My friends, what do you want from us?

The title is cited from the poem which is written by a Chinese diaspora, the following is the website about the poem:http://www.chinaherald.net/2008/04/my-friends-what-do-you-want-from-us.html

The poem is talking about the misunderstanding between the Western view and Chinese view. I thought this poem also ties closely with Corman’s article “A 21st century model for communication in the global war of ideas”.

Corman with his colleagues propose the strategic communication for the 21st century.  As we all know, in the global war of ideas, it is really important to win the hearts and minds. Corman compares and contrasts the conventional message influence model of communication and pragmatic complexity model.

Corman says that “There is no “magic bullet”, —no single message–however well crafted–that can be delivered within the existing system that is likely to change it.” If Western world tries to promote democracy to the remaining world such as Muslim world and East Asia regions, they need to understand that the way how receivers interpret the message might be dramatically different than the sender who transmit the message. Corman emphasizes that the complexity of communication as a meaning-making process. So the message always matters, but the message transmitter need to think about the complex reality.

I think Corman’s pragmatic model is very important, especially when the nation states are dealing with another nation state who has rich traditional culture. As Corman explains that “once a social reality is created, it has a tendency to sustain itself even in the face of contradictory information and persuasive campaigns. Members of the system, routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning.”

Just to give several examples to elaborate my understanding about his pragmatic complexity model. In the development communication field, communication is served as conduit of knowledge transfer to facilitate economic, social and political development. In the 1950-1960s, modernization approach is very prevalent. Many Westerners believe this model can enhance the economy of the developing countries, if their governments adopt the approach in the top-down manner. The innovation diffusion plays the central role in the model. But many Western scholars do not take the specific culture into consideration, so in reality, the modernization approach does not fit well for every developing countries.

The Bush Administration attempted to promote democracy in the Middle East. But they pay too much attention on how to construct the message, but overlooking how the receivers will interpret the message. So the Salafi extremists interpreted this message as yet another attempt by the Western Crusaders to impose their foreign values on Muslims. So there is no mutual understanding between those twp parties. On the contrary, this message could incite violence, which was far away from Bush Administration’s intention.

Another good example is human rights in China. As the Western media keeps blaming the human rights violation in China, people in China interpret human rights in different ways. The Chinese government legitimizes the family planing law in order to control the population size, but Western media blames that family planning should not be coercive, instead it should depends on people’s free choices. So the human rights debate on family planning in China between Western media and Chinese side might be destined to fail. Because each party has different interpretation of the message.

 

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Lady Gaga is my diplomat.

Joseph Nye talks about soft power as getting someone to WANT to do what you want them to… and in the PD 2.0 speech by Glass man, came this interesting tidbit:

“But in this new world of communications, any government that resists new Internet techniques faces a greater risk: being ignored. Our major target audiences – especially the young – don’t want to listen to us lecture them or tell them what to think or how wonderful we are.”

So here is my question: What about celebrities?  What role do they play in winning the public diplomacy game?  They have long been used as spokespeople, and as goodwill ambassadors to the U.N.   Within the United States we see Arnold Schwarzenegger and a whole slew of other celebrities in (kind of hilarious) ads trying to get us to like (and visit California.)  How do you think celebrities are playing into all of this?  Does the US government  need to be investing in Lady Gaga?  Should we be subtly promoting superstars who embody American values?

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Can Communication Technology Help Galvanize Political Change in the Wake of the Lady’s Release?

For years I have followed the travails of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyii and along with the much of the world was overjoyed at her recent release. I began to think of what we have been studying about the debate and scholarship about (Castells’ idea of public shere, and others) communication networks and mobile telephony and its ability to galvanize people into action against oppressive or corrupt regimes. Additionally, how individuals have used ICTs to mobilize their communities, civil society and ordinary citizens to push for social change. More than that, it’s also put on notice governments such as Myannmar’s military junta that a power shift is possible (and hopefully imminent) with the sustained, unrelenting support and it won’t be business as usual with people’s lives and freedom. Much has changed since The Lady’s arrest and 21st century technology has certainly placed a great deal of power in the hands of citizen activist. I wanted to share this Time article, with these thoughts in mind. Hope you enjoy!

