This paper examines the changes that social media has brought into the international communication process. The argument here is that there has been a major shift in the information flow debate due to the great influence of the social media: this influence is necessitated by the interactive and participatory nature of the social media network, which has encouraged citizen journalism. However, social media has not truly addressed the issue of imbalance as most of the booming social media platforms are still owned and controlled by the first world countries.
As a recommendation, the paper proposes that third world countries take advantage of the flexibility inherent in the social media networks to tell their stories. They should exploit these media in image rebranding thus bridging the gap in international communication. It also called for a rethink in the information flow debate considering the great changes brought about by the social media. KEY WORDS: International Communication, Social Media, Citizen Journalism, News flow Debate, Imbalance INTRODUCTION
Communication is a vital aspect of human life.
It is the exchange of ideas and opinions between and among people. This communication can take place face-to-face or through a channel. International communication can therefore, be described as the form of communication that takes place across borders i. e. between different countries or continents. International communication is very important in global relationships because the world is now interdependent, so countries need mutual interaction and understanding with one another.
This trans-border communication is tightly hinged the united nation declarations of human rights which freedom of information is part of. This has necessitated a free flow of information between countries. This flow of news and information between countries and regions in the world has been a matter that has raised and continues to raise concern among international communication experts. Of special interest is the pattern of information flow between developed countries or first world countries and the developing countries.
This concern has led to several issues such as imbalance, media, and cultural imperialism, NWICO (new world information communication order) debate, among others. Imbalance, as the name implies denotes to inequality, unfairness, and partiality. Imbalance in the flow of international communication, therefore, refers to the unequal distribution of news among developed and developing nations. Imbalance has been classified under two types, quantitative and qualitative imbalance.
Masmondi (1979 p. 173) quoted in Ekeanyanwu, (2008 p. 9) “states that Quantitative imbalance is created by the disparity between the volume of news and information emanating from developed world and intended for the developing countries and the volume of the flow in the opposite direction. ” This implies that out of all the news transmitted by the western media; only about twenty percent would be about developing or third world countries. This has created a flaw in international communication. This flaw is referred to as one-way flow or unidirectional flow.
This denotes to the flow of information from the technologically advanced countries to less technologically advanced countries. The origin of this flaw can be traced to cultural and linguistic patterns developed among colonial masters and their subjects during the colonial era. (Ekeanyawu, 2008) (Ekeanyawu & Yusuf 2013). Qualitative imbalance on the other hand, discusses in detail the nature or type of news transmitted from developed countries to developing countries. The western media do not see any news coming from third world countries as news, unless they are about disasters, diseases, etc.
Of course, it would be baseless to argue that these negative events do not take place in third world countries, but the main issue remains that the western media do not make attempt to report the good activities taking place in these third world countries. Qualitative imbalance therefore implies, that western media concentrate too much energy on reporting of negative news stories as against the little effort they put in reporting favorable and positive news stories from third world countries.
Ekeanyawu, 2008) In recent times however, scholars have replaced the term imbalance with “preference and dependence”. These concepts posits that people in the third world countries are no longer spoon-fed stories by the western media, rather, they willingly subscribe to such news thus neglecting stories from the local media. This attitude has led to dependence or even over dependence on information from the western media. Media imperialism is another dangerous angle to this inequality in the flow of international communication.
This notion connotes the manipulation of global media by developed countries to dominate the cultural and ideology of the rest of the world. Boyd-Barrett (1979) quoted in Ekeanyawu (2008, p. 41) gave a comprehensive definition of media imperialism thus; Media imperialism refers to the process whereby the ownership, structure, distribution or content of the media in any one country are singly or together subject to substantial external pressure from the media interest of any other country or countries without proportionate reciprocation of influence by the country so affected.
Media imperialism is made possible because these countries are better economically and technologically positioned in globalization. Ekanyawu (2008, p. 43) asserts that “very little opportunities exist for the developing countries’ media to aid them counter these overwhelming influences because of the inadequacies and inequalities in the sociopolitical cum economic development. ” Thus leading to a more sophisticated dominance widely referred to as cultural imperialism. This is the conquest and control of one country by a more powerful one.
