The power of communication

International Communication is a wide field as it touches upon issues in international relations, culture, technology, politics and policy, conflict studies, diplomacy and many more. This week’s readings gave a broad overview of the history of technological advances and how these relate to the advancement of (international) communication.

What has struck me while reading about roughly 600 years of “modern” communication (starting with the printing press in 1440) is how many of the decisions made by lawmakers, kings and rulers hundreds of years ago are still shaping today’s world of (international) communication. France opted to have its telegraph lines built so that Paris would always be the center of communication. This power has lasted to this day as Paris being the powerhouse of France despite not being in the geographic center of the country.

Early on communication technology (starting with the printing press, and later moving on to the telegraph, sonar, radio, tv and now internet) meant political power and influence. Thus, the means were kept in the hands of the political elite to further their political cause. That is why despotic governments are restricting the access to communication for its citizens. If access is granted power and influence are being given away. Granted, maybe only in small amounts, but in the fast paced age of the internet and viral communication a small yielding of power can result in societal uproar. Just like little babies dancing to their dad’s guitar play or a wedding proposal taped out of the back of a car can go viral so can political ideas, strong images of oppression, war, and crime. The pressure that these images creates, both on governments and on societies, can lead to agenda setting which then can lead to policies that are threatening the despotic government. Access to communication was and still is highly contested.

Post by Franzi R.

Readings this post is refering to:
Daya Thussu “The Historical Context of International Communication” from International Communication: Continuity and Change (2006).

Elisabeth Hanson “The Origins of the Information Revolution” (Ch. 2) from The Information Revolution and World Politics (2008).