Saturday, September 25, 2010

"If there's one word I want to leave you with today, it's this..."

This post is a little late; I had a minor medical procedure done this week which has been slowing me down a bit since Thursday.

In the film "Up in the Air," a new consultant explains to the protagonist (a traveling businessman who spends most of his life flying from city to city, firing employees for companies that are too cowardly to do so themselves) and his boss, that his line of work is inefficient and overly expensive. Instead, the consultant argues, the company should become "glocal," by firing people over the internet, not in person.

When reading Sinclair's reading for last week, I immediately recalled the use of this word, and rewatched the film, only to find it amusing when I realized that it was only used as a "buzzword" in the film for the concept of telecommuting. To recall Sinclair's definition which he quoted from Robertson, glocalization, a concept that in his opinion was first developed as a marketing strategy by Sony in the late 1980's, is "the tailoring of global products for differentiated local markets." (69) Admittedly, the film was talking about the concept from a business perspective, not a humanities one, so it's possible it has different meanings in different contexts, but I doubt it. In fact, by this definition the protagonist's character does present a more "glocalized" perspective than the consultant, stating to her when they land in Detroit to fire some auto workers that "these guys have been hit hard," and that they should adjust their termination strategy to accommodate for that. Perhaps that was the point, to establish that the consultant, being younger and less experienced believed that the connection to the world provided by technology automatically created a glocalized product.

Sony was forced to come up with a strategy globalize its products to win in a international market in the 1980's that was pushing Japan as an economic threat that was deadly to its interests. Lee Iaccoca, then an industry executive at Ford Motors, was once even cited as saying in the early 1980's that the U.S. was "in the midst of another major war with Japan."

In "Up in the Air," the protagonist needed more human contact, not less to make his outsider presence effective on a local level. Likewise, Sony to remove the stigma of being an outside company, needed local companies to sell its products. With this in mind, it makes me wonder how "Up in the Air" which made over $79 million in foreign gross was marketed glocally by Paramount, the subsidiary of international mega giant Viacom (which certainly has some experience in these kinds of things.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nation identity and differing definitions of cyber warfare

I was listening to this NPR piece on 9/23/10 about how the ITU is proposing regulating the Internet to prevent cyber warfare:

The problem is that there are different ideas about what cyber warfare means. For the US, it means using the Internet to attack systems such as the electrical grid or financial institutions. For Russia, the other BRIC nations, some east European/Asian, and five African nations, cyber warfare is defined more in terms that are reminiscent of Cold War terminology, specifically as “ideological aggression”. Russia has been trying to pass a law since 1998 in the UN to prevent what it sees as an attack through ideas.

Under their definitions, the US approach to sharing information and diplomacy strategy would be considered cyber warfare. One official even stated that Twitter was part of an “plot to de-stabilize foreign government.”

This concern among the politicians in these nation-states is that exposure to information on the Internet will in fact undermine the nation-state. I don’t believe that information coming from the US through the Internet is that different from the other media forms that have come before in terms of affect. Maybe the fears of Russia are based in how The Voice of America and other radio broadcasts were used during the Cold War to spread information about the US. The example that Sparks uses in “Global Media and Communication” is that of the Motion Picture Association of America. The organization lobbies governments around the world to get access to audiences. (It calls itself “the little state department”). They want to protect American films and TV programs. Some nations feel this is another example of the US pushing its ideas on other nations and it is in this context that they may want to limit Internet content from the US.

However, as we discussed, each person in each nation will still function within his/her context and thus use the media and information in different ways. There is not one way to receive information. While Twitter and social networking do give tools for people to communicate more rapidly (Iran uprising), does this mean that Twitter is inherently a tool of the US culture that promotes only US nation-ness and its form of democracy? I would argue that people in different nations with different cultures would find a large range of ways to use these tools that will be reflective of their own nation.

The other concern for these governments is that they want to be able to control content (and access to it) as well as communication and exchange. This was an issue in the 1980s and 1990s that was discussed in the context of global trade. Some countries tried to create cultural quotas to protect national identities. However, the content still gets to people - through traveling, exchanges of products and media.

Someone in the Russian government who supports restrictions may argue that having access to social media tools and content will be corrosive of Russian identity. I disagree. For example, a Russian student coming to study in the US for a year will have more contact will the home country through social Internet tools. In the 1980s and 90s, these same students had rare contact with the home country and family because of the cost and slower speed of mail.

Since there is no centralizing control of the Internet, it can be considered a globalizing force in that it promotes an exchange of information across borders. However, I don’t think the Internet will ultimately “deterritorialize” information, as each nation still maintains strong identity focuses. The current trends towards more language inclusiveness and new internet address possibilities points to how people still prefer to access local content and identity. I would like to compare what kinds of networks college students in the US and college students from abroad chose to join. I would guess that there are some overlaps, but also some choices that would be reflective of each student’s national identity.

