Author Archive

12/07/2011

Educating and Entertaining

Well I’d first like to start with my reaction to the Lauren B. Frank Study.   I thought this study was fascinating as well as a nifty bit of synergy to read about an actual  study (I am taking a class in Research Methods this semester).  It was a wise decision by Ms. Frank to take a triangular approach to her research by using both quantitative and qualitative methods.  She goes on explain the various health communication theories that form the basis of her study.

The study shows that entertainment can be  effectively used to educate people about important topics like HIV/AIDS.   I don’t know if it was design that the presentation about “Theatre of the Oppressed,” another example the potential art/entertainment to served a purpose beyond the obvious, happened on the same day we were assigned these readings.

The ability of entertainment to communicate important ideas about subjects like peace and health is exemplary of the  fact that the field of communication has many different faces.   It can be a heath communication campaign or it can be a series of tweets.  It could be a theater group promoting social justice or it can be an Afghan singer displaying her talents on a TV singing competition.  The field of communication is vast, exciting, and I look forward to studying it more.

12/01/2011

You shouldn’t be a public diplomat!

In contrast with traditional diplomacy, the overtures of public diplomacy are aimed at the citizens of a country rather than it’s government.   This is a short and narrow definition in of public diplomacy, but in actuality, public diplomacy is practiced in ways one normally wouldn’t expect.  That’s why our wide-ranging discussion about public diplomacy was so interesting this week – I think we collectively had a challenge in deciding who and who wasn’t a public diplomat.

In the presentation my group gave last week, we posited that international exchange programs like the Peace Corp and Fullbright constitute public diplomacy.   Some might disagree.  On the on hand, participants in these programs are in contact with foreigners and their presence abroad is funded by the U.S. Government.  On the other hand, these participants are not government officials, so does that disqualify them from being public diplomats?  I kind of felt like a public diplomat when I studied abroad in London many years ago – it was not too long after President Bush started the Iraq War so we were advised to be sensitive and avoid getting caught displaying any “Ugly American”-type behaviors.

In the Joseph Nye piece on public diplomacy, “the development of lasting relationships with key individuals,” is the third dimension of public diplomacy.  It is also the part of public diplomacy I am most familiar with given my current job.  I work at Meridian International Center (www.meridian.org) in  the Professional Exchanges Division, and the professional exchanges in question are funded by the State Department.  In fact, most of what Meridian does is underwritten by the State Department, including my paycheck, so  it’s important that the US doesn’t give up on public diplomacy any time soon.  Here’s a litte video:

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, hahaha!  I just wanted to share an examples of some of the organzations in DC currently engaged in public diplomacy.  I also wanted to share a little info on Meridian because it’s a slight twist on how we normally think about public.  Meridian is an example of how a public-private partnership.

11/11/2011

Mobile Movements

One of sentences that immediately stood out from “The Mobile Civil Society” piece was:

“The communication networks provided by mobile telephony can be formed and reformed instantly, and messages are often received from a known source, enhancing their credibility.”

Isn’t a phone just a phone anymore?  The answer to this ridiculous rhetorical question is a big NO, phones haven’t been just phones for a very long time  – this piece speaks to that truth.    We can do countless things on our phones now that were not even possible 5 years ago – the rapid development of mobile technology has been breathtaking.

For the audience of this blog, and the people they know, and the people that they know know, phones are ubiquitous.  But to take it back to Paul Adams, the author we read last week, our phones are also a symbol of the inclusion/exclusion dynamic since our access to the phones separate us from those in the world who don’t have access to mobile technology.

And of course, phones aren’t just phones any more because people are now using them as tools to mobilize for a varied number of reasons, some serious (political protests) and some not so serious (flash mobs).  The potential power of mobile technology to propel social movements is the main focus of this piece.  The Phillpine and South Korea examples were great case studies that show that power in pratice.  In the South Korea example, mobile technology was particularly useful.  As the authors point out:

“While the internet-based campaign had lasted for years, it was the mobile phone that mobilized large numbers of young voters on election day (194).”

Phones definitely aren’t just phones anymore.  They can also be tools for destruction, as the 2004 Madrid bombings demonstrate.  That always seem to be the dynamic – great technological advancements that make our lives easier also carry the potential for great harm if it falls into the wrong hands.

11/04/2011

You’re in! You’re OUT!

