Dec 1, 2009

The Idea of Control

There is an apparent continuum in our readings this 'week'. From Singhal to Corman & Tretheway to Fisher to Dutta, in which you return to where you began: the idea of population control.
Singhal takes the agenda for granted, focusing on how research on education-entertainment and its effects should be more diverse. He talks about various resistances as an issue to be addressed, a stumbling block.
Corman & Tretheway begin to shake up that dynamic, discussing how communication is simply not one-way. They go into a more complex model that takes into account how meaning is co-created, rather than fosted upon the receiver.
However, it is Fisher in his discussion about the Cathedral and Bazaar that pushes into the gray areas, the real world - that beyond meaning, the framing is not sending a message. The frame is a discussion, a dialogue, wherein both sides are the senders and receivers. This de-privileges the original sender and put them on equal ground with those they wish to communicate to.
Ah, but that brings us to Dutta, whose point is that you do not communicate to, but with others. He applies this practically to the issue of population control. The Western media is acting paternalistic, trying to change other societies for the better - but convinced of their viewpoint, they have set the agenda and only engage publics in order to co-opt them into supporting their projects. They have not stopped to listen to local populations, to stop and consider their concerns and resistances as legitimate, rather than 'backward tradition' that impedes development (invariably a positive concept.) Dutta is look to apply Fisher's negotiation concept to a projects of a national nature, that have been pre-determined as necessary and the essence of civilization by the Western world.
Honestly, when I first read Singhal's piece, I was a little taken-aback by the clear motives of education but it took Dutta to make me realize how deeply this population policy is controversial. There are so many implicit assumptions - it seems so common-sense, but it's not and we have failed to realize this.
This whole controversy, that the West has failed to realize even is a controversy for the most part, is symptomatic of the West's still-prevailing sometimes-invisible superiority complex.
"But we just want to make life better for them!"
Admirable motives, I still think, but if we fail to listen as well as talk, we will fail to realize 'better' is so very complex.

1 comment:

  1. Audra, I agree "better" is complex and Dutta helps us realize the power of listening. I wonder how many E-E campagins are actually taking this to heart and incorporating 'listening' into their campaigns.