Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week 13 THE SECRET FORMULA OF REALITY TV SHOWS ADAPTED BY INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS

THE SECRET FORMULA OF REALITY TV SHOWS ADAPTED BY INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS

When examining the success of International reality TV shows across countries, we basically agree with the formula of it: Consistent in the basic format which is featuring "real" people's live in "Real life" settings, while adapting the contents to the local cultural and environments, such as using the local castings, languages, fashions, etc.
I found this similar to the U.S. based International Companies overseas strategy: which is the strategy I call "Contingency"

P&G is the Top 1 American brand in China and the Top 1 consumer products brand in China in general. Two key concepts in the P&G cross-cultural advertising strategy are uncovered: cultural threshold and cultural acceptance of American brands.
P&G has well understood the importance that culture and values posses in cross-cultural advertising, and therefore P&G has implemented a successful contingency strategy to sell to China. When taking a closer look at the contingency strategy of P&G, it is clear that P&G integrates the standardization and localization strategies to accommodate the Chinese cultural values in the hopes of facilitating cross-cultural advertising while still maintaining the consistent brand image via the standardization approach. However, the research also found out that by merely applying such contingency strategy does not guarantee success. P&G has got a special formula. P&G not only realizes the need to play the cultural game in cross-cultural advertising, but also has figured out how to play it in the way that Chinese favor. Since Chinese audiences are born and raised in a high-context culture which emphasizes symbolic cultural values, the two key concepts below have significant functions.

CULTURAL THRESHOLD
First of all, the cultural elements in P&G commercials serve as the Cultural Threshold. It basically means that Chinese consumers would not be able to acknowledge the unique function of the product without citing the cultural context in the commercials as reference of their values, and it is only after the values reflected in the commercials echo with that in the audience can the audience starts to pay attention respectively to the unique function and selling points of the products. Unlike consumers in Western culture who are more likely to focus on the quality and unique function of the products rather than whether or not the values imbedded in the products are consistent with theirs, the high-context culture and the popular symbolic cultural values has determined the way that Chinese consumers accept a brand/product. Chinese consumers have to accept a commercial as a whole, rather than merely focusing on the products and ignoring the sub-culture in it.
P&G commercials are constructed on the fundamental Chinese values which are deeply rooted among the majority of Chinese public. Therefore, the cultural cues in the commercials serve as the threshold to get people to accept the commercial as a whole. Without passing through the cultural threshold, Chinese consumers can hardly consumers be prepared well enough to accept and absorb the selling points of the products. Without passing through the cultural-threshold, the process of appealing to the Chinese consumers can be impeded by any pre-established cultural resistance towards American culture and brands, or any feeling of distance towards an unfamiliar new brand/foreign brand.

CULTURAL ACCEPTANCE FOR WESTERN BRANDS
As mentioned before, Chinese consumers have to accept a commercial along with the culture and values it incorporated, but it is the next phase that actually leads from mind blowing to behavioral changes. The cultural acceptance basically means that after the Chinese consumers cross over the cultural threshold and are ready to know about the products, the large amount of culture and values imbedded in the commercial, which are tailored to the Chinese consumers’ value systems help lose the cultural distance/feeling of alienation and cultural resistance to the western brands. Thus, the consumers can easily relate the product to any familiar scenarios in their life, and subconsciously loss their cultural resistance or the feeling of alienation. The process of getting over the cultural threshold to accepting the values and cultures conveyed in the commercials actually leads to the purchasing behavior.
Moreover, this process also makes the products’ origin of country ambiguous to the Chinese consumers. From the result of the focus groups, we have already witnessed how much the respondents relate the products to Chinese domestic brands/manufactures/companies. As part of the process of getting audience losing their cultural resistance, the selected P&G commercials emphasize the high-standard quality of the products and down-play the products’ country of origin.

In summary, Chinese consumers take culture and values into account when they make decision to accept a western brand. The commercials, as a way to pitch the western brands to the Chinese consumers have to integrate the unique selling points of the products and the cultures and values as a whole. Merely focusing on the products and ignoring the sub-culture cannot effectively appeal to the target audience. The soft sell-contingency strategy which incorporates Chinese culture and values is proved to be effective for the American brands who want to sell to China.
As the biggest consumer products manufacture in U.S., P&G’s cross-cultural advertising practice has provided one of the successful stories for other American brands who are ambitious for Chinese market.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reality TV is still TV

Yesterday's presentations sparked some interesting dialogue around issues of both the effects and intentions of reality programming. While some tended to the side that reality television could serve a beneficial purpose, others were more skeptical of its perceived altruistic value. I side with the latter half. To me, whatever the positive effects TV might have for an individual, they are personal. The foundation for any television show is its value as an economic good. Reality television is no exception, it was created because of its economic advantages over programming that needed heavy investments in production. I have no problem with the overweight guy who watches The Biggest Loser and subsequently makes positive lifestyle changes. But TV executives have a handle on this tendency for viewers to seek out themes in shows with which they can reconcile their own identity. And they profit on it through advertising, merchandising, and making even more of the same programming. Although not reality programming, Subway Jared probably made a ton of money through the realization of Subway that they could capitalize by being relatable. As long as people are able to separate what is contrived and what is authentic on TV, then all is fine. But without trying to sound too cynical, many people cannot always make this distinguishment, myself included. It is because producers are so adept at blurring that line, and reality television is still supposed to be just that, real. It is why reality programming is only spreading and why advertisers are increasingly looking to the genre for opportunities to sell their products in the context of real life and 'relatibility.'

Reality TV can absolutely be beneficial, but I don't think those are societal effects. They are limited to individuals who identify with the shows in a positive way. In the case of The Biggest Loser, maybe they join 24 Hour Fitness, eat more Yoplait and Gortons products, lose 20 pounds, and spend a few hundred dollars. In the end, it is wonderful that someone was able to draw positives from watching the show-but the programming itself has no more inherent moral value than a thirty second commercial-they are both created for the same purpose. The societal effects of reality television may have more serious implications such as encouraging superficial judgements of people, creating unrealistic expectations, and perpetuating negative stereotypes of really tan Italian Americans.

Week 13: On Presentations--Reality Television

This week, we didn’t have a whole lot of time for a discussion of the readings, but since the group projects both focused on how cultural products are localized, namely, how television shows cross borders and achieve success, I think it’s a good jumping off point. Audience is the most important factor when trying to market a television show, despite a project’s budget or content. If the audience isn’t the first consideration, they will notice, and not return to a television show. This has been in large part why reality programs are so adaptable cross-culturally. Reality programs, which tend to aim for the lowest common denominator demographically, have a relatability factor which scripted shows can lack (in the sense that they are generally focused on niche markets). Whether reality programs focus on health issues, entertainment, competition, or personal achievement, there will always be an audience for it.

What audiences may not realize, however, is just how orchestrated a reality program is—everything from product placement to the people chosen for the show is a carefully strategized plan designed to create suspense and drama, or entertainment or salacious television that will suck viewers in. This could be representative of a Western culture (where the idea for reality programming originated) which is replete with consumerist messages, or could merely be reflective of a commodification of experience which is necessary in a convergent communication culture which requires profit to stay alive. Either way, the emergence and sustainability of reality television has been an interesting trend to watch.

Palestinian/Israeli Sesame Street!

Something that really I found interesting in the presentation of the second group Yesterday, is the Sesame Street collaborated versions. Specially the one for Palestine Jordan and Israel. at first I thought it is very good and would have been very successful in creating a new generation of children who hold less anger and hatred. Then I gave it another thought, especially among Palestinian desperate children, and i thought it is actually not working. Children in Palestine, who live in a non stop war condition, poverty, and deprivation, can not overcome the negative feelings for the ones who dumped them in this misery. The children who have lost their family members with the Israeli bullets, who have missed their friends at schools because they throw stones at Israeli tanks, and who see Israeli soldiers and bulldozers destroying their homes and their family properties to live in camps! The children who coop and adapt to their pathetic reality because of Israel. I dont think these children can overcome their negative feelings towards Israel. In fact, I think a human would accept to even forgive or forget their suffrage.
In fact, when I thought more about it, I think the sesame street collaboration was actually to normalize the situation for Israeli children to live and be around Palestinian ones. Children in Israel also live in fear from palestinians to certain limit, that the children program would want to overcome. But their fear is incomparable with the fear that Palestinian children live in. The WALL that sieges Palestinians in Gaza makes the children of Israel to live in peace, but on the other side it imprison the Palestinian ones, it sets them apart of their schools, families and lives. I actually think that this collaboration is very prejudice and very in humane, to frame the enemy as friend, to embody false thoughts in children who see disasters in their realities, it is just ridiculous and absurd ! its a mere failure. Above all that, the fact that the studios of the Sesame street were destroyed hampers down the whole story.

