To understand if the dependency theory is helpful in explaining cultural convergence, one must first understand the convergence model. The convergence model is one in which the collective action of the group helps achieve social goals (Barnett & Rosen, 2007). The convergence theory can be applied to communication situations in which the individuals represent a social system that have a unique culture. The cultural convergence theory says that the variance between these ethnic and cultural groups becomes smaller over time. Barnett and Rosen (2007) say, “Convergence theory envisions the flow of information through a communication network shared by those who participate in the process,” (p. 161). In other words, the more cultural groups communicate together, the more they move towards shared beliefs and the variance among their ideas becomes smaller. The process of divergence, which is also known as the movement towards increased variance, occurs when there is less communication flow among the members. We can see this demonstrated through the communication flows. The more the group communicates among each other, the less divergence among their beliefs. The less they communicate, the less connected they become. This theory also maintains that unlimited and unrestricted communication between cultures results in homogenization (increased affinity to the same beliefs). On the same token, limited information flows result in increased divergence.
Cultural dependence builds on the dependency theory, “which looks primarily at the ideological role of the media as part of the cultural superstructure that results from the economic relations of dependency,” (Straubhaar, 2010, p.262). As such, Third World countries are dependent upon the industrialized world for capital, technology and goods, and while they export low-cost products, they add little value to their local economy. This theory believes that not only is this economic imbalance taking place, but also the goal is to make the Third World country content with this situation while pushing the ideological views of the elite. Companies, such as Time Warner, are further expanding their influence on global scale. According to McChesney (2010) we have yet to see a commercially viable site born on the internet and it’s unlikely that we will because the Internet has become playground for media giants to explore and takeover further unifying media content (as cited in God is Love, 2010).
I do not believe that the dependency theory is sufficient in explaining cultural convergence. First, I agree with Pool (1977) and Read (1976) who critiqued the dependency theory by stating that the expansion of U.S. media into a global market is more aligned to a business cycle than intention to dominate (as cited in Straubhaar, 2010). I do not believe that the U.S. expands into Third World country markets to push their ideological views. I also don’t believe that the U.S. purposefully restricts communication flows among cultures to push a homogenized viewpoint. I believe that the dominant media structures provide their services, goods and technology to Third World countries because, as Straubhaar (2010) states, they don’t have the resources to support or maintain full schedules of national production. Because of the limited resources of the Third World countries, they are dependent upon wealthier countries to provide media, television production and advertisers. However, this is not done to converge the beliefs of that culture into a homogenized view. In fact, the more I read and learn about glocalization and the global media, the more I realize how much is being done to ensure that local cultures preserve and honor their beliefs.
In light of the literature dealing with digital divide, what is your opinion on the concept of asymmetrical interdependence and the developing countries’ tendency to adopt and adapt cultural industries?
As I stated above, the dependency theory, “which looks primarily at the ideological role of the media as part of the cultural superstructure that results from the economic relations of dependency,” (Straubhaar, 2010, p.262) plays a role in global communications. There is an asymmetrical interdependence in media. Many nations’ media systems operate in a subordinate position within the world economy. Straubhaar (2010) states that asymmetrical interdependence is the range of relationships that are formed globally due to economic and political issues that move along the continuum from dependency to dominant interdependence. Even the United States is not completely independent and we have seen more of a shift in this dependency over the years. The cost of starting a radio or television broadcast is extraordinary, but these costs were actually even higher in the 1950s and 1960s than they are now. This has shifted the initial dependence on U.S. media to interdependence within the world marketplace.
I definitely see that there is an asymmetrical interdependence of the global media. Many Third World countries lack the capital and resources to produce media. They not only lack the financial resources, but they don’t have the organizational platform or artists, including writers, directors, actors and musicians. They also may not have the advertisers needed to maintain production. These smaller countries are therefore dependent upon the United States for their film and television production. Even though the technology for cross-border communication is becoming more prevalent, many Third World countries still lack the basic radio and television programming to distribute communication. According to Straubhaar (2010), “Some poorer Third World countries are still struggling to absorb radio production and diffuse radio receivers to all of their population,” (p. 267). However, even in these countries television is watched in public places. Straubhaar brings up a great point, which is that while the production of radio and television programming is primarily U.S. dominant, the hardware development of radios, VCRs and equipment is diversifying. This results in an interdependence. While there is an asymmetrical interdependence in the global media marketplace today, we are making movements towards diversifying. I also do not see this as a negative concept. The U.S. is the world’s third largest exporter. In 2013, only 12 percent of US goods exported are consumer goods (Amadeo, 2014). The biggest export from the U.S. is entertainment, including movies, television programs, music and books (Farhi & Rosenfeld, 1998). Nearly one quarter of the U.S. imports is consumer goods. This demonstrates that the U.S. is not exporting goods, but rather services. The reason I mention these statistics is because I believe that our interdependence in the global media marketplace is not a bad thing. The United States has built a successful model for entertainment, therefore that is what we are successful in exporting. However, we have not focused on our “goods”, like radios, DVD players and televisions. Those items are some of our primarily imports. Therefore, this results in interdependence in the global media marketplace.
Question: Do you agree with my viewpoint that there is a complimentary relationship in global media or do you believe that the asymmetrical interdependence is detrimental to Third World countries?
Amadeo, K. (2014, April 21). U.S. imports and exports components. About News. Retrieved from http://useconomy.about.com/od/tradepolicy/p/Imports-Exports-Components.htm
Barnett, G.A. and Rosen, D. (2007). The global implications of the Internet: Challenges and prospects. In Y. R. Kamalipour (Ed.), Global Communication (pp. 157-180). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Farhi, P. and Rosenfeld, M. (1998, October 25). American pop penetrates worldwide. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/mia/part1.htm
God is Love [screenname]. (2010, April 21). Globalization: The Internet as a tool [Video file]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAcE67N_dfs&list=PLdOWmNSwCamsvJ0PEGaOJnN3cI99jDxJ
Straubhaar, J.D. (2010). Beyond media imperialism: Asymmetrical interdependence and cultural proximity. In D. K. Thussu (Ed.), International Communication: A Reader (pp. 261-294). London: Routledge.