Friday, September 30, 2011

Eye of the Beholder?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A tired cliché we have all heard countless times usually utilized as a defense of personal perspective, taste, and opinion. But, where does the sense of whether something is aesthetically appealing originate? Is it biological, chemical, or environmental? Is it a shared cultural perception or is it product of the media’s interpretation of what is hot and what is not? I believe we can all agree that the answer is: all of the above.

The concept of beauty evolves with time and varies from place to place. But, how does an individual, local, regional, national, and global acceptance of beauty proliferate and become more popular over a wider geographic area. While one could argue whether there is an “accepted” idea of beauty on varying scales, it is undeniable that there are ideal features promoted and depicted in television, film, and print. But, does the media dictate to the public what is acceptable, or do we as the public communicate to the media what is ideal through exercise of individual display? It seems an open channel exists to facilitate shared ideas between the media and the public with the media clearly possessing the upper hand. Ultimately, however, the “media,” comprised of an oligarchy of individuals, project their perceptions of beauty onto the public.

As media and culture become exportable commodities, so with them go the cultural perception of beauty. For producers, network executives, and advertisers appealing to a global mainstream is a top priority. As a result programs and advertisements depict symbols and images that reflect the perceived taste of their audience. But, to what audience are they attempting to appeal? In the process of attracting the widest swath of the population, a strict definition of acceptable is created.

Transnational corporations propagate images and ideas of beauty via marketing campaigns for global consumer goods as well as entertainment media. Altering and tailoring content to a local or regional is typically the sole discretion of the producing organization. While there are instances where content has been changed to reflect racial, ethnical, and cultural differences in each market, some aspects of physical aesthetic remain consistent.

I would love to delve deeper in to the specifications for the “ideal” beauty region by region it would take much more than a short blog post to compare the Western preference for tan skin with Eastern preference for fair skin. Even this vague statement fails do justice for the complexities of regional preference for particular features. However, it is worth watching these videos of McDonald’s commercials from across the globe and comparing and contrasting the actors in them.

I'm out of order?! You're out of order! I put the system on trial!

So I loosely adapted a line from 30 Rock for the title of this post. The real thing is something like "This is a sham, your DIS-honor...Nay, a mockery! I put the system on trial! You can't handle the truth! I'm out of order?! YOU'RE out of order! Victor Sifuentes! HOOAH!"

I thought I should start this post with something funny, because what follows is far from it. In light of the recent media coverage of high-profile legal cases, I would like to dedicate my post this week to discussion of the internationalization of the legal system.

I know coverage of court cases is nothing new, especially in the age of sensationalization, but it's an especially hot-button issue lately thanks to the controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. I don't spend too much time on Facebook, but the day of his execution, I couldn't help but track my news feed as my friends and peers posted notices, action alerts, and their feelings on the matter. In the aftermath of the execution, the momentum from the case is being used to propel the movement against the death penalty (see sites like Amnesty International for confirmation of this). As I'm sure you all know, this case garnered international attention and had folks from all over the world weighing in.

As one country failed to reconsider, another showed mercy. The same day as Troy Davis was executed, Iran released the two remaining captured US hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, from confinement. The Omani government is said to have brokered the arrangement and paid the US $1 million bail. This being a case of international proportions, of course the world was watching. Here's an article on about their release. This case is significant since the hikers were freed with help from a government that was not their own. Does this mean the erosion of the nation-state? Of course not, since it was an interaction between states, but it does show an interest across nations, instead of simply within the nation of note. In other (less-globalized?) points in history, I don't think this arrangement would have been probable.

I know it would take far more than a blog post to really delve into any of the issues, but I have been thinking increasingly about the impact international (and not necessarily diasporic) actors can have on national issues and laws. Does international coverage of legal proceedings keep us all honest or does it erode the ability of the prosecuting nation-state to effectively try suspects? I think more transparency can't be too much of a bad thing, but it's also easy to say that given that it's somewhat of an inevitability at this point. Now if we could only get some more focus on Guantánamo...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

An African Spring?

