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President's Column: Being Better, Doing Better

Posted By Peng Hwa Ang, ICA President, Nanyang Technological U, Tuesday, December 13, 2016

This was not a column that I had originally intended to write. But events have since transpired so that thinking about the role of citizenship has made me think about how we as academic citizens might handle the issues that have arisen recently.

I refer to the populist wave across the world against globalization. It is maddening and saddening to see minorities verbally and physically intimidated and attacked. Such conduct, not just in the USA but in many parts of the world, runs against what from rigorous research and scholarship we know to be good for us all.

I am reminded of the book by Amy Chua (of theBattle Hymn of the Tiger Motherbook fame) who earlier wroteDay of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Dominance and Why They Fall(2009). In her study, she makes the case that empires on the rise are more tolerant of minorities, in fact using captives to rule over and lead their own people.

This value of diversity is one reason I am so enthusiastic for what we in the ICA are doing. We remain committed to going international and global.Morethan ever, notless. We have now held an ICA-linked conference in every continent save Antarctica. We are holding our flagship event, the annual conference, more frequently all over the globe. We seek exchange with others and find virtue in such contacts at the scholarly, social, and personal level; they make us better scholars and people. To me, this global outreach signals that our communication world is on the rise.

The message about globalization, however, is not immediately obvious or intuitive. It is in fact a difficult message to decipher.

What should we do?

I think that as media and communication scholars, we should continue doing what we are best at doing: teaching, research, and service in the area of media and communication. But we should not be naive.

The media tend to be blamed in such times of stress. It is difficult to find people to support the media. (Actually it is difficult to find people to support the media any time. When did you last hear: Look at the wonderful job the media are doing?)

We need to do it better.

We need to do research better-with theories more robust-so that we can understand the extent to which group or personal identity, or the "echo chamber effect" or the media may have played a part. Sessions are being planned to discuss these issues, highlighting the central role we as researchers can have in better understanding our world.

We need to teach our students that it is at such times that the right to freedom of expression, when severely tested globally, is even more important and precious. In our currently unpopular idea of globalization lie the seeds for our recovery and growth.

We need to serve our community better in being peacemakers and peacekeepers. After all, the goal of what we do-research, teaching and service-is to make our corner of the world a better place. The conference theme "Interventions: Communication Research and Practice" could not be more relevant.

No matter how daunting the challenges may loom before us, we should never feel powerless. In our Association are the mental firepower and prowess that can do much good.

We can and should aim to make our little corner of the world a little brighter.

Tags:  December 2016 

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