions if regulation would even achieve much difference from the current model, given what we know about relationships between business interests and politics. Perhaps, given the times and political climate that we live in, what we really need is a strong, powerful advocacy/lobbying group to apply pressure instead.

Oct 8, 2009

Analysis Question 2


As journalism faces difficulty in a time of global economic crisis, should nation-states think seriously about revising the global governance of media systems? We know that some markets have exploded into many different channel offerings, even while media conglomeration continues to accelerate. Given what we know about the role of media in culture and conflict, is it time to revisit the older concerns about media ownership and rights of information and communication as discussed in the previous readings?

The answer to this question is quite complex because media conglomeration has had a few different effects on International Communication. On one hand, it is simply a startling fact that in Britain 90% of the newspapers in circulation are controlled by one of five firms as McChesney points out. At the same time though, Jeremy Tunstall points out that in 10 nations where the population exceeds 100 million, less than 10% of the audience's viewing time is spent on foreign. Cottle and Rai further that point by saying there are very few global media forces (CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Fox News) whereas, more regional or local media companies are widely watched in much of the rest of the world. These ideas work well with the Jenkins says about new media, namely that it makes it much easier for the audience to pick and choose what they view, hear, and forward on. This is a similar notion to what Carey calls the Ritual view of communication which is much more about association and fellowship, much more akin to a sacred ceremony of shared beliefs than about the imparting of knowledge.

Essentially, new media and media trends in the mainstream Western models make it very easy for someone to watch nothing but Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh all day, because they identify with and "trust" those people who espouse similar ideological views. There is little room for challenge or information without bias. So even if the governments of the world were to try and regulate media conglomeration at this point, the proliferation of ritualized media has already taken hold both in the more traditional and new media sense.

At the same time, as these 9 corporations have grown so large through their engagement in horizontal and vertical integration it may be more difficult to regulate them. Especially since past attempts have shown the West largely controlling the talks surrounding these issues as well as contention between nations who disagree with the presence of 'civil society' at such talks.

So what can be done? For one thing, there needs to be a system for teaching young people about media consumption and how to analyze the quality of information or any hidden bias within it. The fact is that many Americans do not know where to look for news and information outside of CNN, MSNBC, FOX, et al. This means that whether the information imparted has an agenda or bias, it does come from a Western gaze which inherently sets it apart from coverage of the struggle between the people of Nigeria and the Royal Dutch Shell corporation presented by the Nigerian or African media.

Also, a demand for plurality wherein the media corporations are required to provide for as many technological outlets as possible. Giving people the ability to access the information on television, on the radio, on the Internet, on mobile devices, and in print also allows more opportunities for people to interact with the content and present varying points of view on the issues.
During his presidential campaign, Dr. Ashraf Ghani said that though a large number of Afghans are illiterate they are not uninformed because they listen to 3 or 4 radio stations a day and watch just as many television stations (if they have access to it) where they can express their opinions.

Also, plurality can mean engaging with more local media makers to tell the stories of their people. The 1/3 of nations who do not produce any films are perhaps the most in need of an outlet to tell their stories than anyone in the globe.

Oct 7, 2009

The hope for a better-informed global media consumer -- Analysis Question #2

We have been discussing the global media, and particularly its socio-political implications for the past couple of weeks. And the only agreement we could come to – “we” as a class, as well as the authors of the readings – is that there is nothing much that can be done about the current system of global media ownership and flows. Yes, it’s always easy to criticize and point out the faults; and yet, none of us can do that constructively, suggesting viable improvements or ways out. But then, it’s not just us. It’s also the “people with power” who could do something about it, if they knew how to approach the matter.

But they don’t. Is it the system? Fair enough. Even if we go blaming the system, we could at least try thinking of some bottom-up means, which are usually said to work against the “oppressive regimes.” On a global scale, the nation-states would be the “local” players, acting from the “bottom.” But that power was taken away from them by the transnational conglomerates, and the nation states seemed to have given it up fairly easily. Or at least they had to, given the current global economic trends and integration.

