UNDP Websites and Social Change
Macquarie University, Australia
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Global Media Journal
UNDP websites and social change The most diverse society is that of our global community. One of the principal global agencies for social change, particularly in terms of economic and social development, is the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). UNDP is a global organization under the aegis of the United Nations, with its headquarters in New York, characterized as a ‘global city’. At the same time, UNDP has offices throughout the world, both at regional and local levels. UNDP Headquarters, UNDP Regional Offices and UNDP Country Programs use digital media to communicate with others, through websites. The UN System has expressed an interest in developing more participatory governance systems for social change. Digital media and the internet have been viewed as a mechanism through which the ‘global’ heights of the UN can keep in touch with grassroots. The purpose of this paper is to examine the different types of UNDP websites, in order to ascertain who the various types of sites address and with what intention. This will be done in the context of stated United Nations policy and within a framework of global-local social organization.
Governance, social change, international organisations
UNDP websites and social change
The UN has recognised the need to involve local communities in governance processes and is actively examining the use of new communications technologies to improve local participation in governance structures (Karamagioli 2005). Unfortunately the UN Communication Group which developed inter-agency communications and public information policy in 2002, did not consider the role of internet media in encouraging participation of ordinary people in policy discussions. The director of the News and Media Division of the UN Department of Public Information, saw the Department’s new broadcast initiatives as enhancing the UN’s capacity to reach audiences without going through international news agencies and media (UNCG – Accessed on 31 January 2006). It has begun to use the internet for delivery of radio, web and television news and information. “Connecting the People of the World to the United Nations” is the title of the radio site (UN Radio – Accessed on 9 January 2006). It has so far not begun to represent and address the varied narratives of ordinary people, the intended beneficiaries of human security and development policies.
The UN relies on its own media and public relations machinery, including agenda setting conferences, to reach political, media, non-government and academic elites throughout the world, in order to influence the mediation of UN policies and projects. These actions represent the export of UN generated narratives via actors in different transactional venues to individuals at the grass roots. The UN system plays an important role as an international communication and education agency in addition to its comprehensive responsibilities in the area of global governance. However, for ordinary individuals, the UN and its organs represent distant problem solving mechanisms in relation to abstract issues.
In explaining itself to the public, UNDP says this about itself on its web site:
UNDP is the UN's global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.
World leaders have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including the overarching goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015. UNDP's network links and coordinates global and national efforts to reach these Goals. Our focus is helping countries build and share solutions to the challenges of:
Crisis Prevention and Recovery
Energy and Environment
HIV/AIDS (Available at: http://www.undp.org/about/)
A study of UNDP websites will reveal the way in which UNDP seeks to address this issue of generating social change through content and design of its web venues and through selected avenues of linkage.
This paper will develop a theoretical framework and methodology for a study on headquarters, regional, sub-regional and national level websites of the United Nations Development program, to demonstrate the nature of governance that the sites facilitate. It will use this framework in an exploratory manner to (1) see how UNDP’s web architecture aligns with the transactional venues of the matrix framework, (2) see what avenues connect the various web transactional venues, (3) identify the types of the transactions (including the type of individuation through mediation/transduction that is suggested by the content) that the web venues host, (4) identify imputed readerships as suggested by web content and (5) see how the various transactional arenas are linked. The exercise will help refine the matrix framework as an instrument. The actual web analysis will be of a limited nature for the purposes of this exploratory paper, examining the UN portal, UNDP portal and regional UNDP links from that portal.
Framing the global, local and individual
The United Nations, its clients and members form a network and are continuously formed by this network. It is in fact a series of interlocking networks, including diplomatic, publicity, research, administrative, technology, policy and governance networks linking institutions and individuals through various technologies. There is a great gulf of geography, linguistics and culture between the United Nations Secretariat General in New York and ordinary people in the far corners of the world. After all, the most diverse society in the world is ‘global society’. It is both vertically diverse, i.e. between global institutions and local communities and horizontally diverse, because of geography and culture. The difference between ‘Global Culture’ (the totality of cultures) and ‘global culture’ (or the shared international culture of metropolitan elites) is that the former is inclusive of the multiplicity of ‘local cultures’ (Chitty 2000, 16). These various cultures are linked in networks of relationships and multiple social processes.
