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Negotiating Opposite Messages December 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 8:44 pm

In, A Theoretical Agenda for Entertainment-Education, Singhal and Rogers address resistance in the message environment.   They term American tv shows  “which valorize lewdness, sexual irresponsibility, greed, and other antisocial messages” as “entertainment degradation” or “entertainment perversion.”  I would actually group The Biggest Looser with these programs, as it reinforces negative assumptions about health and wellness (in addition to the intrinsic value system messaged through the show), though under the more dangerous semblance as a positive health promoting multiplatform mechanism.

Describing entertainment-education’s challenge in confronting opposing positive health and social messaging, they write, “A subtler, yet more potent form of resistance to E-E discourses comes from a sea of media message in which, for instance, aggression is exemplified and portrayed as a preferred solution, socially sanctioned by super heros who triumph over evil by violent means.  Such portrayals legitimize, glamorize, and trivialize himan violence (Bandura, 2001, p. 277), complicating the task of E-E interventions.” ( 125) The Biggest Looser serves as an example of such pseudo “preferred solutions” in the domestic social context as well as “entertainment perversion” in its role conveying American culture in the international sphere.



Pragmatic Complexity and Ritual November 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 9:32 am

The strategy of “pragmatic complexity,” as discussed in A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas, underscores experimentation and complexity as essential factors for strategic communication.  This contrast between the message influence model and a pragmatic complexity model parallels James Carey’s concept of a transmission versus a ritual view of communication.

In, Communication as Culture, Carey describes a ritual view of communication as, “directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward the maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs.” (18) In the ritual view, communication is a structure, a networked set of beliefs that creates and maintains a reality for a group of individuals.  This view reflects the complexity of the “system as a whole” and the context of persons A and B while also acknowledging the meaning making and preservation function of communication.

Corman writes that, “In the language of communication science, communication is the medium through which individuals and groups construct their social realities.  Once a system – a social reality – is created, it has a tendency to sustain itself even in the face of contradictory information and persuasive campaigns.  Members of the system routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning.  To accomplish this they interpret messages in ways that “fit” the existing scheme, rather than in ways that senders may intend.” (8)

In this way, Corman emphasizes the critical need to work with existing narratives to transformatively create new frames and beliefs, understanding ritual and redefining your narrative and message within it.



Global News Networks and Structural Violence November 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 11:58 pm

In, On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below, Paul Farmer describes structural violence as an intrinsic denial of people’s fundamental humanity through the structures of everyday life and social constructs that are continually reproduced.


Media play a central role in creating and affirming belief systems, central narratives, and worldviews by setting the agenda, and this includes what is and what is not discussed globally.   Farmer mentions that silence is a central culprit in enforcing existing structures (or, literally, lack thereof in terms of underdevelopment).


Powers and El-Nawawy discuss the impact of media globalization in terms of their impact on fostering or hindering cross-cultural understanding and reconciliation, especially in the context of war journalism.  They mention that, “Hafez attributes this failure of media globalization to the fact that ‘the media follow rather than lead’ (p.54).  That is, rather than challenging people’s perspective or providing competing worldviews, the news media typically work toward the ‘affirmation and legitimization of national politics’ (p.54).” (265)


They elaborate on the way in which people turn to particular news media that cater to their worldview.  Essentially, people turn to voices that continue to affirm their core narratives rather than challenging or contextualizing them within a broad scope of perspectives.


In this way, the media facilitate Farmer’s structural violence by acting as mediators between structures and reflecting the status quo, or as Powers and El-Nawawy describe, “stories…that are ideologically in line with their [publics] worldviews” (266) when engaging in “war journalism.”  It falls to individual agency from both Farmer’s perspective and Powers and El-Nawawy  to engage as a global citizen.



Civic Space for Collective Action November 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 7:04 pm

Movements for social justice globally seems to be increasing due to the emergence of ICTs particularly within the context of the transition to a more networked society.  Despite Jeffrey S. Juri’s observation that the facilitation that global networked systems have applied to collective citizen activism, interpersonal connection and collective public space still seem to be the authentic galvanizing and activating factors.

In Citizens’ Communication and the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, Cinzia Padovani writes that, “Even in an era of computer-mediated social networks, a shared identity, personal relationships, spatial proximity, and mutual trust still represent “important facilitators of collective action” (Diani, 2004, p. 352). The power of each of those connectors to spur social and communication actions was palpable in L’Aquila, where the residents-turned-activists were moved by a thirst for re-establishing personal ties and recreating lost public spaces.”

As many of the comments made in our class discussion illustrate, a major motivator behind activism is forming social solidarity through collective action.  Many people choose to take on a cause aimed at eradicating a problem or contributing to a broad effort addressing a larger issue to connect with others who share a similar idealism and perspective.  Not to say that this is the primary motivator, but is significant, particularly when examining commitment and longevity.  A detached contribution is not on par with community led projects or a similar type of collective action within the context of public space.







Smart Power and “Better Stories” November 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 12:47 pm

In, Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society, Castells presents the idea of a “new communication space” and a resulting shift in power negotiations into the media as a social space.  This is interesting when thinking about the construction of meaning and narrative.  Not only are we operating as global citizens in a network society, but we are also tasked with an increasingly crucial focus on creating more cooperation and harmonization of international and intercultural interests.

