GLOBALISATION in communication and the counter-force to balance
11 September 1998
I have been asked to pass some thoughts on the theme of globalisation. I have been asked to do so from my background as someone working intensively with the so-called new media: computers and above all Internet.
GLOBALISATION, like sustainable development, or civic society or NGO, is a term that carries different loads for different people. For me it stands for the continuing concentration of capital and media power in large global entities - multinational corporations or world institutions like the World Bank. These entities are in financial turnover already larger than many medium-size countries and at a certain moment easily may be larger than large countries as well. Their governance can be characterised in the normal terms of commercial management. This means that the global market-economy can benefit increasingly from economics of scale (which - for instance - gives you the opportunity to buy cheap radio's and computers - YES - globalisation has also benefits!). It also means that important decisions - determining the fates of huge amounts of people - are taken by small groups - without too much feedback mechanisms on other parameters as the usual market ones: short term financial costs and benefits. Short: globalisation offers new chances to the market economy, but is highly undemocratic. The undemocratic tendencies within globalisation work against many positive developments for more social, ecological, cultural and economical justice in this world. That is unfortunate, because on this continent (Latin America), in South Africa and Central and Eastern Europe we just learned that monolithic centralised and discriminatory systems don't offer solutions for most of humanities (and individual people's) problems It's the plurality of society which appear to be able to tackle them!
I mentioned commercial and media structures. Media globalisation is one of the more visible trends in globalisation. Just three recent examples to illustrate where capital concentration and commercial orientation of media-culture can lead to:
These are just a few very recent examples of where the combination of globalisation and commercialisation of media leads to. We - as community and democracy oriented media - will have to develop a flexible response to these developments.
Internet offers some new possibilities to keep us flexible:
One remark in between i indicate technical possibilities that can give us more flexibility. But i want to stress here, that these techniques are only tools. The flexibility of our response to the adverse effects from globalisation depends in the first place on people. People that believe that the world is not only there to create one big homogeneous fun-machine. It depends on people that see the opportunities to do something to improve the quality of life of those that have the lowest quality right now. It depends on people that grab the chances when they meet new barriers - like the barriers that globalisation is creating for fighting poverty, crimes against human dignity and ecological destruction. Whatever techniques we have available - it is the strategic use of it by concrete people, which determines the flexibility. Internet is just another tool - a powerful one - but only powerful in hands of people like you - people that know for what they work.
At present you might not see the reason for diving into this labyrinth of new possibilities with Internet. We acknowledged already that the globalisation and accompanying commercialisation of media infrastructure could face us with problems. Internet is a tool for a flexible response. The developments go fast. We hear very often: "but there are no telephone connections available", "equipment is so expensive", "people don't have the skills". I suppose Latin Americans don't like to be compared with Ukrainians, but i think in this case it might be illustrative. Same infrastructural problems, worse economic problems. But the build-up of new telephone connections has gone so fast, that even in Crimea most NGOs now build up their full Internet access - using local Internet providers in every larger town. Nobody would have believed that only four years ago! The developments in Internet go enormously fast. They will give you more opportunities - if you are open for it.
It will not be easy to pick up these possibilities. APC - the Association for Progressive Communication - is a world-wide network of social movement computer networks. Within APC you find partners capable and willing to co-operate with you to make Internet also support your work.
APC is a space for you to develop strategic use of ICTs with your partners.
Some examples of where that can lead to:
And it can lead to more security for our efforts:
We are developing strategic exchange of experiences:
We can develop income generation over the Internet:
Globalisation may put us in the alternative media world for extensive problems. Internet is an extra tool to address these problems - to maintain the free space we need!
We will not leave the world to Ruppert Murdoch, neither to Bill Gates. We'll keep the globe in local hands!