[t]he most general way to think of the social process is as ‘people; who are ‘interacting’ with one another and with their ‘resource environment’. The people may be classified as ‘individuals’ or ‘collectivities’; and the collectivities are ‘organized’ and ‘unorganized’. To interact is to affect others and, in turn to be affected. The resource environment includes the Earth and the configurations of inner and outer space, and all biological forms (Lasswell 1965, 7).
In discussing power elites, Lasswell asks that the conditions under which “elites exhibit a given pattern or composition, of perspective, of arena activity, of base values, of strategies, of impact” be examined (Lasswell 1965b, 12). His definition of ‘arena’ is of interest here: “An arena is established whenever interactions affecting power outcomes and effects become stabilized” and further “[t]he world arena of power has never been sufficiently well organized to justify referring to a ‘world state’ or ‘comprehensive public order” (Lasswell 1965b, 19). While we may not believe that the present world order qualifies as being described as a world state, it is an arena.
The terms ‘resource environment’, ‘collectivities’ and ‘arena’ are useful to consider. In looking at the totality of global social life from global through local to individual, what are the ‘resource environments’ and ‘collectivities’ that might be identified? In a knowledge society, or for that matter under feudalism, are not collectivities resource environments for other collectivities? The term ‘arena’ has the colouring of competition and conflict, and not all sites have such a character. My inclination is therefore, to collapse arena, resource environment and collectivity into a single non-spatial term, matrix and link it with the notion of transaction, which is neutral. Certainly there is a material matrix which we perceive contains our social matrices, that includes a collectivity only insofar as we (according to present knowledge) inhabit it. It is useful to identify several kinds of collectivities within the global collectivity, some of them being fairly close to collectivities we normally would identify, using the standard terminology of sociology and political science.
In the 1980s and 1990s the state was viewed as a problematic category in world politics in the context of an expanding corporate transnationalism. Systems theory seeped into International Relations theory as functionalism, but system never really replaced the state as a primary category in world politics. More recently, the field of international relations has witnessed “the return of culture and identity” (Lapid & Kratochwil 1996). At the same time, in the post 911 period, the state has once again flexed its muscles in the face of transnational terrorism. With the intensification of globalization, multi-local interaction and interaction between venues that are at various horizontal (geo-national) and vertical (organisational) distances have increased in international relations, international communication and international business. The matrix framework allows for multi-site analysis, and treats the state as a (often a privileged) non-physical product (with physical and non-physical expressions) of particular matrices.
In researching the terrain of this paper, the terrain’s multi-dimensionality and multipolarity presents challenges. In dealing with this issue, at least five conceptualizations of the global and local have been made in the last decade as a matrix (Chitty 1994a, 1994b, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005a; Pettman 2000; Lipschutz 2001; Kraidy 2003; Perlas & Strawe, Accessed 7 July 2006, Available at www.globenet3.org/Features/Feature_Empire_Matrix.shtml). Indeed, conceiving of different loci as levels or spaces is problematic, because the former introduces the concept of hierarchy and the latter is only half a term, because of the nature of space-time. Lipschutz, arriving at his position via Foucault and feminism, uses the term ‘matrix’ in relation to the Global Political Economy in an article that is compatible with the structure and agency framework in my own matrix framework (Lipschutz 2001, 323). In his article which seeks to describe a political economy centred around people as agents, rather than people within structures, he uses the term matrix for the Economic Order: “While we have been instructed to watch disorder and fear for our future, we have become ever more tightly entangled in that new Order – that Matrix – from which there is no escape” (Lipschutz 2001, 325). Pettman uses the term matrix as a frame for a world politics which he conceives as Babushka dolls representing states, firms and individuals (Pettman 2000, 215-224). In a third independent development, Kraidy addresses a slightly different “theoretical matrix [that he proposes for international communication and that] … begins with the global level, going through the regional, national, provincial and ending with the local……are overlapping and mutually influencing contexts of action” (Kraidy 2003, 38). Both Kraidy’s proposed framework and my framework draw on Robertson’s glocalisation insights (Robertson 1994, 33-52). I have inter-nestled matrices in which actors have political economic and cultural goals, actors, material and non-material ‘products’ and ‘imports’. Instead of the A-matrix of my framework, which escapes the concreteness of the state, Kraidy has a national level because “the nation state persists as an influential player in globalisation”. He has a provincial level which the Matrix framework does not have, but does not include the equivalent of an I-matrix. Another difference is that, Kraidy does not view his levels as part of a larger system (Kraidy 2003, 38).