Cultural imperialism signifies the dimensions of the process that go beyond economic exploitation or military force. Third world countries have been set up as replicas of Britain, France, or the United states and carry their value. This has created a huge problem in third world countries as the notion of culture known to their youths or younger generation is a portrayed by the western media. These discrepancies in international communication led to the setting up of the MacBride Commission in 1977. (Thussu, 2000 p. 5) explains the reason reasons for setting up of the commission thus:
“The commission was established to study four main aspects of global communication: the current state of world communication; the problems surrounding a free and balanced flow of information and how the needs of developing countries link with the flow; how NWICO could be created, and how the media could become the vehicle for educating public opinion about world problems”. This commission among other things recommended a broader exchange of information among countries that would open up new sources and liberate more voices for communication.
This would ensure a broader opinion flow. This need for a broader opinion flow has been facilitated by the internet cum social media networks. The emergence of social networks has brought a new dimension into the news flow debate, as it gives a wider space for information flow among people. Indeed more space than available in the traditional media. Social media networks have empowered people globally, serving as a platform for the expression of views on both personal and global issue. , also agree with this notion that “social media networks have spiced up ways in which information are disseminated”.
The instant nature of the delivery and feedback as well as the level of openness and freedom available has made news more interactive, participatory, and timelier than ever. This new dimensions in international communication has once again resurged the debate on the news flow controversy. It is this new and ever changing development in the international communication, due to the emergence of social media networks that will be discussed in detail in this paper, with a view of evaluating the current position of western traditional news media in the flow of international communication.
It will also attempt to uncover and evaluate the influence that social media networks have asserted and continue to assert in the flow of international communication. LITERATURE REVIEW Communication is the maintained, modification and creation of culture. In this sense, the processes and institutions of communication of culture, and of development are well woven together. (Christopher, 1999). The role of communication may be regarded as that major carrier of culture. It is used to promote integration and creative expression.
Since communication makes for better understanding, it is therefore paramount that different countries of the world should interact. Unfortunately, our world has too frequently become an exchange between two unequal partners, the prevalence of the better equipped. Countries in the west, which are advanced economically and technologically, always overshadow the developing ones in third world countries, thus leading to a flawed flow and imbalance in the international communication process. Before the emergence of social media networks, the news flow discussion has been solely based on traditional media of communication.
The entrance of social media networks added a unique twist into the global news flow controversy. They have helped review the structure of newsgathering and dissemination. De Beer, 2010 quoted in (Ekeanyawu, Kalyango, & Peters 2012) regards social networks as informal news institutions, which serve as pervasive agents of globalization as well as democratization. The proliferation of social networking websites, combined with a massive increase in the number of mobile devices, has fundamentally altered the way people communicate and work with each other.
In particular, traditional hierarchical relationships have been redefined, while access to and dissemination of information has changed dramatically. Social media has been a major factor in these changes, by providing a platform on which communication is instant, decentralized, and truly global. These social media sites support the need for social interaction, using web tools to transform media monologues into social media dialogue. (Ekeanyawu, Kalyango, Peters, 2012). OVER VIEW OF SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS
Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Heinlein (2010) define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2. 0, which allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content“. Furthermore, social media depends on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content.
It introduces substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals. There exists an abundance of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, my space, Skype, yahoo messenger, blogs etc. However, we would be examining only Facebook, twitter, and YouTube. FACEBOOK Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004. It is operated and privately owned by faceboo. inc. Mark Zuckerberg, who was at that time a second year Harvard student, founded it.
He co-founded it with his college roommates, namely Eduard Savarin, Dustin Moskovits and Chris Hughes. Initially the site was created for Harvard students only but it expanded between 2005 and 2006. (Ozuru and Ekeanyanwu, (2013, Idakwo (2011), Boyed and Ellison, (2007). The use of Facebook is already a universal thing, such that the verb “face booking” has been added to the dictionary to describe the process of browsing other peoples profile while updating your own. This social media has been highly developed in such a way that both information and updates can be done anywhere and anytime.
Its notable features include the “like button” “poke button” etc. TWITTER Jack Dorsy, an undergraduate of New York University, created twitter, which is internationally identified by its bird logo, in March 2006. The service gained worldwide popularity, with over 500 million registered users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily. This social network is a web 2. 0 phenomenon that combines elements of blogging, text, messaging and broadcasting. it was established for people to summarize their thought and post it in just 140 words, this is known as tweets.
Today, twitter, has gained a global media audience ranging from, politicians, celebrities, companies, clergymen and even media practitioners. YOUTUBE YouTube was founded by Chad Hurly, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim, who were employees of PayPal. They activated the internet domain name, youtube. com and started to create a video sharing website, on which users could upload, share and view videos.