The danger of self-imposed blinders

Continuing with the theme that I seem to be developing here - what happens when individuals choose to censor themselves? A recent NPR story (full text online, or listen to the piece) detailed the increasing popularity of religious search engines that only present results consistent with the community's beliefs. For example, SeekFind, Jewogle (IMHO asking for a copyright infringement lawsuit - though I do enjoy the pun) and I'mHalal censor search results that contradict the tenets of Christianity, Judaism or Islam, respectively. I searched for birth control, the death penalty and masturbation on Seekfind, and the filters seem pretty effective. I also Jewogle'd bacon, and was greeted by Google Ads for "Bigger, Better Bacon" along with testimonials from Orthodox Jews who had tasted the forbidden pork. The same search on I'mHalal turned up mostly recipes. The search engine does a better job at controlling information about premarital sex, however.

Users of these search engines maintain that there is nothing wrong with restricting your own access to information. The NPR article quotes one I'mHalal user:
He says the search engine offered him content that he can trust would be appropriate for him as a practicing Muslim. And he is much more comfortable allowing his teenage son to surf the Web using I'mHalal. For example, a search for “sex” would return results giving the Islamic view on sexuality.
A SeekFind user explains that “It’s no more censorship than if I find something on television that I find offensive to me and I could change the channel.” In the US and in many other country, the law holds that freedom of speech must be balanced with respect for community standards of decency in order to protect minors. For the same reason, many parents use smart chips and parental controls to prevent their children from being exposed to pornography or other offensive material. Others take it a step further and campaign to ban books from schools and public libraries. More recently, the Texas State Board of Education made a number of ideologically based changes to the curriculum, including revoking Thomas Jefferson's status as a Founding Father because he was an atheist. As Texas is the largest textbook market in the country, this decision is already impacting millions.

Moreover, the attitude exhibited by the SeekFind user confuses information with entertainment. While citizens in a liberal society are entitled to their own tastes and values, and have the right to change the value when "True Blood" comes on if it offends those tastes and values, they are not entitled to their own facts. The world is a complex, confusing place, and the facts rarely present a clear-cut case for one view or policy option. Human psychology already predisposes us to notice data that confirms our existing views and ignore contradictory information, and these ideological search engines transforms confirmation bias from a danger into an ideal. So while using these search engines doesn't constitute censorship, it my view they are a dangerous for society. You don't have to believe information that contradicts your faith, but you do have to consider it and be aware of opposing viewpoints.

Globalization: Are People in the World Sharing More Similarities?

With the development of mass media like television, movie industry, newspaper, or radio programs, people in contemporary age have more access to data and information about the other parts of the world than ever before. People in China can watch American TV shows on line one day after they are on show on TV in the States; and people know what is happening in every corner of the world by watching TV news and reading newspapers. Young people in Mid-East also enjoy hip-hop, Hollywood movies and Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi is playing in convenient stores in China while kids I Africa may be biting chicken wings in KFC.

It is an exciting fact that people in the world start to enjoy the fruit of globalization; however, at the same time, people begin to think about their own cultural identity: Who we are and are we losing ourselves in the modern society. I remember ten years ago, Chinese government made a policy that very kindergarten and primary school had to force students to speak mandarin which means dialects are forbidden. According to Professor Weaver’s theory, kids in China should give up their culture identity to fit in the mainstream which functioned as a cookie cutter. Unfortunately, this policy worked very efficiently, there is a whole generation of kids in China cannot speak their own dialect which means they lose part of themselves. More unfortunately, I am one of them. Ten years later, when people start to realize they are letting their culture fade away, they try hard to preserve it. Nowadays, there are even news reports spoken in different dialects in different local TV stations. Of course people won’t speak dialect in very formal occasions like conference or lecture; however, as a part of culture, we are glad to speak dialect among friends which keeps our difference and cultural identities.

I am not saying the mandarin speaking policy or any policy trying to homogenizing people is wrong. I believe it is because people are standing on different levels of knowing the relationship of similarities and differences, it is just a process. I remember in one reading material, Weaver said that the best way to find one’s own culture is to leave it, to interact with those who are culturally different and this is where you gain greater insight about yourself, when you are inescapably confront with other. When people become bystanders of their own culture, they are being more conscious of it. Mostly, they start to realize how important it is and they are more likely to enjoy the culture difference. To my point of view, it is those differences make each person different; and enjoying them means enjoying being who we are.

Shuffling Responsibility?

As a result of our policies of freedom of expression and a “free market,” I believe the most realistic course of action to mediate the proliferation of varied and contradictory messages is to teach media literacy to our global audiences. As described by Siochru and Girard, it is the government’s responsibility to monitor the diversity and plurality of media content, but I do not view advocating for media literacy as an attempt by the government to absolve itself of responsibility to regulate the media industry. in regards to issues of safety and appropriateness of messages across cyberspace, government regulation can only protect its citizens to a certain extent. Messages promoting violence, intolerance, or sexual explicitness may be filtered, but they will never cease to be part of our cyberspace network. As O’Neill states, teaching people to protect themselves as consumers by using the media to formulate informed opinions, take full advantage of ICT resources, as well as express themselves through creating their own content is a double-edged sword that simultaneously equips people to become participants in risky behavior.