My own framework describes five matrices, one within the other, linking the global political economy and regional, administrative and ethno-historical matrices to individuals. These may also be considered to be interlocking systems that are part of an overall social system. Each matrix has actors and non-material and material products and imports, where ‘non material’ includes values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour (Chitty 2005a). Products, including messages or narratives, may be imported or exported by actors within each matrix (Chitty 2004). There have been studies of the ‘export of meaning’ and ‘localisation’ of American television soaps, but these have been cross-cultural rather than cross-structural (Miller 1995, Liebes and Katz 1991). Others have conceived of broadcasting as connecting spaces that have cultural characters based on histories and experience of denizens but have not provided a relational framework (Massey 1994, Lull 1997, Meyrovitch 1986).
Perlas and Strawe discussed social threefolding (state market and civil society) in the age of the empire matrix in 2003. The empire matrix (US empire) is the economics driven globalising polarity, in contrast to the polarity of individuation, of emancipation of the individual from group conditioning, that contributes to social change. It is their argument that the polarities need to be harmonised so that individualism serves the global community (Perlas and Strawe, Opus. Citus).
The United Nations has an organisational structure that seeks to bridge between multiple venues of international, national and sub national governance. It inhabits both Global Culture and local cultures. Clearly, on the one hand there are the global institutions that are the venues of global policy, engaged in processes of global social change through transduction, or, from this paper’s point of view, the transaction of moving concepts between knowledge domains (Simondon 1989, 1995). “Simondon’s concept of individuation does not introduce a division between a molecular domain (intensity) and a molar one (extensity) so much as it mediates between such domains” (Hansen, avail. at http://culturemachine.tees.ac.uk/Cmach/Backissues/j003/Articles/hansen.htm). Again, clearly, at the other end of the spectrum are individuals, inhabitants of nation states and territories across the world, who engage in personal individuation, including the individualising of venues which they inhabit or in which they undertake transactions.
Gottmann’s transactional metropolis is connected to, and interwoven with other transnational centers, forming metropolitan networks within national territories and across international boundaries”, in relation to “terms of employment, hosting environment, interweaving of quaternary activities, evolution of urban centrality…….’ (Corey 1993, xv1). Transactional venues, where transduction takes place, are necessarily hybrid in character, like border trading posts. The Greek word hybridēs refers to the offspring arising from ‘abnormal’ coupling such as between animals of two different species within the same genus. But in a very real sense it is abnormalities that result in new normalities, normalities being engendered by a subsequent investment in ‘purity’. All cultures contain numerous markers that have the purpose of quarantining a so-called pure version of the culture. But an examination of the nature of the environment in which cultures unfold, will suggest that hybridity is more the norm, as an expression of entropy than otherwise. Culture is born of minds, bodies and the world we live in. Fundamentally it is part and parcel of space-time, itself hybrid in terms of our analysis if not perception. And space itself contains and consists of the coalescing and annihilation of various particles over time in successive layers of lumpiness and looseness. Particles and atoms collide into each other creating new elements, compounds. Concepts converge in classical minds to create sphinxes, centaurs and all manner of mythical beasts. These mythical beasts are symbolic of complex idea formation, of syntheses, of hybridisation. It is my contention that not only are aspects of culture and people hybridised, social space itself is hybrid in nature, not least of all because social space is social time space and time space is constantly changing. Transduction is associated with hybridisation. Kraidy makes a distinction between dominance (under cultural imperialism), resistance/adaptation (under cultural pluralism) and hybridity (under critical transculturalism) (Kraidy 2005, 150). These are useful distinctions with regard to the political uses of hybrid venues. Empire generates hybridity, and resists it polluting influence in important expressions of public life, as in the case of public colonial architecture. Gina Chitty takes the view “that the Anglo-Saxon project of empire worked through a projection of an imperial Apollonianism” (Chitty 2006, 106). Lie makes a distinction, for analytical purposes, between “different states of liminality” which he identifies as “(1) the state of cultural coexistence, (2) the state of intercultural negotiation, and, (3) the state of intercultural transformation towards hybridised transculturality” where “different cultural elements have come to be known, accepted, shared and lived by different cultural groups. The entanglement has formed a new culture” (Lie 2002, 19-20).
