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Tools for sharing

PERSPECTIVES ON DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATION Edited by K Sadanandan Nair and Shirley A White Publisher: Sage Publications Price: Rs 250 (hb), 145 (pb)

By Seema Kalra
Published: Tuesday 31 May 1994

-- "WE ARE not interested in how to kill pests or how cowdung cakes are to be made. We know all these things. We only want entertainment and cinema songs. Let the city dwellers who do not know anything about these things learn these so that they can appreciate our problems."

This was a farmer's reply to a researcher. It is evident from this statement that the "top-down" communication strategy adopted by our policymakers has failed; the masses are either fed information which they already know or informed of technologies from which they do not benefit. It also pinpoints the development communicators' difficulty in finding effective ways of designing programmes which both appeal to the masses and impart useful and necessary information.

K Sadanandan Nair and Shirley A White have tried to address this problem by collating different perspectives on development communication -- an integral part of the development process -- as seen by development communicators. This would at the outset involve identifying the new indicators of development -- a shift from the earlier approach, which preferred numbers, targets and statistics to purposes, objectives and performance.

The newer perspectives emphasise community orientation, self-management and self-reliance, a right to participate in planning and implementation, indigenous knowledge, and people's participation in decision-making. Feedback is the key element of the development communication models suggested in this book.

The new technologies -- video, satellite television, compact discs, interactive videos -- although capital intensive, are seen as viable tools for sharing and transmitting information. Some people feel that these technologies will further widen the gap between the information providers and information receivers; but the SEWA (Self Employed Women's Association) experiment has illustrated how even illiterate women can use video technology for communication.

Say V K Dubey and S K Bhanja, "Video is the most suitable medium for generating interaction. It does not require processing, nor sophisticated training to operate." On the other hand, J S Yadav insists that it is of utmost importance that the audience is able to identify with the communicator -- an indigenous concept known as sadharanikarn. Here the focus is on the relationship between the communicators instead of the relationship between the elements of communication. A prime example is Gandhi, who dressed like the poor he wanted to help.

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