While people, particularly the vulnerable populations described such as children, have a right to protection from harm in the media and violence on screen, there is a delicate balance between freedom of expression and communication rights. Because of the nature of digital technology today and liberalization in media regulation policies, consumers/citizens must take responsibility in critically engaging with the messages received. So as not to infringe on freedom of expression, promoting media literacy is the most practical way to tackle this issue. Though these terms have yet to be clearly defined and a concrete curriculum established as to how to teach these skills, I believe the project in Ireland that O’Neill describes will provide a good framework to begin with as we unravel this complex issue.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Deep Impact

One of the things that struck me as a little silly as I was working my way through the Castells reading was his conclusion that political institutions and agencies must move beyond their traditional tactics in terms of appealing to civil society and embrace "public debates in the global political sphere." By this, he primarily suggests that social networking sites, i.e. Facebook, Myspace, and blogs like this one will allow civil society to reach the inevitable point where they not only become a very loud voice in the debate over the global attitudes towards public policy, but will threaten the concept of archaic nation-state based political systems.


Admittedly, half of Castells' prediction seems to have come to pass, as it could be conceivably argued, at least on the American side that these networks are responsible for "stimulating dialogue regarding specific initiatives" and his concept of public diplomacy, if represented by the internet does allow for "a public sphere in which diverse voices can be heard in spite of their various origins, distinct values, and often contradictory interests." The exposure to a greater amount of ideas, ignoring the often poor spelling and grammar that often compose them in Youtube comments and Myspace quotes does encourage a lot of growth in knowledge of what's out there and what humanity has to offer.

I believe Kastells ignores several key factors in his analysis though; concepts of the other, and the factual nature of the information being distributed on these networks. Waisbord spoke of the mainstream media when he explained that "audiences are typically indifferent to the plight of others portrayed in the world news, particularly when news reports suffering among populations to be geographically and culturally different," so it's hard to believe that a shaky cell-phone camera video uploaded to Youtube would have a significantly more powerful influence on public policy and global involvement in nationally-based conflicts.

Kastells seems to think this media will promote a global political system or global governance, but he ignores the fact that social media systems are not only highly constrained by language barriers (and by proxy, context), and remain highly divided on nation-state lines. He mistakes passive service user growth for enthusiasm for globalization when in fact, it just may reflect the expansion of global networks. But most of all, he doesn't account for the short attention span of what he sees as a global community. In the wake of the rigged Iranian presidential elections in 2009, thousands of Facebook and Twitter users proudly proclaimed their solidarity with the Iranian people by changing the color of their avatar, a mostly-passive process that takes two clicks of a mouse. Is that all that's required for a global imagined community? And what happens to that community after all those green flags have changed back into beach and party pictures?

Active users of the Internet, Cosmopolitanism

“Mind control: Is the internet changing how we think?”

This headline stood out to me in relation to the discussion in class about whether consumers of media are active or passive audiences. The article talks about the new Google instant search and then focuses on Nicolas Carr (author of a book about the topic of internet use and brains) and how he feels that Internet use has changed his ability to stay focused on one thought for long periods of time. I have thought about this issue as I remember how doing research on the Internet for one hour used to make me feel very tired and now I can spend many hours online. (This may have something to do with how long the dial-up took to load a page). My ability to stay on the Internet going through large amounts of information has increased. I think that an active user of the Internet can make conscious choices that do not hinder attentiveness. While it can be overwhelming to sift through the massive quantities of information available, does this really shift our ability to think critically and be attentive? It does seem that many people have problems getting to their work (hence the software that blocks internet use for periods of time). In order to be truly productive, some people have to make Google unavailable to write or do other work without distraction.

The power of the availability of information and how we use that resource for personal and public reasons relates to some of the ideas in the readings for this week. I was thinking about how Google search can create some of the elements of cosmopolitanism that Waisbord discusses in "Media and the Reinvention of the Nation". For example, when a person does a search on a specific topic from anywhere in the world, Google search does not produce results that are tailored to that person’s nationality. The tool is more about creating common ground than emphasizing difference. This fits in with his point about it being “difficult to attribute national citizenship to media content.” (p. 381). Google servers and software do not make differentiations based on nationality, but simply upon how many hits sites have received. While Google does make targeted advertising according to past search histories, these histories are not linked to national identity. Drawing from the Castell's reading, Google could be looked at as an area of public diplomacy, where information is shared and developed by the public users of the site.

Entertainment Stars' Power in Political Areas

Today, I watched an announcement on line made by Lady Gaga, which is about a policy called “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Don’t ask don’t tell is a law that was created in 1993 that prevents gays to serve openly in military. Since then, 14,000 Americans have been discharged from the armed forces, refused the right to serve their country and sent home. Here, I do not want to talk about the law itself, but this video. In the video, Lady Gaga was wearing her white wig, and relatively conservative make-up (compared to her previous make-ups) and a black suit with a strange tie. The video is more like a show rather than an announcement. Gaga was trying to be very serious in the video but the way she talks and looks making people think about her previous music videos like Paparazzi, Telephone and her dramatic acting. She was making a serious announcement based on a very serious political issue in the video but I was not very comfortable about it, after I showed it to my friends, they told me they have the same feeling as mine.

