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A Note from the Guest Editor for this Issue

Global village or global fortress? Much of the debate about media’s role in the phenomenon now commonly termed globalization demands we consider the more troubling implications of such an opposition. For starters we might consider, What is globalization, and in whose interest and benefit is it being articulated? Does it engender, as McLuhan once envisioned, a "place" where democracy is encouraged along with universal understanding and the cultivation of a cosmic consciousness? Or is globalization a Westphalian ideological discourse enabled by global media giants to colonize previously "un-tapped" social domains via information, entertainment and new technology?

Such questions are provocative in that they suggest how media might serve to alter or challenge the cultural sovereignty of nations and communities, but they only hint at the complexity and contradictions that are continually elaborated and played-out via the nexus of media, culture and globalization. For example both neoliberalist and postmodernist communication scholars have asserted, albeit from different ontological groundings, that the emerging commercial global sphere disperses ideological control as economic exchange and power repel each other. These theorists often point to media’s function in the weakening of nation states and the shift away from ideological hegemony to a new sense of openness and borderlessness. Others argue that there exists an inherent pro-social and democratic value to cyber-market places as the flow of ideas and information across and between cultures, societies and political systems affords an opportunity for open and equal dialogue between West and East, North and South. And still others suggest that diasporic affiliations and media-linked communities bare striking similarity to global economic regimes in their ability to operate outside the regulative control of nation-states. Indeed, the rise of neo-tribalism instantiates forms of "citizenship" that are tied more to religious and political/moral (human rights, environmentalism, terrorism) membership than nation. In fact, the kind of activisms, tribalisms and fundamentalism that are (re-)surfacing worldwide are often in some measure testimony to the disruptive forces of globalization. These sorts of collusions and contradictions both mark and frustrate a mutually agreeable definition of globalization. But under even the most enthusiastic or apocalyptic appraisals of the fruits of globalization remains a haunting sense that to speak of globalization is by design to evoke questions of how social imbalances and cultural transformations are linked to powerful external agents and internal interests operating in temporally historicized places. That is, the process/predicament/ phenomena of globalization is not constituted by desocialized atoms orbiting around impersonal markets in a historical-cultural vacuum. With this realization the chore for global media scholars becomes to ferret out how the economic regimes, transnational loyalties and the moral capital of corporate-driven globalization are confronted by the historical and cultural contexts (religious, ethnic, colonial, imperial, etc.) of diverse settings.

This issue of Global Media Studies is designed to engage the complex interrelationship between media and globalization outlined above by exploring it in a transnational yet contextually-grounded framework. To do so, Drew McDaniel (Ohio University), Isaac Blankson (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Noemi Marin (Florida Atlantic University) and Laura Lengel (Bowling Green State University), and Marwan Kraidy (American University) were invited to address the regional implications of media’s place in an increasingly "globalized" world. Focusing on Southeast Asia, McDaniel shows how shifting economic, political, and technological forces have created a sense of greater openness in the region’s media. However, this openness has been resisted by power elites because new information technologies allow their opponents to communicate freely, mobilize support and question the status quo. In order to combat these shifting tides, McDaniel explains, elites have enacted privatization policies to neutralize the effects of changing technology. Ironically, these efforts actually diminish the reach and influence of government-controlled media and reduce the control of officials over radio and television content.

In his essay on media and civil society in Sub Sahara Africa, Blankson notes that, as public service institutions, African media have traditionally performed a political propagandist and developmental role and served the interests of competing elites. However, recent democratic and liberal reforms have resulted in the introduction and growth of independent media and ended decades of state media monopoly. Consequently, the role of the media, particularly independently owned radio broadcast services, has stimulated a new sense of civil society throughout the region. Blankson asserts that this development necessitates a re-thinking of the weak civil society thesis that has characterized African media and civil society scholarship.

Marin and Lengel examine the impact of media and information and communication technology on democratization and civic participation in Southeastern Europe. They explicate how the role of media and mediated-communication is intertwined with educational and civic programs designed to invite multiple perspectives beneficial to all participants in the region. The authors extend the essay by focusing on the relationship between media and higher education in Southeastern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe in order to define some of the future challenges pertinent to a multicultural integration, awareness of stereotyping by the media, and overall, an understanding of media impact within the context of national and international communication.

Kraidy analyses the emergence of Arab satellite television by charting its development and its sociocultural impact, and by exploring the relationship between the Arab media sector and the phenomenon of globalization. He asserts that while Arab satellite TV may provide a sense of openness, its facilitation of political reform and democratization is still arduous because challenging televisual content is presented in civil societies largely void of concrete social or political agendas. Moreover, the link between privately owned satellite television stations indirectly controlled by the ruling national elites suggest that the "official" voices of the old regimes are maintained despite privatization’s promise of political and cultural pluralism.

Refereed papers by Thimios Zaharopoulos (Washburn University) and Rick Rockwell (American University) also provide insights into regional issues of media and society that resonate internationally. Zaharopoulos interrogates how Greek society’s historical preoccupation with honor and prestige, distrust of private interests and intense competition for limited resources allowed the state to maintain control of broadcasting for many years. As a means to challenge this control, localized (municipal) radio emerged disguised as "free radio." However, rather than fostering democratic activity, these efforts quickly became used by other politicians to seize power and extend their own political or economic base. Rockwell’s paper deals with the ethical lapses and lack of professional foundation for journalism in Mexico and Central America, highlighting how this behavior not only undercuts the ability of journalists to perform at a high standard, but actually endangers the lives of some journalists in these countries who aspire to different standards.

George Gerbner (Temple University), Lee Artz (Purdue University-Calumet), Michael Griffin (Macalester College), and Brian White (University of North Dakota) provide provocative theoretical explorations of media, power and globalization. Collectively these essays draw attention to the kinds of discourses produced by the global culture industries, and how those discourses are shaped by powerful interests and corporate structure. Critiqued are the Westphalian trappings and aesthetic dispositions privileged by corporate storytellers (e.g., Disney) and celebrated by artistic business communities (e.g. Hollywood). The question generated and linked together by these essays seems to be, How are the emerging transnational systems of media technology being employed to define community life, interpersonal relations, social aspirations and personal desires, and, even, imagination?

The graduate section of the journal presents two research reports. Elza Ibroscheva (Southern Illinois University Carbondale) examines the connection between negative cultural stereotypes of the ex-Soviet bloc, media use, and the attitudes of Americans since the end of the Cold War. Olaf Werder (University of New Mexico) and Guy Golan (University of Florida) present their findings from a content analysis of the international press’ treatment the Israeli prime minister election during the month of February 2001. In very different ways, these two papers underscore how context and historical processes have lingering effects on political opinion and international relations.

As Guest Editor, it has been my pleasure to work with these authors to produce the inaugural issue of Global Media Journal. It is my hope that, as an electronic and "free" publication available globally, that this journal becomes widely used and shared by students and researchers of global media studies, whether those using it are accessing the site from state-of-the-art computer in a comfortable office at a private school or a make-shift neighborhood cyber café in the developing world. Along these lines, the journal provides an "Open Forum" page to dialogue about issues pertaining to media and globalization– please use it to create a global discussion about globalization.

Finally, I would like to thank the following people for serving as paper referees and helping me develop this issue:

Patrick D. Murphy
Dept. of Mass Communications
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Oct. 10, 2002

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