Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fault in Sparks' approach

In his article “What’s wrong with globalization?” Colin Sparks ticks off what he claims are the central tenants of Globalization theory in international communications. For each of the four main tenants, he deconstructs what is inapplicable to the modern system. In his second point, his lens of analysis is faulty.
Sparks’ argues that if globalization is to be a working paradigm, “the international circulation of media products, are today central to the functioning of the global world in the ways that the exchange of raw materials and manufactured commodities were central to earlier epochs.” (Sparks, 136) Media products would be today what coal and steel were to the industrial revolution. According to his analysis, in order for this to be true, media companies would make up a bigger segment of the economy than those of his ‘old industry.’ In this light, media companies do not succeed. Oil and automobile companies beat out the largest of the international media corporations in terms of gross income, net assets, market capitalization, and number of employees. It is here that Sparks makes a mistake. Rather than the size of these corporations, we should examine the level to which the products of media corporations are pervasive and necessary to the functioning of companies of the old industry.
Unquestionably, advances in information and communication technologies have revolutionized the way the modern world does business. Standardization throughout the world of software types allows corporations to do business within themselves and with others internationally at a much higher degree in the last twenty years. Good examples are Windows, Adobe .pdf format, Quicken, and Microsoft Office. The internet has allowed for huge advances for companies—exchanges not only in email but file and data sharing have changed the speed of business and deterratorialized the chain of command. Mobile devices, digital drafting software, online storefronts…the list goes on. But fundamentally, the ways business is conducted globally has changed. And advances in ICTs have made this change possible.
Perhaps Sparks should have considered media & communications the same way he would look at the role of how advances in shipping and transportation of goods underscore the ability for other types of industries to globalize. Goods and people are easily moved around the world thanks to advances in airplanes and Boeing comes in at number three on his chart. But trains, ships, and the trucking industries are also more efficient and essential today but not on his scale. Neither are companies like UPS and FedEx, who have changed the ways big and particularly smaller business, are able to function. Their gross income may not be as big but one cannot remove them without affecting the output of the traditional industries. It is the same with information and media companies. They are pervasive throughout other business and inseparable to their success in the modern world.
Sparks uses the wrong lens to examine the globalization of the media sector. He tries to examine it in terms of income and output rather than the degree to which ICTs are intrinsic to the functioning of other forms of industries. Much like advances in shipping and transport underlie and support the old industries, globalized corporations rely on the media and communications sector in a degree that supports globalization theory of international communications.

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