More and more entertainment stars begin to involve in political issues. The most common phenomenon perhaps is Image Ambassadors or setting up funding or donating to Charities. Celebrities use their fame to enlarge their impact in politics and help other people who need money or care. It sounds a win-win situation that both celebrities and poor people can get what they want. However, the reality is not that simple. There are some interesting examples. There is a Hollywood movie star; he is very famous for Kong Fu movies. His movie is a good combination of bloody, violent and inhumane. Most of his movies are rated as R or at least PG-13 and a lot of kids imitate his Kong Fu to fight with other kids in schools. However, this star is Unite Nations Massagers of Peace. Every time he gives a speech in public places about taking non-violent action in political areas, all what I can think about is the violent scenes in his movies. Another example is about a so-called International movie star, she sets up a funding program in Hong Kong to help starving kids in Africa. She claimed that she has donated a lot of money and collected other donations from other celebrities. No one has really taken her claim seriously until one day, someone started to investigate her funding and found out she not only took her own donation back to herself, but also took other people’s donations too. Also, there are a lot of stars or other celebrities are even evading taxes now.

Celebrities have right and power to influence other people especially their fans or followers for sure. Most of them know how much influence they have and how to use it to benefit themselves. What I want to say here is that due to the power of media, they should be responsible, should ask themselves if they are qualified enough to influence other people.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Media as actor(s) in IR

The media frenzy over Cordoba House and Terry Jones's proposed Koran-burning raises the question of the media's ability to influence events as they unfold, making journalists, editors and producers actors in domestic and international politics. A recent New York Times article pondered the media's responsibility in fanning the flames of controversy to feed the 24-hour news cycle, noting that when the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS burned a Koran in 2008, the news media studiously ignored it precisely to avoid giving the congregation the visibility that it was seeking. Two years later, the media appears to have taken the stance that its sole responsibility is to cover the news, not to consider the impact that the coverage will have on the ground, and that suggestions from government officials that editors should consider refraining from publishing certain information or covering certain stories amount to censorship.

There is often merit to this argument, even when censorship isn't the government's primary goal, but in most cases, there is a world of difference between censorship and exercising editorial discretion. The AU community engaged in this very debate last semester, when a student columnist for the Eagle wrote an inflammatory column that, among other things, accused feminists and gay rights activists of seeking to abolish sexual passion and called date rape an "incoherent concept." For several weeks, the student body was divided between those who believed that the Eagle's editors should have exercised its prerogative to edit the columns that it publishes, and those who believed that any editorial intervention beyond light copy-editing would have violated the author's freedom of speech (see letters to the editor here and here). The campus was in an uproar, and the provost and vice president campus life wrote to the Eagle to reaffirm both AU's zero-tolerance attitude to rape or sexual violence of any kind, as well as its commitment to free speech. Ultimately, the Eagle's editors and editor-in-chief issued apologies as well.

So what does this have to do with international communication? As the course readings and class discussions have highlighted, new communication technologies have consistently expanded the sphere of influence of each individual as messages travel ever more quickly through space. This also means that each individual is now contained in the sphere of influence of an ever-increasing number of people. Two hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable that a book burning in Florida might lead to riots in Afghanistan, which in turn would shape policy in Washington - all within a few hours. While it is technology that allows messages to be transmitted so quickly, human beings are ultimately responsible for their own decisions to perform (or not) a certain act, to publish or not publish certain information, including images, and how to present the information. Every time a news outlet picks up a story, there is a human, journalistic and editorial decision how to handle to story. This decision is repeated countless times in newsrooms and bloggers' basements, and the sum of all these individual decisions has a huge impact on events on the ground. What share of the responsibility falls to individual journalists, editors and producers? Is "just following the market/news cycle" the equivalent of "just following orders"?

Facebook as an Imagined Community

Yesterday’s class discussion on how Facebook shapes our perception of reality has led me to seek a more critical understanding of my own choice not to participate in this online community. The use of this networking tool is so pervasive that it is quite unusual to meet someone of our generation who is not a registered user. I have withstood considerable peer pressure to join, rejected numerous offers to create an account for me, and responded to incredulous questions such as, “You’re not on FB? Are you a real person??” and “We’re not really friends until we’re Facebook friends.” While I appreciate the convenience with which you may form and maintain contacts, I view the majority of these connections as being contrived. Most of the “friends” in your network are not people whom you keep in touch with regularly on a more personal level (if at all), and many of them are simply acquaintances who upon further consideration, may not even really be considered a friend. My standpoint is that an online medium such as FB is not necessary to affirm relationships. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always believed that the people who are important to you are worth the time and effort to make more personal connections, rather than indiscriminately and impersonally broadcasting news and salutations to everyone in your network. My choice not to participate on FB is a way of filtering and limiting news of myself and others only to people whom I have a genuine interest in maintaining relationships with.

Our class discussion led to an interesting conversation with a classmate about the way in which FB has changed the nature of our interactions in regards to what relationships and news we perceive as being “real” and salient. My classmate admitted feeling a stronger sense of community with people she is connected to on FB than with someone she has interpersonal interactions with on a weekly basis, simply because FB allows one to know other people’s business even if you hardly have any direct contact. In essence, FB has had such a profound impact on the way that we connect with others that for some people, random acquaintances online whose business you know seem more real and have a more salient presence than someone that you interact in class with on a weekly basis. There is a sense of satisfaction derived from knowing other people’s personal information, such as relationship status – even if it’s not really your business – such that for our generation, things are not considered “official” unless it’s stated on FB, and any changes are immediately speculated about and blown out of proportion.