I think collaborative TV shows must be mutual and need to work at the same page and same agenda, in order to achieve its goals successfully .

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Public Diplomacy: Forming our Image

Part of James Glassman's description of PD 2.0 was centered around the use of new technologies, but also to use this new technology in a capacity that was more attuned to welcoming the voices of those countries with whom we aspire to build diplomatic relations. Listening and building conversation should undoubtedly be a focal point of a new public diplomacy, especially one that has an online presence. Merely participating in online forums, contributing to a blog, or making a comment on Twitter is a steps towards creating a more inclusive and participatory enviroment that is attractive to those looking at the US. I do wonder if as Glassman says, the 'gentle informing' of the State Dept. Digital Outreach Team is as welcomed as he makes it seem-but it is regardless, a step in the right direction.

How then does PD 2.0 fit into Jospeh Nye's 3 dimensions of public diplomacy? It seems to facilitate the first-daily communications of foreign policy decisions-it provides a new space for this information to be disseminated. However, it does seem that Nye sees this as a one-way flow, not a forum for discussion, although in PD 2.0 perhaps this is what it should be. The second dimension of creating strategic themes has great implications if one of these very themes can be the US as a country that is willing to welcome and listen to international viewpoints. These themes are supposed to be reflective of US interests, and perhaps the PD 2.0 dogma of dialogue and respectful listening should be at the top of the list. The third dimension of creating long term relationships is extremely powerful, and has great potential if the new public diplomacy is indeed centered around an exchange of ideas. The virtual exchange of ideas could well lead to more meaningful and substantive exchanges of people across cultures. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs already has several programs that accomplish this, but there is room for more.

Although it may not immediately seem like it, the central tenants of public diplomacy (as laid out by Nye) don't necessarily need to change according to PD 2.0. Rather, there is potential for them to be adapted in a way that increases their reach and effectiveness. By welcoming reciprocity and the creation of more open dialogues, the US is definitely on the right track towards maintaining its relevance.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 12: Cultural Products and Soft Power

In the globalized world, where non-state actors exert a serious amount of influence, examining soft power becomes interesting. What is the role of an advertising agency, let’s say, whose very job is to make the audience want something, either a product or a way of life, that they don’t have now or don’t have enough of now? The only effective advertising is that which attracts an audience, not one which blatantly dictates what the consumer should want. It’s done coercively, it’s done subtly, in a technique which some industries—let’s take fashion, for example—have done brilliantly in the past sixty years. And interestingly enough, it is in the past sixty years that enormous change leading to the globalized world—the rise in communication technologies, the fall of colonialism and the Berlin Wall, have seen with it the emergence of convergent and cross-cultural communication in the form of advertising.

Is advertising really a form of soft power? The way a company or a product markets itself is vital to its success—even in transnational boundaries. While global products may not be owned or marketed directly by a government, do they not also reflect some of the culture from which they originate? To go back to a fashion industry example, Chanel differs from Dolce and Gabbana, which differs from Juicy Couture, in the way of life which they promote, and is at least somewhat reflective of the culture from which each originates. Thus, when advertisers send messages out to an audience, promoting the way of life that comes with these clothes, are they not also promoting a cultural message that, while not coinciding with an orchestrated government message, still out to achieve the same goal of acceptance? Cultural products are exported to be accepted in whatever market they can be, and it is through advertising, through the promotion of a way of life, that this is achieved.

Soft Power Failure!

As post 9/11 measure, the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison, and the invasion in Iraq, the image of America in the world has changed dramatically, especially in the Middle East. In 2003, a cultural exchange program as a public diplomacy measure took place. My cousin who was a student at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals was among the host group, and he wanted to participate in the cultural exchange program. He applied for the program and he received the invitation. When he started the process of applying and issuing the visa, the US embassy in Riyadh had very strict procedures that caused delays, denials, or not responds to some individuals. My cousin applied for the visa 7 months before the day the Saudi team should have flown to the states. I remember how disappointed and frustrated was my cousin to not hear back from the embassy. He did not go on the program along with other friends of his whom visa were rejected or had not heard from the embassy as well. Despite the fact that my cousin has studied college in the US, and has been several times prior to the 9/11 hit.

Looking back at the incidence, I think that the US efforts in public diplomacy were completely failure at that time. To receive an invitation from the American government, and to receive a visa denial from the same part seemed very illogical paradox. It must have created different confusing perceptions about America among these people. Collaborative efforts should come about different governmental sectors working together in order to attain the wanted results of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a very strong and effective tool that governments use in order to create the image of their countries the way they want. But it needs strategic implementation. Arbitrary effort would definitely leads to nowhere if not fires back.

I think that the previous American administration caused a lot of deformation in the American global image at different levels. Fighting terrorism was urgently needed at that time in the American foreign policies, but I believe the government could have achieved that in a less radical measure that could have not distorted the American image. To many individuals around the world, America has become a country that only knows the language of war. Which is very hard and radical power, when in fact the American Government was trying to maintain soft power through Public diplomacy. That’s why many around the world appraised Obama’s announcement of the closure of Guantanamo prison, the US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. These actions in a way sooth the flammable image, that can be improved with soft power influence in the long run. The US foreign policy with the new administration has been working at different levels to restore the US image around the world. I believe that different governmental sectors must work comprehensively together in order to succeed in public diplomacy and retrieve the image of the American dream.

Week 12 CHINA'S CYBER DIPLOMACY

CHINA'S CYBER DIPLOMACY
China now has over millions online forums and 220 million bloggers, and over 3 million posts/comments are posted online daily, according to the white paper report on China’s Internet Status released by the State Council Information Office, June 2010. According to the report from the China Internet Network Information Center, China Internet population hits 384 million by January 2010.
Realizing the radical growth of the internet user population and the potentials of massive online conversations exchange, Hu administration started to use Cyber diplomacy as a propaganda tool, in 2008, to further manufactures consensus and therefore strengthened the status quo.
In the recent speech given by the Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, at the Closing Ceremony of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the “New Era” of diplomacy was specified with the re-emphasis on the Chinese characters and the power of people diplomacy, which directly answered the question why the Hu administration put so much effort in regulating online communication. Yang emphasized the four key elements of the “Chinese characterized diplomacy” in the 21st century, which are “Hosting Galas”, “Combat Crises”, ‘Foster Development’ and “Establish National Image”. This statement echoed with the argument about the “three pronged cyber strategy of China’s cyber strategy, which are “pacifying the populace, managing the negative influences of the Internet and yoking the power of networking while maintaining CPC authority” (Hachigian 2001)

“Ichat” with Chairman Hu:
"Ichat” with President Hu is no longer a news, and there is even a online fans club of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called “Shi Jin Ba Bao Fan” (which is originally the name of a popular Chinese dessert).
Take a look at the top news in Xinhua News Agency's publications, you can easily find headlines such as-- "President Hu Ichat with netizens," " Premier Wen Ichat with netizens," "President Hu's New Year Speech now available online", "President Hu Ichat with kids on the first day back to school", "President Hu joining People's Daily's online discussion board"
Given the high levels of cross-border connectivity in cyber-world, new approaches for cyber-security must include the international dimension. Thus, instead of exclusively imagining cyber-defence or cyber-war, Chinese government has realized that it is also important to begin to construct cyber-diplomacy.
The Practice of the Fifty Cents Party (Wu Mao Dang):
The massive online comments, blogs and posts exchange among the citizens has caught up the attention of the Hu administration. "Wu Mao Dang" which literally means "Fifty Cents Party" then came into the online public sphere. “Wu Mao Dang” is a meme mocking that the fact that the Hu administration hires netizens to comment on most of the internet users’ posts/blogs/videos with only positive messages about the government, in the hope of building positive image of the Hu administration. Each comment earns the poster 50 cents compensation.
For better and for worse, the Wu Mao Dang is always there. During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and for the crises situation with the Tibet Riots, the mis-fire accident related to one of the local government officials’ embezzlement in Shanghai this month all have the “Wu Mao Dang”s contribution to the online discussion board/forums and blogs to write about only the positive aspects of the situation. The way the 50 Cent Party has made genuine debate online about China virtually impossible. They used the propaganda tactics, such as shifting focuses, using narratives to try to always win the debate. For example, they will say "You can't talk, you Americans had slavery" and trying to shift the focus of the debate away from the issue at hand and questioning anyone's right to even discuss China outside of China. What's worse, the wide presence of the Wu Mao Dang has made the Chinese netizens lose their faith on the internet discussion and becoming afraid of any potential government retaliation, and think any pro-government comment is paid for by the Communist Party, thus dismissing what could in fact be genuine comments that deserve a closer look.
Chinese internet users even made up an image to mock on the Wu Mao Dang:

The symbol of “Wu Mao Dang” : It’s a Chinese 50 cents bill with the “Grass-Mud Horses” which is a internet meme with the connotation of “Fuck you”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 11INTERNATIONAL NEWS REPORTING IN CHINA