Free Again, Can “The Lady” Still Rally Burma’s Opposition?

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2031264,00.html#ixzz15nXXFP00

 

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2031264,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar

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The (Arab) World According to Al Jazeera

 Undoubtedly, since its inception in the shadows of Operation Desert Storm, Al Jazeera’s growing power, reach and  influence has catapulted the news agency to the status of international non-state actor. As several Arab regimes such as Jordan can attest it has certainly become a force to be reckoned with given its enviable viewership, popularity and regional power. This is no easy feat given the rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics of the world we live in. Despite the controversies, its various viewpoints it has become the new voice in the world of broadcast news

In The Public Diplomacy of Al Jazeera, Shawn Powers and Eytan Gilboa points out a number of reasons for its rise and sustained popularity. Emerging from a region known for its aversion to free media and expression and given the plethora of issues and entanglements precipitated by US presence in the region, an admittedly non-Western perspective and approach, is an absolute necessity. Al Jazeera is a useful news and communication apparatus for a region of the world that many ordinary Westerners perceive as isolated, unknown and unknowable. More importantly however, it represents a voice for a significant region of the world to be represented and heard (to some extent) outside the framework and lens of Western media machinery.  I for one, am uninterested in hearing what the Arab world thinks/feels/discusses from the perspective of CNN, ABC Nightly News or worse yet, Fox News. Covering your ears to criticism doesn’t make it go away, neither does putting in the spin cycle and labeling it anti-American. I imagine that much of the Arab world (with its myriad perspective, ideas, opinions, views, dissents etc.) must feel some resentment and impatience at having their world and ideas filtered through and by Western media. The Western international agenda should be interrogated, not questioned particularly to the instability and innumerable civilian deaths, dead checking of civilians and human rights violations that have occurred. 

Much of its popularity stems from the perception of credibility and fair and honest approach for reporting the news. Images are not sanitized and certainly. Where else will you get interviews on groups like Nigeria’s MEND and their struggle against Oil conglomerates  like Shell and Exxon?  The criticisms, controversies and trip-ups are par for teh course, I feel. It agitates and is as Poers and Gilboa puts it, a” thorn in the side of regimes that …control teh news flow. Rupert Murdoch, imagine that!

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Jihadist Letterhead

My eyes were opened a little wider this week, on the effect of media framing. Reporting on Al Qaeda frequently portrays training camp compounds in remote valleys and conjures images of no-man’s lands in mountainous areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, where militant Islamists are thought to be hiding in cave-like lairs. These are the images we are familiar with, and while they are not inaccurate, they don’t present the whole picture concerning the extent of jihadist networks.

Garnering less attention from the press is the fact that a major part of operations for these militant Islamist groups is centered on production of video and text media. Perhaps the press do not want to lend further publicity for jihadist media, which is understandable, but this leaves us (the public) with a skewed perception and a poor understanding how sophisticated these networks can be.

In The Al Qaeda Media Nexus, Daniel Kimmage details the complex and surprisingly sophisticated virtual network behind the daily flow of jihadist media that appears on the Internet. It is quite centralized with three major virtual media production and distribution entities (MPDEs) responsible for creating virtual links between the various armed groups that fall into the general category of Al Qaeda and affiliated movements.

Most disconcerting is their effective use of systematic branding in order to boost credibility and facilitate message control. The use of graphic logos by different groups to accompany titled statements and releases of information can be likened to traditional marketing practices and PR campaigns. This seems very pragmatic and level-headed, which is far from the image of “crazy” or “evil irrational” terrorists that dominates public discourse. Nothing says take me seriously like monogrammed letterhead.

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What can we learn from Al Jazeera’s public diplomacy?

Shawn Powers and Eytan Gilboa give very detailed analysis about how Al Jazeera,  emerges as one of the most important news organizations in the world today. One important perspective is that Al Jazeera claims to represent to the whole Arab and Muslim, and works for its Arab citizenry. While at the same time, it also covers the political events of geopolitical importance to Western nations such as war in Iraq.

