BY ALISSA LANGFORD
Sujatha Sosale is an associate professor at the UI specializing in international communication and media globalization with a focus on development and social change. The Iowa Journalist had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Sosale, via email, as she shared her thoughts regarding the recent publication of Communication, Development, and Democracy: Mapping a Discourse.
Before coming to the United States, Sosale lived in Bangalore, India, working as a copywriter in media industries, writing for a variety of media and as a freelance journalist for regional and local dailies and weeklies.
Currently she is Head of the International Communication Section of the International Association for media and Communication Research. She is also a member of the International Communication Association, Asian Media and Information Centre and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Iowa Journalist – Could you tell me, in your own words, a description of the book?
SUJATHA SOSALE - The book is about the ways in which a dominant meaning of the term “development” in relation to communication emerged over a period of two decades or so. I looked at policy documents, scholarly research, and community media practices—all related to discussions about a new world information and communication order that started in the 1970’s in UNESCO (an important institution for media development). Very often development would be discussed in relation to the idea of democracy, which we know is fundamental to the functioning of a healthy press system. This also meant that the more powerful nations influenced its definition, since most of the economically advanced countries are democracies.
IJ - What attracted you to this topic?
SOSALE - If I were to sum up the reason for selecting this topic in two concepts, they would be difference and creativity – difference between more and less prosperous countries and their populations, and the creativity of people in poorer countries in finding amazing solutions to problems, negotiating the ways in which they see themselves and their lives, and just managing things on a daily basis under extremely difficult conditions.
When I was a college student in India, we did some coursework on development and the economics of planning, and later, on communication and population control. Today India is a more prosperous country (but also more populated!). When I was growing up in India, things like money and numbers of educated people were extremely scarce resources and the government had a much larger role in shaping and managing these resources. Of course, I began noticing more keenly the differences in the way rich countries functioned after I arrived in the US.
I wanted to combine my interests in media and development and take the interests further. I found that graduate programs in the US offered some scope for specializing in this area, perhaps also because some key global development institutions are located in the US. Through my research here, I was able to think about and work out the various meanings embedded in the concept of social change in developing areas, and what that meant to various stakeholder like development institutions, governments, communities, and the private sector. Through this book I hoped to work out and clarify certain ideas about communication, development and social change that has become so large and complex in the last few decades.
IJ - How long did it take you to write?
SOSALE - Technically, it took about two and a half to three years to write and bring it to completion in printed form, but it took a lot longer to formulate the arguments, some of which appeared in journal articles written before the book, to periodically update the literature, document changes in the way development programs were being created, etc.
IJ - What challenges did you face?
SOSALE - Perhaps the biggest challenge came from the changes taking place in institutions and communities engaged in development. With the rapid transformation of media technologies, discussions around ICT4D (Information Communication Technologies for Development) and knowledge societies had intensified. I could begin integrating these developments towards the end of the book.
IJ - Why will the book be useful?
SOSALE - I think this book will be useful to academic researchers and also others in the development community. I say academic researchers because of the methodological frameworks used, but the politics of media, development and social change should interest a broader audience.
IJ - What are your plans for the future?
SOSALE - I have begun work on another project, where I would like to engage more concretely and practically with questions and challenges posed by these new developments in the area of communication, development and social change.