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Providing content and facilitating social change: Electronic media in rural development based on case material from Peru

  • Van Koert, Robin
Publication Date
Feb 07, 2000
First Monday
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In his famous book Understanding media, Marshall McLuhan discusses the impact he expects (networked) electronic media to have on the world. Since then the emergence of a 'global village' has become a universally accepted idea. McLuhan is perhaps more to the point when he observes that "The organic everywhere supplants the mechanical. Dialogue supersedes the lecture" (McLuhan, 1964; pp. 255-256). This paper takes a cue from McLuhan and discusses the way different types of information flows reveal the underlying power structures related to the provision and exchange of information. In line with McLuhan it is argued that 'dialogue', or information exchange, through networked media will have to play a role of increasing importance in development, whereby dialogues will have 'horizontal' and 'vertical' dimensions. Networked media are in that way to facilitate rural networking and social change. In its essence information provision, or 'lecture' is claimed to strengthen existing power structures, to create dependencies and to lead to a mismatch between information demand and supply. Despite the fact that networked electronic media are favored for rural development, they obviously do not have the same reach and levels of access and accessability as the traditional electronic media do. Another distinction between media is the type of information and content they are able to convey in a message, whereby significant differences between traditional and networked electronic media can be distinguished. Based on the two above mentioned distinctions between electronic media combinations of electronic media are suggested for use in rural development, both to improve the quality of the information provided and to change existing information and communication related power structures.

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