The idea of inclusion and exclusion are major themes of the in the Adams piece, coincidentally titled “Inclusion/Exclusion.”  The impression that I got from Adams was that there is an element of exclusion inherent in almost all the different ways that people organize themselves.  This dynamic between inclusion and exclusion is key to “understanding”  the “social geography of communication.  If correct, My understanding  is a little disheartening  – it’s seems that despite even the best intentions somebody or someone is left out.  It’s tempting to say “that’s just the way it is” but even c academics who study communication are concerned about exclusion.   Adams describes Jurgen Habbermas’ promoting of the “ideal speech situation” with the idea being that no person can or should be excluded from a discussion.  I had the rare opportunity to see this concept come to life unexpectedly when I was in New York a few weeks ago…

Of course I had to go to Occupy Wall Street!  I took the above photo my phone.   I did not venture into the park because I a little nervous (I also had no real desire to go into Zucotti Park).  Nevertheless, from the perimeter of the park, I was able to see a rather larger group of protesters seated and listening to one another.  Apparently, just from observing, I gathered that everybody had the right to speak before decisions were about activities for the day, even if it means that it takes them hours to make a very simple decision.  Going into further detail about ideal speech situation, Adams explains that exclusion “interferes with the processes generating truth, sincerity, and justice.”  I really saw this dynamic play out before me with the protesters.  Who knows how much life is left in there movement, nevertheless, they are really trying to establish a open, democratic, culture which dovetails nicely with their claims of representing the 99%.

Adams goes on to explore the inclusive/exclusive dynamic through a number of different prisms.  In fact, one prism we can examine the inclusive/exclusive dynamic is given in the Lilie Chouliaki piece.  What transnational media chooses to show or not show and how they show it separates people in many different ways.  In the portrayal of suffering, the way the media presents the subject may determine how much various publics feel tied or identify with victims of some tragic event.

10/29/2011

Nodular Thinking

The discussion we had in class  a few days ago about networks was simultaneously amusing and informative.  Before really getting into the readings, my notion of networks  were limited to social media and “networking” in regards to one’s career.  I remember hearing from career advisers “you must leverage your network” in order to have more success while looking for jobs.    Those words didn’t give me much comfort years ago because I didn’t feel like my professional network was very large – I still don’t in fact.   But maybe they were right after all; there were networks all around me that I perhaps had not considered.

My notion of what a network could has definitely expanded this week; for example, the idea that online fan communities was a little eye-opening and not something I hadn’t considered before.  One of the aspects of network theory that Paul Adams points out in his piece is the “self-organizing” nature of networks.  The example of  Glee was raised in class, but I must admit I don’t have to look too far back to my own  younger days when being a fan of certain TV shows meant I was wasting time on the internet posting and reading through online forums (admittedly nerdy).  The way these online fans can rally themselves to, for instance, protest the cancellation of a show they care about is a valid, albeit silly, example of network power.

I think the role the internet plays in network formation is a fascinating topic.  Surely, there were networks before the advent of the internet.  According to Adams, “real-world networks are the outcome of spontaneous growth processes in which nodes and links are added at random (74).”  When I first starting reading the passage where aforementioned quote came from, I wasn’t sure if the internet was part of what was being described given his choice of the worlds real-world.”  Of course, I could see that it was as I read further.

10/14/2011

The belly of the beast!

So next week I venture into the belly of the beast.   I will be in the Time Warner Center in NYC next Monday to view a taping of Anderson Cooper’s new talk show.   I applied for the tickets on a whim and what do you know I got them!  Yes it will be cool to see a famous journalist/celebrity up close, but as someone really interested in media and communications, it will also be interesting to see how a TV show is produced.  I hear the studios are always smaller than they look on TV and I’ve been warned to bring  a sweater in case it gets chilly (something about moderating the temperature to ensure the cameras properly function…who knew?)

Anyway, that’s just a brief aside that neatly dovetails with our discussion about the global media system and media ownership this week!  Coincidentally, I will be going the offices of one of world’s largest media conglomerations.  Again, as some interested in media and communications, I have long been interested in the prospect of working at a place like TimeWarner.  I work at small non-profit now, so the idea of working for a large corporation with offices all over the world is appealing to me.  Funnily enough, the very things that I consider to potential benefits of working at TimeWarner are seen as nefarious symbols of too much ownership concentrated among too few.  Robert McChesney really sounded the alarm about media ownership in his piece and I do see his point.  In order to have a rich and dynamic public sphere, many voices have to be included and one should be vigilant that a corporations like TimeWarner doesn’t use its power to crowd others out.

As a various consumer of media, I think it’s a privilege to live in the U.S. and feel like I have access to whatever kind of information I want, even if I have to spend a little more time to find it.  Perhaps I would feel differently if I lived in another part of the world.   The Thussu reading discusses how non-Western countries are concerned about media flows somehow interfering with their social/political affairs.  If we want to get metaphorical, I suppose the U.S. and it’s media consumers are on high ground where they have the vantage point to survey other media flows?

10/07/2011

The Regulator!

“To regulate, or to deregulate?  That is the question….”   I know….cheesy!  But it does seems like the U.S. has some kind of existential crisis about the place of regulation in our economic affairs.  Like Dr. Hayden mentioned in class, it is widely acknowledged that deregulation is one of the key factors in the near collapse of the financial system.  Yet, it seems that now regulation is the dirty word…it’s curious.

