By Abdelaziz Elhammouchi
By Abdelaziz Elhammouchi
Morocco World News
Meknes, Morocco, August 8, 2012
According to the Oxford dictionary, development is “the process of producing or creating something new or more advanced”. This definition highlights the idea that if a country or an individual wants to be under the umbrella term development, s/he has to shift from an old, or maybe a stagnant, situation to a progressive one. In fact, “development” is more intricate and subtle than what it seems to be in this restrictive definition. It is a concept that is viewed differently according to which theory or basement a person stands on. That is, each adopted theory reflects certain interests of the moments in which it was utilized and developed, and the ideologies of people who adapt it to the process of development. In this article I will be approaching the notion of development based on three main theories: Modernization Theory, Dependency Theory, and Participatory Theory.
Modernization Theory conceives the role of communication as a focal mobilizer of people to change and adopt what is exhibited for them. In his famous book, Mass Communication/ Mass Culture, Stan Ve Roy Wilson defines mass communication as “a process whereby professional communicators use technological devices to share messages over some distance to influence large audience”. Diagnosing this definition would provide us with key ideas to know how the media shapes people’s minds. There are very few professional communicators who orient information according to what they believe in it to be worthy.
The famous theory of Agenda Setting/Cutting explains how information is gathered, selected and filtered according to certain, I would call them, lobbies. The function of these ‘gatekeepers’ is to select certain news or messages to be diffused or broadcast in TV or on radio. What is more, messages are disseminated to a large audience in a very short time. Paying attention to media content would confirm to us that certain lobbies want to mobilize the rest of the world to keep up with their same advocated level of modernity that the West contend.
Modernization, in this regard, equates westernization. Under the premise of the western scale of development, the underdeveloped and developing countries lag behind the policy of industrialized governance in the search of political, economic and commercial support. As outlined by Rogers, Diffusion Innovation Theory, a sub-theory of modernization, explains plainly how and why people adopt certain innovated technologies. The more the process of adoption is sped up, the more benefits media owners would gain. In fact, adopting a product goes through stages; it goes through raising awareness, creating more interests, and making certain evaluations on behalf of the audience by media coverage. Eventually, trial is the last stage before a person adopts a product.
The role of mass communication is central to persuade, rather than convince, the audience to adopt blindly a product to be an indispensable element in daily life necessities. The effect of the media is a result of applying either of these two theories: Two-Step Flow Theory and Magic Bullet Theory. The former includes three major components through which the message goes. Media as the source of information; opinion leaders as interpreters and re-transmitters of information through the word-of-mouth; and the audience as receivers of finalized filtered information. The latter adopts a direct effect, that is, from media to audience without intermediaries.
As a reaction to Modernization Theory, Dependency Theory explains power relations in a society geared by media institutions and transnational corporations or lobbies. Cultural imperialism is an outcome of economic crises. Development in the mind of westerners is strengthening the domination of the west over the rest of world. It does so through rendering underdeveloped societies dependent economically, politically and commercially on developed nations.
Dependency Theory explains development as feeding the poor by the spoon instead of teaching him/her how to search independently for food. In a bipolar world in which our ancestors used to live in, the “center” was, and so it is conceived today, as the powerful and “peripherals” as subordinate. Interaction between these two extremely different polarities is either ‘vertical or ‘feudal’. In both cases the dominant exerts his power either ideologically or repressively as Louis Althusser contended- Ideological State Apparatus and Repressive State Apparatus.
Eventually, both of these theories, Modernization and Dependency, explain development from a top-down perspective. That is, development is a process which is invented and transmitted by the powerful. Paulo Freire presented, as an alternative, Participatory Theory to stress that dialogue, equity, respect of autonomy or personhood, and the right to be different, to mention but a few, are pre-requisite components to build a developed and ‘healthy’ community. To pave a way for such theory to take place, Paulo suggested that education should not be governed by classical top down approaches, but it should be a participatory interaction between both the teacher and students. In so doing, people will allow their voices to be heard by concerned people and stop being spoken for, to coin Spivak’s idea. As a result, development would emerge from below and the underdeveloped would have a say in world policy.
Abdelaziz Elhammouchi obtained his BA in linguistic from Moulay Ismail University, Meknes. He is a master student of “Communication in Contexts,” at the same University.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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