Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Re-thinking trado-modern communication


Trado-modern communication is the term used to describe the coming to gether of the traditional and modern means of communication as well as the effective application of both where and when necessary. Traditional means of communication which are fast eroding by the invasion of the modern means of communication were very effective until the coming of the white men which heralded the birth of modernization. They include: the Skin Drums, (Membranophone), Whistles (Aerophone), Metal Gong (Idiophone), Iconographics such as objects and plants; visual materials like cloth colours and appearances; man-to-spirit (extramundane) communication, institutions and musical performances which all signified a phenomenon well understood by the recipients of such messages. 

Jussawalla and Hughes posit that indigenous communication is made up of those systems of communication which have relied historically on informal channels to convey information and which obtain their authority from the cultural mores, traditions and customs of the people they serve. 

Even when the argument persists that the traditional means of communication is the tool of information dissemination in rural areas, and the modern, for the urban; the inter-relatedness of both in various spheres cannot be undermined. Beginning from the days of old when all we could do was just communicate by indicating, traditional media have been all-encompassing and ubiquitous. As man got exposed to realities in the western world, the need to adjust to what can be termed as the ‘in-thing’ became necessary and thus, the means of information dissemination changed gradually until it became almost impossible to communicate without the modern media. 

Although traditional media remains a resounding feature of rural communities, its omnipotency when compared with the early days has been rivaled by the new media of communication. 

When Desmond Wilson carried out a research on trado-modern communication in 1980, he found out the way and means Nigerians and in particular, the people of the Old Calabar province communicated among themselves before the advent of western communication technology. He also ascertained how these traditional media and channels of communication could be more effectively employed in the present age; the operational media philosophy guiding traditional media and channels as well as the formal and informal channels of communication which supplements the formal media structures employed in the area. His discovery was in consonant with the fact that though versatile and effective, trado-communication “could no longer remain a virgin in the unfolding experience” of the new media’s invasion. 

A survey of the stages of growth and development of communication in Nigeria according to Wilson reveals that we communicated first through Speech. Following this was the Sign Language, closely followed by Signals, Symbols, Writing, Printing, Postal Services, Telegraph, Telephone, Cinema, Modern Press, Radio, Television, Satellite System, Data links, Internet, and the ICTs respectively, where we are now.  He then posits that the new Information and Communication Technology available to us today has led to the fusion of many of our traditional media forms, and functions into integrated intelligent communication networks; adding that the conceptualization of what constitutes traditional media have now been extended  to cover books, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio and Television.  He expresses optimism that new technologies will before long, lead us to further extend this meaning to cover the present new media. 

Without sentiments, “the traditional media system is authoritatively credible, definitive, time-honored, transactional, customary, low-cost, non-alienating and popular, and have not been seriously dislocated by western culture or cannibalized through cultural and media imperialism”. For this, Wilson says that traditional communication processes have been ignored for too long and fears that this seeming abandonment of our traditional communication processes and preference for processes that seem more efficient but ineffective; faster but limited in effective reach; heterogeneous but alienating, time-saving but expensive is culturally threatening to the process of democratization and legitimization.  He goes further to state that the infatuation with modern communication gadgets has created an industry that has largely become an elite enterprise richly touted in expensive boxes (Television, Radio, Smart Phones, Computer Systems) and in costly news sheets (Newspapers, Magazines and Paperbacks), as opposed to the costless traditional media.   

Wilson also affirms that our political leaders who promote these media usually do not accept the discipline of the culture from which they were developed but rather, employ modern media to address an elite audience and an errant crowd of gullible youths and adults craving for the opportunity to have a taste of financial freedom. His bone of contention is that new media do not replace older ones but rather, they may replace some of their functions and in actual fact, they do. He therefore asserts that inspite of the complexities of the new Information and Communication Technologies and their pervasive nature in the lives of people in all societies, indigenous systems of communication still continue to play important roles in the lives of the people as well. They may be used in combination with western modern media to achieve greater effectiveness but they remain original and unparalleled in their function.  

This was the basis of the Iconoclast’s dymystification of some communication traditions in his inaugural lecture titled: “Ethnocommunicology, Trado-modern Communication and Mediamorphosis in Nigeria” last week. 

Although the many communication devices that we have today have assisted us in facilitating communication, Wilson proffers that many other challenges have arisen because our adoption of these new devices have been products of hardware fascination rather than critically evaluated decisions based on their uses for us and the gratifications we derive from them. 

Thus, we have nowhere to go to than home. We can only understand communication better when we talk about the basics and the small details which are lost in the obscure bewilderment arranged by those who see mass communication as the beginning and end of human communication. Hence, we should hold on to our tradition while giving less credence to the imperial media. Nothing more or less.

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