Communicate, Unite and Expand

There has been a growing attention placed on communication and technology placed on developing telecommunication and internet capabilities on the continent of Africa. The continent has the fastest growing rate of mobile subscriptions and sales. I would like to concentrate development efforts to three Southern African countries (members of the South African Development Community or SADC) to access information and communication technologies. SADC was originally formed in 1980 and reorganized in 1992 under its current name. Its goals are to increase economic development and investment into member countries. Infrastructure is one of their highlighted themes to build up their economies. The need for low cost ICT and telecommunications technologies in rural and underprivileged urban cities is a key issue of theirs. I would like to work with the government and private companies to increase the number of mobile phones with active subscriptions, number of Internet hosts (computers connected directly to the internet) and international internet bandwidth (bits per person), which would focus on speed and reliability of the connection.

I selected number of mobile phones with active subscription because I believe that it characterizes the ability for people to stay connected and receive information locally and possibly internationally if they have an adequate calling card. I did not choose to use landlines as a variable because infrastructure is very poor in some villages but many people can still use a cell phone. Even with the most basic phone, public health workers and governments have used mass text technologies to send out messages to their citizens. Even without smartphone capabilities, people are still able to receive information from out of network sources. Number of Internet hosts measures how many computers are connected to the Internet. This measure shows access to possible global information. It does not measure efficiency or use though, therefore I have chosen Internet bandwidth as a target to depict use of the Internet.

 

Sources:

http://www.sadc.int/themes/infrastructure/ict-telecommunications/

Livingston, S. (2011). The CNN effect reconsidered (again): problematizing ICT and global governance in the CNN effect research agenda . Media, War & Conflic , 4 (20), 20-36.

 

Strategic Narratives: From DARE to Try Again

Is there a way to use a “strategic narrative” to combat violent extremism? If so, how do you think this might work in practice?

Strategic narratives are stories used to change an outcome. Its power relies on the belief that human pathos, ethos and logos can connect to a story of shared value or premonition of things to come. The first strategic narratives I can remember growing up was in DARE classes that included “case studies” of kids that did drugs and ended up with horrible consequences. These narratives that the program provided were meant to educate and sway kids from using drugs and alcohol at an early age. Still, many teenagers alike get peer pressured into trying some type of drug before they leave high school and memories of DARE classes become running jokes. I use this example to highlight that even on my most impressionable minds at an early age, before a “first interaction”, there are outside forces that work stronger than some strategic narratives can deliver.

DARE-America-Logo

Britain and the US have sought to use strategic narratives to combat violence extremism, through shared stories and aggressive social media campaigns to cartoons and TV shows. On March 16th the US military dropped 60,000 pieces of paper out the sky with a cartoon rendering of what happens to people with they join ISIS. The international community views tactics like these as inadequate and silly.

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The State Department’s Eid al-Fitr Celebration this year was themed “ The importance of Story Telling: Highlighting the Voices of Muslim Woman”. They had the bright idea to show a US propaganda, cartoon which depicts a Middle Eastern woman (without hijab) fighting off terrorists. Needless to say, the room filled with dignitaries from the Muslim community and MENA state officials did not clap. This tactic to combat violet extremism by targeting the youth appeared miscalculated and offensive.

It is quite difficult for a government to use a strategic narrative to combat violent extremism in practice. For one they lack the ethos. The US and other western countries are seen as the enemy and non-credible beacons of authority. They lack logos and ethos. ISIS connects to its supporters through an ideological and emotional frame. The US’s war on terror or their social media tactics are not successful with garnering enough emotional appeal to combat those interested in joining ISIS.

