Wednesday, August 13, 2008

International and Intercultural Communications

I have completed two days at the International and Intercultural Communications in the Digital Age conference organised by the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies at Monash University. Thanks very much to Andy Ruddock and Ron Gallagher for providing the opportunity, as well as lovely accommodation at the historic Hotel Windsor (tip for Melbourne conference organisers: consider this as a place to house international guests rather than a more anonymous international hotel chain).

I have provided notes below on the presentations by Professor Xinxin Deng from the Communications University of China, and the keynote presented by Associate Professor Ramaswami Harindranath from the University of Melbourne. The full program can be accessed here, but other notable presentations for me were:

  • Professor Sung Gwan Park from Department of Communications, Seoul National University, on how a 'herd opinion' can emerge through mass communication as an alternative to public opinion, with reference to recent Korean politics;
  • Peter Murphy's (Monash) interesting, provocative and surprisingly positive reappraisal of Ronald Reagan and his role in US politics, focusing on the role of humour, personal ease and 'rat cunning' in holding together a contradictory political coalition, which he believes that all Democrat candidates other than Bill Clinton have lacked, and he finds lacking in Barack Obama, who he finds too narcissistic;
  • Craig Norris's (U. Tasmania) intriguing account of the cultural appropriation of the Ross Village Bakery in rural Tasmania by young Japanese anime fans.
Among the bouquets, one brickbat, however. This goes to IT administration at Monash, and how ill-equipped they seem to be to handle access to wireless networking facilities for guests to the university. The problem, which took much of Day 1 to not resolve, was that the event was in a building 'owned' by the Faculty of Business and Economics, who see the wireless infrastructure as 'theirs', and not as something to be shared with the Faculty of Arts, as they are based on another campus.

If ever there was a reminder of how assumptions of territoriality and sovereignty become problematic in a networked environment, this was it. Sometimes the administration of IT needs to be taken out of the hands of 'IT culture', with its obsessions with security and denying rather than facilitating access, and this was a case in point. As a multi-campus university, Monash should think seriously about how to deterritorialise its wireless IT, rather than reduce people to begging for assistance from the IT divisions.

International and Intercultural Communications in the Age of Digital Media, School of English, Communications and Performance Studies, Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Melbourne, 11-13 August, 2008

Professor Xinxin Deng, Department of Communication, Communications University of China (CUC)

30th Anniversary of Development of Communication Studies in China

• Communications studies is primarily at Doctoral/research level, whereas journalism education is primarily undergraduate level
• Communication education in China started at postgraduate level in 1997 – by 2006, 88 programs nationwide, of which 10 are at Doctoral level
• 24 undergraduate programs by 2005 – no widely accepted paradigm – mix of electronic journalism, visual communication, advertising and public relations
• Chinese Association of Communication (CAC) established in 2002 to promote exchange inside/outside of China
• Chinese communication researchers expected to answer ‘bigger’ questions than their American counterparts at a comparable stage of disciplinary development – consequence of ‘transitional’ economy
• Most communications textbook are introductory and general in context, and often followed structure an framework set by Wilbur Schramm in 1982 visit to China – range of courses offered is limited (typically 6-10, as compared to 200+ at Annenberg USC)

Professor Ramaswami Harindranath, University of Melbourne, ‘Decolonizing Media Research: Postcolonial Interventions’

• Ambition to globalize media studies both laudable and limited – caught within existing positions that have become ossified – not engaging with local stories outside of the Western context
• Problems with global media studies/globalization theories as an orthodoxy:

1. Prominent conceptualizations ignore material realities of communities outside of the West – ‘we’ is the perspective of the cosmopolitan Western intellectual and excludes large sections of the world population;
2. Exclusive focus on the ‘new’ ignores continuation of longstanding patterns of inequality and power that impact on large sections of the world;
3. Problem is not simply epistemological but political, as it neglects the undersides of globalization.

• Walter Mignolo (ed.), special issue of Cultural Studies, 2007 – ‘zero point’ of observation in modern epistemology is disembodied and draws upon a limited historical range – coloniality of knowledge
• De-colonial projects different to postcolonial studies – roots in contemporary Latin American thought – epistemological reconstruction – pluriversality of the universal subject.
• Aihwa Ong – Neoliberalism as Exception – malleable technology of governing taken up by different regimes in different ways – re-engineering of political spaces in a variety of regimes types: pro-capitalist Islam, market zones in China – reconfiguring relations between governing and governed – interactive mode of citizenship – rights of citizenship attributed on basis of marketable skills – need to conceptualise citizenship and media/citizenship differently (c.f. Dahlgren and Hermes, European Journal of Communication, 2006)
• Dipesh Chakrovarty – differences between diaspora studies and what are referred to in the US as ‘area’ studies e.g. what is a generation? ‘national agony’ of becoming a multicultural society (Stuart Hall)
• Media and terror – Philosophy in the Age of Terror – interviews with Habermas and Derrida – media as a ‘prodigious techno-socio-political regime’ (Derrida)
• Audience as citizens (forthcoming book by Harindranath) – audiences typically missing from media/citizenship debates – access to symbolic resources and cultural capital becomes important.

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