Powerful institutions in the society created the media content, provided the ideology, and in return the status-quo is enhanced and the legitimacy of these institution is reinforced by the media they created.
To my knowledge, China has been practicing this rule by manipulating its international news reporting. Firstly we can look at the propaganda infrastructure of China.
1. From the news agencies structure:
• the state-own China Radio International, which broadcast in 56 languages to the world via shortwave, internet and satellite.
• The state-own China Central Television,(CCTV) which “has a network of 19 channels broadcasting different programmes and is accessible to more than one billion viewers” and “is one of the official mouthpieces of the Chinese government, and reports directly to high-level officials in the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Central Propaganda Department.” “The organization has relationships with regional television stations run by local governments, which must reserve up to two channels for the national broadcaster. The network's principal directors and other officers are appointed by the State.” CCTV also broadcast to overseas via CCTV-Spanish, CCTV-French, CCTV-Arabic, CCTV-English/News and CCTV-Russian.
• The Xinhua News Agency is “the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the biggest center for collecting information and press conferences in the PRC. It is the largest news agency in the PRC, ahead of the China News Service. Xinhua is subordinate to the PRC State Council and reports to the Communist Party of China's Publicity and Public Information Departments.” The agency has the largest overseas branches among all the Chinese news organizations. It has more than one hundred affiliates and bureaus across the five continents and there are 4 regional headquarters in Cairo, Hong Kong and Macau, Paris, and New York City. It recently has launched its 24/7 English news channel featured in Time Square, NYC, broadcasted via satellite.
2. From the bureaus –how it function?
• The "State Administration of Radio Film and Television" censors broadcasting programs and movies,
• while "General Administration of Press and Public" ought to censor all the print works.
• The most famous will be the "The Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China" The department oversees the censorship bureaus, giving commands and general disciplines to them. Also, the China's official state media outlets, Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, China Central Television, People's Daily, China People's Radio have to follow the propaganda directions and censorship rules passing down from this department.”
3. From the media contents and media strategy:
• Mandatory subscription: Most of the news broadcasted in Chinese municipal TV station are mandatorily subscribed from the China Central Television. Most of the print news appeared on the domestic websites, news papers and magazines are cited or purchased from Xinhua News Agency. All the municipal radio stations are required to broadcast the China People’s Radio programs for at least two hours per day.
• The paradigm consistency: the news contents are mainly positive information about domestic issues, and positive images about the officials and political leaders. CCTV and Xinhua’s reportage follow certain template that has been dominated the news production and news writing for decades. People in China often mock on these templates saying that even the illiterate will know how to write a Xinhua paradigm or CCTV paradigm news as long as he/she is exposed to the news content long enough.
• Content consistency: Scrutiny all the content publicized in China, you will find out that the framing and tone in the news stories are ridiculously similar.
• Censorship: Not only the traditional publications in China are subject to censorship, Chinese government has also kicked out Google, Youtube, My Space and Facebook and many other foreign online media in fear of them spreading “unhealthy” information.
4. Public Diplomacy via hosting “Beijing Olympic Games” and the “Shanghai World Expo”
In a speech addressed by China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi on the success of Shanghai World Expo, he mentioned that the hosting of two events has enriched the theories and practices of Chinese characterized diplomacy. The mission of China’s diplomacy has been even more cleared—which is diplomacy should serve the domestic development. The building of China’s soft power—politics, economy, technology, public affairs, and cujavascript:void(0)ltural aspects have been strengthened. It backed up our national security, development and territory integrity.

Week 11-the merits of al jazeera

When looking at the objectives of Al Jazeera as outlined by Powers-to create a democratic, participatory pan-Arab community, but also a news outlet that is independent from external influences-it becomes clear why it is a point for some optimism in news reporting. They are admirable goals to puruse in a difficult environment, one that is heavily fragmented on religious, political, and social grounds. They become even more valuable when used as a standard in which to examine the nature of US mainstream news media. While there are similar divisions along social, political, and religious lines-there seems to be less of an effort for reconciliation and balance. Rather, Al Jazeera has a bit of advantage, being able to create a reputation that rises above the mediocre level of its national media peers. In the US, it seems like that same mediocrity just ends up competing with other mediocrity, resulting in a cycle of unfulfilling and heavily biased coverage.

But, the Middle Eastern dynamic does demand a different kind of international news than the US reality. A lot of our focus is on domestic political division, and that is what much of our news revolves around-spinning both international and domestic events around a political framework that is relatable and personal to both sides of the political spectrum. The Middle East has a much more diverse and fragmented set of political entities to dance around-which makes its efforts even more impressive. But, it also makes me wonder how the same, very admirable, guidelines that Al Jazeera operates along, could ever be applied into our international news media. Maybe Western news media doesn't feel the same kind of challenge to produce credible and balanced news because it operates under the safety of the American umbrella and therefore the need to balance a variety of viewpoints is not as urgent.

Hopefully, the same demand for credibility finds its way into US news outlets that tackle international news. The fact that viewers gravitate toward what they find relatable, and that news is almost always reported through various cultural and political filters-is one that doesn't eliminate the possibility for good journalism. Done reasonably, the result will attract reasonable people who will interpret news with a reasonable perspective. To have two competing viewpoints presented on one mainstream network has the potential to set a new standard for what is a productive discussion, and ultimately gives the viewer agency to participate in the discussion, rather than passively absorbing it.

Week 11: Media Ecology

Our discussions this week went a bit further in analyzing media’s role in society, the power it has over policy-makers and consumers alike. The main focus was to determine whether or not the media influence policy, or whether the media is used by policymakers to propagate an agenda. It’s an interesting debate, with evidence that could prove either side—in the end, however, I think that it’s a constant flux between both.

Hafez argues that media follows rather than leads. In many cases, this is true. Media, particularly the news industry, tailor their content to the interests of their immediate consumers. Because media is a profit-driven industry, it makes sense for organizations to make this effort. Media need content to make up their programs for distribution, and will take both what they find and what is provided for them. It’s when they fail to do the former that the audience can be misled, as was the case with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Policy-makers drove this agenda, playing on personal ties to patriotism and fear, and the media followed along—and, just a few years later, several news outlets apologized for their scant reporting, knowing that it contributed to the public’s opinion of the war.

Several of our readings this week argued that there needs to be certain conditions, a perfect storm of sorts, for media to drive foreign policy. For instance, there must be a vacuum among policymakers, a disagreement about what the right decision is, for the media to step into. And the media need a conscious, wide-scale effort in one direction for the public to pick up and take on virally. Given the multitude of communication technologies available, it’s not hard for a story to go viral anymore.

But do the media drive policy? It would be na├»ve to say that the media hold no sway over public opinion, or policy-making agendas. I would argue that media is the most powerful industry that one doesn’t need a license to practice. In fact, it is the notable exception. Doctors and lawyers must go through an arduous education and swear oaths in order to be seen as authorities. Politicians need to be voted into office in order to make anything happen.

Journalists today just need a computer and a coffee shop with decent Wi-Fi to reach an audience of millions. Of course, they must gain the trust of their followers, but because someone identifies themselves as a “journalist,” the public has an almost implicit trust that they’re out for the public good. (I’m not suggesting that journalists and media professionals require licenses to report the news or distribute their content—on the contrary; the fact that the media is open to everyone is one of its greatest attributes. And there are legal processes to hold media accountable—it’s called libel. And the self-regulation by members within the media is also notable.)

Given the reach of media, in both technology and the people who can use it, media play an important role in not only reporting policy but sometimes dictating it. As we discussed in class, media fit more into a system of ecology rather than absolutes, always balancing between two extremes and ending at equilibrium.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

International news reporting

News reporting is a craft that requires deep understanding in order to be sensible and relevant to the target audience. With satellites and international news networks, news reporting has been conducted through various sources and been addressed through different lenses. One may argues that international news reporting sometimes addresses news from a prospective that belongs to the origin of the news resource, which does not necessary tackle the news objectively. For example, prior to the US attack in Iraq in 2003, the majority of Arab news sources were excluding the potential war on Iraq; whereas international news sources were expecting and encouraging it to happen. As an Arab viewer I felt that the American/Western media was promoting war as if it portrays war in Hollywood. Although Saddam was not a popular dictator, and was known with all his faults, the US occupation in Iraq was never justified. Not forgetting the recent US attack in Afghanistan as a response to 9/11. In addition to the fact that Bin Ladin has not been found, all make me feel how dramatic is politics in media and news reporting.

