Tag Archives: 10/05/15

The Spontaneous Journey of a Border Jumping Message

[“Are all Americans implanted with tracking devices,” he asked.]

1) The “global media system” seems more complicated than just the import and export of news and cultural products. What can we learn about this system from the presence of “informal” flows of media?

The concept of the “global media system” is indeed so very “complicated” that needs to be clarified because it’s not just “a” thing. It’s a perpetually expanding network of different mediums, or platforms on which to transfer data, information or a message, with the ultimate intention of communicating to recipients, in the plural and public sense, about something previously unknown, or in order to influence them. That’s the purpose, which is as expansive as the mediums used to bridge the sender-receiver connection; from physical and unconcealed, such as billboards and magazines, to physical and concealed, disks and USB drives, to cable/airwave transported mediums; television, radio, and internet.

To add another dimension to these modes of transference is time; some mediums deliver immediate and current information, some can be edited without leaving an original record, and some are fixed and timeless.

Now, with that multifaceted definition of a “media system,” let’s add the “global” aspect and just how that can affect the intention of the message, the intention of who the receivers are, and the route the message takes to arrive. So, the message now faces more influential factors on this more expansive and less structured “global” bridge including borders, cultural perspectives and values, and whether the message arrived directly or was intercepted.

And with this notion of the various mediums, intentions and methods the “global media system” entails, I want to share an example of how one recipient interpreted a global media message:

I was living with a comparably well-educated family in the Paraguayan interior, while serving in the Peace Corps. One afternoon, I had engaged in a conversation with the son-in-law, a lawyer, and one of the four sons, Arturo, who had made his weekend trip back to mom’s place from his university in the capital, Asunción. We were chatting about capitalism, how it has affected the United States, and how the U.S. is imposing neo-liberal ideals on the rest of the world, when the 20-something undergrad inquired whether it was true that all U.S. citizens were implanted with a tracking device.

This is an epic example of skewed intention. Who sent the original message? What was the medium? Who intercepted it? What cultural filter led to this conclusion?

While we can’t easily trace this back to the source, I do want to mention a major influential factor in similarly unintended messages that is caused due to interception. And despite the origin or type of the message, the question of whether or not it has value within a certain culture is pertinent to its spread and significance. What I am alluding to here is the effects of informal communications economy on available technology, perceptions and certainly the affect it has on its recipients.

In reference to this massive informal industry, in Tristan Mattelart’s article, “Piracy Cultures: Audiovisual Piracy, Informal Economy, and Cultural Globalization,” he acknowledges “the ingenious ways in which local entrepreneurs and consumers manage to evade social, economic and political factors obstructing their access to cultural goods.”

And while it seems like a positive correlation between piracy and the entrepreneurial spirit it inspires and information consumption by people who might otherwise be left in the dark, he also mentions that this informal economy is based on failure; “failures of the public policies on access to cultural goods pursued by the governments of these countries or by international organizations, and failures in the strategies of global communications groups which take insufficient account of the specific conditions in these societies.”

And this inverse correlation can also result in a people appropriating skewed ideas intercepted in the midst of this global media web.

Purveyors of Intellectual Growth? Hardly.

Do international news broadcasters contribute to a more enlightened global public, or do they reinforce local perspectives?

In order to determine whether global news broadcasters reinforce local perspectives or enlighten their audiences about the world at large, it is necessary to determine the context surrounding the use of the word local. The inclusion of the term “international” in defining the type of newscaster makes it seem likely that “local” refers to the nation-state in which the news outlet originates. Furthermore, Simon Cottle and Mughda Rai focus on news organizations that have a domestic base in addition to their international structures. Working with this assumption in mind, and focusing on US news organizations with an increasingly globalized presence, I find that entities within those particular parameters focus less on serving as bastions of knowledge and concern themselves more with catering to the whims of their core audiences. That isn’t to say that their is no mention whatsoever of global news and diverse cultures, but that what is offered is often superficial at best and not intended to foster an acceptance of difference.

It has been said that mediated news content within a society is “democratically consequential” (Cottle and Rai 158). This is certainly true, and could perhaps be part of the reason that domestic broadcasts focus on international content in a superficial way. For example, news stories on FOX News about countries other than the US generally take the form of what Cottle and Rai call the “reporting frame,” and never move beyond that to provide meaningful and impactful accounts from the people affected in whatever situation is being covered (171). This avoidance of the “reportage” communicative frame disallows for the presentation of in-depth coverage of an Other and does not promote the growth of a more enlightened global audience (Cottle and Rai 158). Likewise, a platform like CNNI might appear to be an improvement on the typically chauvinistic delivery of domestic news by globalized conglomerates, but even it does not overwhelmingly change the dominant thematic presentation styles employed by CNN and FOX (or MSNBC, for that matter). CNNI outlets around the globe largely cater their content to localized (in terms of national borders, at least) interests. It could be reasonably argued that CNNI coverage is inherently biased in favor of the U.S. because of its American origin.

Though admirable, platforms like CNNI’s World Report may give journalists from all over the world the opportunity to contribute content reflective of their various locations, but these stories are not likely to be featured on the network’s main stage. Aside from being used as fodder for fuel in never-ending discussions of the risk to American national security, “global” newscasts hardly serve much purpose in regards to expanding audience intellectual boundaries.

Cottle, Simon, and Mughda Rai. “Global 24/7 News Providers: Emissaries of Global Dominance or Global Public Sphere?” Global Media and Communication 4.2 (2008): 157-81.

A shared global pop culture

By: Carlos Diaz Barriga

As Manuel Castells argues, ‘our society is constructed around flows’. A couple of years ago, it was easy to trace these flows, as their origin seemed to be centered around the traditional outlets in the United States. But now, it seems the flows are coming from every direction, with the traditional-dominant ones being left behind.

Contra-flows are what dictate the pop culture currently. The U.K.’s Downton Abbey dominates U.S. award shows. Netflix, an American streaming company, produced one of the best Colombian show in years, Narcos. Mexican and Indian films (in their native language) are debuting in the top 10 at the U.S. box office.

Even domestically, one could argue the culture flows that broadcast and cable television used to dominate are now being shared with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. People now receive their culture products from all countries and all types of outlets.

Again, in the U.S., media has been in the power for years by the “Big Six” Comcast, The Walt Disney Company, News Corporation, Time Warner, Viacom and CBS Corporation), thanks to the 1997 Telecommunications Act. But now, it would seem that power is being shared.

Many young teens would rather receive their news in the form of YouTube videos and popular Vine users can draw bigger advertising deals than a morning show.

The informal flows of media are opening up a whole new world of possibilities of where people can consume cultural products. While the traditional media conglomerates are racing to adapt their content to these new flows, it’s clear they now have to share the field, and the profits, with so many new players.

And yes, like Thussu states, all these flows still largely generate revenue for Western media organizations, but as the media becomes more and more fragmentized, non-Western organizations now have the biggest opportunity to rise to power.