Posts tagged ‘Communications’

11/11/2011

Why the Government Should Hire Me (Us)

Communications scholars continue to debate the influence of social media on political change, activism, and other social phenomena that seem to have some undetermined corollary effect on how society functions. Researchers analyze Twitter feeds to determine where collective activism and communication is taking place. Governments have a stake in the trend, whether their intentions are to encourage thriving democratic movements or to shut them down.

One thing is true: The government especially need people who can locate paths of information. They are trying to use open source data mining tools to piece together information for conversations in the future. Whether this is through traditional forms of communication or new media-shaped political debates about the Arab Spring, the government needs graduates from good communications programs to fill voids in international relations and public diplomacy who are cued into contemporary studies on new media, media ownership, and communication. We are systems people. We want to know why things work the way they do beyond the typical discussions in the public forum. In the complex web of public-private interests, where are the choke points?

Social media through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other significant feeds spreads ideas across international borders. But the means of analyzing this information is still a bit hazy. Open source data means no personal identification, which can be beneficial for international advocates for human rights, but difficult for data mining. Knowing what communication paths to trust and identify is also one of the roles of a communications scholar. As government plays a crucial role in world affairs, it seems timely and relevant that it would start looking to graduate students that understand how to use new media in the context of culture, world affairs, and public diplomacy.

09/23/2011

The Decline of the Nation State? What’s Next?

British International Development Minister visits Liberia

Human constructs may be manufactured but can carry very real power and influence. The evolution of the nation state gradually redefines borders and areas of governance. From philosopher and writer Ernest Renan’s description of this “daily plebiscite” in 1882 to what we recognize as nation states today, these constructs require a certain importance and buy-in by the greater people or it well ceases to exist.

In class, we raised several challenging questions: Does a nation state cease to exist simply when those enforcing its existence cease to recognize it any longer? As the rise of globalization presents challenges at the international level, has the nation state lost the support and confidence of the people?

Castells attributed media in part for de-linking people and the nation state in the current crisis of legitimacy that exists. As media originally communicated the design and implementation of the nation state, it also aided the vast global expansion in communication between nations. As our society becomes more global in nature, the problems become more complex.

With greater communication and interconnectedness, we also face issues that often involve several nation states, or that one nation cannot control. For example, the economic turmoil that currently affects the U.S. is equally present in Europe and many other parts of the world. After September 11, the U.S. buckled down on its security measures and implemented the Patriot Act in an effort to control any attempted acts of terror. And the demand for cyber-related professionals continues to grow as cyber security threatens network availability and sensitive data. None of these issues exist in a vacuum. None of them affect only the U.S.

So if the nation state can’t possibly address many of our national security issues alone, what kind of a construct can? And further, for the growing number of citizens that don’t think the nation state represents them anymore, does this mean a new, more representative construct is needed?

Academically or idealistically, we might entertain an argument for global governance or even global citizenship. But the reality of tribalism, religious conflict, and other traditions that naturally separate out different tribal groups pose a real difficulty in terms of governance and power struggle. Perhaps a greater consideration is how we can come to live in a society that benefits from greater cooperation and harmony without reliance on the nation state governing body, but the implications may be unrealistic at this point in time.

09/10/2011

Security Vs. Freedom: The Politics of Communications Technology

The debate over public versus private sector ownership and development of communication resources has a loaded and extensive history, which often seems to escape conversations of net neutrality, public investment in broadband , and new TSA security measures in the 21st century.

Armand Mettelart’s “The Emergence of Technical Networks” subtly traces the public-private sector line through the first forms of communicating up to the 19th century. From long-distance communications (the “black cabinet” of French King Louis XI in 1464) to electric telegraphy to the first post office, Mettelart’s history relates the fear-driven policies of the nation states surrounding these communications to the rise of technical networks and communication as vessels of mass opinion.

Today, we have the same conversations about policies of security and freedom to negotiate between public and private sector in the communications field, but we may lack the hindsight to understand the implications of security upon the communications architectures coming into play.

We are familiar with discussions of propaganda, as Dr. Gary Weaver pointed out in “The Evolution of International Communication As A Field of Study.” And as the 10th anniversary of September 11 approaches, we know the tangible ways communication technologies have filled the call for greater security and – some argue – greater infringements on personal freedoms.

Perhaps the greater conversation is the type of politics that communication tools carry, if any. Perhaps wielded by a state obsessed with ultimate control, this is irrelevant. But might we have communication architectures that inevitably lean more toward state control or more toward individual freedom depending on who is controlling them or that inherently carry a certain message to the masses?