Monday, November 14, 2005

Week 7 Resou, Evalu & Analy

This week we were looking at the chapters in Held's (et al) Global Transformations on Globalization of Trade, and of Finance. The latter of those chapters had lees to offer my area of interest, but there were some thoughts from the chapter on Trade that are worth interacting with.

One major force in the growth of globalization has been increasingly free trade world-wide. "Trade has revolutionized the prospects of all industrial sectors - today few industries rely purely on domestic markets or domestically produces components and raw materials" (Held 149). The Media industry is no exception, particularly in the area of market. The market for media productions is becoming more and more global, as illustrated by the growing mass distribution of books in translation, films, television programs and music to many if not every corner of the globe. Films, for example, produced by companies in the US (but often filmed in other countries, using crew labor from those nations) are no longer released exclusively to a domestic audience first, but are often premiered simultaneously in several countries (e.g. The Matrix, Lord of the Rings). Media is produced for global market.

However, even though I think there has been some within other regional areas (not to mention the rising popularity of "world music), when it comes to media, the US is still by far the largest producer by numbers and scope of reach. The authors of the book said, "Of course, this competition can take various forms such that global markets may often reflect oligopolistic rather than perfectly competitive conditions, with a few major producers dominating a trading sector" (Held 150). Such is certainly the case with media corporations. Worldwide, more and more media producers and outlets are owned by fewer and fewer corporate entities. I made reference to an article that touches on that two weeks ago (see resource #9, The New Global Media, by McChesney). I hope to more clearly boil down that information and map it soon.

Another intriguing discussion in the chapter was on the topic of national protection. As I expected, the US has always been very big on protecting its own trade and domestic product. A pair of tables in the chapter chart tariff rates. On the first covering tariff rates from 1820-1931, the US was by far the highest from 1875 on, with a rate in 1931 of 53% (Held 158). Though it all evened out to a much lower and much more level playing field in the latter 20th Century, the US rate in 1985 of 3.5% was still the highest in the world. Even though our nation has always been a proponent of freedom in the forms of both democratic politics and free-enterprise capitalism, we still have maintained a culture of "protecting our own." Our unbalanced protection policies have probably contributed to our world-wide dominance in certain areas of exportation, among them our popular culture media (likely our biggest export currently). I wonder if any of this dominance will every change since the global state of economics have made nations more dependent on each other. "By the late twentieth century institutional constraints, as well as economic costs, have severely limited the scope for national protectionism" (Held 187).

These observations may not find direct ways of influencing our wiki, but they are at least informative as background. I think there is likely to be more directly useful information in the next chapter on global corporate practices, and in the later chapter on the globalization of culture (and cultural products such as film).

OK, shifting focus... I have some thoughts from work in class last week to post here for consideration of inclusion on our wiki project.

I was spurred on by Bolger's lectures the last several class sessions on Jesus practices in the Gospels to think specifically about certain practices that might speak directly to the subject of cultural transformation in the arena of Global Media.

First, Jesus' practice of caring and providing for the "least of these," as described in his parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, and expressed through his multiple healings of the poor and needy. The questions pertaining to Global Media that I believe this Jesus-practice forces us to ask are: "How does Global Media oppress those in need?" "How might it liberate them provide for them?"

Secondly, I think of the theme throughout the Gospels, but particularity Luke, of Jesus sharing table-fellowship (interacting intimately) with sinners and outcasts of the society. A good example of this is in the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. The main question I believe this Jesus-practice raises for us within the context of Global Media and Christian involvement is: "Is isolationism or combatant separatism really the best response for Jesus-followers?"

Finally, Jesus' teachings about being "salt and light" in the world (see Matthew 5:13-14) force me to consider such questions as: "If Jesus-followers boycott participation in the realms of media, how will we ever be a positive presence of 'salt and light'?"

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