The Lingering Duty of Nations
Today's Question: In several of the books we've read so far, we have found the hope or fear that new communication technologies challenge national borders or that they create new conditions for international unity (e.g., they will "bring the whole world together" or make place irrelevant). The Price book is an extended analysis of this one idea. Throughout the book Price compares and contrasts the consequences of specific technologies (satellite radio, AM radio, shortwave radio, the Internet, television, newspapers, books, etc.) for transnational migration, identity formation, international relations, and domestic politics. There are several examples in each chapter from specific places. Speaking generally, where is the agency (meaning: the means of action) in Price's accounts? In other words, is there an account of causation here, and if so, what is it? What leads to the consequences identified here, and what would we need to change to obtain different consequences?
My Response: In his book Media and Sovereignty Monroe E. Price lays out a complex web of interlocking actors and agents that influence the way in which our media systems operate. Behind this whole discussion seems to lay this need for political and/or ideological dominance over a given area. Many of the actions seem to be driven by the idea that media access in a market can be an instrumental step toward transferring ideology, while other actors seem motivated to keep media out as a way of insulating their nation or entity from undesirable ideologies. What is perhaps most interesting is that political units are by no means the only or even in some cases the most powerful actors pushing this agenda. Multinational corporations are also interested and in many cases seem to see the spread of free market ideology as desirable and use the media to reach those ends. And yet at some point the reality of the complexities of the world come into play. In some senses what causes the consequences is when nations attempt to navigate between the ideology and the practicality. All of these interactions are limited in some way by belief of nations and/or political units that they have the right or in some cases the duty to protect or promote their own needs or demands. The V-chip example is an excellent example to examine with regard to this issue (p. 125-132). The initial premise that allows for the V-chip is that in some way restraints on content must be put on the media. Since what exactly those restraints may be differs from culture to culture the easiest and clearest unit on which to delegate this task to are the established political units. While new media forms may be breaking down national borders it seems as though it still falls on the shoulders of those nations to solve the problems that seem to threaten its people.