To an individual watching local news being addressed by international reporters, one can feel that these reporters echo what complement their home communities, and not actually presenting the reality as a local sees it. I remember when we were following the Israeli attacks on HizboAllah, we were extensively watching Almanar that reported the HizboAllah’s side of the battle news. Some people thought that Almanar was exaggerating with the performance of commanders of HizboAllah. Knowing the military competence of Israel backed by western support, to many it seemed like a failing equation. On the other hand, other news sources including international ones were reporting the Israeli’s news feeds that claimed that Israel won the war and defeated HizboAllah. Eventually, Almanar gained tremendous credibility among viewers and became the source of news that reflected the reality of the war .The continuous Israeli fake claims proved that Almanar was the source of battle news during the 2006 war. Ironically, watching both news sources at the same time reporting the same war seemed like they were reporting two different wars. And to many of news watchers, the 2006 war was based on media manipulation. And at the end, everything was revealed and audiences were able to identify the outlet that was reporting the truth.

Aljazeerah is one of the strongest news outlets in Middle East, yet it is very controversial. It is true that it is seen as an independent entity, yet it is still a Qatari corporation that favors the government. I remember in early 2000 when the Qatari government was naturalizing the relations with Israel, Aljazeerah played role in soothing the boiling situation in the region. And because the Qatari-Saudi relationship was not very stable at that time, Aljazeera was accused to address topics that offended the Saudi Government. In fact, Aljazeerah is a pioneer in addressing hot political and social topics in an open context. Then with the openness of Satellite and networks privatization in the region, many TV outlets were established to only address hot topics such as, Almustakilah, that is owned by Dr. Mohammed Alhashimy. It is not a commercial channel. It only hosts and broadcasts live debates and discussions of guests who argue over controversial political, religious and social issues in the Middle East. It is sometimes accused to be bias to the Dr. Alhashimy’s opinion. He usually moderates the held discussions. And I personally believe if such topics are discussed in international outlets they would have not been as deep and rich as they are when discussed among the concerned people and delivered to the involved audience. Yes it I true that International news reporting increase the international public sphere, but still some issues are just rooted in some communities that are difficult to be comprehensively tackled by others.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Social and Political Movement: Islamic Revolution

The advancement of information communication technologies has helped empowering individuals. Ordinary people have been able to become media producers with their personal capabilities. In addition, individuals who advocate for a certain cause or a social change can work on becoming leaders to mobilize more people not just within their communities but on the broader arena. In the past, social movements and public demonstrations took a lot of effort and time to be organized and to actually take place. For example, a public awareness campaign for breast cancer took place in Jeddah to form the largest female human pink ribbon in the support for breast cancer diagnosis and cure. The communication of the campaign took place on Facebook, Twitter and online forums. It succeeded to mobilize over 4000 females to form the ribbon and to break Guinness world record.

On the other hand, if we look back at the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran in 1970s, we find that it started as a political campaign where multi-stake holders had one goal of overthrowing the Shah and his western alliance. However, it has developed to become social movement that aims to educate and empower the middle class. This movement enabled the reach of wider public segment of working class that is the majority in the Iranian society. The social movement worked over two decades to actually be productive, and succeed on the political level. In fact, the Islamic revolution not only that it changed the political system in Iran but it also triggered the Islamic revival in other Islamic countries especially in Middle East. For example, the Saudi government revitalized the Salafi Islamic current to be a counterpart to the Shii current in Iran. On the other hand, Muslims brothers in Egypt empowered the Shafie school of thought. This Islamic awakening that resulted from the Iranian revolution lead Muslims to return to Islamic lessons and realize the religious gap that was caused by colonization by Western countries. In fact, the number of Muslim females who wear Hejab in Arab countries has increased tremendously during the 80s and 90s of the past century. I wonder if the Iranian revolution existed when advanced communication technologies were available how different it would have had result.

Another example that I find very interesting is how some Islamic preachers become very popular in different Islamic countries. For example, Amro Khalid, an Egyptian preacher, has followers from all over the world. He started in small sessions at schools and universities in Egypt then he became a Television figure broadcast in Middle Eastern outlets. He has become very influential not just to Arabs but also to foreigners, his lectures are translated into different languages. And he communicates through various channels that enable him to reach his youth target audience. He uses new technologies such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Yahoogroups that enable him to have two-way communication with his audience. He is really active and responsive, I follow him on twitter and I personally like his posts. Amro Khalid as a public figure is considered a phenomenon that led to raise more Islamic preachers who follow his path. I believe with his abundance fans around the world, Amro Khalid is able to successfully mobilize his international audience to advocate for an Islamic cause.

Week 10: Mobilizing Technology--Who Wields the Power?

The major portion of our class discussion this week centered on Castells’ argument on the use of mobile technology to create a new public sphere, an arena in which traditional authority can be challenged and grassroots social movements can take place. Although, Castells admits, while some of these uprisings and movements are successful, like in the Phillipines in 2001 and South Korea in 2002, others were not so successful, as was the case for protestors at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004. Whether or not a social movement has the capability to be successful is based on several factors—among them the message and organization of the group hoping to inspire change, and the ability of counter-protestors to navigate the technology being used against them. This was a major factor in the RNC protests, as well as the student protests in Iran—those who were being challenged could follow where protestors were organizing, could create forums of counter-protest, etc.

One issue I felt wasn’t addressed entirely in our readings this week was the fact that although the “new media” technology gives the audience tremendous power, those who are using it to organize are subject to the limits of the technological distributor. For example, Twitter is a great social mobilizing force, so long as it remains neutral. And in the interest of keeping their business growing, one would imagine they wouldn’t pick sides on any issue—unless one was more profitable. Hanson examines the ways in which communication and communication technologies enable or restrain actors within the global network, but it seems pretty obvious that those companies wielding the power of access are the ones who enable or restrain actors, overall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Contesting Power on the Internet

From a fair.org blog post, which appears to be a reprint of a 1995 piece written by Jay Letto, I found this quote,

"After spending three decades doing everything in [its] power to weaken, inhibit and delay environmental legislation," Garfield said, "for General Motors to take out ads congratulating the eco-movement is like John Wayne Gacy celebrating the International Year of the Child."

It's a funny quote, and dissects perfectly the hypocrisy around many of the marketing campaigns to try and define their image as one that is concerned with the same contemporary issues as their socially-conscious consumer. It seems like more and more companies are acting preemptively rather than reactively to try and anticipate potential issues surrounding their products. This helps define their image and provides a foundation for damage control were issues ever to come to light. Bennett gives a few examples-of the Starbucks effort, and the reaction of Coke to the polar bear issue. Companies now make an effort to showcase their best practices to insulate themselves from criticism and ally with a variety of causes. Does Coca Cola still use polar bears in their ads? Nissan does. But, in their ads the polar bear is hugging the driver of the hybrid vehicle, somehow associating Nissan with the preservation of polar bears, which seems a stretch to me. The quote above still can be applied to GM-thinking of the new Chevy Aveo ads..

Bennett also makes the point that due to the ability for campaigns to go viral, ones that both smear and promote the practices of corporations, companies need to be even more invested in the way they portray themselves. The OCA Global Week of Action Against Starbucks, or the online campaigns against BP are examples of how quickly bad press spreads across personal networks. The Nike meme example also shows how easily associations can be made between brands and social issues-imagine the lost capital resulting from such campaigns, and the equally large amount of capital being invested by companies to try and anticipate and preempt the damage that could be done over via internet meme. Overall, demanding more accountability from corporations must be seen as a positive result of the interaction between the online public and its social agenda.

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1309

Friday, October 29, 2010

The tools of soft power...

... can be wielded equally by both those who want to see it used for altruistic, bridge-building purposes, and those who have malintended interests. Particularly, the new communication platforms, (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that have proved to be so influential in shaping cross border relations are also in the hands of groups whose goals are to antagonize and provoke. A recent Wall Street Journal article handed in SIS 644 highlighted the rise of Twitter feeds coming out of North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. The tweets are highly provocative and have little value in advancing cross cultural understanding. In the case of Venezuela for example, Hugo Chavez uses his account extensively but to a degree that is not purely antagonistic but still very assertive. While he tweeted his congratulations to the Chilean miners, he also constantly evokes Simon Bolivar which could be construed as an inward-directed public diplomacy effort, fostering a sense of nationalism around a shared history, and a figure all can unite around.
Moving to North Korea, the tweets while not originating from within the isolated state (who would see them..?) echo a very aggressive rhetoric that is consistent with much of their interactions with outside nations. Here, the case seems to be the farthest thing from a public diplomacy movement-rather, using soft power means to advance a hard power-based position. Although, they did tweet about a recent victory by the U-21 soccer team over the Australian U-21 team, which seemed strangely out of place surrounded by much more inflammatory remarks!
So, this new use of communication mediums by countries who are less than friendly to the US and others, raises the question of how to define their use. Is it propaganda? Is it public diplomacy? Either way, it seems like all nations are realizing the relevancy in engaging in noopolitik approaches to IR, one that is based around ideas. Posturing through social media seems weird, but also strangely efficient and increasingly a legitimate means of communicating with the world. Especially for the less personable of nations who reduce their communication to 3-4 sentence barbs anyway. Fits the twitter character limit perfectly!