The War on Terror as a strategic narrative played on the fears of the autonomy and safety of US citizens. The campaign was able to garner great support with the American people and Congress. The US knew their target audience and was a credible source to the American people. It falls down to any communication challenge: who is the audience, is your target audience actually accessing the information, is the person delivering the content a credible source? The US and other nations will need to think more strategically to combat the daesh complex, skillfully crafted ideology.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/27/us-airdrops-anti-isis-cartoon-propaganda-raqqa-syria

https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/07/31/power-storytelling-highlighting-voices-muslim-women

https://twitter.com/UKAgainstISIL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Shifting Complex: From the Battlefield to Your Bedroom

Powers and Jablonski puts forth the idea (and warns) that the Information Industrial Complex (ICC) is the 21st century Military- Industrial Complex (MIC). The key characteristics to this claim is the ICC’s linkage to the political economy and the same elitist members of government, tech, and business . They coined this co-dependent trifecta the “silicon triangle”. While I can see how Powers and Jablonski could compare the two during the late 20th century, I believe that ICT has a broader market than defense companies. Therefore, I actually refute giving it the same analogy on the basis of the tech world, no being able to sustain without the cushion of government contracts and grants to invent new mechanisms and develop new products.

The Internet was created mainly through large federal grants in the 70s and grew 10 fold in the 90s through congressional deregulation and other favorable policies. These programs titled ARPANET and NSFNET were the precursors to the internet. While the DOD practically invented the internet, it has now grown into a global tool that is regulated at a national level by different countries. The fear of the ICC doesn’t just include the Internet but also telecommunications.

After 9/11, the US got into the controversial business of spying on its on citizens out of mass fear of terrorism. This is the point where I see the ICC as the new era for of the MIC. NSC, CIA, and DOD, have gone through great extents to develop algorithms and technologies to spy on conversations, web searches and other digital communications. The Chinese hack on OPM displayed that adversaries too have developed close knit relations with ICT. In fact, it is a major art of foreign governments. Now authoritative governments have crunched down on journalists and citizens online through social media channels.

Military attack is no longer just boots on the ground, ships at sea and fighter jets going head to head. Due to shifting technologies the battlefield has moved to boardrooms and bedrooms of domestic citizens and abroad.The internet and supporting technologies have opened up a new arena of control.

For economical reasons there has been major push to get the continent of Africa connected to the internet. It has been pushed through a lens of getting people to market and helping to stimulate economic government. However, much of it was for global markets to have new consumers.

Jablonski and Powers state that the multistakeholder governance is a myth. These organizations such as ICANN and ISOC, “lack diversity, stifles oppositions and displays high characteristics of cronyism”. The multistakeholder units are not the true public but are made up on CEOs in the ICT industry. On the surface the ICANN is an international working group but due to its members, it clearly represents US corporate interests.

Globalized Communication and the Rise of Major Non-state Actors

The globalization of communication has increased the relevance of international actors regardless if they are recognized nation-states, non-state actors, or large enterprise. Governments or traditional nation-states used to have a monopoly on information. Social media and 21st century technologies have increased the speed and reduced the cost of transportation of goods and ideas. This has given rise to transnational bodies, which are able to spread their ideologies across borders and garner loyalty faster that nation-states that struggle with the management and use of data.

The Atlantic Council has labeled this era, the Westphalian Plus Era. Meaning, the importance of the nation-state has not gone away but it is important to fully recognize major non-state actors and adapt communication and governance around it. The ability for an entity to traverse borders (physical, theoretical or symbolic) of communication can give rise to power. ISIS serves as a prime example of this emerging paradigm. According to UN member nations, ISIS is a non-state actor, however according to them they are an official body. Their reign currently spreads over two states. They have leaders, a mission and a very intricate communication network. Through social media and other forms of digital propaganda, ISIS has been able to attract recruits even in the western world. The US and England subsequently has recognized this and engaged in developing entire departments and internet space towards countering ISIS and violent extremism through social media. Regardless if their efforts have any positive effects, it is important to note that these sovereign Wesphalian nations have acknowledged the strength and gave relevance to ISIS’s international strategic communication agenda.

