Entertainment-Education and Sesame Street

In his report on the “family tree of development communication”, Waisboard mentions Entertainment-education as a strategy to bring about behavioral change. This change in turn is what is supposed to drive development (versus change brought about only by changing the system).

An example of an entertainment program that at the same time is educational to invoke change is Sesame Street. Aside from teaching the ABC’s the idea behind the program is that the muppets can address problems within a particular culture without putting blame (or shame) on a specific ethnicity or group of people. The Sesame Street Workshop is an NGO that takes that idea and applies it in countries that have faced some type of conflict or are in transition. By working with a country crew on the ground that assesses specific issues kids in a country in transition face, a team creates story lines, cultural specific puppets, and a movie set where the local sesame street can be taped. Specifics the team has to keep in mind are: are there cultural minorities? Is the language of the minority different and if so how can that be addressed in the show? What problems are children in the country facing? How can those problems be approached in a childlike yet educational and entertaining matter?

A big issue was the introduction of the first HIV-positive muppet. Especially in the US this raised concerns as media and parents were wondering what values their children will be taught. Only when it became apparent that this muppet will not appear in the US-show did the wave of concerns and protest subside.

There is a documentary out there on the Sesame Street Workshop. Watch it over the break, it’s worth it!

Though this is slightly unrelated, I thought you might enjoy this cookie monster “share it maybe” song. 🙂 Something to cheer you up during finals week.



A tweeting State Department

One of the main rules any company should keep in mind when engaging in social media is that whoever is responsible for the blog posts/tweets/status updates/re-tweets/likes etc. should enjoy working with social media. Enjoying to work with this type of media will make the posts more authentic and believable.

When I read Comentez’ article I wondered if the people at the State Department responsible for all tweets etc. actually enjoy what they are doing and if they are truly aware of who their readership is.

When the article talked about how people had to learn how to write shorter reports and make shorter videos I could not get stop thinking that these people are old-school trained marketing folks (at best, at worst their training never involved marketing and outreach) to whom the idea of social media does not come naturally. It is true, every organization or company needs to adapt when a new marketing strategy is adopted (and the public diplomacy campaign is nothing but that). However, these tweets are not intended to sell more yogurt or advertise a Black Friday event. These tweets are supposed to represent the United States and it’s mission in the world. Can you really do that in 140 characters? Can you really create an interest? Spark a change? If you do not know who your readership is (exactly), aren’t those tweets and status updates just a feeble attempt in trying to reach anyone who is willing to listen?

A company knows who they are tweeting for (consumers with their special demographics, and maybe employees). A country tweeting for potentially everyone in the world? I’m not sure I see the overlap in the audience. Social media is great, but I think that for a nation it is not the way to do diplomacy.

What I do think will work better is what was mentioned in the article, the provision on wifi or cellphone net alternatives. This way the people themselves are engaging. They are required to come up with their own ideas and content. It is, in a way, helping people to help themselves. This is where the future lies and this is what “21st century statecraft” a.k.a. public diplomacy should be about.


where the reading got it wrong (imho)

I admit I do not know a lot about Islamic fundamentalism and Al-Quaida to say I am truly knowledgable but what I do know is that Khatib in her chapter “Communicating Islamic Fundamentalism” is wrong in putting Hamas and Al-Quaida in one category. She writes, “Al-Quaida is a network of movements operating worldwide … While the movements agree in opposing Israel, for example, not all of them engage in anti-Israeli missions (such missions seem to be conducted mainly by by the Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Palestine)” (Khatib in International Communication: A Reader, Thussu D. (Ed.) pg. 283). She implies that Hamas is a movement under the umbrella of Al-Quaida yet both share opposing roots and goals. In the case of Hamas the fight is concentrated on a national goal which is the independence of Palestine.

Just to be clear, I do not sympathize with either movement and am not making a political statement. But to put all movements in one box because they carry the label of fundamentalism with them is imho wrong. [This is also not to say that there is no Al-Quaida movement in the areas controlled by Hamas. I do not know if there is or not.]


the cnn effect revisited

The readings about the CNN effect and if and to what extend it exists brought it down to one point for me: The CNN effect worked in the early 90s because the circumstances were right. People got their fast information from TV reporting, the more balanced (but late) version from reading the newspaper. Internet did not exist as a mean available as it is now to quickly check facts, background info, or to look at the most recent grueling war video on youtube. Technology changed and hence the CNN effect is not measurable anymore because the viewer does not just rely on TV anymore.

