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Upon reading Quebrals Reflections on Development Communication (2002), I stumbled upon the following lines: “Let us not forget development, let us never forget development. In development communication, it remains the weightier of the two.”
As a DevCom student who is about to step out of the university ‘supposedly’ equipped with all the knowledge about development communication, my immediate response to the statement above was to go back to my own experience all throughout my years with College of Development Communication (CDC) in University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). Afterwards, I felt the need to know whether other senior students like me personally experienced and felt the weight of development in DevCom, which according to Quebral should be “weightier” as opposed to the communication component – thus, the birth of this research.
Waisbord (2001) defined development communication as “the application of communication strategies and principles in the developing world.” According to Cagasan (2008), this definition is based on the development theories that evolved through the years due to lack of progress and improvement in the social well-being of those living in the post-war era. In relation to the persistent development problems that paved way to the changes in the development thought and practices of development communication in general (Ongkiko and Flor, 2003; Quebral, 2002), there is the need to continuously explore both the existing and emerging concepts of “development” in order to alleviate these problems.
Quebral (2002) said that “communication should follow where development leads.” Realizing that the development component is the very core of the development communication discipline calls for a deeper understanding of how Development Communication students view “development.” This understanding will be crucial in the role of the students as future development communicators. It is ironic that knowing how important the development aspect is in our DevCom work, there are very few studies that explore the perceptions DevCom students about development, all the more their experience on how the concept is emphasized in DevCom.
The existing and emerging societal problems serve as the bases for the “substance of development” as discussed by Quebral (2002). While development and communication as separate concepts have their own important roles in the DevCom process, the development aspect is found to be the weightier of the two. Development should dictate the kind of communication needed to achieve the goals of DevCom. However, development as a process and concept is naturally evolving. The changes in the development thought – from modernization (economic) up to participatory (critical) – are accountable for the plurality of meanings and understanding associated with the concept of development. Knowing this, it is interesting to know about the meanings constructed by DevCom students regarding the development concept and how they felt its importance through the entire course of their undergrad DevCom experience.
This study was prompted by my personal question as to whether what I have experienced in my three and a half years with CDC-UPLB really emphasized the “weightier” importance of the development component.
Different people have different experiences, experiences which are said to be socially constructed. Different experiences, in turn, result to different understanding or interpretation of those experiences. This plurality is also observed in DevCom students’ constructs of development and their experience in relation to the emphasis on this concept. This study will be guided by Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory and its hermeneutical form, Social Constructionist Theory (also social constructionism).
Through a heuristic-hermeneutic exploration of selected DevCom students’ DevCom experience, this study will attempt to answer: how do selected DevCom students “experience” the “weightier” development aspect of DevCom in the BS Development Communication curriculum?
Specifically, this research will answer the following:
What are the constructs of development among selected DevCom students prior to exposure to DevCom courses?
What are the present constructs of development among selected DevCom students?
What are the specific experiences of selected senior DevCom students that influenced their meaning-making and understanding of development?
What are their perceived roles of development communicators based on their understanding of development?
What are the observations of selected DevCom students regarding the training they received with respect to giving emphasis on the development aspect of DevCom?
In general, this research aims to trace how selected DevCom students “experience” the “weightier” development aspect of DevCom in the BS Development Communication curriculum by conducting a heuristic-hermeneutic exploration of their DevCom experience.
Specifically it aims to:
Identify the constructs of development among selected DevCom students prior to exposure to DevCom courses;
Identify the present constructs of development among selected DevCom students;
Determine the specific experiences of selected DevCom students that influenced their meaning-making and understanding of development;
Determine selected DevCom students’ perceived roles of development communicators; and
Enumerate the observations of selected DevCom students regarding the training they received with respect to giving emphasis on the development aspect of DevCom.
Significance of the Study
The “I” perspective plays a big role in DevCom practice since development communicators act as agents of change. This study can contribute in discovering how students understand and “experience” the concept of development which is believed to be the more important component of DevCom and crucial in studying and practicing development communication.
In addition, this study can fill in the gaps in understanding development as a concept and as the “weightier” component of DevCom, as well as the DevCom practice in general. It can help assess whether DEVC courses lead the students to the right track about development as a concept and the practice of DevCom.
Through the accounts of the researcher and the selected senior DevCom students who participated in this study, CDC-UPLB will have the chance to take a glimpse of the DevCom experience of the college’s soon to be “official products” – the graduating students.