Our perception of our connections to others has been radically altered from what it was 50 years ago, or even presently in a less-developed part of the world, where interpersonal communication is the primary form of communication. We can understand the Facebook phenomenon that has gripped American society through the concept of the “imagined community,” as coined by Benedict Anderson. He views a nation as being a community that is “socially constructed, [and] imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.” This community is described as being imaginary because it is not and cannot be based on interpersonal interaction. Members of even the tiniest nation will never know most of their fellow citizens, but they are bound by images of their affinity. Many of these tenets are true of Facebook networks as well. Our reliance on an online medium in order to affirm relationships is very telling. The sense of communion that one derives from their FB connections is for the most part imaginary because of the lack of actual direct contact with the majority of people in your network. A feeling of belonging is engendered by knowing others’ business, regardless of the impersonality with which the information was obtained. Because of the ease with which we can maintain connections through social networking tools such as FB, I fear there is less incentive to make more genuine, personal connections with old and new contacts.

I hope nobody reading this will be offended and view this blog post as an attack on FB, MySpace, etc or their users. These thoughts have been brewing for the last 6 years since FB first came to my college campus, and I find this forum a stimulating one in which to explicate my thoughts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Communication as relationship shaping:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Incorporate IC ideas into Education System

How do people decide to read and/or receive the news? Their choice contributes to their view of the world. The development of International Communications (IC) as a field has allowed scholars to frame questions about these kinds of decisions and how they may impact policy decisions and social interactions.

In the article, “A Cultural Approach to Communication”, Carey argues that reading newspapers is a ritual form of communication as opposed to simply a transmission of information.

“News reading, and writing, is a ritual act and moreover a dramatic one. What is arrayed before the reader is not pure information but a portrayal of the contending forces of the world” (p.20, “A Cultural Approach to Communication, Carey)

When families, colleagues, or friends discuss the news, many times they have all read similar versions of the same stories. There is a comfort zone in these conversations, where a certain shared worldview is assumed. It is a form of cultural currency to compare notes on articles by noted journalists on current events. If people are only reading the NY Times and the Washington Post (or watching Fox News), there is not much contrast. Even if the journalism is done well, certain paradigms are always being perpetuated based on the structure of the news tradition. From the years I spent in West Africa, watching the way news was presented on TV and published in local papers there, I can see how differently the American press covers issues from that region. Because of this exposure, I have the ability to read beyond what journalists present in US papers about that area.

Perspective can be gained through not only experience, but also through developing critical thinking skills and studying the culture and art of other places. Carey brings attention to the way that art puts familiar sounds or images into new spaces or juxtapositions in order to bring attention to aspects of our daily life and interactions that we may not normally notice. In terms of the history of the field of IC, he relates how social sciences “can take the most obvious yet background facts of social life and force them into the foreground of wonderment.” (p. 24)

This comes back to looking at how we get our information on a daily basis, which relates to our education system and whether or not people are taught to think critically. Weaver outlines some of these big picture issues in his talk, “The Evolution of International Communication as a Field of Study: A Personal Reflection”, given in May 2007 at Aoyama Gakuin University. He addresses the necessity of the interdisciplinary nature of IC as issues of education, international relations, psychology, and socialization have to be examined together to problem solve issue of cross-cultural communication and formation of world-view. If people are not taught to examine their own backgrounds, it can be difficult to form effective cross- cultural communication, both nationally and internationally.

American TV Shows, Result of Cultural Imperialism or Choice of Free Market

Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture of one society into another. It is usually the case that the former belongs to a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter belongs to a smaller, less powerful one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude. A metaphor of colonialism is employed: the cultural products of the first world "invade" the third-world and "conquer" local culture. In the stronger variants of the term, world domination (in a cultural sense) is the explicit goal of the nation-states or corporations that export the culture. The term is usually used in a pejorative sense, usually in conjunction with a call to reject foreign influence.

Since early 80s, Chinese government started to introduce American TV shows to China like Garrisons Gorillas, Growing Pains. Thirty years later, there are myriads of American TV shows available on line (not allowed to be on show on TV though). More and more Chinese teenagers and young professionals choose to watch American TV shows rather than Chinese TV shows. Gossip Girls, CSI, Friends, Weeds, Sex and City… become very popular in China; however, there are more and more concerns about the “American TV show heat” in society. I collected some points of views as following which I think really interesting.

1.TV shows are tools to spread cultural value
These values include Individualism, Hedonism and Heroism. There are lots of –Man on TV like Superman, Ironman, Batman, Spiderman, and Watchman. The other example is shows like Gossip Girls. They are stories about girls, boys, relationships, parties, sex and fashion… They are rich, good-looking and powerful. They can do whatever they want and always get whatever they like.

2.The influence on audience
According to a research, people from 16-25 are the main body of audience of American TV shows. They are with very unstable values which are easy to be influenced. Those values mentioned above will corrupt them.

However, it is free market today provides us more and more choices which make our lives interesting than ever before. They reason of the growing interest in American TV shows is that they are close to our lives and show what we want and what we cannot get. Compared with Chinese historical shows, American TV shows are more real. They are about people like us, about their sorrows and troubles which we have been through every day. The TV show makers are smart enough to show what people want to see and what people want to do. At the same time, there is a keen competition among American TV shows which guarantees their quality.