The term venue introduces the idea of people, space, time and human activity. I use the term transaction for any human activity which involves interaction, either directly or indirectly through machines or media, face-to-face or at a distance in space or time, with other humans. My use of the term transaction is tied to venues in general rather than just the city as a venue. One of the matrices in my framework is likened by me to a vast city as described below. Increasingly venues are networked, interpersonally if not digitally. Transactions cover the whole gamut of human interaction, around knowledge ware (know-ware), wares and war.
This paper draws on a matrix framework (Chitty 2005a) that maps global, local and intervening matrices hosting transactional venues and transductory avenues and networks. “[N]etworks process … streams of information between nodes, circulating through the channels of connection between nodes. A network is defined by the program that assignes the network its goals and its rules of performance and criteria for success or failure” (Castells 2004, 3). Altering network outcomes requires inputting new programs. Networks may cooperate through inter-operability or outperform or disrupt rival networks. They are exclusionary, with infinite distance between internal and external nodes and finite distances between internal nodes (Castell 2004, 3-4). Castell’s description of networks shows strong similarities with systems, being wholes that are the sum of their parts, possessing superordinate goals and boundaries, with steering mechanisms, functionally specialised sub-systems. Matrices have the character of systems within systems. However a system should be not conceived merely as a centralized system with a central steering mechanism (A-type). There are also successful tree-like systems that have de-centralized steering mechanisms (B-type), within cellular matter.
Messages of individuation and transduction embedded in UNDP web venues, that are attributed to particular transactional matrices, will be identified and discussed. Matrices are networks of individual, ethno-historical, administrative, regional and political economic (global) transactional venues. Each matrix has actors, non-material products and imports (values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour) and material products and acquisitions. These values may be quantitative or qualitative bridging seamlessly from global to individual venues. The matrices link political economic structures to local communities through narrative at each level. Interviewing staff at UNHQ is essential as they will occupy the political economic matrix. Regional and national staff will occupy regional and administrative matrices respectively.
Matrix Framework: Encompassing all, in the matrix model, is the physical environment or N-matrix. Engaging with the N-matrix, in both value-extractive and value-nurturant modes, is the global political economy or P-matrix. Like all other matrices other than the N-matrix, the P-matrix is fundamentally a comprehensive human collectivity, resource environment and arena - venue. The P-matrix consists of people, their material and non-material products (including institutions) and relationships with each other and with products. In other words it refers to people and culture, where culture may be seen to consist of human products. I-matrices are also different in that they are human singularities. Within the socially all-encompassing P-matrix are regional (R-matrices), administrative (A-matrices), ethno-historical (E-matrices) and individual (I-matrices) matrices are embedded successively in each other (Table 1). Each collective matrix, E through P, includes values, attitudes, beliefs, discourse, actions and cultural artefacts.