Soft Power

Power can be demonstrated in different ways, either by enforcement or by being able to control others’ motives. On nation states level, countries gain power through politics, economic sovereignty or military arms. Hard power and soft power are tools in which power can be demonstrated. The use of arms, tanks and heavy equipments is considered the tough way towards power. Whereas, media is a soft tool that countries use in a way to display power in other states. Because war and blood shed are very violence many countries prefer to rely on soft power rather than the hard power that disfigure the country’s image and create negative consequences in both parties.

Soft power is effective unless people are extremely aware of it. Rejection may lead to a reflective reaction. When people know that somebody is trying to impose something on them, they may become aggressive towards anything that comes from this party. And soft power may become useless. Therefore soft power needs a recipient that is open and opted to consume what comes to him/her.

In Arab countries, many people believe think that the imported media into Arab and Muslim countries is part of the Western conspiracy in Middle East. The intense injection of Western, in particular American, media products into local media lead to what’s identified by “intellectual invasion”. In a way or another people’s behavior and thoughts are being influenced by Westerns and some concepts are good and others are not. People in these countries consume Western media products that it has been influential to the extent that social scientists may rise alarms for. People may argue that these products are pure entertainment materials and that they wouldn’t affect the Islamic creed. Others would find it a way that leads to deteriorate the local social structure. I personally believe it has an influence, which requires monitoring. For example, MBC has channel MBC 2 that is dedicated to broadcast American movies and programs on a regular base. When school students had a trendy fashion of wearing gothic style. That blamed MBC2, and it became very controversial in the educational and social settings. This influence is a type of soft power, which in fact focuses on youth who are able to absorb more than older individuals. MBC 2 encounters attacks from many conservative people especially in Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that the mother company censors the channel, many movies have edited sciences. And because MBC is a Saudi private owned company based in another country and broadcast through Satellite, the Saudi government has limited control over it.

Week 10 Using Soft Power in Time of Crisis--Chinese government’s media initiatives during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

May 12, 2008, a devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake took place in Sichuan province, China. From May 12 to 12:00 am, June 14, 2008, the earthquake has caused 69,197 death, 374,176 injured, and 18,289 disappeared. 15.15million people were forced to leave their homes,which added up to 45.55 million victims, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China (MCA). The 2008 Sichuan Earthquake was the most devastating in the record since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China.
The earthquake also caught intensive media attentions in the international community. Mainstream English media outlets such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reuters, CNN, MSNBC had consecutive news reports on the crisis. Chinese state media such as the Xinhua News Agency, CCTV and the China Daily also sent out a large amount of correspondents to the frontlines.
The earthquake occurred at a critical time – it was 3 months before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening, and 3 months after the 2008 Blizzard Crisis and the 2008 Tibet Riots outbreak. The timing of this disaster makes the government’s public/media diplomacy even more worthy or the digging. It will be interesting to look into how Chinese government use soft power to manage crisis communication in a sensitive situation,
Facing such devastating natural disaster, Chinese government seems to have no choice but facing the challenge and taking the responsibility to fix the damages. The corrective of offensiveness and bolstering strategies are better than shifting the blame or avoiding the responsibility – they are actually the only and the best options for Chinese government at the period of time. Both the strategies directly deal with the trauma and the victims.
It is more importantly that strategies are imbedded in effective discourse. The framing and media agenda setting have effectively imbed those strategies in the news papers. The key message was conveyed through the president’s New Year’s speech, and the message which can arouse national morale was incorporated in the various special events and entertainments. Chinese government implemented the strategies in subtle ways – the effective discourse has facilitated the persuasion for the Chinese public.
Lessons
However, Chinese government failed to seize the first place to announce the earthquake, therefore causing the unexpected panic among the Chinese public. Meanwhile, besides consoling the Chinese people by organizing mourning events and special memorials, it could be better if the government applied the mortification strategy to directly address apology to the general public. By doing this, it would win the government more credits because the public knows the occurrence of the disaster is not the government’s fault and it is considerably humble and caring for the government to issue such an apology.
This case study provides the crisis communication strategies that Chinese government implemented during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The government has chosen the right strategies – Framing and Agenda Setting, Bolstering and Corrective of Offensiveness to counter the negative effects of the trauma, repair the national image of China and to generate the Chinese people’s morale. This study also found out that Chinese government failed to seize the first place to inform the domestic public of the crisis thus risking being accused of being irresponsible for its people. This failure might be the result of the influence of the deeply rooted Chinese culture and values of “saving face” and the risks of damaging the rising international reputation that China is getting since the last decade.
Future study about government crisis communication could dig more into the context and historical position where the administration is in, thus the researchers might be able to discover some correlations between the crisis communication strategies applied and the historical context and position in the world that the government possesses.

Week 9: User Content and the Network

In class, we’ve examined the way that technology has radically changed the landscape for communication. In fact, what technology is available is dictating what can be said—today, you only have so many characters to get your point across.

In Chouliaraki’s examination of the symbolic power of media, we reached an interesting point in our discussion of citizen-generated information as a part of a larger communication framework. In the media industry, this term is user-generated content. Rather than focusing completely on the network society, I’d like to examine where UGC fits into the communication network.

The question posed in class was if it was possible to take away the immediacy of direct testimonials, or if UGC would become irrelevant. I would say that UGC is no flash in the pan.

In Chouliaraki’s analysis, user generated content is present in both ordinary and extraordinary news. It presents information to the world by involving those who use it—thus the term “user-generated.” People become active in their absorption of news—witnesses rather than observers. There’s a connection to the information being dispersed, because users are contributors, creators, in the process. The predominant use of this medium has been in emergency or breaking-news situations, such as the protests by students in Iran or monks in Burma.

User-generated content was touted as the “new wave” of journalism, and in many ways as a life vest for the flailing journalism industry, which faced falling revenues and cutbacks and laid off 1/3 of newsrooms.

Because of this emphasis I think that most people considered it a type of band-aid on a gaping wound, rather than a valid application of new technologies to further the communication industry. But in reality, the value of user-generated content is what will keep it a strong force in the journalism industry, and by extension, I think, communication in general. We need look no further than YouTube to see the success of this kind of content.

This concept ties into the idea of symbolic power—but in this case, symbolic power of the user. While they are not the ones who control the technological framework of the network, they are actively involved in controlling the content. In many cases, citizen and user-content used by news organizations is faster and more accurate than traditional sources, and more easily corrected.

One of the first examples of this was during the Mumbai attacks in 2008—in which citizen journalists helped make sense of the confusion following the terrorist bombings through social media sites, such as Twitter and Flickr.

The greatest problem with the idea of UGC, and its use in mainstream communication, is the tendency toward a frenzied approach to coverage, which can be overwhelming. Citizen media can be seen as a hype machine, which follows along with traditional news outlets. But their very existence enables them to be on the frontlines as watchdogs of those traditional outlets. Today, it is in the blogosphere that a wave of protest gains strength, leading to criticisms of the established communication organizations like CNN, Google and Facebook.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Social Networks: Yesterday and today!

Networks have been very important in building personal, social, and professional relationships. Especially in high context cultures where mediation plays role in all transactions. People tend to define themselves by how many people in power do they know. Which will facilitate many procedures, and many times relationships become above the law. Thus, in these countries the structure of networks takes some how a hierarchy forms. On the other hand, networks may take a flat format where the nodes are equivalent or equal, that relationships are built in a horizontal rather than vertical. Both forms of networks function successfully in their own context. So it is difficult to indicate which one better in terms of function and productivity. But I personally think that the horizontal one is better because the nodes would function equally in terms of supply and demand.

Networks used to focus more on the structure and density of the process of communication that takes place within the network. But today networks are being seen through a critical of how the links in this network work, what means are used, what has been communicated, and in which format. It also focuses more on classifying the nodes, and how each node functions within the same network. Before networks were evaluated by the size, and structure, where as today it is being evaluated by the quality of nodes, and the strength of linkage these nodes have.

Internet as a network has exploited much of productive abilities and potential to make it function in a constructive manner. Electronic social networks have transformed the way real network function. Electronic social network helped in broaden the network in a global format. That also facilitated the way in which foreign networks could communicate with domestic ones. and it also enabled creating a vast database to which new networks can emerge. Virtual networks has enabled people to expose themselves the way they want others to see them. So thinking of an individual as a node in a network, who was perceived the way other nodes see it. Today this individual can manipulate and characterize the way in which others perceive him/her. Electronic social networks has also helped relationships to take multiple directions, when it was mostly limited to a single one in the conventional format. For example, linkedin, is a professional social network. its in fact enables the person to add additional personal information to his/her professional profile. This will enable others in his/her network to feel closer as becoming exposed to personal life.


