Development as Communication: A Perspective on India

Development as Communication: A Perspective on India

Development as Communication: A Perspective on India

Development as Communication: A Perspective on India


This book applies a systematic communication theory to the 30-plus years of development experience in India.

Never before has development been treated from a communication perspective. This perspective demonstrates that the role of communication in development is not limited to the technology of satellites or to the economics of mass media; it is a way of thinking about the interaction among all agents involved.

The empirical data describe patterns of social realities, actions, and communication networks among planners, contact agents, and the masses in two Indian communities. The result is an analytical review of development theories and practice in India.

This study is practical as well as theoretical. The authors show how the theory of the "coordinated management of meaning" applies to large-scale social interactions. They also offer specific recommendations for Indian development planners.


Studies of the "flow" of international news consistently show that particular places in the world are disproportionately under- or over-represented (Sreberny-Mohammadi 1984). For many years, India has been one of the "blank spaces" on the world map for many Americans, a mysterious place of which they seldom think and of which they even less frequently think realistically.

This unfortunate state of affairs was the case in 1982 when we were in India for the field work reported in this book. Since then, the situation has changed somewhat. Sensational news events and some significant entertainment programming have thrust India into the American awareness in a qualitatively different way. Even disembodied, aggregate "public opinion" has begun to deal with India as a modern democracy rather than-- or at least as well as--a source of mystical religious teachers and an exotic background for Western adventures.

The earlier view still persists, of course. It was expressed in two popular films released while we were analyzing data. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was set in the historical period of the 1930s. It portrayed India as a backward, superstitious, British colony which needed a (Western) hero to save a village, free enslaved children, overthrow an evil maharajah, and return magical stones to their rightful place in the village. Whatever its other values, it did not contribute to an understanding of India. Nor, we suppose, was it meant to. Octopussy was set in the present . . .

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