Table 1: Matrix Framework
Table 2: Goals of Cultural and Economic Race
The matrix model allows for interchanging of matrices, so that while the P-matrix is dominant much of the time, there are moments in history when an I-matrix (e.g. Adam Smith) can shape a P-matrix over time. Or take a more contemporary figure, Bin Laden, whose thought constructs and actions flowing from them have led to dramatic changes in the A-matrix of the world’s dominant power and therefore also in the P-matrix. It remains to be seen if he will become a vector over time as did Smith.
The P-matrix is the overall social system with its actors, values, goals, boundaries, steering mechanisms and feedback mechanisms. Currently there is one global P-matrix, which includes political, economic and cultural dimension that may fall under the rubrics of world political system, global economic system and global culture respectively. The P-matrix is neither wholly A-type nor is it wholly B-type; it exhibits characteristics of both types. There are many R-matrices, such as the various regional systems within which are independent but interconnected administrative systems (A-matrices) that are often coterminous with nation states. Like the P-matrix, the R and A matrices have political, economic and cultural dimensions. A-matrices, that can occur independently of R-matrices, contain and sometimes share ethno-historical systems, the E-matrices that are made up of individuals. E-matrices too have political, economic and cultural dimensions. Individuals may belong to one or more E-matrix and A-matrix. In the matrix model we are concerned with the material and non-material products or constructions generated by individuals and collectivities.
I-Matrix: Values, attitudes and beliefs may be conceived of as pixels, which together produce images of individuality or coloration. They repose primarily in I-matrices and via I-matrices in other matrices. They originate in I-matrices, but their production and distribution are very much in the hands of larger players for much of the time. I-matrices therefore deal with symbolic imports, selected or otherwise, to which they may add value. The same is true about material goods attached to an I-matrix. The self-portraits of individuality are viewed as arising from interplay of George Mead’s ‘me’ or socialised ‘I’, at the core and of ‘individuality’, the ‘I’ (Mead 1934).
E-Matrix: Individuals are embedded in one or more ethno-historical matrices (E-matrices.) E-matrices are systems with the goal of cultural preservation and reproduction. They may have begun as groups concerned with economic production and distribution, but because of shared historical and reproductive experience they evolve into ethno-historical matrices. A family ‘space’ is an example of an E-matrix in which even to this day some of both of these functions are performed. The nation as venue is an E-matrix when compared with other nations, but when a nation consists of several E-matrices, the administrative role becomes overarching and we call the venue an A-matrix. Larger E-matrices may incorporate smaller ones. E-matrices may overlap each other. Members of an E-matrix inhabit ethno-historical venues where a particular ethno-historical vocabulary has currency and primacy. The primary motivation of an ethno-historical group is a security related survival of cultural identity of the collectivity. There are ethno-historical and political economic goals for ‘economic races’ and ‘cultural races’ between E-matrices.
One of the strategies for achieving economic success is to take the route of political control of an A-matrix, when possible. Behaviour that defies the explanatory power of an individual self-interest based political economic model, can originate in an E-matrix. An example might be behaviour such as the voluntary self-immolation of Buddhist monks in Vietnam in protest against the United States.
A-Matrix: When several E-matrices must share resources, either through domination of others by one E-matrix, or some other arrangement, they become embedded in an administrative matrix (A-matrix) of their creation. An administrative vocabulary arises, possibly strongly influenced by a dominant E-matrix. A-matrices are locations where state, business and media actors are to be found at national level. The rules of self-interest operate here in the conventional manner of individual interest maximisation. A-matrix players must balance competing demands from E matrices and P-matrices.
R-Matrix: A-matrices may also group together in regional political economic matrices or R-matrices.
P-Matrix: Several A-matrices, if they interact, will give rise to a global political-economic matrix (P-matrix), either based on the values and vocabulary of a dominant A-matrix or group of A-matrices (eg. Western European state and non-state players) or through some other mixture of values and vocabularies. The A-matrices will be embedded in a P-matrix. Before Europe began to colonise the rest of the world, we might say there could have been a fragmented P-matrix. Today, as a bequest of world empires, there is but one overall P-matrix, consisting of the world market, global culture and the international system. The international vocabularies of this P-matrix include science, mathematics, western popular music, cinema and television, United Nations officialese and journalism.