Earlier this week I read an article on The Atlantic called, "In New Sub-Saharan Leader, Hints of an African Spring." I'd been following the Zambian election, see last week's blog post, and when I saw the headline it peaked my interest since we had just mentioned the Arab spring in class and the importance of social media in driving that event. This part, in particular, stuck with me:
"There are plenty of entrenched presidents in sub-Saharan Africa that could give good impersonations of recently deposed Arab dictators. Zimbabawe's Robert Mugabe is surely a match for Libya's Qaddafi in terms of stubborn self-destruction and bizarre narcissism. Cameroon's Paul Biya, who has so rarely actually governed during his 30 years in power that he sports the nickname "the ghost of Africa," could give Mubarak a decent competition in the realm of complacency and corruption...And yet none of these African autocrats seem threatened by dissent in their own countries."
The relation of the African dictators to those overthrown in the Arab Spring isn't terribly far-fetched and it's an interesting comparison to help readers less knowledgeable about African politics or who may not have heard of Mugabe or Biya.

The issue of Zambia and their election, and especially the case of the new President Michael Sata, is an example of one of the trends that Sinclair talks about in his article. Feelings of nationalism were essential to this election, Sata ran on the campaign of regulating Chinese mines and largely on his popularity and pragmatism. As the article states, "There's something else of Sata's populism that has echoes in the Arab Spring. "Don't kubeba," a phrase taken from a popular song that literally means "don't tell them," became Sata's signature phrase." Nationalism and a focus on the Zambian culture, regulating of foreign investors in the country and protecting the Zambian workers played a huge role in his campaign.

It also is an example of another trend Sinclair describes, the growth of an organization challenging the nation-state, and successfully. It was a clean switch-over of power from the incumbent party to a new ruling party. And, as of now, it seems as if it will continue to go smoothly. Former president Rupiah Banda, who lost his reelection bid, attended the inauguration of Sata and said in interviews he looked forward to his upcoming downtime.

The end of the article, however, makes one of the most important points:
"The Zambian election, for all its signals of a potentially new era in African politics, is also a reminder of one of the most serious challenges to politics there. A true African (political) spring will be unlikely to occur until a younger generation of leaders emerge with real power, at least in civil society if not in electoral politics, closing black Africa's generation gap and making men and women like Sata less of an exception and more of a norm."

Media Olympics

An interesting article that is a few years old, but comments on some happenings after the Beijing Olympics. I'm surprised that author seems to be challenging Korea with his point - since typically Korea has more of a free press than China.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Zambian Election

The Zambian election that took place earlier this week took an interesting turn when technology came into the picture. The incumbent, Rupiah Banda, was a member of a party that had been in power for twenty years and was behind in the polls. The challenger, Michael Sata, came out strongly criticizing Chinese involvement in the mining industry of the country and the lack of oversight on Chinese-run mines. Prior to the election, stories came out that the vice president was accusing opposition parties and private media of attempting to undermine the results of the election and incite violence.

Shortly after the election, riots began to occur because the Electoral Commission of Zambia's website had been hacked, and announced that Sata had won in a landslide. While the website was taken down temporarily and the fake results were removed, the riots were minor and the real results were announced before the end of the week, it was an interesting example of the role of technology in Africa, especially in terms of the electoral process. The readings this week talked about the globalization of the media. Journalists weren't covering the Zambian elections as much as they would for a country like Zimbabwe or Sudan, there isn't a lot of interest in a relatively stable and democratic country. There was coverage in the Chinese media because of their history in the country, especially following the shooting of Zambian miners in a Chinese-run mine by the Chinese mangers. The story was covered, but since then Zambia has fallen out of the spotlight until the hacking of the website to change the results.

This relates to the Castells reading, because it talked about how globalization is creating a challenge for nation-states as a set of institutions. The changing media landscape in places like Zambia is changing how elections and other major events occur. The way they are communicating with the people in the country has changed, they are engaging the citizens of Zambia differently. There is easier and more widespread access to the internet so people can get the poll results online instead of listening for the announcement on the television or radio or even by word of mouth. But that has also created the chance for a crisis of communication, supporters of Sata used the technology to their advantage. They hacked into the website and said that he won in a landslide. The results that are being reported now say he won with 43 percent of the vote. But this is an example of how the changing face of the media, and the growing globalization of the media, is creating a challenge for governments. They need to ensure that websites like those of their Electoral Commissions have the firewalls necessary so people can't hack in and announce the wrong results. But it never would have happened only a few years ago in Zambia, which is why no one probably would have predicted that this would have occurred.