Everybody has uncountable choices about TV programs and movies, however, more and more of them choose American ones. It is nothing about Cultural Imperialism or Cultural Infiltration, it is unnecessary to relate every cultural phenomenon to politics. Free market provides us free choice which results in the choice of American TV shows.

Into the Collective Consciousness

Dayan and Katz (1992) make an astute analysis of how the media serve to perpetuate nationalism through providing a forum for shared experiences and collective memory. It is through experiencing “media events” as a collective that we are reminded of who we are, our own history, and we are unified in the emotions generated by an event. However, I would argue that media events not only contribute to cementing national identity, but can also grip the global consciousness and appeal to the global public as “citizens of the world.”

There have been several moments such as these in the last few decades that remind us of our collective humanity regardless of political, socio-cultural, and geographic division. Neil Armstrong perhaps said it best after setting foot on the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.” That achievement was the culmination of the Space Race and despite the strained relations between the US and the USSR, Armstrong’s statement reminded the world of its significance in the history of human progress. People around the world will remember where they were and what they were doing the moment news reached them of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although the speech was given decades before, President Kennedy’s galvanizing statement “Ich bin ein Berliner” appealed to the cosmopolitan consciousness by affirming our commonality, that the citizens of the free world stood alongside the citizens of Berlin in their defense of freedom. Likewise, September 11 will forever be engrained in the collective consciousness as people around the world watched the incessant replay of images and the world as we knew it was changed forever. This was not just a tragedy for the American people, but a crime against humanity that created solidarity across the globe amongst those who support the pursuit of democratic ideals as a way of life. On that day, we were not just citizens of our respective countries, but human beings who all experience suffering and bleed the same way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


In Dr. Gary Weaver's reflection at the 10th anniversary of the creation of the International Communications program at Aoyama Gakuin University, he comments at how difficult it was to originally establish the impact of international communication on international relations:
"In the classroom, if you talked about the Vietnam War in the context of domestic turmoil--student demonstrations and civil rights marches--professors would say, "Define your level of analysis." Well, what did they mean? They meant, "Keep the domestic out of the international." "Keep the cultural out of international relations."...Of course, I began to realize that we have to mix these things together to truly prepare students for dealing with the world in which they were living." (3)
Within that context, Weaver argues, the "international and the domestic must come together somewhere, and where it came together is in the area of international communications." (3) As a result, many new theories to analyze the nature of this communication, once it had been established that this communication was a system that helped society function, and deal with one another. As Nathalie touched upon in her entry this week, many of those were covered in the broad sense in the Thussu reading.

On a conceptual level, Thussu's reading is fascinating for one who's never studied theory before, as it serves as an excellent source for demonstrating how some of these theories are connected and evolved, such as with the case of Marxist, Critical Theory, and Jurgan Habermas' public sphere, all of which dealt with on some level the potential impact of commodification and availability of communication technology.

However, on a broader theoretical level, it's interesting to note how Thussu and Weaver differ in their theories as much of the ones the former discusses are based within economics while the latter's are more based in humanism. Weaver argues against some of the economic theories, stating that at their core, they're
biased by the psychology, in particular, the "ethnocentricity" of the proponents of those theories:
"...McClelland was concerned with testing Max Weber's theory that if you have a capitalist economy with people whose values caused them to focus on the future, the immediate family, and delayed gratification, and they value hard work as individuals, you will have economic development in that nation and, in addition, it will probably be democratic development. If you read Weber carefully, I would argue that Weber was arguing that if the whole world was Protestant we would have no problems..." (9)
I think it's difficult to say that any one given system will automatically lead to a certain expected communication situation. Admittedly, the point of theory is not to establish certainty but to quantify general trends. All the same, as Weaver suggests, one must be aware of the potential prejudices, be it privilege, race, gender, sex or creed that will draw them to classify a particular situation as operating within a particular communication theory.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The importance of theory in real life