By the middle of 2006, YouTube became the fastest growing site on the web, with a video upload of more than 65000 new videos and delivering 100 million video towards the end of that year. Wikipedia) On October 9, 2006, Google purchased it for US$1. 65 billion in stock. Today, YouTube is the largest online video destination in the world and third most visited website. The site exceeds two billion views a day. The YouTube platform comprises the largest video sharing community and includes users, advertisers and over 10000 partners. Millions of users spanning across the globe come to YouTube to discover and shape the world through videos. INFORMATION FLOW DEBATE IN THE ERA OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Information flow involves the movement of media and cultural products and messages from source to consumers. Global information flow would therefore imply the movement of media and cultural products from one country to another (Ekeanyawu, 2008). In the process of this information flow, problems arise. This is because of implementation of the freedom of information principle. As has been stated in the introductory part of this paper, the principle of freedom of information put forward by the United Nations charter empowers everybody to send and receive information from any source.
This freedom however, has raised a serious debate in international communication flow. Kumer and Biernatzki (nd) describes the background for the debate thus: The demand for more just and more equitable ‘flow’ of information and news across international border had its roots in the struggle of the nations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and later Eastern Europe to break free of colonial chains. Already, early in the freedom movement, defiant efforts were made to counter the information disseminated by colonial government through news agencies, the press, and other media. Ekeanyawu and Kalyango, (2013), also throw more light on the reason for this debate hence.
The free flow of information concept, came about in the quest to implement the basic principles of the universal declaration of human rights… however, it became a problem or flaw in international communication flow because overemphasis was placed on one of the components of this flow to the disadvantage of other components. Two of these components “the right to seek” and “the right to impact” information have been widely and frequently neglected. Only the right to receive has been given undue emphasis.
This is not supposed to be so as it has made developing nations to become mere consumers of information in whatever taste they are produced. The cause of disagreement according to proponents of this debate is that quantitatively, they are under-reported in the western world, and qualitatively, the little that is reported about them is all about crises, famine and strives. (Okigbo, 1990, Ekanyawu, Kalyango, and Peters, 2012), points out that, Despite the fact that the developing countries account for about 75 percent of the world population, less than 30 percent of world news coverage is devoted to them.
This leads to a perpetual under covering of the regions, the ultimate result of which is lack of adequate information about these areas. They went on to argue that the flow of international communication is mostly unidirectional. Okigbo, 1990, posits that the average south citizen is more likely to know more about the western world than the third world. This inadequate and biased flow of international communication has led to the perpetuation of some prejudices and the holding of certain attitudes that do not support global corporation based on fairness, equity, and just treatment (Okigbo 1990, Ekeanywu, Kalyanga and Peters 2012).
The developing nations have been portrayed as mere consumers of information in whatever taste they are produced and the developed nations are the major producers and distributors of information and world news. This unequal sourcing and dissemination of information between the developed and developing countries led to a huge knowledge distribution among these countries, and these gaps continue to widen because the information rich nations will continue to get richer while the information poor nations will be striving to meet up with less advanced technologies at their disposal MacBride et al (1986) quoted in affirms this, thus.
The gap between the fully informed countries and the less informed countries continue to widen as the imbalance between those imparting and receiving information become accentuated. Although it is only fair to recognize that, the international flows have enormously increased, and that communications sources have enormously increased their output, it is necessary to stress that communicators have strengthened their power to control impact of messages transmitted as well as the selection of information available.
In addition, the attendant distortions and imbalance reflect in the way the dominant interest of the societies they emanate from. The question now is; is the international communication flow controversy still relevant with the emergence of social Media Networks? Social media networks have changed international flow and communication thus confirming the global village where people from different countries are affected by virtually every event that happens anywhere in the world. Social networking sites offer people new and varied way to communicate; this can be on personal basis or in a public way such as comments posted for all to see.
Beyond the ability to dispel some of these misrepresentations, social media platforms have also increased the capacity of developing societies and people to tell their own stories, generate their own stories and people to tell their own stories, generate their own news and disseminate same without the traditional gatekeeping managed by the developed nations for their selfish and national interest. , Ekeanywu, Kalyanga and Peters (2012), Ekeanyawu, (2008) The introduction of the social media networks notwithstanding, the news flow debate is still relevant in the 21st Century.