I'll have the salad, please

We've been talking about the difference between a nation and a nation-state, and then proceeding from that idea into a discussion of nationalism. The doubt in my mind is about how we approach the idea of a nation, especially regarding the United States? It's easy enough to identify the US as a nation-state (borders, government, laws, etc) but how do we define it as a "nation"? Is there one American culture that we can all agree upon? Or does it fit enough as a nation that we recognize it's a tremendously diverse place and the "culture" is that of a melting pot? 

A visit to Wikipedia gives an interesting bit of insight into the idea of American culture: the idea has been introduced that we're not a melting pot of a nation, we're a salad bowl. While I'm glad we kept it in the kitchen (possibly my favorite room), I wasn't familiar with the term. It's simple enough to figure out, however: where a melting pot holds a soup made, say, with the help of an immersion blender - no pun intended? - in an attempt to create a uniform taste and texture, a salad bowl contains an assortment of vegetables (well, and fruit, meat, starches, seeds/nuts, condiments) that are left unscathed by a blending mechanism, maintaining their original characteristics. It's the difference between assimilation and multiculturalism, as I understand it. The idea is an obvious oversimplification, but at least it attempts to tackle the big picture. 

And really, how do we define American culture? It seems too weighty of a task to sit down and determine what "American" culture is as we can hardly decide who counts as an American to therefore sort out their similarities and call it culture. (Side note, it's rather a shame that Usonians didn't catch on as a term, as I know Central and South America take some contention to our attempted monopoly on "American." Vespucci can't have known his given name would be in such high demand!) This is where the idea of nation vs nation-state comes into play. It would be easy to say, official government-recognized citizens of the United States are Americans. But of course, nation isn't the same as nation-state; citizenship is therefore disqualified as a metric for "Americanness" and we've hit a roadblock.

Thanks to this roadblock (and a subsequent blown intellectual tire), I don't have a good answer for the question I'm asking. I'm not certain anyone can effectively convince me that there is one culture that is uniquely and uniformly American. Whether it's desirable for us all to assimilate to a prescribed norm (although the necessary next question is: what is that norm and who sets it?), I can't say that I think that's what's at play in the US. It seems we indeed are more of an American salad, replete with varied ingredients (and probably swimming in a full-fat ranch dressing, as these days I'm told you can't consider American culture without considering obesity). This metaphor fits for me especially when I think about the way we talk about salads. It might be taking the metaphor too far, but consider the restaurant menu. Tomato soup is billed as just that, but a salad listing will spell out all of the various components (a la "spinach with tuna, tomato, and raisins"). The shoe fits: American culture is complex enough that you can't just call it "American culture" and have the restaurant patrons understand what they're ordering; all the components must be considered. 

...of course, I haven't really solved my problem, just gotten hungry.

Alphabet Soup

How Exclusion Can Foster Independent Development

It has been argued that the globalization of media and the creation of media conglomerates have yielded productions without a sense of identity that panders to a general audience, resulting in the exclusion of cultural minorities. Programming churned out by major network, particularly in the United States, endeavor to appeal to the widest swath of the population so as to attract advertisers and ultimately increase their revenue. However, the major networks’ goal of appealing to a mainstream audience has created an opportunity for specialty networks to appeal to niche audiences. These networks appear to thrive as new specialty channels are added to the television lineup almost weekly.

Specialty channels present themselves to niche markets targeting a variety of demographics ranging from gender to age and special interest to cultural programming. Examining the proliferation of non-English networks, specifically Spanish-language channels, illustrates that media can facilitate the preservation of minority cultural identity and even the creation of a different media-state within a nation-sate.

Data from the 2010 Census illustrates the trend of minority population growing at a significant rate. Figures from the most recent count indicate that in the last decade the Hispanic population “accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population increase.” As the Spanish-speaking population grows so do the opportunities for niche networks. Television networks like Telemundo and Univision have progressively spread into new markets in an effort to pursue their growing target demographic. The expansion into new markets to reach a target audience directly contributes to an increase in viewership, greater advertising dollars, and ultimately revenue to support the production of in-house production. An article in Miami Today details how the increase of the Hispanic population has generated substantial revenue that can be funneled into independent content production. The networks’ ability to produce Spanish-language programming in the U.S. decreases their reliance on Venezuelan and Mexican imports fostering an independence essential for tailoring programming to the Hispanic-American population. Producing content suited specifically for a community of people within a nation-state rather than for a general population that may share nothing more than a common language exemplifies a media success in supporting minority culture in the nation-state while circumnavigating trans-national media and program imports.