The Thussu reading for this week effectively summarizes the principle theoretical frameworks underpinning the field of international communication. It also firmly grounds the field within International Relations, as many of the theories discussed - notably dependency theory, liberalism ("free flow"), modernization, structural imperialism, the many variants of critical theory, etc - apply to the social sciences writ large, not just IC. For those of us who are primarily practitioners rather than budding scholars, it can be easy to dismiss theory as something that we need to understand for class papers and blogs, but can forget once we graduate and go back to the "real world." However, theory and practice exist in symbiosis and are constantly creating and recreating one another. For example, economic policy in much of Latin America in the second half of the 20th century was based on dependency theory and the import-substitution growth model. This approach called on nation-states to strive for autarky, replacing imports from the Core (ie, the industrialized West/Global North) with domestically produced ersatz products. Critics at the time predicted that the approach would fail, as the Core had a comparative advantage in high-value added goods. As it turns out, they were right, and virtually all of Latin America has turned to export-led growth, a strategy that worked quite well for the Asian tigers (or dragons, depending who you talk to. Personally I like dragons).
Or at least, that's the interpretation that is available to me thanks to my Western education. Studying in Chile in 2005, I realized that there were other paradigms that gave the same "facts" very different meanings. I knew that intellectually, of course, but a semester of economics a la chilena (ie with avocado and lots of salt)  made me know it in my gut. The paradigms that we come to view as dominant matter, as they shape the way we interpret everything that we learn subsequently.
I was reminded of this lesson a few months, when I somehow (and through no fault of my own) wound up sampling single-malt scotch and fine cigars with three gentlemen of my acquaintance, all in their late 20s, Ivy League-educated, wealthy, and with strong ties to New York City. One was a defense contractor, another was a conservative think tank wonk (sic), and the third was an investment banker.Somehow I wound up trying to explain critical theory to them, and it just did not take. Their world view simply did not allow them to imagine that a woman, a person of color, or a poor person might have a better vantage point from which to observe and critique gender, race or economic relations. Meanwhile, they seemed to think that my normative view that public policy should put the needs of the most needy first (the only part of my Catholic school upbringing that took) was completely incomprehensible, and borderline irrational. Given our radically different world views, the best we could do was agree to disagree, but many others who are engaged in similar clashes of world views don't have that luxury as they have real-world interests to reconcile.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of attending a private discussion with Ambassador Patrick N. Theros, a career American diplomat serving as President of the US-Qatar business council. We discussed al-Jazeera and the al-Jazeera effect at length, and (according to Theros), the network was created by the Emir of Qatar to be an uncensored voice in the Middle East, emboldened to present dissenting views and challenge authority. The staff came almost exclusively from the BBC's Arabic service. While they were journalists of the highest caliber, al-Jazeera initially lacked an editorial board to impose balance on the writers, so the network suffered from freedom of speech gone wild, with no voice of reason to encourage restraint, impose a burden of proof or provide balance between opposing views.Since then, al-Jazeera has issued a code of ethics and is generally considered to be a serious, professional news outlet, though the American right (and others) would disagree with that assessment.

The proliferation of "news" blogs raises a similar issue. While in democratic countries a blogger is free to write anything he or she pleases (with some limits, such as British libel laws), the fact that anyone with an internet connection can publish one-sided accounts, exaggerations and even outright fabrications is worrisome, especially as blogs link to and quote one another, creating a self-confirming web of conspiracy theorists. How can societies balance the imperative of free speech and the desirability of a professional, ethical press? Moreover, professional news organizations like Fox News seem to be increasingly tolerant of sensationalistic, unfounded claims by their anchors and "journalists" - for example, the outrageous claims that Barrack Obama is a Muslim, or wasn't born in the United States. (The idea that being Muslim would be something to hold against the president, or anyone else, is a separate and equally appalling issue.) Why does Fox's editorial board (or what passes for one) tolerate and, it seems, even encourage this kind of behavior?

Link to blogs - "free speech" vs professional journalism
Importance of professional press - business model in peril

Scientia potentia est

Like Willow, I was interested in the government stepping in on the free exchange of knowledge ranging from Louis the XIII and Napoleon’s “cabinet noir” to the Patriot act in the U.S. that was implemented post-9/11. The Patriot Act, as most of us probably know allow for “Enhanced Surveillance Procedures” under the act’s Title II which authorizes the interception of “wire, oral, and electronic communications for the production of evidence of (1) specified chemical weapons or terrorism offenses; and (2) computer fraud and abuse.” Of course, this is open to all sorts of interpretations and I'm sure its been used under what some might consider to be false pretenses. Also, while I'm sure Louis' spies were good at their jobs, it would probably be a lot easier to notice if a letter was tampered with than detecting a tap on a phone line or someone else reading your email.

Unless you expected someone to be doing something like that. It is interesting that I couldn't find any information on whether postal communication can be searched as well. Perhaps it's not seen as as great of an issue, considering it's no longer one of the likely forms of communication; agendas must happen quickly to be successful after all, and buying a stamp takes longer than sending an email these days.

The question I have, is what does the Black Cabinet and the Patriot Act change? By having the ability to root through mass communication to potentially uncover conspiracies actually preserve the government and/or security? I would argue no, as potential conspirators eventually become aware of these tactics and find a way around them. For example, five Americans who were arrested and convicted in Pakistan for acts of terrorism earlier this year were able to navigate around Patriot act filters by communicating with their Al-Queda contact through a shared Yahoo email account. They would write a message and save it in a "Drafts" folder for the other person to read. Since the messages were never sent anywhere, it would have been impossible to intercept them without running word filters on every Yahoo email account.

Of course, I'm ignoring the crimes that do get intercepted and stopped due (in part) to the Patriot act. Likewise, the Black Cabinet may have also caught its fair share of conspiracies. But at what point does governmental information gathering cross the line from useful to paranoid and extraneous? And how do we know the motives of the people (or computer) behind the lens?

Sorry, the sun does not rise and fall on the west

In the “Discourses on globalization” section of the Thussu article on “Approaches to theorizing international communication,” Waters describes globalization as “the direct consequence of the expansion of European culture across the planet via settlement, colonisation and cultural mimesis.” While European culture did indeed heavily impact some regions of the world such as Africa, North America, and South America, this definition cannot be as indiscriminately applied to Asia. Japan and Korea have been at the forefront of technological development along with Western nations, and China has emerged as a major player in modernization, though none have experienced significant cultural influence from Europe. They have retained their language, cultural traditions, and respective worldviews without adopting non-Western practices to keep pace in our rapidly globalizing society. The totality of the homogenizing effect of globalization is not as comprehensive as this statement would have one believe.

