Tag Archives: Last week

How to Flatten the Power Pyramid

I find it rather imperative to give my two cents on clarifying Dr. Waisbord’s mention that theories of development communication have been generally segmented by focusing on informing the population versus ameliorating power inequalities. But it’s not a “versus” thing. You can’t compress a power pyramid without cultivating the foundation through education, and as a pyramid geometrically is, the top and bottom are linked. To be concise, any sort of revolution, adjustment or transformation must begin with a purpose or incentive; why change? And those three little letters that spell out the glory of curiosity, “w-h-y,” is satisfied with information. Step two, yet inextricably linked, is establishing a voice in power that speaks for the masses, not to the masses.

On the topic of corruption, for example. From two-years of living within a blatantly corrupt developing country where the gap between rich and poor was more like a trench, I stewed on coming up with a technique to address this issue. On the one hand, is the power; the post-dictatorial rich taking advantage of the uneducated masses. On the other hand, is the ill-informed population; a people residing in the repercussions of having been repressed by the past dictator, who are thus resigned to float along and deal with the waves, but out of fear, not to make any. At this point in Paraguay, the rich almost don’t care if their devious dealings are “found out” because there is no one to penalize the greed since their comrades float in the same boat. And the poor, which is generally the classification of the average citizen, are resigned. You can only endure so many labyrinths before you give up and decide to while away life on your dusty porch drinking tereré.

So how does an uneducated people progress while being forced into a labyrinth of bureaucracy to achieve any inkling of change? Needless to say, it’s not going so fast.

There are two ways to approach the purging of corruption; from the top down via “bigger” power from an outside government or international organization, or from the bottom up via revolution or social evolution.

However, you can’t change a people who don’t want change. So the first step is to inform and incentivize them as to why and how change could improve their quality of live. And being that the most accessible information source, the media, via radio and television in this case, are “rich” owned and not necessarily observant of the ethical code of neutrality in journalism, a grassroots word-of-mouth (WOM) approach would be the most trusted.

But without detailing all of the developmental stipulations faced by the Paraguayan people, I will simply note that education is the instigation and nothing speeds up the WOM effect like seeing some incentive for action, which is most effective in the form of evidence of top-down change. To best motivate change we need to mutually encourage the top and bottom of the pyramid through means of communication that are most trusted; WOM at the bottom and bigger power at the top.

Incentive through information is imperative to instigate progression. But it’s not an either or situation on where do begin within one culture. One is one. And within one, everything is linked.

Participatory theory and media advocacy in Mexico City

In Mexico, there is a need for more citizen participation when it comes to public consultations.

Every year, billions of pesos are funded into public construction projects. In Mexico City, the famous “second floor” of Periferico (in which, they built a highway over an existing highway) was built in 2006 around a lot of controversy. The highly polemic construction was criticized for not including the citizen’s in the decision making process. There was no public consultation and the residents had to deal with that construction for over five years.

Now, in 2015, there’s a glimpse of that happening. Recently, there was a new multi-million-construction plan proposed for Mexico City, called Corredor Cultural de Chapultepec.

The project leaders say it will bring new life to the Chapultepec neighborhood, brining private commerce and public spaces together. The opponents argue that it will be just another shopping mall, with little space for culture-related projects. Plus, the project requires a second floor to the Chapultepec neighborhood (think something like the High Line Park in New York City), making it very invasive for the residents around the area.

This past Sunday, the Mexico City’s Electoral Institute held a public vote on the project. There were over 22 thousand votes, with the majority voting “no” to the construction of the project, putting it on hold.

The Electoral Institute referred to the vote as a success. However, only 4.8% of those eligible voted.

It would seem these types of citizen initiative campaigns need more of the participatory and media advocacy focus that Silivio Waisbord talks about.

Waisbord explains that participatory theorists argue that development communication requires sensitivity to cultural diversity, and lack of such sensitivity leads to the failure of many project. That certainly seems to be the case for the Corredor Cultural de Chapultepec (CCC). Since the start, the commercial aspect for the project was featured too much. The word “cultural” is in the project’s title, yet not one cultural initiative was proposed in the CCC’s presentation. A large majority of Mexico City’s population is lower-middle class, the project seemed to be targeting upper and upper-middle classes.

Which brings us to the second point. The media advocacy was nowhere to be seen. The project needs to change its messages to the media. Stop selling it like a shopping mall. Use the media to really disseminate the social changes the project will bring to the community. It’s about changing the key words being used by the project’s spokespeople.

The Corredor Cultural de Chapultepec still has a chance of being built, but its creators need to seriously rework the branding and key messages of the project if they want to get the citizens on board with it.