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Moving Targets:
Mapping the Paths between Communication, Technology and Social Change in Communities

Edited by Jan Servaes and Shuang Liu

ISBN: 978-983-9054-50-7
Published in 2007
276 pages. 14 x 21.5 cm.
Paperback: US$25
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The book comprises 13 chapters contributed by both academics and practitioners specializing in the field of communication for development and social change in communities.

The second chapter presents a general overview of communication for sustainable development. It attempts to summarize the contribution of communication for development in general, presents different ways of looking at sustainable development from a “Western” versus “Eastern” perspective, and positions the current debate on globalization and localization and its consequences for research on communication for sustainable development, before discussing sustainable development at a community level by using the Thai TERMS model of Rural Self-Reliance as an example. It further identifies priority areas and strategies for communication organizations and practitioners in relation to sustainable development.

Part I consists of three chapters, addressing the theme of engaging the communities in participatory communication. Elske van de Fliert kicks off with a general assessment of development strategies in rural Asia . She finds that where top-down approaches were used in the past, it is currently generally recognized that change can only be installed sustainably when all stakeholders are involved and have a say in the planning process for strategies to be applied. She argues that it is vital that often isolated experiences get analysed in a comparative way and describes benefits and drawbacks of communication strategies applied in rural development.

Consistent with van de Fliert's argument for an integration of stated and pursued goals to increase success rates of a development programme, Lisa Ritchie in Chapter 4 highlights the important role of more rigorous evaluation mechanisms of development communication activities in order to gain the full support of donor agencies. By analyzing a Thai-Australian bilateral development project, Ritchie emphasizes the value that can be added to such projects through the implementation of well-researched development communication activities.

In Chapter 5, Charles H. B. Mphande explores the pros and cons of Malawi 's German funded Rural Growth Centres Project (RGCP) that commenced in 1979. By employing the Critical Discourse Analysis technique to examine the non-conspicuous discursive construction of the RGCP as primarily an agricultural strategy's facilitative tool, this study reveals the discrepancies between the stated goals and the goals actually pursued in Malawi's development programmes, hence, shedding light on factors behind miscarried development programmes within developing nations.

Although the cases examined in chapters 4 and 5 have occurred in different cultural contexts, both studies point out the critical role of engaging communities in participatory communication in order to foster understanding of stakeholders in bilateral development projects and to ensure success of social change initiatives.

Part II demonstrates how the implementation of participatory communication in development projects can help to bring about changes in people's living environment. Specifically, the four chapters contained in this part address the theme of implementing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Indigenous communities. They function to ground our understanding of ICT access and usage amongst Indigenous communities and consumers in the reality of their everyday lives as well as of how to promote the sustainable development of ICT policy, infrastructure and service delivery.

Chapter 6 explores the impact of global electronic media on regional communities, particularly from the perspective of culture. David Tafler examines the overlaps, and diminishing edges shaped by wireless, broadcast, telephone and Internet technologies and argues that new media and telecommunication campaigns help fragment cultural practices. In addition, the author points out, at the heart of the struggle lies the preservation of a timeless cultural identity now reformed in the new millennium.

In Chapter 7, Jo Tacchi examines the role of community-based media and ICTs in poverty reduction, with a focus on the notion of “voice”, the potential of such a concept to advance our thinking about the broader area of ICTs and poverty especially at the community level. Tacchi has identified and explored three aspects of the potential role of “voice”: voice in the community media content, voice in monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment; and voice in advocacy. This chapter emphasizes the importance of making the “voiceless” heard.

In Chapter 8, Virginia Watson looks at the role played by ICTs in reducing poverty through a framework of “technology for social inclusion” and the concept of “communicative ecologies”. In addition to examining technology “gaps” to be overcome through the provision of ICT infrastructure to a full range of networks of communication in Indigenous peoples' lives (ecology), Watson moves “beyond the digital divide” and tries to understand what constitutes meaningful access to ICT for Indigenous communities and consumers. Hence, this chapter furthers our understanding of ICT access and usage amongst Indigenous communities and consumers in the reality of their everyday lives.

Kitty van Vuuren in Chapter 9 continues the discussion on the role of ICTs in communities by looking at the social, educational, and economic benefits of ICTs in rural communities in Eastern Australia . By analyzing a survey evaluating the social, economic, and educational contribution of three rural and regional community ICT projects, van Vuuren summarizes the role of the non-profit sectors in the delivery of government programs.

