Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wearing, being and doing

What we wear is what we are. And what we are is what we do. So, I suggest that what we wear is what we do. Clothing can be stylish and purposeful at the same time. 

Thinking and acting

Sometimes, we argue about how far we have acted out our thoughts. Other times, we decide we cannot act as much as we can think.

Insofar as thinking and acting are seen as two departments, two worlds, two states of being, their combination seems difficult. Insofar as they are thought of as one seamless process, one world, one way of being, their interdependency becomes clearer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Synths and Google

Google had a synthesizer up as their search logo today. The record function is a seriously dangerous passtime!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revision rinsed IV

The problem with contemporary information systems for the public sector is that they rely on older models of "new public management" that rose around the turn of the century.

New public management was a field where the affordances of technology were combined with the objectives of public administration.

Two concerns follow from this  theoretical combination: First, how has the distribution, production and consumption of new media and information technology systems evolved since the year 2000? Second, how are public values  translated into technology rules?

The challenge of contemporary information systems for the public sector lies in these two concerns.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Binary oppositions

Physical - Metaphysical
Subjective - Objective
Realized - Trancended
Dark - Light
War - Peace
Gemeinschaft - Gesellschaft
Exogenous - Endogenous
Public - Private
Open-source - Propietary
Us - Them

Friday, May 11, 2012

Revision rinsed III

If we can accept that different communication systems are embedded in different cultural arrangements, then the social relations which make the arrangements up become a central concern. We may borrow from concepts explored in political economy as well as community development literature.

Amartya Sen [1] outlines five critical functions of the media in society:
  1. To enable direction contribution from the public;
  2. To enable information to be disseminated to the public;
  3. To protect public voice;
  4. To facilitate the formation of public value; and
  5. To enable public reasoning.
Here, Sen does not attempt to theorize communication. He assumes much of it: That it is increasingly 2-way, that sometimes the public talks and other time the public is talked to, and that values are inherent in these relations. By these assumptions, he makes a strong argument of the media in support of democratic, just societies. 

Similarly, Paolo Friere [2] assumes that modes of communication - and their respective values - change, but some stuff remains in the public. This stuff is grounded in very few but common values we all come to the world with. As with Sen's focus on justice, Friere's focus is on the pedagogy we need to interact to realize these few common values.

In both cases, a strong assumption needs to be made about values being embedded with the production, distribution and consumption of media. Once those values are assumed, the structure of power becomes clear. 

And from here, one can evaluate whether any communication system is participatory or superficially-revised diffusion.

Even here, however, we need to check ourselves. Let us consider an example of a "truly" participatory approach. In this case, is it possible to envision systems of communication where factors such as agenda-setting, management, technical-knowhow, etc. are perfectly available in the public sphere? Habermasian [3] derivations of the Public Sphere define three characteristics:
  1. All participants have equal access to the sphere;
  2. All participants have the right to question activities and discussions in the sphere;
  3. All participants have a right to suggest modifications to activites and discussions.
It's that last characteristic we need to consider. Will a "truly" or perfectly participatory system of communication make available to every producer and consumer of information on the system the right to suggest modifications? And if this right was granted, is it realistic to think that their suggested modifications would be followed through, thus enabling public reasoning as Sen suggests?

[1] Sen, Amartya (2009). The idea of justice, Alan Lane Publishing.
[2] Friere, Paolo (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed, Penguin.
[3] Habermas, Jurgen (various years). On wikipedia\. Also see interpretations by Chantal Mouffe.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Revision rinsed II

When discussing communication for development, we tend to argue against the models based only on diffusion of media technologies. That is, in pursuing a critical approach to development practices, we tend to support participatory approaches to technology use and engagement.

Yet, we leave development practice in the abstract. We stop short at revised theory, and consult with practice initiators who attempt to materialize the abstract. Even there, we treat attempts as cases, and recriticize to align with still revised theory.

It's time the field of communication for development confessed its efforts to change market-based activities. It's also time that it confessed that power in the market is strong, and at most times, stronger than the power of discourse.

Instead, the field of communication for development should hold strong to the assumptions that structuralist development practice has not worked. That's that. Why go further to assume that a new theory is needed, or what a new theory would mean for people's quality of life? Some of this is readily documented in market research on the use of mobile phones, radio broadcast interaction, broadband usage, etc.

The pursuit of how communication helps development becomes much simpler with just one assumption. From there, a world of activities come into view. And yes, while these activities are mixed - some are formal businesses, some are public initiatives, some are in between and some are mysteriously everywhere and nowhere - they are embedded in culture.

The pursuit for participatory, community-based approaches to communication for development encourages this as well - to seek culture as a means to understand modes and structures of communication. But it tends to revolve around conceptual arguments made by an academic community, not the community using and engaging with the communication system.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Going virtual

If the artifacts we used in our social networks were the rules of behavior we live by, how would you act?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Revision rinsed

Power is exercised between people and in their production of subsistence. In mediated contexts, people and their production are still important sources of power, but the systems through which their interactions are mediated are in turn founded in their respective perceptions of, interests in, and structures around power. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Young blood

Caption from source: "GRRR: A young boy flexed his muscles during a regional bodybuilding competition in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday. Bodybuilding is one of the country’s most popular sports. (Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)"

More photos of the day at Wall Street Journal.