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Globalization may be the most studied phenomenon of the new century. Scholars from nearly every field have engaged the dynamics of worldwide connectivity, and for some disciplines these issues have become central (e.g., political science, communication, sociology, economics, policy studies, international relations, anthropology, geography). Whether by choice or by chance, the people of every nation now interact with other cultures at various levels on a daily basis. Whether these interactions are understood as empowering (such as, the potential some see for unprecedented wealth generation) or threatening (such as, emerging environmental and public health hazards now operant at a planetary level, or acts of terrorism enabled by intricate communication and transportation networks), the one common act that enables this interaction is communication. When pressed to defend the view that we are living in a uniquely globalized era, scholars interested in doing so almost always cite the increasing rapidity of informational and communicational flows as proof that we inhabit historically unprecedented times.

In this course we connect various dimensions of communication, including, technological effects, comparative legal & policy systems, culture change and progress, geopolitics, global governance and political activism to global issues ranging from conflict to the construction of national and post-national identities and transnational civil society. A primary goal is to orient thinking about the field of communication studies from a globalized perspective.

We cover a range of controversies under discussion by mass communication scholars, such as (a) does globalization require us to fundamentally revise our accounts of social movements and the processes of social change? (b) does communication globalization enable the realization of Immanuel Kant’s compelling but never realized vision of world citizenship or genuine cosmopolitanism? (c) is globalization on balance a force for emancipation or enslavement? Does it promote or destroy forces conducive to democratization? (d) do the globalized media increase the world’s sensitivity to humanitarian disasters far away now seen in digital close-up, or simply induce compassion fatigue in populations numbed to the endless repetition of shocking news footage? (e) is globalization anything more than a vehicle for American imperialism? And do the local cultures of the world stand any chance in the face of Hollywood’s glitzy exports, and the materialist ideology they promote?

Subsidiary goals for the course are to: (a) examine critically material, socio-cultural, and regulatory processes in the communication-globalization relationship; (b) enhance our awareness about practicing and intellectualizing communication in a global context; and (c) strengthen our understanding of theories of international communication.

This is a graduate seminar that will consist of intense roundtable discussions of reading materials, and it meets a core curriculum requirement in the Media & Society doctoral program.

International Political Economy of the Media (C8740 & 6160)

Nearly all variants of social and political theory hold that the communication system is a cornerstone of modern societies. In political terms, the communication system may serve to enhance democracy, or to deny it, or some combination of the two. Less commented upon, though no less significant, the communication system has emerged as a central area for profit making in modern capitalist societies. This dual role of the communication system, both a foundational element of the emerging global economy and the bedrock of political democracy, constitutes a vital tension on the world stage.

Few industries have been as changed by capitalist globalization as communications. Prior to the 1980s, national media systems were typified by domestically owned radio, television and print media. There were considerable import markets for films, television shows, music and books, and these markets tended to be dominated by firms based in the United States. But local commercial interests, sometimes combined with a state-affiliated broadcasting service, were both substantial and significant. Media systems were primarily national, and often possessed at least limited public-service features. Telecommunication monopolies were generally under the direct control of state ministries or regulators, and these national networks coordinated international information flows.

Today, this is no longer the case. Global conglomerates, outside the reach of any single nation-state’s regulations, own and operate the majority of media products and platforms utilized around the world. The growing concentration of media ownership, and blurring of the telecommunications and media sectors as well as the internationalization of the industries each represent radical changes to a system that is at the heart of global financial, political and cultural institutions. This course will trace the emergence of the international media industry and analyze the changing balance of public and private control over media and telecommunications in the global political economy and patterns of concentration and investment in the overall communication sector. Moreover, it will explore the relationships between the emergence and growth of global media industries and political, social and cultural discourses as well as explore possibilities for improving the contribution of media and telecommunications to development in different parts of the world. .