Moving from implementation of new technologies and their impact on people's living environments, the three chapters of Part III look at the influence of mass media and communication technology on people's attitudes and behaviours, particularly in relation to (sub)cultures and social/cultural identities. All chapters show how people in different communities are using mass media and technology to shape their culture and social/cultural identities.

In Chapter 10, Thomas Jayaprakash Yesudhasan and Brian Shoesmith examine the alleged influence of the emerging new mediascape and its technologies on Asian youth identities. Young people listen to similar music, watch similar television programs and wear similar clothes, which leads critics to conclude that the advent of the new mediascape has captured the imagination of youth, divorced them from their cultural roots, given them identities that are at odds with their collective histories. However, Yesudhasan and Shoesmith challenge this view and argue that the public discourse is primarily a media discourse; and surface markers may not signify a deep cultural rupture. Hence, a more nuanced reading of the influence of the media and its possible influence on identity formation among young people in Asia is required.

Sylila Monteiro and Prue Cruickshank in Chapter 11 also examine the influence of mass media in shaping cultural identity. The focus here is on various ethnic groups within New Zealand . Communication technology enables migrants to maintain instant contact with their home country if they wish, while facing the challenges of adapting to, and functioning in a new culture, or possibly retreating to an ethnic enclave where the cultural rules are better understood and the shock of integration is reduced. By looking at how immigrants engage within their own community as well as with the larger society, this chapter throws light on our understanding of the range of communication media and channels immigrants employ to build an appreciation of the cultural capitals they can offer to the host society.

Lidia Pola, in Chapter 12, problematizes this further by mapping the emerging field of transnational migrants and ICTs. The field has become diversified within a short period of time. As a result, there is considerable overlap and no one discipline can claim theoretical or practical ownership because scholars in communication, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and other integrated programmes have widely contributed to the field. Pola identifies common concerns (methodologies, relations between diasporas and nation states, the cultural interpretation of ICTs within and between groups), as well as potentially interesting research questions and projects.

Chapter 13 is the concluding chapter, addressing the What, Why and How of communication for development and social change. By positioning us in the broader context Claude-Yves Charron have identified current issues in the field of communication for development and social change and suggest directions for future research.

Using various cases as examples, this book illustrates multiple paths to social change as our attempt to implement development communication programmes moves from the centre to the periphery, i.e. from a more international and /or national level to the community level. The introduction of new technologies in people's living environments is usually accompanied by subsequent social and psychological change on the affected groups. The challenge for both scholars and practitioners in the field of communication for development and social change is how to empower the grassroots or “the voiceless” and to engage them in the process of bringing about the change that affect their own lives. We hope the cases presented in this book will not only inform us of what makes some community initiatives succeed and what makes others fail, but also function as a starting point that leads to further research in this area.

Contents of the book
1. From the centre to the periphery: Multiple paths to social change in communities. Jan Servaes and Shuang Liu
2. Communication and sustainable development. Jan Servaes and Patchanee Malikhao
Part I Engaging communities on the path of participatory communication
3. For growth or well-being? Communication strategies for sustainable development in rural Asia . Elske van de Fliert
4. Transferring theory into practice: The Thai CORNS project. Lisa Ritchie
5. Old habits die hard: The miscarriage of industrial thrust in Malawi 's rural growth centres project. Charles H. B. Mphande
Part II Engaging communities on the path of implementing technology
6. Evolution and survival: Remote indigenous culture on the telecommunication highway. David I. Tafler
7. Information, communication, poverty and voice. Jo Tacchi
8. Beyond the “digital divide”: Mapping communicative ecologies amongst indigenous communities and ICT consumers. Virginia Watson
9. The social, educational and economic benefits of community ICTs: Results from a survey of three rural and regional organisations in Eastern Australia .
Kitty van Vuuren
Part III Engaging communities on the path of adjusting to social change
10. Localising the global and globalising the local: Some changing dimensions of cultural industries and identities in Asia . Thomas Jayaprakash Yesudhasan and Brian Shoesmith
11. Immigration: A force for development and social change. Sylila Monteiro and Prue Cruickshank
12. Transnational migrants and ICT: Mapping an emerging field. Lidia Pola
Part IV Conclusion
13. Going forward: The what, why and how? Claude-Yves Charron
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