Week 8: Navigating the Network Society

Our class discussion revolved around the network society, on the methods by which people organize their relationships. The associations between nodes, or actors in the network, is what Latour argues are the most important aspect of the network. Through his “principle of generalized symmetry,” Latour explains that everything has a function and a purpose in a network, even inanimate objects, which produce as much of a relationship as humans. Some might find this definition a little too “Terminator,” but James Cameron’s version of humans and machines competing for dominance came from a clearly human perspective, and lacked the objectivity with which Latour examines relationships. Looking purely at their function, machines have as much an impact on the network as human beings. We have made them so, both through the fact that machines are a direct result of human invention, and also through our resulting dependence on them. However, the main problem with Latour’s version of the network society is that it begins to break down once everything is looked at as a network—a bit of analysis paralysis.

So, using Castells’ version of a network as the defining method by which people relate to one another, the associations and relationships between individuals and organizations, can be a bit more of a realistic and feasible option for explaining the network society. The network society has been enabled, Castells says, through several occurrences in the past hundred years or so: economic deregulation, failed reform of the nation-state, the rise of counterculture movements, and a reconfiguration of media and information systems. This leads to Castells’ ultimate concern of how networks distribute power. This is displayed in what I think is his most interesting examination of networks: the flow between nodes, their direction and symmetry. And we can see how networks are becoming more and more complex, as states and organizations, such as those described by Castells, are increasingly the result of network relationships.

Looking too much at the structure of a network can be misleading, however, because ultimately, it is the actors in a network that define how successful it is, as well as its structure. A node could change a network by determining a new direction of flow to another, thereby changing the structure. This connects with our discussion of network literacy, and the keys to navigating the concept of a network society—the most interesting of which I think is citizenship, or determining not only one’s involvement in a network but also one’s responsibility to a network. Because networks define meaning, defining our place within them gives us greater control over their structure and our associations.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Week 6 Digital Piracy and Cultural Globalization

Matellart's article mainly discusses about the correlations between digital piracy and the underground cultural globalization. The scholar moves away from the traditional ethical arguments on the digital piracy and focus the discussion more on the social, cultural and economical contexts of such phenomenon, and the correlations between the expanding digital piracy and the cultural globalization.

In the article, while not denying the negative impacts that digital piracy has from the perspective of industry growth and the intellectual property protection, yet the scholar argued that the criminalization of such phenomenon is mainly to protect the benefits of certain organizations and the industries they represent. The scholar argued that the underground social, cultural and economic networks not only allow the growth of unauthorized reproduction of the visual products--more importantly --they also make the cultural globalization possible in these developing countries.

Follow the scholar's research, I think the free reproduction of the visual products has not only meet the short terms needs of feeding the audience in developing countries, but also has cultivated such appetites that enable the audience in developing countries to appreciate and look for the cultural products from the globe, and therefore, even more advanced--that the local investment and visual arts industry would take initiatives to produce something indigenous and grow up!
Think about Bollywood and the Nollywood (Nigeria), they are the examples of such path!
I think this article look into the digital piracy issue really from a humanity perspective and actually argued that this phenomenon --if appropriately controlled--can contribute positive impacts to the cultural globalization and help the developing countries to grow their industry from copying it to innovating it.
From my understanding, this is a better way to look at the global black market of the visual products. But yes, further research and study should dig into setting rules and regulations to control such kind of unprotected intellectual and information flow as that the expected "cultivation" function can be performed.

Week 7 Can the CNC World save China?

Can the CNC World save China?--China's global media ambition and its own complication

It doesn't surprise me when Xinhua's new 24/7 English News Channel -- “CNC World” announced it picked up Times Square in New York City to root in their news room.
This channel is aimed at providing "A New Perspective" and is part of Beijing's effort to "present an international vision with a Chinese perspective," Xinhua President Li Congjun said at the press conference announcing the launch of CNC World[1]. Such expensive expansion “comes as many Western news media are cutting back.”[2]

China’s ambition about pitching to global audience—especially the English speaking ones has not been well know for long but seems like Beijing has rooted for it for years. It is the not the ambition itself that interests me, it is the root of such desire of expanding a country’s media outreach to overseas audience and the level of attention that the government has paid to public diplomacy that interests me.

The emergence of world’s news agency during the WWII was facilitated by the then-new communication technology—Telegraph and Radio, and in return, the introduction of the new communication technology helped start and elevated the level of the psycho warfare and was one very important determining actor in the deciding battles of WWII and during the Cold War. Look at the era of globalization now we are living in—which follows the highly identical path as it was in WWII: the expansion of global media network and the concept of “Globe Village” has been substantially catalyzed by the internet, cable TV networks, satellite networks and the highly customized, internet accessible multi-media mobile phones. The support from communication technology has been so significant that it has made people wonder the question of “Chicken and Egg” ---“ Globalization and Globalized Communication Network” which one exist first.

However, the individuals nowadays are no longer scattered cells that can be easily persuaded by the “Magic Bullet”—they are even more cohesively connected and sharing information thanks to the new technology. Traditional mass media has been trying hard to “cater” the audience’s appetite – and that is also why so many states’ media outlets have been trying to expand their networks into various demographics and regions, customize their contents, communicate to the audience in their languages and even using satellite to broadcast from local.

Watching the success of the American’s “Cultural Imperialism” success, which is landmarked by the world wide popular TV shows such as “Friends”, “Ugly Betty” and global TV outlets such as Fox, and CNN—Beijing can no longer sit tight. The idea of a 24/7 English Channel has its roots way back—China’s giant state media outlet “China Central Television” (CCTV) began considering English-language international news bulletin actual coverage programming in January 1979 at the start of China's "Reform and opening up". English news bulletins began on CCTV-2 in 1984 and became available to overseas viewers when they moved to CCTV-4 in 1991. CCTV-9 English News International was launched as a 24-hour English-language channel on 15 September 2000.[3] CCTV-9 English News International entered the United States cable market in January 2002 as part of a deal that allowed AOL, Time Warner, and News Corporation access to cable systems in Guangdong. After the launch of the 24-hour service, the channel was revamped a number of times. A rolling service was instituted with news at the top of every hour, although the channel remains heavily dependent on features and entertainment as part of its function to show China to the world.

The Channel name of CCTV-9 English News International Television Channel changed to CCTV News in January 2010.[4] CCTV News' intended audience is foreigners both inside and outside China, specifically those with an interest in the country. Actual viewer numbers for CCTV News are not consistent in different sources. CCTV News claims its potential global audience is 45 million.[5]

Now the introductions of the CNC World has only strengthened and brand of China’s Public Diplomacy. It broadcasts “English-language news, live Internet broadcasts, talk shows and in-depth reporting”[6]
Xinhua agency already has more than 10,000 employees and 120 bureaus around the world, rivaling the reach, if not the quality, of Western news services like Reuters or Bloomberg. Xinhua has begun recruiting non-Chinese journalists from around the world to write for its news services.

However, from my perspective, unlike Al-Jazeera, either the CNC World or the CCTV News cannot really take effect in re-brand China’s image around the world or not even contribute to the public diplomacy efforts unless the agencies build up their credibility more, providing candid news resource about China and really serve as the watch dog for Chinese government's to take on issues of censorship, political prisoners, social injustice, and so forth.

[1] Barboza, David. (2010, July 2). China Puts Best Face Forward in New English-Language Channel. The New York Times, p A4

[2] Barboza, David. (2010, July 2). China Puts Best Face Forward in New English-Language Channel. The New York Times, p A4

[3] http://english.cntv.cn/about/index.shtml

[4] http://english.cntv.cn/20100426/104481.shtml

[5] http://english.cntv.cn/about/index.shtml

[6] Barboza, David. (2010, July 2). China Puts Best Face Forward in New English-Language Channel. The New York Times, p A4

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week 7: Japanization? Not really..

What are the implications of being exposed to Japanese cultural products? How do they influence our livelihood, and how can we view this impact? As I was reading Iwabuchi's article, I couldn't help but echo his skepticism over the true cultural impact of Japanese goods. Looking at the example of the Walkman which was noted as one of Japan's most significant contributions to the Western culture of consumerism, its presence as a Japanese products plays a secondary role to its presence as a new technological innovation. For the average American, they buy the Walkman from an American retailer and listen to American music on it- the fact it is a product of Japan is a mere passing realization with no staying power. They might appreciate Japan for its innovative power, but they won't all of the sudden demand a more rigid society, eat smaller portions of food, or show more respect to their elders. As for the claim made by Chow that the Walkman signaled the decline of collectivism, while it does provide a more individualistic music experience, it does not completely separate the individual from their environment, and certainly does not have the power to uproot centuries-old, embedded to the point of being invisible, Confucian tradition. It's not like pre-Walkman everyone was sharing their music in an effort to be part of the collective.