NGOS and corporations also play a major role in communication and the possibilities of power. These organizations have significant capacities in the domain of energy, cyber, security and technologies. All of which are main tools for statecraft. The main issue with these entities arise when answering the questions of who has the power or whose responsibility is it to prosecute when a transnational issue arises. For instance, this past summer, FIFA, the governing body of association for international football was admist a scandal of key leadership involved in bribery, election rigging and corruption. This isn’t some PTA, neighborhood club meeting scandal that has localized affects, it is magnetized by the fact that the organization deals with international contracts and government commitments. As a intermediary body dealing in part with public finance, this scandal has major implications. Who is to prosecute this organization with no national boundaries? The U.S DOJ under the RICO ACT was able to work with Swiss authorities to have executives arrested and extradited to the United States. How was a US federal law, allowed to be applied to a transnational body, with whom the contract under question did not apply?

The Economist explains it clearly here:

What laws are the Americans using?
The case is essentially about bribery, yet there are no bribery charges. That is because federal bribery laws cover only bribery of government officials, not those from non-governmental bodies like FIFA. So prosecutors had to get creative—something they are increasingly doing in America, sometimes controversially. One of the laws they are bringing charges under is the Travel Act, points out Heather Lowe of Global Financial Integrity, an advocacy group. The relevant part of the law essentially says that it is illegal to engage in interstate or foreign travel, or use the mails or “any facility in interstate commerce” to promote, manage, establish or carry on an illegal activity. That activity can be illegal under either federal or state law. Bribery is definitely included on the list of what is considered an illegal activity under the Travel Act. Any relevant transaction, even if it is only tangentially related to America, can be targeted. In one instance, a representative of FirstCaribbean International Bank in the Bahamas flew to New York to pick up a cheque for $250,000 (the alleged bribe) from the bribe recipient to transport it safely back to the defendant’s bank account.

 

Why does America have the ability to do this sort of thing?
The arm of American law is famously long. The country’s law enforcers claim the right to go after anyone using dollars, its banking system or its territory to plan or conduct an illegal act. It can try them in its courts, subject to successful extradition. Chuck Blazer, a defendant who turned co-operator, was based in New York. Accused FIFA officials and marketing executives allegedly discussed or engaged in palm-greasing while passing through America; several of the more than 30 banks and branches that handled tainted transactions are American. For any bank or company that does substantial business in the country, corporate charges have to be taken very seriously—and are usually settled promptly.”

This case study takes me back to the main point that the Atlantic Council makes about the new Westphalian Plus Era. While non-state actors have enormous influence over business, people and ideas, nation-states are still called up upon, to assist with prosecution, security, and stabilization of issues arising from these non-governmental mega-strucutes.

I would like to leave you with a few thoughts. Coca-Cola is the most intrusive brand in the world. It arguably has the most loyal customer base on the planet. What would it look like if he company happened to develop a political agenda? Its logistical network just have digital power, it has street sense. What does it mean when people and corporations have larger Twitter and Facebook followings than some countries have populations? As information technologies continue to evolve, governments will need to learn how to stay ahead of the curve, with the management and use of data as they attempt to connect with their own citizens and foreign entities.

Sources:

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/webcasts/diplomacy-beyond-the-nation-state

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/06/economist-explains

Maintaing cultural identity after migration: “Far Apart, Near at Heart”

Diasporas are created when a mass migration of people, whom have cultural bonds and similarities, migrate to a new place. These communities remain strongly intact for decades before people start moving away from the center. A culture and identity often forms from that center and is maintained through media and ritualistic forms of communication. Clear examples of this can be seen in Chinatowns, located I several metropolitan cities across the US, “Little Italy” in New York, “Little Haiti and Little Havana” in Miami, the Nuyoricans in New York. These historical enclaves represent large and maintain diasporas.