So where did the power of the individual go?

The concept of liberty, when discussed by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, was not meant to be conferred upon the mass of the people universally, at least for so long as there was no universal education on the proper use of this liberty. Giving liberty without the appropriate limitations on it could lead back to chaos, oppression, and the eventual loss of the liberty itself.

People worldwide are increasingly gaining the “liberty” to access information and consume media from literally around the world (that is, given they have the means and make the necessary effort). And yet, the increasing availability is not matched with a similar rate of education on the use of that media and the need to approach it critically, in all respects. Mostly on purpose – and yet, sometimes not as much – people can be easily “socialized” into the consumerist and apathetic mindset, without any realization of the need for alternatives. And the ultimate questions, time and again, are “WHO makes these decisions?” or “WHOSE interest does this serve?”

Given the current global political and economic circumstances, nation states or even representatives of the so-called global civil society cannot overtly oppose transnational media giants, their interests, and programming/production that often takes away the individual’s right to true liberty. And yet, the former can make the effort of conscientiously and regularly investing in awareness campaigns and education on media and news consumption. Only thus can the vicious circle of media production and audience demand be broken, as well as an increased awareness of the true world around them be achieved. Then, if the demand for a more “informed’ and “un-distorted” media culture appears, one would hope that the global giants would step in to meet that demand.

Thus, although the current prospects are bleak, the global civil society, as well the nation states, can play a role, and do have the moral responsibility of doing so, being the representatives of their people. Yet, when it comes to profits, unfortunately many ethical considerations tend to be forgotten…

Oct 6, 2009

The Iwabuchi reading talks about cultural export using Japanese cultural and technological exports as a case study. Iwabuchi refers to Hoskins and Mirus' statement that Japanese cultural exports have a large "cultural discount." Essentially that programming made for a certain culture has little appeal outside that culture because the intricacies displayed in that content unique to the culture of origin often has little relevance to the viewers outside. For this reason, Hoskins and Mirus point to cultural export being limited to those things that are 'culturally neutral' - exports whose origins have nothing to do with the uses said item or the satisfaction derived from it.

Again, Iwabuchi points to video games, comics and cartoons as proof of his statements about cultural discount, cultural odor and cultural neutrality. In the case of video games, many titles made in Japan feature characters with highly caucasian features in situations that are not entirely relevant to any given culture. There may be elements of orientalized Japanese culture thrown into Final Fantasy because media with foreign flares tend to be considered less boring, different, and exciting. Also, if the cultures displayed (enhanced, orientalized) are not too similar to that of the West then they are not seen as threatening.

The analysis that Iwabuchi presents of the Sony Walkman and the video game industry brings me to two thoughts.

First, everything the article says about the Walkman can now be applied to the iPod, an American designed (Korean manufactured) device that no other company in the world has been unable to replicate the success of. In fact, Sony had been trying very hard to re-invigorate and bring new life to the Sony Walkman brand since the late 90s but has yet been unable to come near the success of the iPod.

The iPod which can be described in much the same ways that the Walkman is said to represent Japaneseness:

•The iPod is miniature and keeps getting bigger (even the very first model was considered fairly small considering its capabilites)

•The iPod is considered so sophisticated that the original model sits on permanent exhibit at the NY MOMA

•One reason for the continued success of the iPod is that many people believe the product's high quality and ability to always be at least one step ahead of the competitors makes it very difficult to replicate with a cheap knock-off

So what does this mean when a distinctly American company is able to thrive thanks to a product line (much of the same can be said about the iMac, MacBooks, and OS X) that very closely follows the model set by a Japanese company for their landmark product? This is especially pertinent when one considers the hard times Sony has been having for quite some time now, even when in competition with Nintendo and Microsoft with the Play Station 3. Again, Sony was once the king of the video game crop but now its Japanese and American rivals have far surpassed Sony with sales of their next generation consoles using many methods that Sony was once known for.

