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(Dis)connecting the Pearl River Delta: Case study of a borderland telecommunications infrastructure in South China, 1978-2002
Unformatted Document Text:  3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK How does a communication system operate in an urban/urbanizing society? This time-honored question has intrigued communication scholars since the Chicago School (Pool, 1983; Rogers, 1994). With aspirations for community and democracy, forerunners in the field of urban ecology have conducted pioneering research based on various progressive presumptions, among which Robert Park’s “four major social processes” – an evolutionary model of competition, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation (Park, 1915) – is the most well known. This elegant model, however, does not retain explanatory power as urban communication problems increase and intensify, from segregation to ghetto revolts, from poverty to the tragedies of September 11, in cities worldwide. The contemporary challenge to classic functionalist theories stems from a host of new factors that did not formerly exist on such magnitude as today: namely, the forces of globalization, population diversity, and new communication technologies. Sea change has taken place. While Park studied immigrant press (1922; 1923) and regarded it as the venue through which “new relationships breed new loyalties from old heritages” (1922:468), today’s urban communications involve much more – more media, more cultures, and faster speed – which may or may not assemble a functional whole. The inquiry into systems of communication technologies in urban environments thus becomes more formidable, entailing new conceptualizations, of which the Communication Infrastructure approach provides a most appropriate framework for multi-level examination of urban communities in general, and the case study of telecommunications in the Pearl River Delta in specific. The Communication Infrastructure Perspective A communication infrastructure, like a political or economic infrastructure, is a basic form of social organization. It is a new concept currently being developed in the Metamorphosis Project at the Annenberg School for Communication in the University of Southern California. The Communication Infrastructure perspective builds on and extends from Media System Dependency theory, which provides a holistic view on the role of media and communication in social dynamics (Ball-Rokeach & Defleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach, 1985; 1996; 1998; Merskin, 1999). There are a few presumptions of MSD theory that also underlies the Communication Infrastructure perspective (Ball-Rokeach, 1998:15-26):

Authors: Qiu, Jack.
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3
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
How does a communication system operate in an urban/urbanizing society? This
time-honored question has intrigued communication scholars since the Chicago
School (Pool, 1983; Rogers, 1994). With aspirations for community and democracy,
forerunners in the field of urban ecology have conducted pioneering research based
on various progressive presumptions, among which Robert Park’s “four major social
processes” – an evolutionary model of competition, conflict, accommodation, and
assimilation (Park, 1915) – is the most well known. This elegant model, however,
does not retain explanatory power as urban communication problems increase and
intensify, from segregation to ghetto revolts, from poverty to the tragedies of
September 11, in cities worldwide.
The contemporary challenge to classic functionalist theories stems from a host of
new factors that did not formerly exist on such magnitude as today: namely, the
forces of globalization, population diversity, and new communication technologies.
Sea change has taken place. While Park studied immigrant press (1922; 1923) and
regarded it as the venue through which “new relationships breed new loyalties from
old heritages” (1922:468), today’s urban communications involve much more – more
media, more cultures, and faster speed – which may or may not assemble a
functional whole. The inquiry into systems of communication technologies in urban
environments thus becomes more formidable, entailing new conceptualizations, of
which the Communication Infrastructure approach provides a most appropriate
framework for multi-level examination of urban communities in general, and the case
study of telecommunications in the Pearl River Delta in specific.
The Communication Infrastructure Perspective
A communication infrastructure, like a political or economic infrastructure, is a basic
form of social organization. It is a new concept currently being developed in the
Metamorphosis Project at the Annenberg School for Communication in the University
of Southern California. The Communication Infrastructure perspective builds on and
extends from Media System Dependency theory, which provides a holistic view on
the role of media and communication in social dynamics (Ball-Rokeach & Defleur,
1976; Ball-Rokeach, 1985; 1996; 1998; Merskin, 1999). There are a few
presumptions of MSD theory that also underlies the Communication Infrastructure
perspective (Ball-Rokeach, 1998:15-26):


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