Scope and Delimitations
This study is grounded only on the assumption that people with different constructs anticipate things in the same way (Kelly, 1963). Craig (2002), as cited in Cangao (2009), said that one does not need to have a direct experience of what other people experienced in order to understand it. Alternatively, it can be assumed that what they have experienced resembles our own.
It is impossible to interview all the DevCom students; thus mixed purposive sampling was conducted. This is suitable for studies that only require a small portion of a population to be studied. However, one disadvantage of this method is that there is no way of knowing whether the selected samples are representative of the population. Since this study looks into the emic perspectives of the selected DevCom students regarding their understanding and actual “experience” of the weightier development aspect, it cannot be guaranteed that the same reflections are true for the entire population, considering the differences in their experiences.
The term “DevCom experience” is also used only to refer to the journey taken by the selected senior students all throughout their years with CDC. This study also does not insinuate that DevCom should solely put its efforts in emphasizing the development aspect of DevCom; for one, it is still a field of study in Communication. However, the realization of the “development as the weightier aspect” – which (based on my experience) is often overlooked in some DEVC courses – should help CDC realign its instructional priorities.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
In studying development communication as a field, it is important to understand its components to know how it works and whether its practices are still aligned with its expressed goals. This literature review will provide a brief but comprehensive background about development communication with the focus on its development aspect.
The Evolving “Development” Concept – the Core Ingredient of DevCom
Development as a concept, as stated in different studies, often takes a unidirectional path: “from a state of poverty to one of dynamic socio-economic growth” as stated by Quebral (2002) and it is often associated with the terms “improvement” (Cagasan, et al., 2008) and “positive” social change or transformation. In New Perspectives on Communication and Development (1976), Everett Rogers defined the term development as “the purposeful change toward a kind of social and economic system that a country decides it wants.” This is also related to premise presented by Pratt (1993) wherein the author stated that development revolves around the assumption that existing and non-existing societal components can dictate the “living standards and the social well-being desired by its people.”
The idea of development may seem very basic but it underwent a long history of evolution. A number of studies in DevCom traced the changes in the development thought by considering the different theories that influenced the field.
In discussing the evolution of the development concept, Srampickal (2006) looked first into the modernization theory by Lerner, Schramm, Pye, and Rogers in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This stage is similar to what Ongkiko and Flor (2003) referred to as the First Development Decade which entails the economic view of development. During this stage, development was gauged through the nations’ gross national product (GNP) or the total value of goods and services in a year and their capability to adapt new technologies. According to Preston (1996), modernization is an American idea which became popular after the Second World War for its claim that all societies were heading towards industrialization. This development theory claims that the less developed countries can only improve by undergoing economic growth and behavioral changes in people in terms of labor (Kendall, 2008).
Kendall (2008) elaborated modernization theory through the economic development stages framed by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s economic advisor, Walt W. Rostow:
This is heavily characterized by “fatalistic value system” or the traditional and cultural beliefs which delimits the people to achieve social and economic change. This is the stage wherein people lack motivation to work because of their belief that poverty and economic deprivation are inevitable.
During this period, people begin to be more optimistic about achieving economic growth. Here, high-income nations guide the low-income ones towards the next stage of economic development.
This stage is determined by a country’s technological improvement, new industries and adoption of beliefs and values being demonstrated by high-income countries.
High Mass Consumption
This is the last stage of Rostow’s economic development wherein the country finally achieves the “high standard of living.”
Modernization paradigm and its focus on transmission model of communication which was characterized by transmission of information through mass media campaigns were greatly criticized for neglecting the potentials of interpersonal communication in the process. However, later on, this particular criticism has been realized and was incorporated in the model (Inagaki, 2007). In support to this dominant paradigm, Everett Rogers (1976) introduced the idea of diffusion of innovations which concerns a top-down approach in communicating technological ideas, which in the 1960’s were focused on agriculture and family planning methods. The difference between modernization theory and diffusion model lies on stressing the importance of interpersonal communication. The latter recognized the limitations of mass media in affecting behavioral changes which is considered an advantage of interpersonal communication (Inagaki, 2007).
One of the criticisms modernization theory had to face was its limited description of development using the dichotomy between traditional and modern, agricultural and industrial, rural and urban, etc. (Preston, 1996). Modernization theory also failed in the aspect that development is not only measurable through economic statistics (Lagerwey, 2009). Fair (1989) said that the dominant paradigm of the First Development Decade failed to consider the other causes of underdevelopment aside from economic terms (e.g. GNP, per capita income) which includes the “imbalances and class contradictions” historically created in Third World Countries through colonization. Ong (2009) argued that even the economic perspective of development involves beyond mere economics. The author named several other concerns of development: efficient social organization, improved social structures, peace and order, skilled labor force, effective policymaking and implementation, to name a few.