Livingston writes about the many changes in technology that ultimately also changed reporting and the way news is gathered. The rise of the cell phone – which is now equivalent to having a small computer at hand that can get you the information you need right now – gave way to a new reporting style, but one the networks are only catching up on now (with iReports, live twitter and facebook feeds, sending in questions via FB or T etc.).

But unfortunately, before realizing that new technology might be key media outlets dependent on advertising revenue resorted to sensationalism in hopes to keep viewers watching. This resulted in the now biased reporting you see so often. The viewers want something they feel comfortable with yet at the same time, as Powers and El-Nawawy pointed out, if balanced reporting is consumed it informs a balanced opinion.

This leaves me to question why did reporters give up the most basic aspect of their reporting (balanced and unbiased reporting, that is)? Is it just the money? Is the industry so corrupt that you only have the “shallow reporting” way to go because no one will report a “balanced” story? Does it really need a “special week” as CNN has resorted to, to touch on some topics more in depth. The advertising for those weeks leads me to believe that viewers need to prepare for such type of reporting or otherwise they will not be able to comprehend the shift to “investigative” journalism.

I guess where I am getting at with this blog post is that traditional media missed the technology train and now they are trying desperately to get back on. Unfortunately, all this running after the train has resulted in some losses, among them balanced reporting. Can it be recovered? Well, I don’t know. The fact that Powers and El-Nawawy saw a change in viewer’s perception gives me hope that not all mankind is doomed. But at the same time it is up to us viewers to demand balance and investigative journalism that helps inform our opinion not perpetuate our believe system.

Fair use, who cares?!

Last week and also today we talked about copyrights, the fair(y) use of material and how copyrights are affecting the use of material other than your own.

In 2006, a new party was founded in Germany, named DIE PIRATEN (the Pirates). While they did not garner too much attention for years, things changed in late 2010. Suddenly, the party had found it’s voice (coinciding with the occupy movement) and demanded full transparency on the political process, the abolishment of intellectual property rights, and other before unheard of demands. The party organized itself online, opening its deliberations up for public online debate – everyone could participate and make suggestions or just be a silent reader.

2011 really was the year for the party. Membership skyrocketed and had there been country wide elections the party would have surpassed even well established parties. Surveys indicated that the Pirates most attracted young voters who wanted to see a change in the way secluded politics was run. However, with the soaring membership came problems. The volunteer party leadership had more than their hands full in organizing the crowds, setting agendas, planning campaigns, and discussing issues.

One ticket the party ran on was the abolishment of intellectual property rights. The party argued (though it is probably more correct to say individuals within the party argued as no formal party lines were established) that people download and used content anyways so why criminalize the massive amount of users? Artists and others creating the content in discussion argued vehemently for their rights to their ideas and their right to be paid for anyone using their creative results (songs, movies, books etc.).

In 2012 the party has seen a significant decline in membership and buzz around them. This is due to the lack of novelty (their transparency approach is now known, discussed, and “accepted as weird but normal”) but most importantly due to the inability of the party to organize itself in a meaningful and sustainable way. The Pirates still remain at that grassroot level democracy but cannot find a way to turn that democracy into one that is conducive to a productive political process.

On a side note, one of the very vocal advocates for no intellectual property rights has recently published a book. That book showed up as a copied version on several websites being available for free to the public (as intended by the party line). However, the author (and Pirate) sued the websites because she felt her copyright-rights were infringed and she does want others to pay for reading her work. It’s funny how the tables turn once you’re on the other side of things and realize that there is a (monetary) value that is attached to creative output.


Note: I tried to find some info on this in English. Once I have it, I will post the links in this article.

Media networks, oppression and globalization all met on one day in October 1989

Hanson wrote about China and its attempts to block out its citizens from having access to the internet and other modern and global means of communication. Chinese find a way to circumvent the constraints as best as they can so they too, can be a part of the globalized society. This made me think about the government enforced regulations on TV consumption that I grew up with.

I was born and raised in East Germany. In order to make a phone call one had to go to the post office and apply to make that phone call. You had to tell them whom you wanted to call and where and usually a casual “And why if I may ask?” was thrown in there as well. Then when it was your time to make the call you went to a booth (still in the post office) and placed your call, knowing full well that it was being recorded and/or live listened to by some government official, always ready to pulling the plug if you said something you shouldn’t have.