Asserts that the issues of technology ownership and transfer remain complicated because the social media platforms are creation of the developed world, Implying that the technology driving the revolution in this sector remains an exclusive preserve of the west. They further add that there is no indication that developing societies are thinking of indigenizing, remodeling, or producing their own technology to drive social and communal interaction, so that their citizens would not remain victims in the ploy of the west to keep them under cover in the flow of international communication.
With cognizance of the above, it can therefore, be deducted that social media networks has added a new angle to the debate on the flow of international communication. It has increased the capacity of developing societies and people to tell their own stories, generate their own news, and disseminate same, without the traditional gatekeeping managed by the developed nations for selfish and national interests. However, it has not totally eradicated the news flow debate, as most of the salient issues that lead to that debate are still much relevant.
In fact, social media networks have done only little in addressing the issue. CITIZEN JOURNALISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA The concept of citizen journalism also known as public, participatory, democratic, or street journalism refers to citizens/non-professional journalist playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting and analyzing and dissemination news and Information. Though many people still read news that is produced by the traditional media, many of them feel that traditional media are too slow or that there is an agenda behind their reports.
While this attitude towards traditional media has been around for a long time, the prevalence of moral devices that can record pictures, video and have constant internet connection combined with the growing popularity of social networking sites has actually made it possible for people to produce and share news themselves. This form of journalism is far getting wider acceptance even by the traditional media. Most of them have even gone as far as encouraging people to submit this kind of materials to them for broadcast. The CNN Ireport is an example of this.
Citizen journalism has aided timely and on-spot reporting, this is evident is this period of the Arab uprising. These “journalists” are able to cover and upload photos and videos of happenings and events that traditional media do not have a chance to get. In the face of the current information flow debate, it is important to evaluate the role that these citizen journalist play. This is because the issues on the front burner of the debate are still prevalent even with the proliferation of citizen journalism. Most of the reports that get uploaded and commented on are one that reports violence and wars.
Another issue that needs a rethinking in this era is the matter on who to call a journalist. Should we call anybody that performs the journalism a journalist? Even if they are not properly trained for the job; (Ekeanyanwu & Kalyango, 2013) attempts to provide an answer to this thus; The news flow debate (in this era of citizen journalism) necessitates a reconceptualization of global journalism because of the rapid growth of independent new media scribes and photographers. Social media channels are rapidly transforming the socioeconomic and political public discourse with cultural implications.
Citizens in developing world who have access to internet through computers or the interactive smart cellphones flock to social media networks because of their participatory, interactivity and noticeable costs. This does not mean that social media participants now qualify to be called journalist and they are not professionals. This then implies citizen reporters cannot be classified as professional journalist; because they lack the required training and background to be addressed as such. However, they too have a part to play in the issue of the news flow controversy. They can also be used to bridge to gap in the controversy.
Third world countries should therefore invest in these medium. INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE FLOW ON INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION As has been noted in the preceding paragraphs, the advent of social media network in flow of international communication, has added a new perspective to the global information flow debate. This debate has necessitated a re-conceptualization of global journalism because of the rapid growth of the independent new media. Social channels are rapidly transforming the socioeconomic and public discourse with great cultural implication for the developing nations Oloka-Onyago, (2005), Ekeanyawu & Kalyango, (2013).
Ekeanyawu, Kalyanga and Peters (2012), puts it succinctly thus, The online or virtual community created by social networking sites is one a kind. It is an active community and well informed about issues around them. It thrives on interactive open conversations and mass participation. This is where the News flow debate becomes relevant. Before the emergence, traditional or informal media channels seemed to have been weighed down by economic, political, and other nonprofessional consideration in the coverage of world news.
The social networks thrive on citizens or civic journalism, whereby news democratization has made more and more information available to more persons at a marginal cost than ever before. These networks have helped to deconstruct the structure of newsgathering and dissemination. According to Ekeanyawu and Kalyango (2013), the concern is the realignment of the content production and delivery by opening it up for the public. This has led to multiple sources for newsgathering and dissemination of news with greater access to online media channels and interactive digital platform.
Over the past few years, a remarkable amount of original and creative materials has appeared on the internet and social media platforms. The practice of journalism far from being leeched by the web is being reinvented there with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news. According the Ekeanyawu and Kalyango(2013), Ekeanyawu, Kalyango and peters (2012), the emergence of social media as part of New Media in the gathering and dissemination of international news has drastically altered the international news flow debate.