While it is true that development is economic in nature, it does not strictly stop there. According to Tagle (2009), development must also have its social component wherein self-realization and harnessing of human potential play a very important role.
Towards the end of the 1960’s, the so-called dependency theory emerged which realized that the modernization approach only made the Third World nations heavily dependent on the First World nations (Ongkiko & Flor, 2003; Srampickal 2006).The criticisms on the economic perspective of development led to the birth of the humanistic perspective in the 1970’s (Second Development Decade). During this stage, the quality of life (indicated by fulfillment of basic needs, employment, equality and education) and man himself became the measures of development (Ongkiko & Flor, 2003).
On the other hand, the 1980’s was labeled as the Third Development Decade. During this period, realignment and focus on development priorities set during the previous stage were initiated. Concerns like “women in development (WID), environment, social dimensions, indigenous peoples and sustainable development” were given emphasis (Ongkiko & Flor, 2003).
According to Roman (2005), classifying the concept of development into different paradigms can be both useful and misleading. The author pointed out that while development paradigms are helpful for distinction purposes, they also tend to lead communication scholars astray by: (1) giving the wrong idea that these paradigms eventually replace each other; (2) the notion that the paradigms are bound to be exclusive; and (3) the grandiosity of these paradigms tend to obscure how they are applied in reality. He also emphasized the tendency of development communicators to stick with one of these paradigms which consequently results to limiting themselves “within a general framework of what development is or should be.”
The changes in the development thought have a very significant impact on the communication component of DevCom. Eligio (2008) noted that “the shift in development thinking” results in “rethinking of communication.” This is further supported by Quebral in her Reflections on Development Communication (2002) where she pointed out that since development is the weightier aspect of DevCom, it is also the determining factor of the content of communication. Quebral further emphasized that even though DevCom is seen as a branch of communication in an academic perspective – as students are taught about communication being the tool or strategy used to effect positive change in the society – it must always be clear that the concept of development is more important. This component of DevCom is the one that sets it apart from other communication disciplines and the one that determines the DevCom goal and message. Quebral stressed that “communication should follow where development leads.” Given this level of importance in the field, it is, thus, imperative to give focus on the concept of development.
The Communication-Development Relationship
Development as a desired social standard is believed to be possible through communication (Pratt, 1993). Gebner (1967), as cited in Ongkiko and Flor (2003), simply defined communication as “social interaction through messages.” As an ever-changing process of transferring messages and shared meanings between and among members of society, communication is said to take a very important role in achieving the goal of development. In different aspects of life – social, economic, spiritual, and political – development is believed to be impossible to take place without the processes of communication (e.g. information sharing, dialogue, and knowledge exchange). According to Wilkins and Mody (2001), the field of development communication today has been re-conceptualized by the use of modern technologies and processes – in simple terms, the use of communication for societal and individual betterment. This also enables communication to connect people in “participatory and shared-decision making” (Srampickal, 2006).
To understand DevCom, it is important to understand development and communication not only as two separate concepts but also as “partners.” Majority of the literature that talks about development communication defines the field as the use of communication to achieve the goal of social change. However, Quebral (2002) pointed out that for the case of DevCom at Los Baños, development communication is not the same as “mediated communication.” She reiterated the weightier importance of the development component in the field and that the goals of DevCom reflected in her definition – speedy transformation, social equity and fulfillment of human potential – are all pertaining to the “kind of development we are aiming for.” Thus, it is necessary to instill in the young DevCom students the right “substance of development” in order for them to be applied in their practice in the future.
The existence and recurrence of different forms of societal problems gave birth to the field of development communication (DevCom). According to Ongkiko and Flor (2003) it is out of necessity – the need to solve the societal problems, particularly in developing countries – that development communication came into the picture.
DevCom as a professional and scientific field in the Philippines had its foundation on agricultural communication, but the realization that the development-oriented issues are not only present in agriculture and rural problems paved way to the changes in the discipline (Ongkiko & Flor, 2003; Librero, 2008). Today, the dominant view of DevCom worldwide involves both the societal and individual level: (1) positive social change and (2) realization of human potential which eventually leads to human betterment (Wilkins & Mody, 2001; Ongkiko & Flor, 2003). This is reflected in the most commonly used definition of DevCom, at least for the Los Baños School of Development Communication, given by Dr. Nora C. Quebral (1988):
“â€¦the art and science of human communication applied to the speedy transformation of a country and the mass of its people from poverty to a dynamic state of economic growth that makes possible greater social equality and larger fulfillment of the human potential.”
