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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 7 Development strategists thought of communication (that is, the mass media) as “conveying” a commodity to the masses. Acquiring information and education as commodities, they thought, the masses would acquire more “modern” attitudes, adopt innovations, and participate in an increasingly industrialized economy (p. 27). These one-dimensional conceptions of communication treat individuals as objects, deny them agency and rely on the assumption that listeners are simply passive receivers of messages which are crafted (either well or poorly) by the sender. In contrast, both PAR and Freire highlight the importance of viewing individuals as active participants in social change, negating the concept of the “passive receiver.” The links between PAR and communication need to be examined more carefully, for, although it is through communication that knowledge systems are shared and solutions generated, in PAR there is no specific treatment of communication as the means by which participation happens. Freire, with his emphasis on dialogue provides a clearer acknowledgement of the importance of communication as the means to achieve critical awareness. But ultimately, both of these approaches to social change view communication as one tool among many that a community can use in its struggles. Neither clearly examines the link between communication and participation. Participatory Communication for Development As ideas about Participatory Action Research were emerging in Central and South America, so too were critiques of modernist models which placed communication at the center of development. As Jacobson and Kolluri helpfully point out, “Rogers (1983) [in his landmark survey of communication and development] redefined development in a general way as participatory” (p. 267). Later, as noted above, Narula and Pearce (1986) brought the role of communication in development to the forefront when they asserted that development should be understood as “a form of communication” (p. 1), not as a process which simply includes communication among other components.

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development
7
Development strategists thought of communication (that is, the mass media) as “conveying” a
commodity to the masses. Acquiring information and education as commodities, they
thought, the masses would acquire more “modern” attitudes, adopt innovations, and
participate in an increasingly industrialized economy (p. 27).
These one-dimensional conceptions of communication treat individuals as objects, deny them agency
and rely on the assumption that listeners are simply passive receivers of messages which are crafted
(either well or poorly) by the sender. In contrast, both PAR and Freire highlight the importance of
viewing individuals as active participants in social change, negating the concept of the “passive
receiver.”
The links between PAR and communication need to be examined more carefully, for,
although it is through communication that knowledge systems are shared and solutions generated, in
PAR there is no specific treatment of communication as the means by which participation happens.
Freire, with his emphasis on dialogue provides a clearer acknowledgement of the importance of
communication as the means to achieve critical awareness. But ultimately, both of these approaches
to social change view communication as one tool among many that a community can use in its
struggles. Neither clearly examines the link between communication and participation.
Participatory Communication for Development
As ideas about Participatory Action Research were emerging in Central and South America, so
too were critiques of modernist models which placed communication at the center of development. As
Jacobson and Kolluri helpfully point out, “Rogers (1983) [in his landmark survey of communication
and development] redefined development in a general way as participatory” (p. 267). Later, as noted
above, Narula and Pearce (1986) brought the role of communication in development to the forefront
when they asserted that development should be understood as “a form of communication” (p. 1), not as
a process which simply includes communication among other components.


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