Media on the move: Global flow and contra-flow

Author:   Daya Kishan Thussu
Publisher:   Routledge
Reviewer:   Abhay Chawla


Thussu, Daya Kishan. (ed.) Media on the move: Global flow and contra-flow. London and New York: Routledge, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-203-001233.
In a time when Migration and Diaspora communities ap-pear to be the imperative rather than the exception, ‗home‘ seems to be no longer a fixed place on the map. The shifting notion of home and identity compel the mi-grants to carry their ‗home‘ with them – particularly all those perceptions which make them feel at home any-where, or indeed everywhere in the physical world. It is their way of nurturing their roots. Media, in this context, then becomes the means and medium of keeping them in touch with home, or simply coming back after a full day to a ‗home‘ that is familiar in its sights and sounds.
We live in a digitally connected world, where information dissemination is at hyper-speeds. Tbook under review Media on the move thus deals with the role of new com-munication technologies and how they are redefining transnational solidarities and cultural identities. The vari-ous essays by scholars in the field of media and commu-nications, study how global media flows, resulting from economic power, influence global audiences at a faster rate today than ever before. ―Americana‖ – the dominant American media credo reaches homes around the world and in forms that are global and local at once – the ―glocalisation‖ of media content or global customized to local taste. So while global media ‗exports‘ messages around the world, meanings are negotiated in the local context within local sensibilities.
In the late 1990s, CBS coined a phrase ―We keep Ameri-ca on top of the world‖. Essentially that meant that news, political, economic and social, were driven globally from the American perspective. Similarly, in We keep America on top of the World: Television Journalism and the Public Sphere, (1994) Daniel C. Hallin elaborates on this domi-nant American stance vis-à-vis hard news. With the rapid deepening of internet reach within developing nations and nations that now constitute an alternate worldview, American media has had to relinquish its ‗top of the world‘ place. Contra-flows from other parts of the world shed light on points of view that have hitherto been out of reach. This volume describes and locates each ‗kind‘ of contra-flow within the social context – whether it is news (Al-Jazeera) or cultural influence (Korean and Japanese soaps, Latin American telenovelas) or even the feminist movement (RAWA in Afghanistan and its lick, albeit tenu-ous, with the international feminist movement). In this way, this volume takes the conversation to a deeper level of engagement between Western and non-Western soci-eties and media influences.
The volume is divided into four units. Unit 1 talks about ‗Contextualising contra-flow,‘ Unit 2: ‗Non-Western media in motion,‘ Unit 3: ‗Regional perspectives on flow and contra-flow‘ and Unit 4: ‗Moving media—from the mar-gins to the mainstream.‘
In his essay, ―Bollywood and the frictions of global mobil-ity‖, Nitin Govil narrates an incident when the legendary Dilip Kumar told foreign audiences while touring the USA in 1964 about how Indian cinema could achieve greater international success by focusing on ―universal‖ themes while becoming more ―specifically Indian‖. Bollywood‘s enactment of India is a kind of ―multimedia spectacle‖ that gives a sense of the ways in which ethnic, regional, and national identities are being reconstructed in relation to the globalized process of intercultural segmentation and hybridization. It is noteworthy that in 2001, the Ox-ford English Dictionary online edition contained an entry for the first time, Bollywood. Bollywood is the Indian counter-flow to mainstream Western media.
In the present hyper networked global society, flows (capital, information, communication etc), have shown extraordinary growth in direction, volume and velocity. The editor‘s opening argument is to do with Diasporas that provide the contra-flow to popular media in the form of letters, videos, mobile phone texts, images, press, sat-ellite TV and the internet. With internet, Diasporas are able to import home culture to their country and city of residence. As Castells says ―Internet is not simply a technology. It is a communication medium (as the pubs were) and it is the material infrastructure of a given or-ganizational form: the network (as the factory was). On both counts, the internet became the indispensable com-ponent of the kind of social movements emerging in the network society.‖ (Castells, 2012:139) Hence, postcolo-nial and transnational cultural studies perspectives focus less on the institutional and political arrangements of the contemporary world and more on the cultural and sym-bolic world of lived experiences.
In his essay, ―Thinking through contra-flows: perspec-tives from post-colonial and transnational cultural stud-ies‖, Anandam P. Kavoori bases his arguments within the framework of the five scapes of interaction, i.e., eth-noscape, technoscape, infoscape, financescape and me-diascape, all interconnected and even overlapping as de-fined by Arjun Appadurai (Appadurai, 1990:301).
In ―Contra-flows or the cultural logic of uneven globaliza-tion? Japanese media in the global agora‖, Koichi Iwabu-chi quotes (Robertson, 19950 ―strategy of tailoring cul-tural products to local conditions, that has become a marketing strategy for transnational media corporate in order to achieve a global market penetration‖. He be-lieves globalization has been experienced unequally around the world in the context of modern history, and is, in a large measure, dominated by the West. Iwabuchi feels the power structure is being de-centered at the same time as it is being centered. Symbolic power in the age of globalization is not concentrated in the place where the culture originated; it is exercised through the process of active cultural negotiation that take place in each locality regardless of geography.
How else can one explain Brazilian telenovelas being ex-ported to be aired in more than 130 countries. ―Brazil and the globalization of telenovelas‖ by Cacilda M.Rêgo and Antonio C.La Pastina studies this Latin American export. The contra-flow exemplifies how ―this international pres-ence has challenged the traditional debate over cultural imperialism and the North-South flow of media prod-ucts‖ (Sinclair, 1996; 2003). The widespread worldwide popularity of Latin American telenovelas is testimony to the increasingly global reliance of commercial TV on soap operas, echoing Robertson‘s idea that we are increasingly using globalised forms to produce the local, resulting in a ‗glocalised‘ culture.
―Challenger or lackey? The politics of news on Al-Jazeera‖ critically analyses the Qatar based news chan-nel. Al-Jazeera is viewed as a prominent example of con-tra-flow of news media. But is it also contra-hegemonic? Does it challenge the dominant world media? Some view it as reinforcing American hegemony and indeed, further-ing American and Israeli designs against the Arabs. De-spite various criticisms, Al-Jazeera has successfully opened the space for a pan-Arab public debate that does not blatantly surge in the contra-direction, but cleverly negotiates its space and standing so as to be an accredit-ed voice.
Media flows and counter flows tell the story of the bal-ance of power, political and economic, and its shifts, in the global information age. While contra-flows from Asia against the American media tide are still weak and largely uneven, they however represent an alternative voice that speaks in different tones of social values and has begun to be accepted and adopted by large sections of popula-tions.
Some chapters while well written and internally cohesive somehow don‘t seem to tie up with the theme of the global media flow and contra flow. For example the chap-ter Transnational feminism and the Revolutionary Associ-ation of the Women of Afghanistan by Lisa McLaughlin is about a political organization‘s effort without giving the overall women‘s perspective including work done by women diasporas for the media mainstreaming of Afghan women.
Embodied with pertinent issues, debates and discourses in the field of media, migrations, cultures and communi-cations, the present volume is therefore of great value to students and scholars of media studies and diaspora studies. It will also be useful to students of culture stud-ies and international relations.

Abhay Chawla is a journalist and a visiting faculty in CIC, Delhi University. He teaches online journalism and his Ph.D topic is ―"Marginalizations and consumption of new media".
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