This definition of DevCom, as well as its accompanying practice, has already evolved since she first coined the term in 1971. In 1999, Quebral changed the terms “speedy” to “planned” and “social equality” to “equity” (Eligio, 2008; Quebral, 2002). This shows the difficulty in establishing a single and static definition of DevCom due to the changing micro- and macro- settings that the field has been exposed to and the continuous change both in development [and] communication thoughts in particular (Quebral, 2002). Therefore, it is vital to focus on the “many layers of meaning” attached to DevCom (Eligio, 2008).
Marginalization and the DevCom Bias
Wilkins (2000) defined development communication as “the strategic application of communication technologies and processes to promote social change”. The DevCom initiatives expressed in this definition basically falls under the goal of improving the quality of life of those in the poorer areas of the world (Morris, 2003).
According to Waisbord (2001), the historical factors that influenced development were founded on the embedded assumption that the kind of development that developed countries should be replicated by developing countries. Although, this modernization theory is believed to have “passed” in the 1980’s, Eligio (2008) still questions this passing of the dominant paradigm.
In their discussion of development concept, Ongkiko and Flor (2003) presented first the societal problems that must be addressed by development communication. These societal problems are the ones present in the Third World countries: poverty, unemployment, high population growth, inequality, malnutrition, and the likes of it. In relation to these societal problems, Quebral (2002) commented:
“From time to time, an old problem is dusted off and given a new or wider angle, as in food production or reproductive health instead of family planning. Poverty, however, stays – starkly – as poverty. It has proved to be stubborn, many-rooted problem defying unidimensional solutions.”
The evolution of development views is not without corresponding changes in approach. New concepts of development have emerged in recent studies on development communication. This includes emphasis on people mobilization, empowerment, and participation (Cagasan et al., 2008). However, the author argued that development should go beyond the basic needs: “poverty is no longer the sole explanation for underdevelopment.” The concept of marginalization emerged and this involves issues of human rights, spirituality, morality, and other well-being concerns of man. Thus, marginalized people are not only those who are lacking in terms of economic status.
While the views and approaches have changed, the core societal problems related to underdevelopment remain the same. Ongkiko and Flor (2003) said that DevCom “aims to teach the poor to improve his life.” The author also stressed the role of DevCom in helping people fulfill the lower order of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – a theory of motivation which claims that human needs can be arranged according to their importance (Figure 1). It can therefore be assumed that development communication has a bias towards the marginalized sectors since they are the direct beneficiaries of DevCom undertakings.
5th Self-Actualization and fulfillment
4th Esteem and Status
3rd Belonging and social needs
2nd Safety and Security
1st Basic Physical Needs
Figure 1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Ongkiko & Flor, 2003, p. 165)
The changes in development communication throughout the years led to realizations of underlying concerns regarding power and structure (Wilkins & Mody, 2001). According to White (2004), power in the field of communication prioritizes the identities and resources of different social groups. Wilkins (2000) emphasized the need to make changes in the field of DevCom by situating “its discourse and practice within contexts of power.” This focus on power, along with the goal of affecting positive change, is part of the critical approach to DevCom.
Quebral (2002) noted the different values which are all brought about by the paradigm shifts in the development thought. These values include participation, conflict resolution, sustainability, and gender equality. One good example of this critical pursuit in DevCom is the study conducted by Cadiz in 1994 that looked into the role of participation in the development process. Eglio (2008) said that Cadiz took a “critical rather thanâ€¦ positivist view of social reality” and that Cadiz’ study showed that DevCom is a “communication science that addresses the social realities of the poor.” In her attempt to stress the DevCom’s shift from positivist view to a critical stand, Quebral (1993) wrote:
“Critical theoryâ€¦takes a more philosophical questioning stance towards fundamental social questions. Viewing the communication process as inseparable from society’s social and cultural structures, it sets as goal the self-emancipation of people from domination; hence its interest in the reconstruction of society.”
Servaes (1999), as cited in White (2004), established the need to start development initiatives at grass-roots level of communities. White (2004) explained Servaes’ idea by pointing out that the escapism of social movements from hierarchical structure by establishing their own systems of communication and organization mainly defines the development process.