But one interesting thing about the overwhelming popularity of Al Jazeera within the Middle East, is partially due to the poor standing of most Arab national media systems. Most of the Arab media are controlled by corrupt and ineffective regimes. Due to Al Jazeera’s unique approach towards reporting the news–to be honest and fair, so many people trust the network if they want to know what is going on in the world.

Compared to BBC, Al Jazeera has a different role and it works as the agent of change. While Western media label themselves as a platform for debate, but not mobilize forces or mobilize the streets against government; Al Jazeera is moving towards an agent of democratic governance. It provides a valuable place for intellectuals, thinks and critics to speak their mind. Not only does Al Jazeera  opens its door to the highly educated people, it also promote two- way communication. It pays much attention to how their messages are interacting with the audiences. In their talk show programs, they always offer the opinion and the counter-opinion. They are trying to deliver the message in an impartial way, but also very sensitive to local sensibilities.  In terms of Al Jazeera’s external outreach, as Joanne Tucker, managing director of the network’s English Web site, suggests that “There was a need to reach the West….A huge slice of life gets overlooked.. We are trying to provide a bridge to the Arab world. So Al Jazeera’s English version serves as the conduit to promote mutual understanding between different peoples and different cultures.So what can we learn from Al Jazeera’ public diplomacy? Professor Hayden talked about China endeavor to reach the West and promote mutual understanding by utilizing its public diplomacy.  Xinhua news agency—China’s state news agency has moved to the Times Square with the ambition to enhance its “soft power”. But many Westerners just doubt whether the Xinhua news agency can convey a Chinese perspective on global events impartially or not. Or is it just another format of Chinese propaganda.

 

China, like most Arab countries still controls the national media system. But those Arab countries at least has Al-Jazeera, who is trying to be independent from those Arab countries’ political interests, to promote democracy and provide a platform for debate. But China still cannot cultivate  the honest and fair news environment. So if the news agency such as Xinhua, do not have very clear objectives and missions in terms of conveying messages, how can people trust the network? We are moving towards the new public diplomacy: understanding communication as dialogue. So if Xinhua cannot set up its strategic communication plan, it might doom to be a failure to bridge the cultural role between China and the Western world.

 

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Sensitivity to the use of the media

It is hard to imagine a time where governments did not use the media space to articulate their foreign policy. No matter what I seem to consume while home in the US, there is always some message attached or that can be made from the information. At this point in time, media entities whether it is CNN or American motion pictures transmit and project US values.

In Monroe Price’s toward a foreign policy of information space, it is noted that since September 11, 2001, there is an emerging realization that information foreign polices are everywhere. Price notes that there is a need for a coherent and effect policy, and gives the example of the US is trying to win hearts and minds globally (344).

Yet, what I would like to question is if this age of the media being used for foreign policy, is just a stage in history, or whether it is an aspect that will become more permanent. Even though the importance of using the media for foreign policy messages seems to occur when there is a conflict, I think that even if certain issues no longer remain, the use of the media to spread ideal and ideas will remain. I agree with Price that “sensitivity to media abroad as well as at home becomes more visible and actions to affect such media more tangible and directed when war or conflict” is involved, but like I said, just because people might not notice the media as much doesn’t mean its not there and influential (349).

Yet, it is not only nation-states that are using the media to their advantage. As Kaneil Kimmage notes in The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus, media entities are able to spread their ideologies through the media and brand jihadist and also create virtual links. Just like foreign policy in the media is more visible during conflicts, a vast amount of jihadist media products are focused on conflict zones. However, I warn and question that even though sensitivity to the use of media is not as visible in non-conflict settings, it does not mean its not they are not being influential. Jihadist have now branded themselves and are creating credibility through he use of the internet and the media. Learning from governments, Jihadist are also moving towards a more structured approach based on branding and gaining their influence in foreign policy through the media and achieving credibility.

At this point in time, it is a little scary to think of what the media and other technologies are projecting. Whether it is foreign policy of a specific government, or the ideals of an extremist movement. Yet information is information and is there for everyone to use. And even when people are not sensitive to its  importance, it does not mean that it does not exist.

 

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