There was one state TV station. You could receive West German television in most parts of the East but your TV had to be tweaked a certain way. The more tricky part was keeping your kids from going into school or pre-school telling all about that West German TV show or cartoon characters they saw the night before. Teachers and educators had to report families that watched West German TV and that information was then used by the Stasi to implicate the families.

Before the wall in Berlin feel there were months of demonstrations all over East Germany – that mostly no East German knew about since the government tried its best to hide these events from its citizens. On October 9, 1989 over 70,000 people marched peacefully, but in fear of being imprisoned or shot, through the city of Leipzig. The fact that this demonstration would take place spread through informal channels of communication (word of mouth, leaflets) and people who came to Leipzig just for that event were not certain what would await them.

At the same time globalization was visiting the city of Leipzig in the form of an international trade fair. Journalists from across Europe and the globe were in the city to report on the trade fair – officially. A West German TV crew was hiding thoughout the city and taped demonstration footage with the intent to air it on the West German prime time news show (Tagesschau). Despite tight security and a struggle to smuggle the tapes outside of the country it worked. On October 10, West Germany, the world but most importantly East Germans (secretly watching West German news) saw what was going on in their country.

[Original footage is shown around minute 1:15]

I am wondering how East Germany would have restricted access to other means of communication such as internet or cell phones. Private telephone lines were very much restricted, in order to own a car you waited about 20 years, compared to other goods a TV was outrageously priced. Communication (via letters) was restricted to the point that every mail was opened if it was deemed suspicious or unusual (by whoever), often times not passed on or packets were sent on empty. Whatever was the content of your mail (sending or receiving) was part of the Stasi file that was kept on most citizens. How would the internet have been handled? I feel like we would have lived like North Koreans – no phone line = no internet. Or maybe communication from the bordering countries would have had a spill over effect and smart phones and other media would also have (secretly) found its way into our daily life until people felt they could take on the government and demand freedom.

Seeing how even Russia struggles with freedom of speech and access I am glad the unification of Germany came when it did. It is one thing to live oppressed but another to know what you are missing out on.

Global yet local – the case of Coca Cola

All this talk about globalization, cultural markers of identity, deterritorialisation, diasporas and more makes all these thoughts, ideas, and personal bouts I had with globalization spinning in my head. When today in class the Gatorade machine in the middle of the jungle was mentioned I knew I had my next blog post.

Spoiler alert: This is not about Gatorade, it is about Coca Cola.

Like Gaby posted before food and drinks are a very strong cultural marker. Coca Cola has a very successful export history and is, according to the Coca Cola website enjoyed in over 200 countries worldwide. Thanks to its distribution and bottling system you can find Coca Cola in virtually every country of this world.

Yet Coca Cola does not taste the same in every country. Since local water is being used wherever possible, the taste is altered. Also, the products that are being offered are fine-tuned to meet the local sense. Fanta in Germany is not Fanta in the U.S. and it is not Fanta in Mozambique.

Coca Cola is an example of globalization. It is everywhere and it’s spread was aided by globalization technology. The drink symbolizes western values and lifestyles. So how can something that is so global be so local at the same time? If like the readings suggested, globalization makes us aware of our differences and guides our thinking in a “us as opposed to them” way, how can a drink achieve that? After all,  unless you import bottles from one country to another you won’t really notice any differences.

Well, the one place where globalization comes together and allows each and everyone to see (but more likely taste) that the world is a global place with local taste is the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Once you have taken the tour and learned all about the history and how the bottles are bottled you are being lead into this room with fountain machines. Each one is labeled after a region or continent and the individual drinks dispensed are also labeled by country. You can sample as much as you want, the taste of the world is at your fingertips.

When I found myself in that room, globalization really hit home. I found Fanta from Germany that I had not drank in months. And I found a lemonade from Mozambique that I had not seen in years. People got really excited as they compared their “home flavor” with all the other ones offered. We all had this idea of how Coca Cola or CC products taste like but in this room we had to realize that the world is a big place with many different tastes. Not everything is yummy, by the way, there are some pretty hideous concoctions out there (to my taste anyways), but my point is that something that most of us would consider a marker of our culture is also a marker in many other cultures though it takes on a slightly different taste (or meaning if you want to bring it to a more theoretical level).

It is because of globalization that Coca Cola can be found in virtually every country in the world but it is also because of globalization that we can experience that global can be local without having to be a uniformed taste.

By Franzi

Full disclosure: I love Coca Cola the German way but the U.S. coke just isn’t the same so while being in the U.S. I (yikes!) prefer Pepsi. I know, way to ruin the mood of this post! Sorry Coca Cola!