It will be wrong therefore, to conclude that the traditional news media are the sole agenda setters, builders, and gatekeepers. This is because people especially the young generation tend to sources their daily news through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. because this information is most times customized, interactive and can be accessed with relative ease, it has drastically reduced the appeal of traditional media systems especially the print arm.
This has informed the regrouping of the traditional media as most of them have asserted strong online presence, in fact some of them have even gone as far as creating platforms at which individual can express their opinions on the news, other have added mobile apps to their offerings. This is a clear indication that traditional media establishment have recognized the powerful influence of social media network in international information flow. Indeed social media networks have secured their place in the sphere of mass communication and social mobilization.
These strides in news dissemination flow notwithstanding, there have been debates on the level of trust that can be placed on information from social media networks. Confirms this through a research thus, There have been debates concerning the credibility of social media networks as news sources and channels especially as it concerns international news. This was the focus of research question four. The respondents have mixed feeling about this. The general conclusion is that SMNs cannot be trusted as sources and channels of global news without recourse to the now regarded traditional news channels.
This is because of the freedom and flexibility in uploading information to the sites, so one of the strengths of social media, which is the inherent flexibility in information flow, is then a disadvantage because people can be misled through false information posted on the net. Although, it has been stated in this paper that social media networks have done little to address the issue of imbalance in the flow on international communication, the possibility of third world countries to use it to bridge this great gap should not be overlooked.
These media network should be used as a sort of rebranding machinery for the third world countries. , supports this view thus’ Developing nations should see social media platforms as fertile grounds to plant positive seeds of African image. They should deploy the media to counter western media manipulation and misrepresentation of news about Africa and developing societies in general and make sure the danger of a single story is eliminated.
The expectation is that developing societies should use these platforms more positively, especially in projecting a good image of the society’ cultures and values. They must take specific steps to see to the development of comparative new media technology in the developing societies. Third world countries should not be satisfied as permanent consumer, rather they should bank on the present strides and influence currently exerted by social media network to create a platform for an indigenous voice.
Since the social media networks characterizes freedom and high level of interactively, they should learn to tell their stories themselves and not allow the west to keep on doing that job for them. It is not enough to have access and deploy another’s technology; it is better to begin to use such as a catalyst to the development of indigenous technology for the media industry.
The issues discussed in this paper were whether the social media networks have affected international communication and the information flow debate, onsidering its interactive and participatory nature, and whether traditional media systems still hold sway in the agenda setting and information flow at the international level. The issue of who to call a journalist considering the growing nature of citizen journalism was also considered briefly. It was discovered that although social media network have changed the way information is transmitted, because of the level of freedom evident in it, it has not altered or eradicated the global issue of imbalance international communication.
In fact, it had done only little in this regard. This is so because the major information apparatus for these social interactions are owned by the west, as people of third world countries continue to do more of downloading than uploading. It was also discovered that the advent of social media is fast taking away the monopoly of agenda setting exercised by the traditional media. Because of the interactive nature of social networks, people now prefer to source their news on these sites rather than wait for the conventional means.
Indeed, social media networks have become a prominent factor in the information flow debate. This has informed the “digitalization” of traditional media. Most of them now have website and online chat forums that will enable them weigh strong competition among these social networks. On the issue of who to call a journalist, it was concluded that although citizen journalist try to carry out a semblance of what can be referred to as journalism, it does not qualify for them to be called journalist. RECOMMENDATION
Since it has been agreed that social media networks asserts considerable influence on the flow of international communication. I therefore offer the following recommendation to enable judicial use of this means to address the issue of imbalance. 1. Developing nations should use social media platform as avenues to tell their stories themselves. This entails using social media networks to counter misrepresentation and manipulation of news being perpetuated by the media of first world countries. 2.
Third world countries should attempt to develop indigenous and unique technologies for social interactions comparable to ones put forward by the developing nations. This is necessary because it is not enough to tell our stories ourselves, we should also attempt to tell our stories with our own resources. 3. There is a need for international communication scholars and media experts to revisit the issue of the new flow debate to redefine its usefulness to third world countries considering the democratic and innovative underpinnings inherent in the social media platform.
Cite this Influence Of social Media Networks on the flow of International Communication
Influence Of social Media Networks on the flow of International Communication. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/influence-of-social-media-networks-on-the-flow-of-international-communication-2/