Though Western technology has been adopted and also improved upon by these Asian countries, it has also been used as an instrument to preserve their cultural identity and foster appreciation for their culture abroad. Anime and manga conventions are hosted due to the strong subculture that has sprung up around these popular forms of Japanese pop-culture. Nintendo video games and Saturday-morning cartoons such as Pokémon also have their origins in Japan. Particularly in areas where there are large diasporic communities, it is not uncommon to find Japanese-style karaoke bars, Korean bathhouses, and an infusion of Asian cuisine in restaurants. The concepts of feng shui and Zen have taken hold in mainstream American culture, and westerners across the globe practice Buddhism, which has strong associations with its Asian roots. Likewise, practice of martial arts forms such as karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, and judo are widespread. Many alternative medicine practices have their roots in Chinese traditional medicine. More examples may be discussed, but it is clear that Waters betrays his own euro-centricity in this narrow statement, as globalization does not entail a one-way flow of information and culture. Information communication technology not only facilitates the transmission of Western culture and ideas, but also allows for enrichment of Western cultures through reception of non-Western cultures and ways of viewing the world.

From to

January 13th, 2010, Google Company in China claimed that they would cancel the censorship to and all the employees in Google headquarters in China confirmed that Google will leave Chinese market very soon. Since then, would be replaced by Here a some reasos about this case.

Attacked by Hackers

In mid-December laast year, Google was targeted attacked by a highly sophisicate corporation originating from China. Part of Google's interllectual property was theft. Additionally, two Gmail accounts were accessed by attackers, those accounts were related to Chinese human rights activities. Similar to Google, at least other twenty companies claimed that they have been through the same situation before. According to a person related to this case, there was no proof that Chinese government was invloved. But at the same time, another insider said that if Goolge Company did not believe the hackers were authorized by Chinese government, they would not take such an extreme action.

Chinese Internet Censorship

The implement of Internet filtering and shielding by Chinese government always leads to the tension between Chinese government, and US government, as well as Chinese government and companies like Google and Yahoo. Google General Conusel David Drammen made a statement in his Blog that they needed to reconsiderate the feasibility of their business in China based on the Internet monitoring ad limitation of Expression freedom in China.

Delicated Relationship with Baidu

Baidu (the biggest search engine in China) was hacked early last year, which cost uncountable loses, however, by the same time, Baidu created incredible advertisement effects. Within one day after its attack, the most popular key words on Google were all about Baidu. It is possible that Google needed to draw attention from Baidu. No one can approve this point, However, if stopped working in China, Baidu would definitely benefit from it at least in a short term.

Personally, I am a big fan of Google; and I use Google much more than any other search engine. The leaving of Google surprised everybody in China. No doubt, apart from economic consideration, there are other reasons for Google to make this decision to give uo such a big market. In this case, Chinese government played a very important role. Nowadays, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and most websites based in Taiwan are blocked by government. This is definitely not a good and healthy phenomenon for China to join the first-level countries.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blackberries, Technology definitions, and repeating themes


“We bestow a meaning on technology and we use it based on that meaning”

I wrote this in my notes in class on Tuesday as an idea to elaborate on.

I’ve been looking over the list of countries considering the ban on Blackberries reported today in the Associated Press as reported by ABC News ( According to AP, India and Indonesia will consider continuing allowing the services if the company, Research in Motion, Ltd, (RIM) puts its servers in the countries where the services are provided. This way the government will be able to access the data from within its borders (and not be routed through Canada, where RIM is headquartered).

It is not a new idea. Governments (nation-states) want to have access to the thoughts and ideas that its citizens are communicating to each other. They want to make sure that they maintain control of the population. (“Black Cabinet” on into the Patriot Act)

When the first Patriot Act was passed in October 2001, citizens in the US gave up privacy in communications both electronic and phone. Does this change how we define those technologies? Do we use them differently now?

So how does this relate to my original quote from class?

What meaning have we bestowed on our smart phones? When messages are encrypted, as they are on Blackberries, do we really believe that the data doesn’t exist somewhere else? Do we think they are a place where we can enter private data and send secret messages, like a journal tucked into a mattress? Are they a safe space?

Different sectors of society may bestow different versions of meaning on these technologies and chose to use, or not use them accordingly. For a government wanting to monitor its population, smart phones may mean a window into activities, a perfect monitoring device. For a businessperson, they mean mobility and increased revenue possibility through faster transactions. For a young urban professional, they may mean being tech-savvy and hip to the delights of tweats.

Or, maybe we all bestow similar meaning on the increased possibilities of contact and simply make different choices about how to utilize the technologies in our own lives according to our concepts of privacy.

The history of how communication technologies have developed and how people have viewed the developments has themes that repeat. Some of these issues are related to privacy and government control, as well as regulation agreements.

Back to the Blackberry dilemma. To keep its 1 million customers in India and tap into the millions of potential users, I am sure RIM will oblige.

The affects of this decision may have consequences for Google and other information companies’ choices about how to route communications and data. To be discussed next time....