In looking at other examples from the article of another Japanese 'C' export-comics and cartoons-while they do contain explicit messages that are reflective of Japan's values, they are also unique to the individual. For example, Miyazake uses the theme of valuing nature in many of his films, but also incorporates the role of an empowered individual child as his protagonist, this is not specific to all Japanese media. When non-Japanese watch his films, they might draw different value from it dependent on their own cultural context. But they do not propagate a particular set of distinctly Japanese values or habits. However, the Miyazake example doesn't have the same intensity of flow that Japanese manga or TV exports have... I don't have the experiential background to be able to comment on the effects of this kind of media, but the fact that nothing immediately pops to mind might be indicative that 'Japanization' has not taken hold in the same way as Americanization. What kind of 'Japanese' message would something like Pokemon send anyway? "Gotta catch them all.." Hoarding? Remember Tamagotchis? Were those from Japan?

Where I do think there are serious implications for Japan's rise as a producer of cultural goods, is just in the general sense of having a presence. The more they export and the more highly dependent countries become of their technology, cars, and media-the more clout they have in matters of political and economic weight, like a free trade agreement for example. This presence is both an asset in their relationships to the US, but also in their region. Perhaps part of the motivation of Hallyu, and the Chinese equivalent, is a reactionary response to what Japan has already accomplished.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week 6: Cynicism and Communication

In our class discussion, we had quite a lengthy debate on McChesney, and his opinion that there is a tight integration whereby politics have become dependent on the media. I would ask if there has ever been a time when politics wasn’t driven by the media, even looking back pre-Gutenberg. The “media” in that time was mainly oratory, and played just as important a role in shaping public opinion. So yes, media frames discourse—and thus it is used by politics and politicians to disseminate information. McChesney’s main argument, however, basically states that we belong to a de-politicized citizenry marked by apathy and cynicism.

McChesney’s own cynicism, while perhaps justified, can be easily refuted on a few counts. He’s one of those who look back at the “good ole days,” when movies cost a quarter and their neighborhood streets were safe for kids to play. Those who look back on “easier times,” when people were more involved in politics and when community was more important than the individual. In forty years, I’m sure my generation will be saying the same thing.

What McChesney isn’t saying is that people are generally the same as they have always been—the scale is the only thing that has changed. The realm of communication, particularly international communication, is a perfect example of this.

People are connected more now than they ever have been. The scope of communication provides greater capability than any other time in history—both technologically and socially, I would say. People are generally more interested and willing to communicate on a global scale because they can. Yes, there are apathetic people in the world. But you can’t deny that there are active participants in the world, in the political and communicative processes, and that they are far from the minority.

In most respects, communication systems have enabled people to become more active, more politicized, albeit different from the way that McChesney wishes to examine it. Political movements both within and outside of the United States via Twitter and SMS are socially initiated. People are finding new ways to protest, new ways to get their voices heard, with new technologies that transcend borders, nationalities and languages.

As we said in class, in some ways people have become more politicized with the advent of these communication systems, with the number of outlets they have available. This has both positive and negative associations, as it enables more people to communicate, but at times serves as a way to justify marginalized messages—people sometimes watch certain news outlets, for example, as a way to reaffirm their own ideas and opinions. But it doesn’t refute the claim that people are still active, still members of their community. Their community has just grown.

Net Neutrality and Piracy!

Global media governance calls for net neutrality that actually provides even access to different materials on the Internet. It also supposes to allow equal space of contribution in the web. Which in fact contradicts with another resolution related to copyrights of media production. The global effort in making Internet available and affordable to people around the world successfully serves the intercultural exchange at different levels. However, in developing country piracy of international media production is not regulated. Hence, it helps giving access to less fortune people. It is true that piracy violates the copyrights for intellectuals, but its actually helps in wider reach for the distribution and promotion of these media products. This wide reach is an advantage for the producers, despite the fact of the loss of their financial reward. For example, for over a decade Microsoft has been the leading computer’s software producer. That in fact the sales of its un-copied (original) products consist of 7 % only of the gross income of the Microsoft sold products. The 93% copies of Microsoft software products played active role in the universe of Windows on the international arena. Bill gates still the wealthiest man from Microsoft income although only 7% of Microsoft was sold in a legal format that protects its rights. However, I personally think that piracy has served Microsoft to reach worldwide. The fact that there are less fortunate people in developed counties and the regulation of copyrights and piracy limit the access of media products. This in fact impedes the action towards net neutrality that global media governance is calling for.

If for example we assume that media producers become somehow reasonable in profit making and sell their new brand products with the price they wish and making sure to cover the cost. Then after covering the cost, they sell the same products in copies with way affordable low prices, they will be able to overcome the piracy for their products. The fact that once the brand new product is launched for the first time everything about this product is appreciated and highly valued to the company. But after sometime, the product becomes only more copies of the product that just increase the sales. Considering the cost of copies at this time reduction in price would assist the wide reach with way less potential of piracy.

In some counties piracy plays role in breaking borders when dictator governments have strong grip (censorship) over enter cultural materials. Which helps people to reach worldwide despite the restrictions that are imposed through the government. As a matter of fact, piracy has abundantly served in promoting globalization especially in developing counties.

Thinking of both net neutrality and copyrights & piracy, which would be more important in terms of promoting global and transnational communication! and according to producers which would be more important copyrights or achieving wide reach? that's the real battle!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Lighter Side of Piracy

As I was reading Mattelart’s article, and he was discussing the pre-digital age use of VHS cassette tapes as the main vehicle of pirated materials, I couldn’t help thinking of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry tapes Death Blow. And then I was reminded of my travels through Southeast Asia where I would run across VHS tapes of long-forgotten gems like Universal Soldier and Troll 2 in those generic, transparent VHS boxes. Move another stall over and there was a cassette tape of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill sitting next to a burned Hanson CD. Hanging next to this collection of musical must-haves was an oversized Manute Bol jersey next to a Super Bowl XXXIII Atlanta Falcons hat (they were the Super Bowl losers that year). Needless to say, I immediately bought all of the aforementioned items.

I know this isn’t exactly piracy in the contemporary terms that Panethiere is concerned with, but it still has to do directly with those same intellectual property issues that dominate the discussion today. But even in my moments of greatest vulnerability to guilt, I still consider digital piracy with the same level of indifference that I had when buying that ripped off version of Planet Earth for 3 dollars in Vietnam. As I am writing this, I am listening to a newly downloaded album of a band called Discovery which isn’t even a band anymore, and will most likely never miss the cents that ever would have reached them if I had gone to a record store to buy it. That being said, everyone should support their local music stores. And I do. Sometimes. The experience of browsing through CDs is something that piracy can never endanger. Those stores don’t exist primarily to turn a profit anyway. When my favourite band released their new, really fantastic album last year, I bought it directly from the website, and have seen them live numerous times-my money goes directly to them. On the flip side, when somebody goes to Target to buy the latest Hilary Duff CD, who pockets that money? If it’s Target, or Hilary Duff-it’s a lose-lose situation. Miley Cyrus on the other hand…

In conclusion, I have great respect for the lawyers of media conglomerates and the legal fees they are pursuing, but I would rather think of piracy in the context of Somalia, Mr. Smee, or what Mattelart was kind of getting at-that because someone like Jerry Seinfeld films Death Blow that contributes to the flow of new technologies into a remote Bolivian village. Last time I checked, Lars Ulrich and his Metallica counterparts aren’t exactly living in a cardboard box trying to peddle 25 cent Spice Girls tapes. As one of my favourite musicians, Billy Bragg, puts it, and keep in mind this quote isn’t coming from someone off a huge recording label,

In regard to proposed anti-piracy measures:

"We're concerned that, in an age where there is much greater competition for attention, these proposals are in danger of driving young people away from the idea of listening to music"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 5 Imagine Media Literacy's Application in China

This week's class we have discussed the media literacy as part of combating the biased mass media products.

However, I think the forms of the application of media literacy and the results and effects of the media literacy really depends on the social and political structure and the media control level of that host nation-state. From the reading,we know that the media literacy receive well attention within the European and North American countries--these countries have something in common-democratic political system, comparatively free press, and less political control over the mainstream media outlets.
Especially for the Europe, which is famous for its public service oriented media outlets--the media literacy is getting more access to the public and having influence in policy changes and combating partisan media products.