I think like most things, moderation is always a good rule of thumb.  Sometimes, given that I don’t have a deep economic understanding of anything, I feel like I am just regurgitating Democratic talking points when I advocate for regulation.  But it just seems to make common sense that you would at least have some.

The various methods of regulation are broken down nicely in the piece by Siochru and Girard.  I see the need for a little bit of industry and societal regulation.  A little industry regulation is definitely needed to encourage plurality and diversity…both are needed in the interest of maintaining a robust public sphere.  A little society is needed too….while I think the whole furor over Janet Jackson and Nipplegate was a little overwrought, there needs to be some policing a content.  I wouldn’t advocate for the kind of societal regulation that makes the BBc possible, although I have nothing against the BBC…I think I prefer the model we have here with PBS.

09/30/2011

Never thought of myself as post-modern!

Our discussion about the nature of globalization was eye-opening in a couple of ways I didn’t expect.   Let’s talk a little bit about postmodernism to begin.  I’ve heard the term bandied about before but I never knew exactly what it meant. Thankfully, John Sinclair provided a clear and thorough description of postmodernism in his piece.  Sinclair said postmodern theory conceives of an individual subject as being  “composed not of one single and relatively constant identity but, rather, of multiple identities that become mobilized within different cultural discourses (74).”

In the case of my family, I think post-modern is a pretty apt description.  Both of my parents are from Nigeria, and they came to the U.S. for university.  I was born here…right here in Washington, DC in fact so I’m what some call a “first-generation” American.  I had the good fortune to live in Nigeria for a year when I was around 10-years old, but besides studying abroad for a semester, the rest of my time has been spent in this country.  Our discussion of globalization and nationalism over the past couple of weeks inspired some self-reflection….

The culture and traditions of the US very much inform who I am.  Nevertheless, my Nigerian heritage is also a significant part of what makes me who I am today, despite having spent only a fraction of my life there.  This feeling runs counter to the critics of globalization who worry about cultural imperialism.  Identity really isn’t a zero-sum game – my identifying strongly with my Nigerian heritage doesn’t make me feel any less American or vice-versa.  I assume my parents feel the same way.   They became naturalized U.S. citizens a long time ago, but I’m sure they don’t fee any less Nigerian.  They still speak the language (I don’t…unfortunately), cook the food, and occasionally make return-trips to see family.  So, I guess that makes us post-modern?  I am looking forward to telling my mother that she is post-modern – I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of it 🙂

 

09/24/2011

Still Conflicted about Nationalism/Patriotism

Our discussion this week about what nationalism is was very interesting!   It made me think about where patriotism ends and nationalism begins…or maybe patriotism is just a symptom/expression of nationalism?  The discussion made me also think about how nationalistic/patriotic I am (it’s complicated…).  Finally, this week’s readings and discussion made me realize that nationalism is a political, social, and cultural force has a symbiotic relation with media and communications.

To a lay person (which I would have considered myself before I too this class) I think nationalism and communication are probably interchangeable terms.  From our discussion today, I gather that patriotism is a related sort of feeling without some of the negative connotations that nationalism might have.  I’m still a little bit unclear….hopefully I am not the only one.   Even Waisbord says that “nationalism means different things to different people.  One nation’s intolerant chauvinism is the flip-side of another nation’s patriotic sense of difference and community.”

In terms of how nationalistic/patriotic I feel…it depends on the circumstances.  Like Michelle Obama, I was really proud of American after how well Barack Obama did throughout the 2008 election especially when it was clear that he would be the end up winning the presidency.  I wouldn’t have phrased my feelings the way Michelle did (poor thing got in so much trouble!) since I can thinks of moments where I’ve been proud of America before I ever heard of a Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, I identify with her general sentiment of feeling a kind of pride that was new.  It is extraordinary that the U.S. is the first (maybe?) Western countries that has selected someone a minority to be the chief executive.  As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a wonderful reminder that the U.S. is a upwardly mobile society whre some luck, a good education, and a whole bunch of other stuff you can change your circumstance.

Finally, this week was a great lesson about how integral a role the  media plays in how nationalism is perceived.  I think the relationship between media and nationalism is manifested in the concepts of “imagined communities” and the “public sphere.”  Once again, these are things I’ve thought about before this class but our discussion and the readings made things more clear.

09/15/2011

Symbols

We were talking about symbols during the last half of class and it got me thinking.  They were some good examples of symbols that we mentioned in class, and I wish I gave the example of Washington, D.C.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think about it until I was out the door…my timing is impeccable.

In any case, the architecture of Washington are symbols.  From the streets being named after states, to the relative positions of the White House to the Capitol building, Washingtonians are awash in symbols.  After living here in this city so long it is easy to forget or become oblivious.  It really brings home the point that Dr. Hayden was making about the Carey reading: there is a lot more to communication than the ways in which we traditionally practice it (journalism, strategic communications, etc).  The use of symbols as a mode of communication are more subtle but no less interesting.

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