Global Communications and Culture: Implications for International Security
Bell, David V.J.
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A paper with this `modest' title poses daunting problems for research and analysis. The Conference organizers specified in some detail the questions they wanted addressed, namely: (a) to assess the current debate on whether communication has the ability to transform international consciousness, i.e., is it likely to lead to a less nationalistic world or more? (b) are some technologies likely to be more conducive to 'consciousness' transformation than others? (c) how genuinely global is the spread of integrated communications networks and systems? (d) has the communications revolution empowered citizens vis-à-vis their states or states vis-à-vis their citizens? (e) can you identify any `breakthrough' technologies, in communications, that might have a major impact on international security in the coming decade? As far as I can tell, their charge was not, however, informed by any knowledge of the state of social science research in this area. These questions cut to the heart of scholarly debates that have raged for decades (if not centuries) without resolution. What shapes consciousness? What is the relative importance of ideational factors, structural change, and technology? To these mind-boggling questions, around which have formed whole schools of thought associated with figures like Hegel, Marx and Weber, the Conference organizers have added a further concern about international security at a time when unp recedented changes are occurring in both global geopolitics and in our conceptualization of security itself.. I am asked not simply to report on the way the world is now, but in addition to prophesy what it might become in the future. For the ancient Greeks, the gift of prophecy, the ability to foresee the future, was given as compensation for the loss of `normal' vision . The prophet could see what lay ahead but could not see what lay around, for he or she was by necessity blind. At the risk of total loss of vision, I will confine my attempts at prophecy to a brief section at the end of the paper. To paraphrase Woody Allen, I will only attempt to predict the future 'until I need glasses.'