In this issue (December 2010)

by Florencia Enghel

Late in October, when I tried to log into the Glocal Times website to start uploading the contents of this, the 15th issue, the logon didn’t work. The explanations provided by Malmö University’s ComDev web developer referred to ‘a persistent bug’ and to the server (or the service?) having been hacked.

This may not strike the reader as significant news while Wikileaks is the hot topic, with the whistle-blowing group releasing classified U.S. State Department diplomatic cables in partnership with a global group of renowned media outlets –Great Britain’s “The Guardian”, Spain’s “El País”, the US’ “The New York Times”, German magazine “Der Spiegel” and France’s “Le Monde”- and its founder, Julian Assange, being held in custody in Britain, arrested following an international warrant to face sexual crime allegations in Sweden. Cyber-chaos 4.0: humans and technology interacting, not symbiotically, but in a context of information overload and massive confusion.

However, the unexpected incident raised several questions for which there are no easy answers. At a time when governments are withdrawing their support to universities (with the United Kingdom as the most flagrant ongoing example, and the introduction in Sweden of tuition fees for non-European Union students as from 2011), how is the nature of university-based publishing affected, and how is such publishing to be supported?

The materiality of the Glocal Times project, usually disguised by the willing collaboration at a distance of many people that has led to the publication of 15 issues so far, suddenly became evident. A small staff of three part-time workers, we had no contingency plan in the event of the website being hacked, and therefore when things went wrong we were forced to face the situation with scarce resources. We lacked the time needed to move the webmag to a new publishing platform in a thought-through fashion. We lacked the patience to discuss precious details regarding the webmag’s “look and feel”. We lacked the immediate possibility to resort to an experienced graphic designer who could collaborate with the web developer in moving from a preset template to a custom design that would address our editorial needs. And so on. We are now online after a strenuous effort –and glad to be!, but also variedly dissatisfied and/or concerned.

The “do it yourself” ethos is a tricky one when it comes to generating a rich environment for the continuity and evolution of projects such as Glocal Times. Appearing self-reliant becomes a double-edged sword. It easily leads everybody –ourselves included- to believing that problems can be solved with little or no material resources, if only there is enough goodwill.

Our apologies go to our contributors, for the unforeseen delay in publishing after they raced to meet our deadlines. And to our readers, for any oddities that the new website might present at this point. In the coming months we will be exploring ways to rise to the challenge of turning the relocated webmag into a better version of itself.

In the meantime, in this issue, Hemant Shah starts from three preexisting assessments of development communication studies to look into trends within the field between 1997 and 2006. Originally presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association (ICA) in 2007, his article raises important questions regarding the advancement of the theory and practice of communication for development.

Soledad Muñiz problematizes the question of whether participatory development communication does in fact create dialogue and empowerment. Focusing on a choice of community-based interventions in Latin America and Africa that use participatory video or participatory photography and group discussion as their main tools of action in order to create dialogue and empowerment, she reflects on lessons learnt and warns us about the reiterated use of non-participatory approaches for the research and evaluation of participatory processes.

Ylva Ekström introduces us to the subtleties of young women’s interaction with a changing mediascape in Tanzania. Based on her doctoral thesis “’We are like Chameleons’: Changing Mediascapes, Cultural Identities and City Sisters in Dar es Salaam”, defended earlier this year, she discusses how the possibility and ability to navigate through a glocal mediascape play a crucial role in the construction of Tanzanian young women’s identities.

The Department for Methodologies and Aid Effectiveness of the Swedish International Cooperation Development Agency (Sida) introduces “Getting it together”, a guidance note released earlier this year to provide recommendations on when and how communication can be used as a means to promote enhanced accountability, transparency, participation and non-discrimination within bilateral development cooperation.

And last but not least, Wendy Quarry and Ricardo Ramírez share their insights following a Sype-based public dialogue with a group of academics –all of them members of the Participatory Communication Research Section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)- in which their book Listening before telling was discussed.

Your comments and suggestions are most welcome at florenghel@gmail.com