This success demonstrates that the exclusion of minority culture and language from mainstream media can support the creation and success of an entirely different media-state within a nation-state. Perhaps under certain conditions, exclusion from mainstream media can yield a separate medium that creates programming that preserves cultural integrity where it may have been lost if incorporated in major network programming in the first place.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nationalism and the U.S.

Sorry for being late with the blogs, but thankfully it won't effect the group. For my own sake I will get things straight soon.
Okay, on to reading - I was immediately taken in the discussion of nationalism in the Waisboard readings. A day or two leading up to 9/11, one of the talking head segments on, I believe, MSNBC, comparing the current climate of the country to that of the period after the disaster occurred. One of the commentators stated that the feeling of unity country felt after the terrorist attack was brief but powerful; the lack of unity that citizens are confronted with today is one of the country's primary problems. The argument was not that we become jingoistic, as we arguably have a political party that embraces that, but true nationalism, a true coming together of the country. I'm not sure I heard the words "World War II" but they were likely there - it seems that whenever pundits have these conversations WWII comes up, Roosevelt, New Deal and such for comparison. However I haven't recalled anyone mention (on-air anyway) that perhaps the dissent and suspicion plaguing American's today is not being helped by the media's contribution to the division of America.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Ethnic" media, come again?!

Karim H. Karim's piece "Re-viewing the "National" in "International Communication": Through the Lens of Diaspora" discusses the growing importance of diasporic groups in communication. Increasingly, the idea of our world being structured as a web of nation-states is being challenged by different ethnic groups' migrations from one country to the next and the network that is subsequently created by these groups being in contact with each other through radio, Internet, and television.

I found the piece to be quite compelling and in many ways spot-on and very interesting as regards globalization and the availability of an increasing number of ways for people to identify (as citizens of a nation-state, as members of an ethnic or religious group, etc). I had one contention, however, which prompted me to write a questioning note in the margin. This is a bit of a departure from the article's subject matter and is perhaps harping on a detail, but it addresses an important distinction when we're discussing international and global communication. On page 400 of Daya Kishan Thussu's "International Communication: A Reader", Karim states "The role of ethnic media in global communication flows is steadily growing in importance; the transnational ethnic-based commercial broadcasting infrastructure is integral to the increasingly global ethnic economy."

My margin note? "What does he mean by 'ethnic'?" 

I understand that the overarching meaning Karim gives to ethnic is something along the lines of "relating to one ethnicity," and for further assistance, I turned to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for a standard definition: "of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background <ethnic minorities> <ethnic enclaves>"  However, the sentence above struck me as being meant to imply ethnic as non-white, or perhaps non-white American. This may be but a detail, but I think this kind of labeling is to be used with extreme care.

A blog from John McIntyre (at discusses this in the context of some commentary from former congressman Tom Tancredo regarding the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor (a short post, worth a quick look), and he says it as simply as this: "White is as much an ethnic marker as black or Hispanic."

While Hispanic is not the term I prefer, the point is nonetheless clear. White is an ethnic marker - it classes a group of people to a common racial background (thank you, Mr. Webster). This is not a good or a bad marker, just a marker like any other. Of course it comes with its stereotypes, as all markers do, but the important thing is this: if we let ourselves slip into thinking of white (or in some cases white American, as opposed to European) as the absence of color, ethnicity, or culture, we are granting hegemony to it as the "normal", making everything else "ethnic." This may seem like just semantics, but the words we use inform the way we think. And this kind of thinking is dangerous.

Again, I do understand what Karim was saying, but I think this is a vital point to remember as we discuss culture, and communication internationally. White may be the current dominant ethnicity or culture, but it is still just one of many.

