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Development communication (Peterson 2003)

March 29, 2010

Peterson, M.A. 2003. Anthropology and mass communication. Media and myth in the new millennium. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

42 After World War II many applied anthros turned to development communication. Aim was to drive the mass media ‘vehicles’ to attain modernisation. Social change seen as ‘unilineal process of modernisation’.

43 ‘Dominant paradigm’ of Lerner, De Sola Pool, Pye, Schramm, Rostow: approach to relationship between mass comm and social change was “simple, linear, deterministic and tinged with optimism” (Melkote 1991)

43 More normative than descriptive/ethnographic. Lasswell’s (1960) famous communication model very influential, as was Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) ‘telephone model’, 44 with notion of ‘noise’ of great importance.

44 From mid-1970s dominant paradigm under increasing fire. Many poor countries treated like tribal socs, ignoring markets, bureaucracies, legal systems… Orientalism at work too, not least in India. This led to ‘more pluralistic views of guided social change’. 45 Alas, few developing countries have let go of their state monopolies of mass media so as to localise content and increase grassroots involvement [even today, after 1990s onwards waves of privatisations, I wonder?].

45 In being so normative, development comm overlooks what actually goes on when local people appropriate a new medium. 46 e.g. anthros evaluating reception of film project in remote area of Zaire failed to examine in detail ‘the place of these films in the social code, the film projection as a social event, or film viewing as a new form of interpretive practice’. [Notice concept of practice again, see previous Peterson 2003 blog entry].

46 Unlike Powdermaker, these applied anthros not interested in hybrid forms of interpreting and consuming media contents – their focus on how to remove obstacles ‘to proper transmission of the intended messages’. Other applied anthros have done the same, reducing complexities of media consumption to whether or not the media vehicle has reached its destination.

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