Do these American products (and in the case of Nintendo, other Japanese products) have the cultural odor of Sony's Japan or have the methods utilized in developing consumer electronics become so culturally neutral that nothing is truly Japanese or American anymore?

What can one make of this video that brings up the issues of race and representation in video games, while bringing up the 'caucasianness' of Japanese video game characters?

Educated Self-government

I found McChensey's article disturbing, most likely because it's pessimistic and yet scarily accurate.

He starts with stating on page 189 that "in my opinion, the general thrust of the global commercial media system is quite negative- assuming one wishes to preserve and promote institutions and values that are conducive to meaningful self-government."

He takes this further by stating that this is not just pointed at non-Western countries, but at every country, including America. In fact, he says that America is proof of this fact, citing voter apathy and cynicism. This may be a hard case to make in Washington D.C., where politics dominates the social and economic environment, but I've lived elsewhere. I've experienced life in both liberal New York and conservative Indiana. In New York, politics were stigmatized and treated with cynicism. Cynicism is actually quite easy, it frees you to be critical without making any commitment to actually change what you're criticizing. In Indiana, there was more hope, I suppose I could say, but also a lot of apathy. Government is seen as such a big issue, the responsibility is lobbed off on someone who 'knows what they're doing' or 'is interested in that stuff.' (I must confess, I am guilty of this.) At my college, in a rural environment, keeping up on the news was a low priority and one of the reasons for the accusation of a college 'bubble.'

Some could say this is simply a product of the sophistication of our government, but for me it does spell a declining trend in democratic involvement. Politics are controversial so they're sidelined in conversation. Dialogue, where no one is expected to change their mind or even contemplate changing their opinion, leaves both sides with only common ground instead of addressing deep, divisional interests. By stifling debate, we run the risk of ending up with two parties that are actually far too similar to provide new or different approaches.

Going back to the 'bubble', we've come to value education so much in it's own right, that we neglect or trivialize the fact it is supposed to equip us for civic life. My graduating high school class was given a citizenship test. The number who could pass it was disturbing. The Founding Fathers were rather non-democratic on this point - many believed only the educated could be trusted to vote, thus why mandatory public education was so important, for both men and women. (Even though women couldn't vote, they were considered the carriers of civic values for children.)

Unfortunately, we have come to an age where parents and other institutions really feel like the global commercial market is more influential than they are. After all, how many hours of TV and other media do (particularly American) children take in a day, a week? And uncritically at that? This is what McChensey and other macro-view writers often overlook. Global media is not alone in influencing people's values, beliefs and ideas - and yet what we are now facing is a weakening of the traditional influences in modern society. Areas that still have strong families, strong social institutions and stable lifestyles are changing in far more shallow ways. They accept products without buying into all the baggage. But how far can you go, especially as stability is threatened world-wide?

In Thailand during my study abroad, the Thai king 'introduced' the idea of sufficiency: that everyone would be satisfied with what they have and only acquire what they need. It was hailed as 'revolutionary', but it's really as old as the philosophy of Buddhism itself. What was apparently the 'revolutionary' part was the application of 'old' philosophy to economics, in opposition to unfettered capitalism. This is just sad, considering monotheistic religions, which dominate the world today, would all agree with this economic advice.

But who would advertise his policy? Even though benign, it's still antimarket. McChensey states that commercial media implicitly marginalizes or denounces antimarket activities, as well as political activity and civic values. But here, I agree more with Prof. Hayden's idea that there is no back room with men and cigars plotting to take over the world. I think it's just the media following the trend of the simple and easy. It's easier to produce a slapstick comedy than a deep drama, simpler to have one-dimensional characters than to use shades of grey. Political activity, civic values can then be sidelined as too difficult, too complex, too confusing.