The ‘p-matrix’ may be likened to a vast urban area, a ‘city’, where state and market hold sway. Within this city, embedded in a-matrices, are hundreds of thousands of cultural precints of various sizes, which we may call ‘ethnicities’. Ethnicities are places where ethnohistorical forces are salient, even dominant, and may on occasion prevail over state or market forces……It is the dispersed global ‘city’ that is the site of the world market, international system and global culture (Chitty 2003, 16).
I would like to use Simondon’s concept of mediation/individuation in relation to websites. Here individuation refers to the centripetal force of the P-matrix and the centrifugal force of I-matrices. Individuation by I-matrices or for I-matrices in various transactional venues hosted by A, R and P matrix institutions may be for the of personalising these venues, creating comfort zones for putative users. The venues are transformed, through importation of images and concepts from other venues, into more familiar places (with people, space, time and relationships) from being remote and inaccessible spaces.
Since the 1980s cultural studies has shown a growing interest in questions of space and place influenced in particular by Foucault and his intersections of discourse, space and power. In this context, a place is understood to be a site or location in space constituted and made meaningful by social relations of power and marked by identifications or emotional investments. As such, a place can be understood to be bounded manifestation of production of meaning in space (Barker 2004, 144).
Venues could either be spaces hosted by institutions and which seek to homogenise and universalise or be places where personal relationships grow around transactions. In international web structures like that of UNDP, there is a tension between the universalising of policy, including policy on communication, presentation of messages and the overall web architecture that connects numerous web venues located in various matrices.
We can expect P-matrix web venues to have the characteristics of global (P-matrix) rather than local (A and E-matrix) venues. There are two principal strategic reasons why elements of local place may be incorporated in a global space. One is the need to show readers/audiences/viewers (RAVs) that the local spaces are part of global-local architecture of the organization projecting itself in through the site. We can call this a projection function. A second is associated more with personal use of space within a larger physical administrative, regional or P-matrix space. For instance, a Chinese bureaucrat working at UN Headquarters in New York may introduce elements from his or her I-matrix, E-matrix or A-matrix to personalise the space and make it a place. This is a personalisation function. They both fall under the individuation imperative of the larger or smaller entity. For the larger entity individuation is likely to imply institutional identity that includes the component parts and excludes other external large entitities. For the smaller entity, it might imply distinctiveness from other components of the whole and a stake in the whole.
The present study is an exploratory one that will be employed to further refine the methodology. It will describe relevant pages of UNDP websites in terms of:
1. Matrix of venue
2. Transactions that take place at venue (eg. public relational, educational)
3. Transductions hosted by the venue (knowledge, values, signs from other matrices)
4. Individuation imperatives of venue (globalisation / universalisation / homogenisation
globalization / particularisation / differentiation; membership /empowerment)
5. Imputed readership (From which matrix? Which institutions or groups?)
The websites: The UNDP front page is 3 clicks away from the UN portal at http://www.un.org/, clearly a P-matrix venue, with the classical, even Apollonian character associated with the public face of Western civilisation, in public architecture, for instance. Nietzsche describes the origin of Ancient Greek dramatic tragedy in terms of a contest of principles. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs summarises the two principles thus:
Nietzsche names each of these principles after an ancient Greek deity (Apollo, Dionysius) who can be thought of as imaginatively representing the drive in question in an especially intense and pure way. ‘Apollo’ embodies the drive toward distinction, discreteness and individuality, toward the drawing and respecting of boundaries and limits; he teaches an ethic of moderation and self-control……….The Dionysiac is the drive towards the transgression of limits, the dissolution of boundaries, the destruction of individuality, and excess (Nietzsche 1999).
