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The Dominant Paradigm

The basis of the dominant paradigm in development communication is the concept that the causes of problems with development are related to lack of knowledge; therefore, information is the chosen route to change behavior. Consequently, behavior change models abound in this early period (Waisbord, 2001).

Modernization theory is a leading tenant in the early stages of development communication. It is thought that behind development challenges are a lack of culture and information. Problems such as the high rate of fertility and mortality, high rate of illiteracy, and slow productivity are consequences of a traditional culture that inhibit modernization. It is believed that to close the gap between Western societies and third world countries, the solution would be to transfer ideas of modernization, culture and information from the developed world to the struggling under developed nations, utilizing communication and media (Waisboard, 2001; Sigh, 2002).

Daniel Lerner (1958) and Wilbur Schramm (1964), proponents of the dominant paradigm, believe that the dissemination of information through the media, along with urbanization and literacy would lead to political participation and economic growth. According to Schramm (1964) transfer of knowledge is the first and central step in order to bring social change. He also advocates the creation of opportunities for people to voice their opinion and participate in the decision-making process and for leaders to provide the necessary leadership to implement projects. The third step is to teach needed skills. Lerner (1958) and Schramm (1964) focus on the media’s ability to assist in the transition between the traditional and modern society through persuasion and innovation.
This approach is conceptualized based on two communication models. The Shannon-Weaver (1949) sender-receiver model, originally developed by engineering studies to explain how machines operate, is embraced by communication studies. This linear model encompassed five elements: communicator, message, medium, receiver, and response (Singhal & Rogers, 1999). The other influence is the magic bullet media effects approach, which believes that the media has the power to persuade the audience and influence public opinion towards attitudes and behavior changes (Waisboard, 2001). Development communication is understood as the utilization of media technologies to promote modernization; communication interventions are intrinsically attached to the widespread consumption of radio, television, newspapers, and cinema. Based on this belief, an indicator of favorable attitudes towards development and modernization is materialized in terms of media penetration (Inkles & Smith, 1974).

Critics of the modernization theory point out that a major flaw of this approach is not taking into account the economic and political environment of the developing nations and how it might influence the acceptance of mass media information campaigns (Singh, 2002). Another critique is the preference for the trickle-down flow of information, often times not taking into consideration the needs and desires of the people at the grassroots level, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised (Nain, 2001).



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