What aspects of international communication in history are still relevant today?

Judging from our discussion in class on Tuesday, I think we picked up on several historical aspects of international communication that are still relevant today. One thing that we touched on a few times but I would have liked to discuss more was the power relations that are implicit in any study of international communication. This was mentioned several times in the readings, especially in relation to the Macbride commission and the New World Information and Communication Order. During that UNESCO commission, several developing nations argued that news media and other forms of international communications skewed towards representing the interests of Western nations, which (according to Masmoudi, cited in Thussu) “created and sustained mechanisms of neo-colonialism” (32).

While I think these concerns are still relevant to today’s international communication landscape, I am interested in the ways that new social media platforms have complicated these power relations. In the time of the NWICO, it would be relatively difficult for a person from, for example, the United States to access local news from growing cities in a developing nation. Now, I can use social media to access journalism and personal accounts of events happening pretty much anywhere. This complicates global inequality in information flows in several ways; not only does it allow for the spread of information from journalistic sources in countries that might not otherwise be able to disseminate their work as easily, but it also allows for people to give personal narratives that may counter the (often biased) information provided by Western media outlets writing about non-Western situations. While this does not necessarily balance out these power relations, it does provide ways for those in non-Western and/or developing nations to have their voices heard, and it does help push back against the hegemony of Western voices in international media. I am interested in keeping these questions of power relations and of whose voices get heard in mind this semester as we continue to see how historical aspects of international communication stay relevant.

-ml.

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