But here we hit a counter-trend. Despite the cycle of culture and media - the media producing the stereotype of the frat brother, exaggerating reality or using outliers as the norm, where it is reflected in reality (chicken & egg) - some tastes do run deeper. And some branding can be connected with complexity. For instance, some bemoan the set of crime shows such as Law & Order, that have spawned so many shows and episodes. Yet these shows regularly pick apart difficult issues and present various sides - SVU (special victims) regularly deals with sexual issues that probe cutting-edge technology and research. Inevitably tied with law, they can serve a rather bizarre educational function - intentionally leaving shows open-ended and unsettling, rather than giving the convenient half-hour closure.

The global media culture is more complex - and reflects both the values/considerations of those at the top as well as the consumer. For one, it's moving beyond 'American commercialism,' which McChensey points out limits culture to a static product and often equates American culture with corporate consumerism. America is richer than consumerism and so is the rest of the world - so the really question is, can this depth be maintained, replicated and stored by global media? (Going back to Carey's idea of ritual communication) In some part, this depends on the producers. How diverse are they themselves? How will they adjust to globalism - continue localizing or cultivating a simple 'global' culture? Will they take the steps need to go beyond cultivating simple tastes and satisfy deeper needs? (Diasporic media springs to mind.) Will niche markets maintain diversity in content? Will pluralistic views be articulated on a large scale? On the other hand, we the people need to make sure we maintain an interest in what we're not being served. Here, the Internet with its citizen 'journalism' empowers organization and advertising of unaddressed causes and criticisms of mass commercialism. We can make a difference - strengthening our values institutions, being counterculture, forcing global media to respond to our interests instead of relying on them to present uncritically.

I suppose, in the end, I have hope.

Oct 5, 2009

Are we missing out?

In our readings and discussions of cultural imperialism and global media so far, there has been a focus on the lack of indigenous media from non-Western countries, and how the lack of such cultural production means puts these populations at a disadvantage. Reading Cottle and Rai, and having it pointed out that one can watch CNN most anywhere in the world, but one would be hard pressed to find ZEE TV in the United States, it suddenly struck me, "Wait a second -- doesn't that put us at a disadvantage as well?"

I'm not trying to play the "woe are us the rich, media-dominant country" card in light of obvious inequalities in the global mediasphere. Rather, I think it's sad that our own media is dominated by, arguably, a single cultural perspective. Given what we discussed in class last week about needing a consortium of sources in order to arrive at our own opinions, if you think about it in absolute terms, we are at a disadvantage for only having Western media available to us compared to, say, India, which has access to both the Western dominant news programs as well as "contra flow" broadcasting.

There are development issues at hand when we talk about Southern countries lacking production resources to tell their own stories; these are obviously a crucial and urgent aspect of our current mediasphere. I would not try to impose an argument that one should extend the reach and availability of non-Western media for the benefit of the Western world at the expense of overlooking the significant impact such action would have for the global South. But I think it's a worthy perspective to consider in addition to issues of cultural and national empowerment, that the Western world also needs to be exposed to these views, and that we are missing out by not currently having these made available to us.

Our everyday lives are increasingly globalized, and success on the world stage is going to depend on a nation's leaders and changemakers ability to navigate a host of cultural milieus. To take the view that American/Western ideals will dominate, eliminating the need for cultural literacy, would be shortsighted and self-centered. It seems that stakeholders in the new world information order might not be limited just to the global South, but might include ourselves as well.

The recurrence of the “gramophone mind”

I may be “biased”. I admit. But that gives me a better reason for writing this post. So please, bear with me for a while.

I’m sure most are well familiar with the concept of socialization: the process through which one acquires the norms within their culture through social institutions. Well, this process does not only include family and friends, but also the educational system, the media, the political system, etc… and it was only last week that we discussed the significance of the media in “shaping us.”

