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December 2009

How Do I know That This Is True?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For those who are in despair over the future of journalism and other forms of information intermediation in the new digital age, it is worth reading what Eric Schmidt,  the Chairman and CEO of Google , said to Fareed Zakaria  of CNN  on November 29, 2009:
 

"ZAKARIA: When you look forward, do you think -- when you look forward, what are the great moral issues that you think we will face with all this information, all this access? What should we be thinking about in terms of the conflicts, the tradeoffs?

Paying Zero for Public Services

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Imagine that you are an old lady from a poor household in a town in the outskirts of Chennai city, India. All you have wanted desperately for the last year and a half is to get a title in your name for the land you own, called patta. You need this land title to serve as a collateral for a bank loan you have been hoping to borrow to finance your granddaughter’s college education. But there has been a problem: the Revenue Department official responsible for giving out the patta has been asking you to pay a little fee for this service. That’s right, a bribe. But you are poor (you are officially assessed to be below the poverty line) and you do not have the money he wants. And the most absurd part about the scenario you find yourself in is that this is a public service that should be rendered to you free of charge in the first place. What would you do? You might conclude, as you have done for the last 1-1/2 years, that there isn’t much you can do…but wait, you just heard about a local NGO by the name of 5th Pillar and it just happened to give you a powerful ally: a zero rupee note.
 

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

-- Passage from The Man in the Arena, the title of a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.

 

The Art of Inquiry: Political Communication for the Holidays

Antonio Lambino's picture

It’s that time of year when people in many parts of the world are celebrating the holiday season.   Social calendars are full and gatherings with family, friends, and loved ones are in full swing.  For those of us who find ourselves in this flurry of social activity, what might the study of political communication have to offer?

It is a truism that we are not to talk religion or politics at the dinner table or gatherings of close-knit family and friends.  Findings from the study of political communication back this up.  As Diana Mutz (2006) poignantly discloses in her award-winning book entitled Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy,

Peace on Earth

Caroline Jaine's picture

I have just finished writing my New Year cards.  I have a troublesome gall bladder to thank for providing me with the opportunity to sit (very) still and reflect on the past year, scribble the names of those close and lick low-cholesterol envelopes.  I made my own cards this year – using a photograph I snapped of Baghdad’s green zone at dusk back in August.

Is Anyone Listening?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Consider, if you will, the evolution of the modern meeting. I refer to The Meeting as the workhorse of the global system. Apart from global media, the meeting is probably the main channel of communication in the global system. Global policy networks will not work without meetings. Advocacy requires meetings. Public interest lobbying requires meetings. Even business deals require meetings.

Media Effects I: Agenda Setting

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The holy trinity of media effects research is "agenda setting - priming - framing." We've used all of these terms at some point in this blog. Since they are central to all kinds of communication work - and policy work, to quite some extent - we'll introduce all three a little more thoroughly, starting with agenda setting.

Agenda setting means the ability of the mass media to bring issues to the attention of the public and, related, of politicians. The basic claim is that as the media devote more attention to an issue, the public perceives the issue as important. When the media take up a specific topic - such as climate change, or manager bonuses - they make us think about it. The theory was introduced in 1972 by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in their seminal study of the role of the media in the 1968 Presidential campaign in the US ("The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media").

Tiger Woods: the Moral Sanction Goes Global

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In my own work and in my own studies, I think about public opinion as a critical force in politics and, therefore, in governance. Readers of this blog know that. But what we see working in the crisis around the personal life of the golfer, Tiger Woods, is an older, ever-present sense of how public opinion works; yet it is working in a new, globalized media environment, around an iconic sporting superstar. 

From Inertia to Participation: The Case of RECURSO in Peru

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Imagine there are accountability mechanisms and no one knows how to use them. Development practitioners in Peru wrestled with exactly this problem in the early 2000s when transparency and accountability became integral parts of government agencies - but citizens had no way of knowing what made public service delivery good and what should be complained about.

A Delicate Dance between Distance and Access

Fumiko Nagano's picture

It is generally accepted that independent news media are one of the main building blocks for good governance. Ensuring media’s independence from the control of the powerful is a difficult task, however. While the media must maintain a critical distance from the government so as to maintain their objectivity in reporting the news, they also need to stay close enough to government in order to access the information they seek. The issues of distance and access are the two sides of the same coin, and they confront the government as well. On the one hand, the government has to protect both the privacy of sensitive information and integrity of important decision-making processes by keeping the media at bay, but on the other hand, government also needs to maintain an amicable relationship with the media so that the media would tell its side of the story and frame issues in the way it wants them framed.

The Freedom to Choose What’s Right

Antonio Lambino's picture

I attended a fascinating session recently on Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) in a developing country which shall not be named for various reasons.  Let’s call it Cadania for present purposes.