Joseph Nye, in a TED lecture on global power shifts, discusses how many of the problems we will face in this century rely on cooperation to solve.  “As we think of power in the 21st century, we want to get away from the thought that power is always zero sum, my gain is your loss and vice versa.  Power can also be positive sum, where my gain is your gain.”

A similar concept was addressed by John Stewart regarding domestic politics at the Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday.  He asked everyone to think in terms of cooperation and solidarity while reframing our core narratives.  In his description of ‘smart power,’ Nye cited a simple example of such reframing on a very different plane: envisioning that empowering China to deal with its own problems would be good for everyone.  Imagine how different things would be if the central narrative in the media social space were centered on cooperation.  Nye mentioned that, “Hard power is there an it will remain, but unless you learn how to mix hard power with soft power, into strategies that I call smart power, your not going to deal with the new problems that we’re facing…There are ways to define our interest in which, while protecting ourselves with hard power, we can organize with others in networks to produce not only public goods but ways that will enhance our soft power.” http://blog.ted.com/2010/10/26/global-power-shifts-joseph-nye-on-ted-com/

Castells mentions that, “The way people think determines the fate of norms and values on which societies are constructed…the development of the technology of self-communication is also the product of our culture, a culture that emphasizes individual autonomy, and the self-construction of the project of the social actor.”  As both a highly individualized network society and one which depends on soft power and global cooperation, it is crucial to tell better stories and to reframe the central narratives in our social space and media.





Molding the Standard October 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 4:11 pm

The Network Power of Facebook

In Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization, Grewal describes “network power” and the implications of “shared standards.”  As odd as it may seem, I have just recently committed to using Facebook habitually.  A few years ago, I attempted to do so and after I created an account, added the majority of my ‘real’ friends, and immediately felt an overwhelming sense of regret and nagging obligation, I deactivated it.  I actually felt somewhat oppressed by Facebook- I didn’t actually enjoy using it, thought all my friends relied on my having an account to keep in touch when I moved from Hawaii to the mainland.   Reading Grewal, I instantly recalled this ‘standard’ and its corresponding constraining facets.  He mentions that, “In a networked world, the question of which standards people use to coordinate their activities is enormously important, and it raises complicated issues. For example, the use of shared standards does enable us to participate in a new global economy and to do and experience lots of fantastic things. But on the other hand, to enjoy those benefits, you usually don’t have any choice but to connect up using a certain, specific set of standards—to accept, that is, the dominant standards of the day…” Certain privileges were revoked as soon as I deactivated my Facebook account; my alternatives (such as receiving photos from travels via email) were eliminated.  Not only did I not coordinate my social life on Facebook, by not having it, I was actively rejecting the network.  I was essentially saying no to an imposition on my ‘choice making.’

Several weeks ago, I reactivated my account for a work project and have begun to appreciate its role in spreading information and connecting with old friends all over the world.  This new concept of Facebook aligns with Grewal’s observation of two essential ways to view globalization: The first is that “globalization represents an increase in human freedom, new opportunities for individuals to connect and collaborate outside the purview of the national regulatory regimes to which they were once subject. It brings new opportunities to roam the world with ideas and ambition and money and to do things in new ways.  The second view is that globalization is constraining; it’s hegemonic; it’s sometimes called imperial, representing a new kind of empire.”  I think it’s possible to maintain the first view by carving out “islets” of freedom within hegemony, and to mold or a bend a standard.



Nicaraguan Telenovelas & Health Promotion October 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 4:40 pm

Riding a ‘chicken’ bus from Granada to Rivas, Nicaragua, last week, I examined the “flows of international media and cultural imperialism” discussed in Jade L. Miller’s  Ugly Betty goes global : Global networks of localized content in the telenovela industry.  While reading Miller’s piece, I sat watching a Nicaraguan music video spliced with clips from Lady Ga Ga’s Bad Romance music video on repeat.  Sometime around two hours later, traveling on the ferry from Rivas to the Isla, I watched a Columbian telenovela episode which chronicled a pregnant teenager negotiating public transportation in the initial throws of labor. 

In exploring tensions between the local and the global through the production and “canned” content of telenovelas, it seemed interesting to examine this tension and the issue of cultural imperialism in the context of media and entertainment for health promotion.  TV and soap operas used for entertainment and health communication programs target and carry very specific memes, cultural norms, and perspectives.  In Nicaragua, for instance, PATH, an international nonprofit organization (http://www.path.org/) has created a TV soap opera (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/306320_pathwomen07.html) to address domestic violence and sexual abuse.  This series targets adolescent girls and aims to modify cultural assumption s that enable domestic violence through empowering viewers. PATH worked with the University of Leon to develop a series that would communicate this message effectively within this culturally specific context; however, I wonder how in using entertainment subversively, and in this case, tv soap operas, to communicate messages about women’s rights and/or mental health, such programs approach the issue of cultural imperialism particularly when engaging in health communication.  In other words, how does the use of media, when utilized as a tool to effect social and/or health behavior change, create and reflect social norms? And how do health development organizations approach cultural beliefs surrounding health – Attribution theory, for instance – and integrate these factors within their communication programs?  In this vein, it’s interesting to explore current campaigns and various approaches being taken.

South Africa: Condoms Star in a Sex Film With a Message: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/19global.html?_r=1&ref=world

In a TV comedy, Egyptian women gain a voice on marriage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/16/AR2010101601562.html