As much as it is true, it is also very worrisome. I’m sure the stereotype of the “assembly-line-produced Soviet person, who is not even an individual per se” is still well-stuck with many, just as the case of the “madrasah-idoctrinated zealots out there.” Well, these images may carry some degree of truth, especially when we consider the circumstances in which these “non-individuals” were “produced” by their respective systems.

Yet, as much as we would not like to think of it, a similar tendency seems to persist – though in a significantly different form – in most of the “developed world” today, and both, McChesney and Thussu attest to that. Isn’t a prevailing standardized message, centered primarily on entertainment and driven by sensationalism a threat to societies which hold their diversity and liberties dear? How different is then McChesney’s “populace that prefers personal consumption to social understanding and activity,” or a “depoliticized citizenry… [which is a] mass more likely to take orders than to act,” from the (hopefully) obsolete images mentioned above?

Orwell’s “never-published” preface to the Animal Farm makes this point precisely (So what if he was talking about WW2 Britain? The piece still makes a lot of sense, today). To quote him directly: “Unpopular ideas can be silenced and inconvenient facts kept dark without the need for any official ban.” It’s all about mainstream public opinion, and the unwillingness to go against it.

Not so? What if “national security” is at stake? Well, at Orwell’s time the wording was a little different: democracy was the principle of the day. “If one loves democracy […] one must crush its enemies by no matter what means […] [even if that] involves destroying all independence of thought.” Don’t we see that happening now? Especially after 9/11…

Yes, much has been written and said about the politics of fear. Or rather, we heard the part that was generally tolerated. Yet, there was a part that was not. For example, none of the American TV networks would air Adam Curtis’ “The Power of Nightmares”. Too controversial? Yes. And although a little over-stretched at times, it still makes a very strong point, which could have been regarded as just another prominent political-historical documentary had it provided an acceptable perspective. But apparently it was too unorthodox. (By the way, I really recommend watching it. Just for fun.)

The problem is kind of similar in the case of Al Jazeera or any other non-Western TV network (especially when it comes to news). They are extremists, terrorists, communists, nationalists, fundamentalists… you name it! Why? Well, they are simply talking in their own terms: something that becomes increasingly unacceptable by the mainstream. However, given that there are practically no true media contra-flows, the mainstream in the West becomes the mainstream everywhere else, too. Gradually.

Improvement and progress cannot happen without the realization and a true acceptance of a problem. While without the freedom and room for “unorthodox” ideas, the true realization may never come in the first place. Just as Orwell put it: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Well, the American officials are increasingly trying to open up to the world and understand where the problems in their approaches lie (just today I attended a panel discussion on the subject). And yet, at a larger scale, they do not have much influence even over their own public opinion, precisely because they do not have any power over the profit-driven transnational media corporations. Free journalism, which supposedly had to perform the role of the “unorthodox thinker” and of the true “agenda-setter,” is now completely distorted by the commercial, 24-hour “breaking news” and “get-it-the-first” cycle, allowing no room for any substantial analysis, debate, or the “unorthodoxy” that would kick-start a change for the better. Cannot resist quoting Orwell here, again: “The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.”

Analysis Question #2

Question: "As global journalism faces difficulty in a time of global economic crisis, should nation-states think seriously about revising the global governance of media systems? We know that some markets have exploded into many different channel offerings, even while media conglomeration continues to accelerate. Given what we know about the role of media in culture and conflict, is it time to revisit the older concerns about media ownership and rights of information and communication as discussed in the previous readings?"


I’m still not really sure how I feel about media ownership and rights of information, especially after watching the Disney Copyright Laws video in class last week. On the one hand, I can understand why individuals and companies want to keep what they created to themselves. A lot of time goes into media production, and it is not fair for someone to profit off of something they did not put the time into creating. On the other hand, is it fair for large media conglomerates to make millions of off filing lawsuits against unsuspecting individuals for using their ideas?

I’m still debating that issue over in my head. One issue, however, that I do feel very strong about is media literacy.