The Changing Flow of Communications

The Weaver and Shannon model of communication is one that is used to help us disseminate how news travels from person to person, and more importantly how that message can be changed as it flows down the line. This model is simple enough, it's a linear flow from an information source that generates a message to a transmitter. The transmitter's message can then get interrupted by noise, which tends to change the message from what it was initially, and then the receiver gets the message (now changed by the noise). The receiver then passes that message to the destination. Once it reaches destination, sometimes there will be feedback where the changed message gets back to the information source. If you've ever seen the movie Easy A, this is a prime example of this model. At one point, after hearing how much a story of her has changed, the main character Olive tells her friend, "I worry about the way information circulates at this school." But aside from gossip, is the Weaver and Shannon model as relevant today as it used to be due to the transformation of communication methods?

The underlying theory is definitely still true, messages get impact by noise all the time. There's noise from what's going on around us as we talk about the news, and people are forgetful, they don't always remember exactly what they hear. But in this digital world, I think that noise has less of an impact than it used to. People share the exact links to news stories on Facebook and Twitter instead of just talking about it, preventing the message from getting changed in any real way. They can start a conversation about what's happening without relying on what the other remembers. They can leave comments on news stories with the text right in front of them. It's harder for the noise to change the meaning of the message.

There is definitely still noise that exists, and messages do still get changed, but there's always going to be a link that exists on the internet to that story and what happened, there's more written documentation of what occurred today because of archives available on the internet even of broadcasted stories. Print newspaper copies can be destroyed or lost, and very few people would go back and look at a newspaper archive in a library if they were very dedicated to getting the story from the source. People definitely still talk about the news and what's going on, but if there's any question or doubt most people have a smartphone where they can look up the story right away or reference it if there is that much of a concern. I think the model is important to understand in general, but with the changes in technology it's not as relevant to the flow of communications today.

American Media Imperialism

Daya Thussu begins an interesting conversation on media imperialism in conjunction with his explanation of the dependency theory of international communication and more specifically, cultural imperialism in chapter 2 of his book International Communication: Continuity and Change. Media imperialism theory argues that the national identity of a smaller or lesser developed country is lost due to the overwhelming influence from larger or more developed nations’ mass media.

The theory is seen as a negative influence because it indirectly restricts the freedom of speech, press, etc in the smaller country as well as force a particular ideology on the smaller country through the larger country type and choice of media content. It also supposes a one way flow of media and thus content and information so that anything that reaches the smaller, less developed countries has already flowed through and been interpreted and possibly manipulated by the larger, more developed nations

The theory began to gain popularity, and subsequent criticism, in the 1970s when the decline of European colonial empires and dominance of US technology forced the countries that wanted access to it, to also import American culture. He cites several studies on US cultural and media dominance including Hollywood’s influence in the European movie market, US TV exports to Latin America, Disney cartoons promoting capitalism and the American advertising that accompanies almost all media products promoting an ideology.

I agree that American media imperialism exists and can be a bad thing, but I don’t think it was intentionally promoted by the US government, or how to handle it now. The private sector can only respond to demand. Many international companies are now trying to tailor their media content to the demands of the recipient society, though the channels for them to express that demand must be supported by local government. Simply withdrawing from those markets would be silly and never occur. Any change to the status quo would need to be supported by the public sector and both recipient and supplier country governments. Governments are doing this as well by providing subsidies for local programming, promoting education so that private sector media is able to develop within the recipient country and opening up channels so that the local public can express their demand. If they demand it, the private sector will come.

American Dreams: Ambiguity of Enhanced Communication

The role that symbols play in communication, specifically in media, is undeniably integral.
In order to communicate effectively we must construct a message that can be readily interpreted by the recipient. The continual advent of new technology allows these messages to assume a myriad of forms beyond traditional correspondence and conversation to include anything from tweets to videos. New technology has facilitates our ability to share information and ideas in greater detail as we have progressed from communicating critical information via dots and dashes to expressing opinions in the form of YouTube videos and Facebook posts. While having a significantly greater number of mediums at our disposal has allowed us to share more complex thoughts and ideas, the increased variables involved in communication have ensured divergent translation of the same communication.

As the moving image has become an indispensible component of modern communication and media it has contributed to the increased complexity of communication. Enhancing the recipient’s sensory experience though film, television, and the Internet has introduced non-verbal communication as an essential component to the translation of a message. Movement, body language, clothing, color, and lighting are among a range of non-elements that can directly manipulate the interpretation of a presented message. Suits have become symbolic of power and affluence, while the American flag and the red, white, and blue conjure feelings of patriotism, and national unity. The complimentary effect of verbal communication and visual symbolism can provide clarity and facilitate the unpacking and translation of a message. However, while the addition of visual enhancements can certainly clarify communication, it can also alter its meaning or distort an argument opening it up to numerous translations of the same message.