While looking at China, I found the situation is incomparable. Most of the Chinese media outlets are government controlled and it is written in the guide book that "Media should be the voice of the government and the Chinese communist party". Not only China, other countries such as Iran, North Korea, Vietnam are also following the similar media policy.
So here comes the question: Is it possible to conduct media literacy to counter propaganda in China? If so, how and in what way?
I think it is not impossible to conduct media literacy in China.There are groups that are actively advocating for social justice and media literacy, such as the China Youth Daily, and the South China News group. These media outlets have been a pioneer in the past 2 decades while they are both loosely supervised and censored by the Central Propaganda Department of China.
Besides the current advocacy media groups, media literacy can also function within higher education system and the forms can be varied-- such as offering elective courses on media literacy or media ethics in college,opening a partnership program between a Chinese university and an American university that provides students with basic knowledge about media ethics and media literacy during a summer boot camp or a short term training program which could be counted for academic credits, or career development credits, cooperating with Chinese local non-profits groups, such as the environment China. org to instill the awareness of media literacy through educating the citizens with the environment protection knowledge.

There are many ways to conduct media literacy in China and I am confident that given some time, the citizens in China will be more active in seeking for media literacy and be more capable to think critically about media and propaganda.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 5: Media Literacy

In thinking about applying effective media literacy programs in the US, I had trouble envisioning how such programs would be received. Our political environment is so polarized to the extent that even defining media literacy as enabling people to 'exercise informed choices, understand the nature of content.. protect themselves and their families' (Europe's A/V Media Services Directive) could be distorted and spun to have political implications. What many accept as a logical need, other see as a subversive and undermining influence.

There was a news story that came out of Detroit last week that highlighted several school districts in the Detroit area that required students to have a permission slip before they were allowed to watch President Obama's back-to-school speech. This was undoubtedtly a result of the current state of our bipartisan politics, which is heavily influenced by the bipartisan nature of news media. It is a 'us' vs. 'them' dynamic which has spiraled way out of control and context. As we talked about in class, meeting a standard of objectivity is increasingly difficult to do. I wonder if media literacy could ever take its place in the realm of subjects for the 'common good' such as civics or social studies. Even in social studies we get distorted views on race, religion, and history-but it is commonly seen as promoting our general 'American' values. However, media, especially in the state it is currently in, seems to have much greater political implications.

As much as I would like to see media literacy programs find their place in public schools-it almost seems overly idealistic. While I understand that curriculum wouldn't include dissecting Fox news clips vs. MSNBC news clips-and would rather be more oriented toward tech-literacy and responsible use of the Internet-this approach alone would fail to fulfill the true goals of a media literacy curriculum, namely furthering an analytical and critical ability. The former seems more like what O'Neill article termed as 'digital literacy.'

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 5: Media Regulation

In this week’s discussion of governance and regulation, one item which stuck out to me was the idea of regulation of media. In what forms is it acceptable or unacceptable? Regulation comes from industry and societal values, but there was one component of regulation which I felt could be analyzed a bit more: financial contributors to media agencies.

Media is majority profit-driven. The focus in the 24-hour news cycle is how to keep viewers and make money to keep a show going, thus the sensationalized news that dominates channels such as CNN, Fox, and most national nightly news programs. The emergence of entertainment media programs on television is another form of sensationalizing news

Diversity of information is necessary to hold governing bodies accountable. The credibility of information is equally important. In today’s society, the convoluted structure of news corporations, organized both vertically and horizontally, and across products

Disney owns ABC, Comcast is about to merge with NBC, News Corporation owns Fox News, and each of these owns levels of productions of goods and services, in addition to their media outlets. Finding out who owns who, what is reported by each news agency, what products are shown favorably or unfavorably and how that relates to who owns the news agency, can be a complicated process, one which is sometimes intentionally done.

Thus, financial disclosure is incredibly important in determining the credibility of news sources, and is an element of regulation which I feel is not emphasized enough. The same thing goes for political leaders, who argue and make decisions that often reflect the interests of their investors, or those who have donated money to their campaigns, more so than their constituents.

Comedian Robin Williams suggested a solution for this issue in politics which I think can be applied to the media industry. He said that politicians should be more like NASCAR. Instead of Hugo Boss, perhaps it would be a better idea for politicians to wear suits of the logos and names of their “sponsors,” or campaign contributors, much the same way a race car driver would. Although politicians are generally required to list their contributors online, this type of requirement has a certain immediacy that’s lost in searching the virtual realm. Since this visual aid would have an enormous effect, I believe the same concept could be applied to media corporations and news shows on television. Imagine that during Glenn Beck’s hourly show, he is required to have, let’s say, all of his advertisers, and the contributors to News Corp., listed in a running band along the bottom of the screen. Would this make you more or less likely to find him credible? What if the same policy was applied Chris Matthews’ show?

Regulating the disclosure of financial information would lend credibility to news sources. This type of regulation is not the same as regulation of content, although it would probably have an impact on the content that’s produced. Once people know that one of your sponsors is a major pharmaceutical company, or your parent company (such as GE, etc), then it’s easier to see why some advertisements or some stories run over others in programming. Though this may be a simplistic idea, it still deals with an issue which affects the general public, and it should be dealt with, one way or another.

Week 5: Media Governance

I believe that Media is an essential living aspect in today’s modernity and civilization that requires regulation just like other life aspects. However, majority of stakeholders in the emergence of media have played role in regulating what serves their interest. Then new concepts appeared to demonstrate equality media in democratic states such as net neutrality, objectivity, copyrights, pluralism, and diversity. And these agents may have worked towards equality, but only on a large scale. For example, in the American media, some outlets have their own trends and orientation that do not necessary represent considerable segment of the American population. And for a foreign viewer media should reflect the public sphere. Thus these media outlets communicate their own thoughts rather than portraying the actual public sphere. It is true that pure objectivity in the media is very difficult to attain, but if we assume it was successful, independent thinkers will be able to reason and to articulate information with their own sense with little influence of the source of information. But media has firm stands, in a way or another it forces individuals to take part of one of the available stands in the media. It makes audiences only receivers that follow what they like, with little space analysis.

However, it is argued that governance and regulating media limits freedoms and restricts the transmission and transparency of communication that is appreciated. In fact, total freedom would lead to chaos, and would produce harmful and unexpected harms that would have social, ethical, religious, and political implications. Therefore, regulations are needed but should maintain essential aspects for communication such as access, transparency, and objectivity. With international communication and globalizations media has enabled organizing and managing the frames of recipients’ exposure in the international arena. And this is illustrated in the existence of customized media outlets to certain regions in the world such as CNN, BBC, and Aljazeera. So does such customization is favored to these audiences? Wouldn’t an African audience want the see CNN exactly like it’s been presented to the Americans? Or maybe someone conservatives would prefer social, religious, and cultural considerations put in mind when these media are broadcast in the region. Which orientation is better? I personally would prefer the first model because it would help understand how the media in foreign countries is channeled, and the people in there countries receive news. Whereas, the second model would make me feel being manipulated in the way these media want to tailor information to suite me in its own perspective.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week 4 What Privatization of Gobal communication means to us?

Since when it became a shame to say the communication services within a nation-state are subject to the state regulations? Since when it became a fashion to claim that the communication market of a nation-state is liberalized and open to privatization?

After reading this week's reading "Global Communication Infrastructure", I am impressed by the scale and depth of the privatization of the global communication that has been taking place since the late 20th century.

In the reading, the author cited two case studies: Intelsat and the Murdoch's News Corporation.
Intelsat first emerged as a product of the global communication liberalization--it was created in 1946 as an intergovernmental treaty organization to operate a global satellite system for telecommunications services, offering affordable satellite capacity on a non-discriminatory basis. At the time it was created, commercial satellite communication did not exist and most telecommunications organizations were state-controlled monopolies.
The clients of Intelsat included 143 member countries, and its main goal is to provide equal access to satellite communications for countries in the world. It used to play crucial rols in bringing satellite technology to the South. However, after the privatization, merger and acquisition happened from 2002 to 2005, Intelsat has to charged the same rate for all routes. Given their economic situation, poorer countries found it difficult to afford the satellite communication services.
Not only intelsat, generally speaking, empirical experience suggests that nowadays the satellite communication as a result of the great contingency of the global communication demands substantial investment and high risk, therefore only large businesses and governments will be able to afford this kind of service.


Intelsat: Rich communication, poor democracy: poorer countries cannot afford to get their words across.

Rupet Murdoch's Media Empire: The eyes of the world are on us: Cultural imperialism
Murdoch's ambition to create a global communication empire has brought TV stations,Radios, newspapers, magazines from across the continents reaching nearly half a billion people in more than 70 countries. Although many of its overseas operations is broadcasting the contents they subscribe from the host countries', the large part of the news corporation TV programs and news are produced based on the News Corporation proposition. In my perspective, this is what Murdoch's statement " The eye of the world are on us" really means.

Summary: The global shift from state regulation to market-driven policies are evident in all sectors of international communications--take a look at Murdoch's sweeping-floors acquisitions thru the globe, and the Intelsat transforming from a international non-profit to a private hold communication hardware--the expansion of private capitals in the global communication system have also contributed in widening the gap between the rich and the poor and not necessarily creating more public sphere for democracy.