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).