The consequence of visual aspects of communication is most apparent in the news media and film. While most us would detect impending doom in a film as the lighting dims and the soundtrack intensifies, a recipient’s translation of such symbols and ability to correlate the various components involved may not always be the sender’s intended message.
An individual’s interpretation of symbols is deeply rooted in infinite factors including, but not limited to personal experience, culture, nationality, and identity. The recipient’s process of unpacking and reconstructing the various components of a message is directly impacted by these personal variables.

For instance, I would like you to watch this music video with the sounded MUTED. What do you think the theme of the song is? What do you think the lyrics could be? Where did this artist originate? How does the video make you feel?

After watching the muted video, play it back and compare what your interpretation of the video’s message with what you believe the message to be based upon the lyrics. Even after combining the visual and auditory elements of the video are any of our interpretations the same as the artist’s intended message? Answering that question requires research into the sender’s background and personal history, but even then we still can’t be certain of the intended message unless the sender deconstructs the message further into less complex forms of communication. So while the incorporation of additional elements of messages has made communication much richer it has also made it more ambiguous and thus more difficult to translate correctly.

While artistic expression is an abstract form of communication that incorporates tone and thematic elements that may be absent in hard news media, nonetheless it illustrates how we each interpret minute or significant details to construct our own definitions, our own interpretations, and our reality.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Propaganda: Are We Okay With This?

One of the types of international communication I find most compelling is the use of propaganda by the state in its relationships with other states. Propaganda is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “official government communications to the public that are designed to influence opinion.” The communication can be geared towards a state’s own public, or the global public; and the information communicated can be true or false to fit the standard definition.

Daya Thussu discusses how propaganda has been used throughout history in his book International Communication: Continuity and Change. While most states no longer have an official office of propaganda, many states did before the two world wars and superficially changed the name once the use of propaganda became negatively affiliated with Nazism or communism. The truth is, propaganda is still used just as prolifically by developed, democratic states as it was by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. In addition to propaganda used by China, North Korea and recent Arabic regimes, propaganda was widely used by the US government during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1947 which condemned the use of propaganda which threatened peace.

I ask, should a government be engaging in communication to “influence public opinion”? At least in a democracy, shouldn’t the government be only acting on public opinion, not influencing it? What is a legitimate use of propaganda by a government? If propaganda is used to influence, and therefore change public opinion, when does it not threaten peace? Are we okay with this?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Communication in the Third World: The MacBride Commission

Throughout my studies, I’ve always been very aware of the inequalities in communication and the ways that different countries are portrayed in the media. There is definitely a stronger and more positive news flow from countries like South Africa that has more of a hold on the Western culture, than somewhere like Sudan or Southern Sudan who is normally the subject of the news for negative reasons.

In the Thussu reading, it discussed the MacBride Commission and the ways that members of the Third World attempted to break the inequality that existed within the media, which in turn "reinforced and perpetuated inequality in development" (Thussu 31). I think that the Commission had the right idea, but there was too much politicization of ideas driven by the West.

News coming from places in the Third World, like Africa, does normally have a negative connotation if it isn't coming from a more "Westernized" country. When you hear that something happened in Sudan, for example, you are going to make a certain assumption about it and most of the time that will be negative. The Sudanese media doesn't control the message that is put out about their country, the news put out is mostly by foreign correspondents or human rights organizations working in the country who know that stories of refugees and mass atrocities are going to get more recognition in most cases.

Also, the "Westernized" countries arguably have a stronger grasp of the news flow in the international market because they understand how news is disseminated. They also have access to greater technology, which makes producing news easier, and it can reach more of their population in the form that it was originally created like a newspaper or television news broadcast.

I also thought it was interesting how Thussu talked about opposition to the MacBride Commission, and how it was mostly the West that opposed on the basis of a "bias against private ownership of media and communication facilities" (Thussu 34) and also " 'problems created in a society by advertising' " (Singh and Gross qtd. in Thussu 34). Sometimes I believe the U.S. has more of a problem with advertising since it is such a huge industry here, and is some cases is even helping to keep the print news media alive. While I would love to see a more equal flow in the quality and quantity of international news across all borders, I know that there would be the same political problems today, if not more, than there were in 1980 when it was created.