The dominant Apollonian symbols on the portal page are the globe, centred on the North pole, and laurel leaves signifying peace, set against the sky blue of the UN. The dominant non-Apollonian symbol (and I hesitate to use the term Dionysian here as an antinomy) consists of a pastiche with images of the Secretary General (governance), a female agricultural worker (agriculture/economic development/women), child care-givers and a child (social development, children) a voter (human rights, democracy) a blue UN helmet and a UN patrol boat (peace keeping). The page is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.
The first click gets one into the English page. The banner at the top depicts eight faces, of both genders, all ages and representing a wide spectrum of ethno-cultural backgrounds. It seeks to provide a counterpoise to the classic, non-ethnic, business-like body of the page which consists of a white UN logo on a blue background, surrounded by 16 links to various UN institutions and programs.
To enter the UNDP (http://www.un.org/) site from here, one must click on ‘Main Bodies’ invoking a hyptertexted list of bodies and organization chart. Clicking into ‘organizational chart’ reveals UNDP under ‘Economic & Social Council’ in a grey box under Economic and Social Council along with its sibling programs and funds.
The third click gets us into the UNDP front page at http://www.undp.org/.
UNDP in the P-Matrix: Under the matrix framework, the UNDP headquarters website is a P-matrix transactional venue. We can expect this venue to draw on classical Apollonian or western modern values (symbolic of individuation as universalisation/homogenisation) and contrast these with symbols of transduction from other matrices. The UNDP website was accessed on July 4, 2006. It is available in English, French and Spanish and inevitably has a European Apollonian character, in the most general sense.
There are three columns of information displayed on the front page, crowned by the masthead horizontal banner and a horizontal directory at the very top. The banner consists of an inflated segment of the UN Emblem in blue on a darker blue background. The column on the right has a story entitled “UNDP honors baseball stars’ support to Dominican Republic” with a picture of Ramirez, Martinez and Ortiz of Boston’s Red Sox. There is a video link for this to other UN videos, notably about the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, UN Webcast, The World Bank and the World Food Program. The column on the left side lists ‘Publications and Special Initiatives’. There is a link to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network at the bottom of this.
The central column of information contains two segments. There are 5 news stories at the top and a section titled “UNDP around the world” at the bottom. The 5 news stories are as follows:
West Africa conference on diamond trade (30 June)
Nepal’s trade potential (29 June)
Agenda for trade in Asia-Pacific (June 29)
Emissions-free fuel-cell buses in Beijing (June 20)
CNN’s Femi Oke returns to Liberia, inspired by UNDP’s work (June 16).
The section titled “UNDP around the world” has stories from Afghanistan (“Helping legislators engage with their local communities”) and Cambodia (“Learning to live with HIV”).
Four of the five news stories come from the UNDP news room and present R and A matrix news to an educated readership, perhaps journalists, the UN community, policy makers, NGO workers, researchers and students. Only the Chinese story is not from http://content.undp.org/go/newsroom at UNDP. The Chinese story is from UNDP China at www.undp.org.cn/ .
Interestingly there is no link from the UNDP P-Matrix site to its regional offices for Asia such as the one in Thailand at http://regionalcentrebangkok.undp.or.th/. The blue banner at the very top of the front page of the P-matrix site has a drop down menu under ‘regions’, but when one clicks on ‘Asia & the Pacific’ one comes to a list of countries. This may be a deliberate strategy to lessen the distance between UNDP and countries in UNDP’s presentation of itself.
The venue is one where UN information may be accessed by journalists, the UN community, policy makers, NGO workers, researchers and students. The transaction is an information giving and receiving. Information is presented from a wide spectrum of developing areas.
