We all seem to partake –somehow- in a new streak of research where the concept of globalisation takes form of some sort of mantra, rendering previously valid questions irrelevant and imposing new paradigm shifts in a variety of disciplines. In the field of International communication, the process of globalisation is not only about the emergence of huge transnational corporations. It also implies changes in communication policies and their impact on cultural autonomy and identity not only in weaker nations but in the most powerful ones as well.
It is in this context that International Communication scholars are forced to rethink their existing theories of the free flow of information, the rapid growth of information technology, and the distribution of cultural power in a new environment where boundaries have become porous.
Ali Mohammadi’s International Communication and Globalisation is the latest, not the first as the editor would like us to believe, in that effort. This book is a compilation of essays written by the most noted scholars in the field (Barrett, Hamelink, Halloran, Tehranian, Tomlinson…) representing different schools of research.
At first read, there is little that is new in the topics discussed or the authors who wrote them. Almost all the essays are summaries of arguments the contributors have already made in their own books. There is a lot of value, however, in the way Mohammadi organizes his book in four parts, three of which share a macrosocial approach of examining the limitations and directions of international communication research and the impact of globalisation on media markets and technology transfer. The fourth part, entitled ‘Globalisation, Culture, and the Control of Difference’, follows more of a microlevel, cultural studies approach regarding the cultural dimensions of globalisation and their impact on identity.
The first part of this book features an interesting discussion about two key and contending research tendencies in the field of International Communication: an ‘Orthodox’ trend usually associated with the American tradition of quantitative research, and a ‘Critical’ trend that started in Western Europe with a qualitative and theoretical interest in the study of culture in terms of impact on ‘forms of consciousness and ways of life.’(p.7) This dichotomization might have been true in the early beginnings of International Communication research, but it no longer holds today as more American scholars adopt a critical approach in their enquiry of the effects of global communication on national cultures. Besides, Mohammadi should have asked someone else who not only writes about but also does critical research. James Halloran, who was given the task to represent the critical tradition, is more concerned with mass communication and public- policy making than cultural processes.
The section on communication technology, deregulation and their impact on Third World countries is a discussion of how...