As communication technologies advance to allow citizen journalism in the forms of blogging, social networking, etc. traditional objective journalism is on the decline. People of the world should be permitted to say (write, blog, post, comment, upload, etc.) what they want, but we should be encouraged to do so in an original, educated, and respectful way.

Governments globally should advocate for media literacy and media production education. People need to learn at an early age how to determine reliable sources, identify where or from whom a message comes from, and evaluate the effectiveness of a message. People should also learn how to produce media responsibly so there won’t be as much out there to have to weed through.

Global governance of media systems is not something that can have just a one time fix. As Elizabeth C. Hanson discusses in her chapter “the Globalization of Communications” in the Information Revolution and World Politics, media is always converging and changing. The global governance of media systems must be constantly updated to allow for changes and advances in communication technologies.

Global Media and Disney's Planned Community

Robert McChesney’s article, “The Media System Goes Global” discusses the rise of the global media system and the companies that made. McChesney also lists and discusses the holdings of the three biggest media companies at the time: Time Warner, Walt Disney Company, and News Corporation. Since the article was written, the four largest media conglomerates are Disney, AOL/Time Warner (which merged in 2000 and may split again soon), Viacom, and News Corporation. McChesney also examines how global media and hypercommercialism affects neoliberal democracy. McChesney concludes that the people of the world should participate as active citizens instead of just passive consumers to combat media conglomerate take-over.

I was particularly interested in one part of Disney’s holding that McChesney briefly mentions:

Disney has even launched its own planned community near its Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, replete with Disney-run schools and social services (204).

I find this absolutely terrifying.

I was unaware this existed, so I did a little bit of research. The community is Celebration, Florida. According to Wikipedia, Celebration is an unincorporated master planned community in Osceola County Florida.

Downtown Celebration Photo from Wikipedia.

The community was spear-headed in the early 90’s and the first residential area was built in 1996. Celebration is very Disney- there is even a road that connects it to the Walt Disney World Resorts.

I couldn’t find much information on how the schools are run, but McChesney suggests in his article that Disney itself runs them. It seems completely outrageous for any corporation to run a school. The lack of a media literacy class is one thing, but when a corporation runs a school, children will be taught to buy Disney. Children will grow up with an alliance to Disney, because that’s where they live. Talk about brand loyalty.

Oct 1, 2009

Media and Museums

Just wanted to share an interesting column by Jeff Yang about identity and interactive engagement issues at the newly opened Museum of Chinese in America in New York. He touches upon a lot of the things we've been talking about in class and in our blogs, and ties the debate about how museums engage participants to similar debates in media.

The Living Museum

If you don't have the time to read the whole article, here are some quotes that I found especially pertinent:

- "Nevertheless, there are those who find that resonance elusive. In an otherwise positive review, New York Times museum critic Edward Rothstein outlined his concerns that MoCA, like other community-based institutions, offered up a "celebration of hyphenated existence" that alienates outsiders by using the first-person plural, rather than the good old-fashioned third-person -- a literal "us" versus "them" argument."

- "Though masked in a concern about scholarship, Rothstein's argument is really part of a larger attack against what the establishment sees as a frightening rise of pluralism, a new democracy that challenges their sole-gatekeeper role in the depiction of past and present.

To have many voices in a discussion means that the dominant one is in danger of being drowned out; the obsession with the "objective" narrative voice in fields like museumology and journalism is less about quality and accuracy than it is about power."

- "Chew notes that this emphasis on collaboration -- every Wing Luke exhibition is created in open partnership with community advisory boards, who bring both resources and opinions to the table -- runs parallel to the transformative revolution taking place in journalism as well.

"You could call it the 'wikifying' of curation," he says. "It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be demanding and rigorous; we have to dig deep to get insights, we have to strive for accuracy. But museums as institutions are moving toward embracing the 'we' -- it's inevitable, in museum work as it is in media."