One way that people of a diaspora sustain their sense of collective identity is through traditional media methods: TV, radio and print. Univision, the largest Spanish language US Network is reported to be seen by 92% of Hispanics in the household. The network gives Hispanics to watch TV in their language and style –programming reminiscent of home. Radio stations like Martí and Mambí has kept Cubans in Miami in close contact with the happenings of Cuba. They allow listeners to call in and state their opinions and thoughts. This creates a space for shared feelings on particular subjects. A way to keep your values in line with the cultural norm. The use of community newspapers allows members of a diaspora to report on news that matters to them. The paper also allows a way to post information about community events, classifieds, and people to highlight within the community. It brings a shared sense of pride and joy and can make a new place feel comfortable. Many African American communities use community newspapers like the Florida Sentinel, to lift up leaders, write on issues that affect the community, and give people who may feel voiceless in mainstream news an outlet to speak. Now, through the internet and expanded networks there is greater opportunity to get programming from abroad via TV or internet, through youtube .

Communication is both transformative and ritualistic. A major source of sustained cultural identity is ritualistic. Diasporas place heavy importance in communion and fellowship. Engaging in communication that is felt through. Cultural Centers, churches and ethinc based organizations, serve as places to strengthen values, continued education of the homeland, praise the good-doings, give blessing to the sick, and come together to work out issues.

Diaspora populations reproduce their culture through plays, art exhibition and parades. The New York Puerto Rican Day Parade is one of the most famous parades in the world. Others like Carnival and Jouvert highlight the ethnicities of the Caribbean. The outward consumable expressions of culture are also presented such as music, dance, food, and crafts.

Sources:

Karim H. Karim

Collins, G. (1996) ‘Advertising: Information resources takes aim at the ethnic market, and Nielsen’, New York Times, 14 May, Section 3, p.3.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/cuban-radio-is-dying-because-of-aging-hardliners-and-miamis-changing-market-6388950

Time is money, I am trying to build an empire… HURRY!

Advancements in communication technologies has helped to link people, ideas and commerce from across the globe. From King Darius I creating a network of yelling men on hilltops to the British embarking to lay a transcontinental cable underwater in 1872, nations and companies have innovated new ways to foster more effective communication.

It can be argued that the communication industrial boom, helped European nations exponentially build and maintain their Empires in the late 1800s. By 1838 Britain was able to communicate within minutes to their colony in India by telegraph. Previously, a written form of communication would be coupled with a mode of transportation, in this case a ship, and would have taken months just for a one way directive to reach. Enhanced communication meant, that actions can be made and approved at a high rate.

The International Telegraphic Union was the first international organization of its kind. This group brought 22 countries together to discuss cable lines and regulation of information. Ownership of cable lines gave countries and companies mass amount of power. The bond between international relations and communications is illustrated quite distinctly when looking at a cable line case study. Companies had to be strategic about where they laid undersea cable lines because it was a very expensive endeavor. Although the line may start in its home country, it would need to coordinate with the government of another country for permission to end the line on their shores. Diplomatic provisions for that country might include, a reduced rate use of the line. In 1923 Britain held 50% and the USA held nearly 25% of the global share of cable lines. This access to communication equated to greater power.

The addition of commercial money transfers increased commerce and trade. This allowed businesses from different parts of the globe exchange rates and products as well as allow for more transnational corporations.

Although telephones emerged in 1878, they were fairly limited as an international communication source until the 1950s. Three major international news agencies emerged in the late 1800s; together called the “Ring Combination”. Havas, Reuters and Wolf came together to forma monopoly as leaders on international news, contracting the rights to report in different regions. This inevitably led to news having a slanted western, northern view of the south.

New developments in the early 1900s led to greater radio technologies s a form of broadcast. Without the physical barriers that telegraphs hAD, THE Russians saw great strategic opportunity with radio. They used in heavily as a propaganda tool, transmitting programs in over 80 languages across the Eastern Bloc and beyond. The Nazis too used its power and were able to transmit far to Argentina where their was a large population of German migrants.

Sources:

Daya Thussu “The Historical Context of International
Communication” from International Communication: Continuity and
Change
(2006).

Powers and Jablonski (Chapter 1 Information Freedom and US Foreign Policy: A History)

(This blog post in response to question #3 about the historic implications of international communication on international relations.)