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[berkman] Pippa Norris on cultural convergence

Pippa Norris of the Harvard Kennedy School is giving a lunchtime Berkman talk titled “Cultural Convergence: The Impact on National Identities and Trust in Outsiders.” [Note: I’m live-blogging, hence making mistakes, missing stuff, misunderstanding other stuff, typing badly. This is an inaccurate, incomplete record of her talk.]

What might be the impact of cosmopolitan communications, she asks? Her thesis is that there are many firewalls that block global information flows. She will argue that the news media has an impact through cosmopolitan communications, and will look at the implications for public policies. It makes people slightly less nationalistic. [Note: She talks fast. Bad for live bloggers, but good for listeners.] (This is from her book, available free on her Web site.)

Globalization is the starting part. It’s about more than trade; it’s also social and political. Cosmopolitan communications = “the way we learn about, and interact with, people and places beyond the borders of our nation-state.” Cosmocomms have been expanding. But, so what, she asks. In the 1970s, this was seen as cultural imperialism. In the 1990s, it was thought of as Coca-colonization. In the 2000s, we’re still seeing cultural protectionism.

Pippa will focus on audio-visual publishing. Western countries remain dominant. In fact, the gap has widened. There are four views in the literature: 1. There’s a convergence around US exports. 2. There’s a polarization of national cultures. 3. There’s a fusion of national cultures. 4. Pippa’s firewall model.

The firewall model says that there are barriers: 1. Trade barriers; 2. Internal barriers to free press; 3. Poverty; 4. Learning barriers that make it harder to acquire values and attitudes.

She discusses three levels: individual, national, and cross-level. For the national, she talks about the “cosmopolitanism index” she’s devised. She’s surveyed 90 countries using a set of survey questions. At the bottom are the poorest countries with the poorest press freedom. At the top, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark. It goes from 1972-2004.

That’s the framework. She confines her discussion of the results to effects on national identity and trust. Roughly, the more cosmpolitan, the less national identity and higher trust in outsiders. In terms of trusting outsiders, Norway takes the cake. US and Sweden are also high. (The Netherlands are high on the cosmo scale but only in the middle on the trust scale. Also, Germany and Spain.) But because there’s no control group — maybe trust maps to education? — you have to do multilevel regression. She uses age, gender, income, education, and news media use, and finds that trust correlates with news media use.

Her conclusions: Use of the news media “is positively related to more trust in outsiders” (different countries and religions) and “is related to weaker feelings of nationalism.” “I regard that as positive results.” But there are some qualifications: 1. Many other factors create trust in outsiders. 2. This study looks at the impact of news media, but not the impact of entertainment media. 3. There may be self-selection bias or interaction effects.

Policy implications? Is the globalization of news media a threat to national diversity? See www.pippanorris.com

She concludes by asking what we know about how we measure flows of info from one country to another, over time, say from 1995?

Q: [ethanz] There are some familiar data sets. E.g., Alexa, although because it’s opt-in, it’s not perfect. There’s also Google Search Insights that tracks searches. In most countries, “news” is almost always one of the very top searches. A question: How might your analysis integrate with national-level studies. E.g., a study that showed that as cable TV was introduced to communities in India, you got an increase in empowerment equivalent to 4 years of education. [I probably got this substantially wrong.]

Q: There are categories of trust…
A: We use the World Values survey that includes over a quarter million people. Is trust in Nigeria and Sweden the same? There are many categories indeed. But when you see a strong pattern emerge, as we have, then we should assume something is happening in the data.

Q: A speaker from Microsoft was at Berkman recently, talking about the issues importing and exporting data on the Net across national boundaries. What sorts of measures have you been using?
A: The obvious ones. Internet access. Location of hosts. And some articles that have looked at search terms.

Q: I’m from Poland: High cosmo, low trust. In the US, we rent movies instead of watching TV. But rental stores don’t know about a particular movie highly famous in Europe. My question is about the global dimension of local issues.
A: Poland and much of Central Europe have suddenly become much more open and have found greater value change than in countries open for a long time. You should see greater variation within such countries, e.g., by age.

Q: [smacleod] Pippa asked for ideas about media flows, with some positivist assumptions about the ability of globalization and media studies to be objective. Has she read Appadurai’s “Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization,” which emphasizes the mutability of flows. I wonder how Pippa might engage on-the-ground research and how such ethnographic research might recast her methodological assumptions. Extensive anthropological field work has been done in all the countries she’s mentioned, which engages and historicizes the legacy of colonialism.
A: I am a positivist. But I also like dealing with cases. There’s rich work being done in communications and other fields, but there’s also good division of labor. You need both. Some people like to fly over a country and others like to walk through it, and you get value from both.

Q: The US has more cultural exports than imports, while most seem to have about equal amounts. How does this play into cosmo?
A: America also imports a lot. America doesn’t have to import a lot because it’s got so much.

Q: Tribal populations in America have a tight tie to geography. Where’s UNESCO is generating the data to look at other regions than nation states?
A: The data generally depend on national statistical offices. UNESCO depends on those; it has no data generation capability itself.

Q: [hal] Google Ad-Planner lets you download a list of the 500 most visited sites for many countries. It has unique visitor numbers.
A: So I could see how many people go into Norway and how many go out.

This gives us a way to focus on globalization of media by focusing on the people, not on the media, Pippa concludes, reminding us that the chapters are up on her site. [Tags: ]

One Response to “[berkman] Pippa Norris on cultural convergence”

  1. Pippa Norris was in Vienna a few weeks ago and spoke about a new study of hers: “Cosmopolitan Communications: Cultural Diversity in a Globalized World“. She took a closer look at the influence of mass media on 90 different cultures worldwide. You can watch her lecture here:

    http://etalks.tv/blog/2010/06/11/cultural-diversity-in-a-globalized-world/


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