UNDP in R-matrices: Under the matrix framework, China may be viewed as a region because of its size and the size of its provinces that are larger than many Administrative Matrices. The UNDP China website is available in English and Chinese. The Chinese language website is located at http://ch.undp.org.cn/. The English version continues to be standard modern. It has a directory that is divided into 'most recent speeches and ‘most recent media advisories’. The links to MDGs (Millenium Development) in various provinces lead to pages that show individuation at the level of the A-matrix institution, with little transduction being demonstrated. The Chinese version, in terms of visuals, appears to be identical to the English version. The difference would be that the readership of the English version is likely to be an English educated readership, perhaps journalists, the UN community, policy makers, NGO workers, researchers and students while the Chinese version would be addressed to a Chinese educated readership much of it that would be in China itself. There are links to UNDP Headquarters and UNDP in other countries.
The UNDP China website might be compared with the websites of UNDP regional offices.
The UNDP regional site in Bangkok also has the Apollonian blue laurel logo banner and has no flavour of the region. It links to Regional Service Centres. The one in Colombo has local scenes on the masthead banner. The Regional site in Bangkok (at http://regionalcentrebangkok.undp.or.th/) informs us of the following about the Asia-Pacific, suggesting that it is a sub-regional or super-administrative site:
UNDP has established Regional Centres in Bangkok, and Colombo, as well as a multi-disciplinary Pacific Sub-Regional Centre in Suva with focus on the Pacific Islands.
A main priority of the Regional Centres is to provide UNDP Country Offices in the Asia and the Pacific with easy access to knowledge through high quality advisory services based on global applied research and UNDP lessons learnt.
The second priority is to build partnerships and promote regional capacity building initiatives, which allow UNDP, governments and other development partners to identify, create and share knowledge relevant to solving urgent development challenges. (Available at http://regionalcentrebangkok.undp.or.th/ )
UNDP in A-matrices: The Thai UNDP page at http://www.undp.or.th/ is highly individuated, with (in July 2006) a great deal of visuals celebrating the King’s 60 year reign. There are links to the P-matrix and R-matrix UNDP sites. The Sri Lankan site at http://www.undp.lk/ contains a great deal of visual scenic and local cultural and other information. The design continues to be the standard UNDP masthead. The site has links with stories about UNDP in other countries. The Cambodian website at http://www.un.org.kh/undp/ has all the elements of western modernity on its front page, but draws in I-matrix views in “A view from the inside” which is contrasted with “A view from the outside”. The insider’s views contain pictures of individuals, with names, ages, occupations, where from, where living now, best day, worst day, hopes and dreams and message to the world. While these views and facts are presented in a 100 words or less, here is an attempt at creating a transduction avenue between ordinary people and the UNDP web network.
UNDP appears to be following the conventional wisdom of consolidating corporate image and values through an integrated architecture for its websites. This is very much a function of individuation of the UN at the larger or P-matrix level and the facilitating of a P-matrix character, presence and presentation of regional information. The target audience appears to be members of urban society across the world, journalists, the UN community, policy makers, NGO workers, researchers and students. There is little concession, and then only at national level eg. in Cambodia, to the use of the internet for a more participatory form of governance, which may supplement rather than replace the present public informational style. One possibility for generating participation is to develop moderated weblog or discussion groups on various policy areas that ordinary people may use to express their views. A modest example of this may be seen on the website of the Nation newspaper in Bangkok. (Available at http://www.nationmultimedia.com/webblog/).
Finally one should reiterate that this is only an exploratory study. The instrument used for research will be further refined based on the current research pursuant to which a more extensive study will be conducted.
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About the Author
Naren Chitty (Head, Department of International Communication) has authored and co-edited several books and journals including Framing South Asian Transformation (South Asian Publishers, 1994), Mapping Globalisation: International Media and the Crisis of Identity. (Southbound, 2002) and Studies in Terrorism: Media & the Enigma of Terrorism in the 21st Century, Southbound 2003) which was one of the first post 911 compendiums of studies on media and terrorism. He has been Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Communication (JIC) since 1991. He was Secretary General of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) between 1996 and 2000 and is President of Global Communication Research Association (GCRA). Additionally he on the editorial boards of Global Media Journal (American issue -Purdue University), Global Media Journal (Chinese issue - Fudan University), Global Media Journal (Mediterranean issue) and The Journal of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University).