Communication for Development and Social Change: New Millennium

By McAnany, Emile | Communication Research Trends, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Communication for Development and Social Change: New Millennium


McAnany, Emile, Communication Research Trends


1. Introduction

I preface this review by reminding readers that COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS last broached a similar topic in Volume 25, No. 2 (Srampickal, 2006). Much has happened during this interval, not the least of which is the promulgation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the united Nations in 2000 and their restatement in 2005. (See box on page 5 for a list of the MDGs.) Some may believe that these MDGs are just words, wishful thinking, but I would argue that they express not only ideals of the world's community of nations, but also consist of statements of concrete and measurable goals and challenges to action for eliminating the worst of human injustices. This review will try to examine the Communication for Development and Social Change literature (C4D as an abbreviation from now on) in the first decade of this new millennium and relate it to the MDGs.

It is important to note at this point that the review will differ from previous reviews in several ways. It will include references to the many websites of organizations working in C4D as they relate to the examination of the research, policy, and theory being carried on in a variety of formal and informal ways that sometimes fall outside of a traditional literature review for the academy. The inclusion of written documents that are not formally published is of increasing importance in the digital era in which we live.

Another caveat: I must remind myself and readers that my own experience, language skills, and background limit this review. Although I have worked in C4D and related areas for more than 40 years and have experience in the field in Latin America and Africa, I represent only one perspective on the field of C4D. Moreover, this review mainly concentrates on English language sources and primarily on published material with a limitation to mainstream publications at that. I make these qualifications at the beginning because readers need to critically read, placing written material in the larger context of global efforts in C4D in every nation and among countless communities. I will necessarily leave out much of what is happening in most of the world and in other languages. Thus, for instance, I am aware of a very long tradition of C4D in the Philippines at Los Banos and other institutions of teaching and research, but I have not been able to do a review of that tradition even though I know it has made many significant contributions. The same hold for India and much of Africa (though see White's 2009 review on Africa, Trends Vol. 28, No. 1). Those sources in books and journals, both available and familiar to academics and policy makers in English, define the "mainstream" for this review.

A. Some Initial Questions about C4D

one question for readers to ponder emerges from the literature: Is the field of C4D is dying? Three articles by Fair (1989), Fair and Shah (1997), and Ogan, Bashir, Camaj, Luo, Gaddie, Pennington, Rana, and Salih (2009) provide a complete search of C4D articles published in English over the years of 1960 to 2007 in the main communication journals generally available to American and European readers and to some extent globally. These articles offer several key conclusions: first, the early modernization-diffusion model held sway largely for 20 or more years; second, the number of publications on C4D topics seemed to decline, especially in the last two decades; third, the focus on information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development has increased; and, fourth, American universities offered only a small number of C4D courses (ogan et al., 2009). one could infer that the academic field of C4D is in decline and the field no longer holds interest for the communication mainstream. I do not disagree with the empirical findings, but I think that the researchers perhaps overstate the conclusion about the decline of interest in C4D by the field of communication. The report on the number of courses at major communication programs in the U. …

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