Media Governance – Cultural Perspectives

Featured Image -- 52Week 3: Times have changed (or have they?)

This week, we are going to look at governance with a broader, cultural lens. Media policies and surrounding politics, policy-making, and regulation often get examined via empirical analyses by political scientists,  media economists, and legal scholars.  But politics, policy- and law-making are not separate from cultural values and contexts.  In addition, governance is also always about power. Many scholars and other thinkers are looking at the power dynamics between different interest groups of mediated/communication and power from a cultural perspective. Here are some broader frameworks/perspectives:

Context #1: Cultural Flows

Thanks to Andrew, Bree & Frank (and Michelle Obama’s dress code) for making me add this segment. The core idea of cultural flows is founded on theorization around globalization. It’s partly economic (how media products = ideas travel around the world) but also how cultures change because of that (the key thinker, Arjun Appadurai, is an anthropologist after all). The political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart have looked at different theories of the impact of global cultural flows (they call it Cosmopolitan Communication)and map them as follows (summary below by the media anthropologist John Postill) :

1) Convergence of national cultures around Western values (LA effect): cultural imperialism/Americanization thesis (we all know this: some call it Disneyification);

2) Polarization of national cultures (Taliban effect): people can resist and reject alien media messages and values;

3) Fusion of national cultures (Bangalore effect): hybridity, multidirectional flows prevail (think of world music, for instance);

4) Firewall model of conditional effects (authors’ proposed theory), i.e. national cultures are far better insulated from the impact of cosmopolitan communication than previously thought (letting in content/values that is easily acceptable, leaving other things out).

What does the above has to do with media governance? Culture defines what is tolerated, accepted, supported. And we have seen clashes: #JesuisCharlie.

Context #2: Technology

Global communication flows are naturally related to technology that allows quicker, faster, more borderless flows than ever before. In addition, local/national cultures change from within; power dynamics change. No longer do we live in the era of mass communication, dominated by few media outlets and corporations. Instead, we are in the middle of the culture of convergence, as Henry Jenkins (also the author of one of W3 readings) explains below:

Jenkins’ chapter highlights what first happened when the mass media logic (and regulation) meets the unleashed creative power of people.

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Changes in Governance

The above changes are intertwined and have broader consequences. In other words, as insinuated last week, cultures have changed, and aspects of media governance with them. Here’s my simple summary table. Please critique, comment, etc. below as comments to this blog (this is NOT part of your assignment, but I’d love any feedback!)

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Or, the main difference could be described as “The Multitudes of the Social“:

And yet…

Change is not a-historical. Cultures (as even Norris & Inglehart insinuate) resist change, or don’t change completely, overnight. Diversity of voices, conversations, in mass media as well as new platforms — in the public sphere — is still a challenge – as it was in 1999 when your W3 reading by Jacobs was written.  Access to content (and production) divides us according to our economic and now also generational standing. Hate speech and flaming (whether based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation) can spread like wildfire. And, while diversity of content online is practically infinite, our consumption is perhaps even more ‘narrow’ than during the mass media era: We often live in information filter bubbles formed by our choices to search for/read/follow content and sources that are only to our liking (see the below examples of Scott and David):

Assignment of Week 3 (due 2/13 at midnight):
  • Read the readings marked with W3  — access them on Facebook or Blackboard.
  • Join the debate on Blackboard under Assignment Discussions — detailed instructions posted there.