CCTs, simply put, “are cash payments to poor households that meet certain behavioral requirements, generally related to children’s health care and education” (The World Bank).  In other words, money is given to a qualified household if it can be demonstrated that children are in school or brought in for regular medical check-ups.  It is, therefore, conditionality at the individual household level.

A massive media content analysis, conducted on thousands of newspaper articles over several years, suggests that press coverage was largely favorable toward the project.  Positive and neutral stories outnumbered negative stories by a large margin over a five year period. 

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Opinion of the public is clearly a modern phenomenon: its origin and development are connected with the spirit of the Enlightenment, which, in a reciprocal influence with the development of natural sciences but also historical political thought in parallel with the present state and civil society on which it is founded in a permanent struggle with once ruling but now weaker and weaker religious-theological mental world, up till now has never been fully materialized and, under the influence of deeply moving events, experiences ever new blows that hamper and sometimes destructively influence public opinion formation."

 

Ferdinand Tönnies, 1928

The Digital Hammer

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In 2015, 2020 at the latest, the world goes digital. Most of it already is, but not the broadcasting sector. The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is already under way or completed in some European countries and the US. The rest of the world is in line - and too many people have no idea what this is all about. "For many broadcasters, digital TV is variously mysterious, complex, far away, unpleasant. Regulators may not be up to speed either." This is the conclusion that John Burgess draws in his newly launched report Throwing the Switch: Challenges in the Conversion to Digital Broadcasting that was commissioned by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

Where is the Money?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Today is Anti-Corruption Day, and the day prompts this reflection on aspects of  the fight against corruption. I was at the  Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Doha, Qatar, November 9-13. It was an opportunity to witness the debates around anti-corruption efforts, attend seminars and meet experts, officials as well as activists. Here are the impressions/conclusions that I came away with:

A Roadmap to Open Government

Fumiko Nagano's picture

My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.

--Barack Obama, January 2009

From the perspective of good governance, the Obama administration’s efforts at transparency and participation—to make government open to public scrutiny through (easy) access to government information and to engage the public in designing and improving government initiatives—are simply impressive. The President’s first executive action after taking office was the signing of the Memorandum of Transparency and Open Government. This memorandum signaled his commitment to open government based on three core values, clearly spelled out in the Memorandum and on the administration’s website:

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Consensus is the sign that [a] partial or complete understanding has been reached on a number of issues confronting the members of a group sufficient to entitle it to be called a society. It implies that a measure of agreement has been reached. The agreement, however, is neither imposed by coercion nor fixed by custom so as no longer to be subject to discussion. It is always partial and developing and has constantly to be won."

 

 

 


Louis Wirth, 1948
Consensus and Mass Communication
American Sociological Review, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Feb., 1948), pp. 1-15

Standing Sentinel: Media and Governance Reform

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP's second-born has arrived! Yesterday we launched the second book in our series on governance and reform, this one baptized Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform (lovingly called "Sentinel" by all those who worked hard on getting this book published for the last year or so). Sentinel is edited by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Pippa Norris and is a collection of studies on whether and how the news media can support or even initiate significant reforms.

Minarets in Switzerland: The Dilemmas of Public Opinion

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The leaders of Switzerland have a ticklish problem, one of the most difficult problems in political thought and practice. A clear majority of the Swiss have just voted to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland. 57.5 per cent of voters in 22 out of 26 cantons voted  in the recent referendum to approve the ban. According to press reports, under Swiss law the ban will be added to the Constitution. Now, that is a major development, and, as you must know, the referendum result has proved controversial...to put it mildly. The impact will be felt for years to come. But I am not going to get into the issue. The Swiss have to sort this one out. What I am interested in is the fact that the leaders of government and business in Switzerland do not regard the referendum decision a wise one. According to the justice minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, while the referendum result 'reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies' and the concerns 'have to be taken seriously' still 'The Federal Council takes the view that a ban on construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies'.

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"... intentions are our best single predictors of whether one will or will not perform a given behavior... according to a reasoned action approach, there are three primary determinants of intention: the attitude toward performing the behavior in question, normative influence or the amount of social pressure one feels vis-a-vis performing the behavior, and one's self-efficacy with respect to performing the behavior.  The relative importance of these three psychological variables as determinants of intention will vary as a function of both the behavior and the population being considered.  Thus, before developing interventions to change intentions, it is important to first determine the degree to which that intention is under attitudinal, normative, or self-efficacy control in the population in question.  It should be clear that very different interventions are needed for attitudinally controlled behaviors than for behaviors that are under normative influence or are strongly related to feelings of self-efficacy.  Clearly, one size does not fit all, and interventions that are successful in one culture or population may be a complete failure in another."*

                                                               -- In Memoriam: Martin Fishbein, 1936-2009