Thank you, Mr. Gutenberg

We've been reading about the information revolution and its effects on our world, and I'd like to talk a bit about language, specifically as it relates to the printing press. Elizabeth C. Hanson discusses the printing press with movable type as the first real mass medium in "The Information Revolution and World Politics,". The invention of the printing press had immense effects on the world, including ushering the Protestant Reformation into the global eye and bringing down the Catholic monopoly on information. John Calvin's and Martin Luther's works were distributed in French and German, respectively. This is novel, of course, because before this time, the written word not only assumed a literate public, but one who knew Latin - which wasn't likely the spoken language of choice at the farmer's market during that time.

The pen quickly proved as mighty as the sword as Calvin's and Luther's Protestant Reformation raged - but something else was happening as well. I'll quote here from Hanson:

"The 'logic of print capitalism' helped to consolidate the hundreds of vernacular language that were used in medieval Europe into a few standardized, uniform languages, a process that profoundly affected the political structure of Europe. The search for larger book markets encouraged production in the language most people spoke, rather than Latin, but there was tremendous linguistic diversity. Which version of French or German, for example, would be used? In order to reduce costs, expand the market, and maximize profits, booksellers had to settle on one version and to standardize spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. Certain dialects were closer to the print language than others, and these eventually became the dominant spoken language across large territories...The printing press facilitated the communication of ideas and information across large areas, but ironically, it also contributed to the language barriers that would limit communication between nations."

What a fascinating and relevant idea - the printing press led to the creation of the European languages we know now. This brings up a few questions for me, and I'd love to hear what everyone out in the blog world thinks about these:

1) How many languages must there have been before they were assimilated into the languages we're familiar with today? How did having those languages and dialects exist make it any easier to communicate between regions? How much was lost in the switch? How might things be different today if it weren't for this standardization? (Anyone else thinking of the Tower of Babel?)

2) What are the real pros and cons of having a standardized language? What does this do to our economies, political structures, and abilities to communicate?

3) As we enter a new information revolution of sorts, are we in danger of this happening again? While my immediate thought is that emoticons and web acronyms are widespread and beginning to be adopted on official levels, I don't entirely mean to turn the debate on the death of proper English. What effects are the internet really having on our language(s)?

The Price of Communication: From Slow and Costly to Fast and Free

When the proliferation of communication systems began in the nineteenth century, access was limited to empires that could afford to dedicate resource and capital to the production and installation of undersea cables. Beyond the hardware requisite to the spread of information, empires also controlled information paths as they established different nodes and spurs suited to specific geopolitical needs. During wartime, control of such routes allowed empires to limit or even cut-off information to a particular region. This allowed empires, such as the British Empire, to inundate information centers with propaganda to support a particular cause or quash a potential uprising.

Control of information was not unique to telegraph communication via undersea cables. Because early news agencies, such as Reuters, Havas, and Wolff were closely aligned to a particular state, many times the information generated by these news agencies was manipulated its relationship with its parent state. State domination of information communication persisted throughout the first half of the twentieth century as states and news agencies battled for control of information channels whether the medium be print, telegraphy, or film.

While information is still manipulated as tool for propaganda even today, access to a myriad of information sources and the ease with which it can be accessed has revolutionized information proliferation. The advent of the Internet and social media has catalyzed the evolution of communication beyond its historical ancestry. Today, one needs nothing more than an Internet connection to independently determine the source and type of information one wishes to access. Rather than being at the mercy of the printing press, telegraph, and government control, for the most part individuals can circumnavigate various gatekeepers and can instantaneously share or acquire information.

Recent rare natural phenomenon on the East Coast illustrates the ease with information is shared today. During the recent earthquake that impacted a substantial portion of the Mid-Atlantic, social media proved to beat traditional media to reporting on the event. Many posted to Twitter and Facebook moments after, and even during, the earthquake to report reaction to the situation while hypothesizing the cause of the moderate vibrations. The social media reaction demonstrated the speed and ease with which information is shared and the non-existent cost associated with communication.

Having developed new technologies that avoid gatekeepers in the form of state-aligned communication agencies, information has not only become easier and faster to share and access, but it has also become something that many things are not: virtually free.