Plurality of Realities and Constructs of Development
Multiple realities have influence on way development communicators construe the concept of development. According to Fetterman (1998), the documentation of multiple realities in a specific field is “crucial to an understanding of why people think and act in the different ways they do.” In studying social problems, which in the case of this study is crucial in understanding different meanings of “development”, Holsti (as cited in Moran, 1993) can be quoted:
“We need conceptions of what is, what is important, what is desirable, and what is related to what are likely to be at the core of the political process that social, psychological, economic, or whatever process is to be studied.”
This idea of Holsti is related to the concept of reality that is personally constructed by an individual. Moran (1993) said that personal construction is always the “reference point” for determining similarities and differences between/among concepts under study.
In the case of University of the Philippines – College of Development Communication, the study conducted by Cagasan et. al., (2008) documented the various constructs of development that have emerged in faculty and student research studies of CDC-UPLB from 1972 to 2004.
The authors of the study noted the “series of permutations” that the concept of development has gone through in the case of CDC-UPLB faculty and students who experience different realities, given the diverse settings and backgrounds, not to mention their personal biases. The study participants were asked about their personal definitions of development, perceived meaning of development based on DevCom practice, their own beliefs on what manifest development and meanings of development based on their personal experience. Cagasan et. al. (2008) presented three major themes of development as results of the study:
Development as improvement
This construct of development emerged from the unrelenting influence of the modernization paradigm. Development is viewed here as “improvement.”
Development as a goal
The changing multiplicity of meanings of the development concept can be attributed to its nature of being a long-time goal. Its subtheme involves the concept of “change.”
Development as a process
The idea reflected in this construct is that development itself is a process. This most recent view of development involves the concepts of “empowerment, participation, self-reliance, initiative and social investment.”
Cagasan’s study showed that the plurality in realities can bring in multiple constructs of development. In the same way, it is interesting to know how this plurality also affects the way young DevCom students construe the concept of development.
College of Development Communication
The College of Development Communication (CDC) website described the DevCom family as “[a] close-knit family of individuals equipped with the knowledge, skills, and values to act as catalysts for social change.”
It is known as the ninth college of University of the Philippines Los Baños and considered to be the pioneer in DevCom both as a field of practice and field of study in the world.
CDC started as the Office of Extension and Publications under the then UP College of Agriculture (UPCA) in 1954 and evolved several times until it was elevated into a college in 1998. The College introduces and trains undergraduate and graduate students in “processes and structures of communication with emphasis on those that promote equity, empowerment, environmental sustainability, and peace and human rights” (Communication for Social Change Consortium, 2010). The College’s vision and mission also emphasize the goal of sustainable development and improvement of quality of life the Philippines and other developing countries.
The Bachelor of Science in Development Communication program requires students to complete 148 units which include the core courses of DevCom, general education courses (GE), as well as technical and social science electives (CDC-UPLB, 2004). Since this study will look into the experiences of the selected senior DevCom students, the succeeding sections will mention the core courses of the BSDC program (see Appendix A).
This study falls under the phenomenological tradition of communication which focuses on “describing lived experience and recognizing the significance of our embodied, inter-subjective life-world” (Finlay, 2008). Communicators influenced by this tradition take the emic perspective or a ‘view from the inside’ in looking at the everyday life of an individual (Griffin, 2008).
In this study, the concept of meaning-making, as well as lived and shared experiences of the selected senior DevCom students in relation to their constructed meanings of the development concept were explored. In the context of the “weightier” development aspect in DevCom, experiences of the participants will tell a lot specifically on how this concept is being emphasized in DevCom courses. Social constructionist theory (also social constructionism), the hermeneutical form of constructivism, will be used to describe these experiences of the researcher (heuristics) and of the other selected participants (hermeneutics).
Personal Construct Theory
Kelly’s PCT is also called “theory of change” (Rix, 1982). According to Neimeyer and Bridges (2004), the focus of personal construct theory (PCT) is on how individuals and social groups “organize and change their views of self and world.” Generally, an individual views the world through patterns which he/she creates to fit their realities. These patterns are called constructs (Kelly, 1963).
Kelly’s idea of personal construct theory was derived in this earlier idea of “constructive alternativism.” Under this belief, man’s constructions of reality depend on how man will interpret the events and things around him which consequently forms his own views of the self and the world. Kelly presupposes that man is a scientist – the one who invents his own reality and test it. Man has the responsibility to predict and control the course of events. As cited by Carl (1999) Kelly explained the role of man as a scientist:
“The scientist does not hold up his or her theoretical proposal to be judged so much in terms of whether it is the truth at la
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