International communication

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International communication (also referred to as the study of global communication or transnational communication) is the communication practice that occurs across international borders.[1] The need for international communication was due to the increasing effects and influences of globalization. As a field of study, international communication is a branch of communication studies, concerned with the scope of "government-to-government", "business-to-business", and "people-to-people" interactions at a global level.[2] Currently, international communication is being taught at colleges across the United States. Due to the increasingly globalized market, employees who possess the ability to effectively communicate across cultures are in high demand. International communication "encompasses political, economic, social, cultural and military concerns".[3]

Historical context[edit]

Communication and empire[edit]

Efficient communication networks played crucial roles in establishing ancient imperial authority and international trade. The extent of empire could be used as an 'indication of the efficiency of communication'.[4] Ancient empires such as Rome, Persia and China, all utilized writing in collecting information and dispersing, creating enormous postal and dispatch systems.[5] As early as in fifteenth century, news had been disseminated trans-nationally in Europe. 'The wheat traders of Venice, the silver traders of Antwerp, the merchants of Nuremberg and their trading partners shared economic newsletters and created common values and beliefs in the rights of capital.'[6]

The advent of telegraph and time–space compression[edit]

In 1837, Samuel Morse invented telegraph. Given its speed and reliability in delivering information, telegraph offered opportunities for capital and military expansion. As showed in Table 1.1, the establishment of cable hardware signifies global power order in late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Table 1.1 Cabling the world[7]

1892 1892 1923 1923
length(km) global share(%) length(km) global share(%)
British Empire 163,619 66.3 297,802 50.5
United States 38,986 15.8 142,621 24.2
French Empire 21,859 8.9 64,933 11.0
Denmark 13,201 5.3 15,590 2.6
Others 9206 3.7 68,282 11.7
All cables combined 246,871 100.0 589,228 100.0

The era of news agencies[edit]

The newspaper industry and international telegraph networks mutually facilitated each other. As the supply and demand of newspaper industry rapidly increased in nineteenth century, news agencies were established successively. The French Havas Agency was founded in 1835, the German agency Wolffin 1849 and the British Reuters in 1851. These three European agencies, which started to operate internationally, were all subsidized by their respective governments.

Radio broadcasting[edit]

Western countries seized the chances to implement radio communication after the first radio transmissions of human voice in 1902. But the two mechanisms of radio broadcasting were distinctively different. In the USA, the Radio Act of 1927 confirm its status as an advertising-funded commercial enterprise, while in Britain, the public broadcasting pioneer British Broadcasting Corporation set up in the same year.[8] During the First World War and the Second World War, radio broadcasting played a significant role in both domestic public opinion management and international diplomacy propaganda abroad. Even in the Cold War times, this radio-dominated international communication still featured in propaganda respective ideologies. The prominent example is the Voice of America, which ran a global network to indoctrinate "American dream" to its international audience.

Demanding a new communication order[edit]

Since the cold war officially ended in 1990, the intense relations of super powers halted with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of the Third World countries, the unequally developed communication order can no longer exist. The Third World called for ceasing their marginalized communication status. Especially when international communications stepped into the information age, 'the convergence of telecommunication and computing and the ability to move all type of data – pictures, words, sounds – via the Internet have revolutionized international information exchange.'[9]

Considerations for international communication[edit]

When communicating internationally it is important to take culture into consideration. Though English has become the language of business, many businesses fail to recognize that the language used does not determine how business is conducted. Therefore, it is important to understand that intercultural and international communication are interchangeable.

As a tourist it may be acceptable to maintain the cultural norms from a country of origin when visiting, though attempting to adapt would be appreciated. However, when conducting business it is important to recognize cultural differences, especially when communicating.[10] At the turn of the century there was a large amount of research based on the needs of those that travel abroad in order to commercialize products or services. The list of researchers includes Hofstede, 1991; Storti, 1994; Ansari & Jackson, 1995; Cushner & Brislin, 1996; Adler, 1997; Mead, 1998; and Marx, 1999. From those studies Gibson's volume becomes an important source of information for business professionals interested in succeeding internationally.[11] As explained by Douglas Storey, there was a change in style and strategy of American diplomacy since 1979 after the first addition of Glen Fisher's book appeared.[12]

Despite the reason for international communication it is important to understand that international communication is not limited to the language spoken during communication.

Scope and approaches of international communication research[edit]

International communication is widely spread and multilayered in contemporary society, however it is not considered as a separate academic discipline because of its overlapping with other subjects.[13] International communication is 'a topic field rather than a discipline field' and international communication studies is a mode of 'organizing inquiry'.[14]

John D. H. Downing proposed ten categories within which international communication should be conducted

  1. theories of international communication
  2. core international communication processes
  3. global media firms
  4. global media policies
  5. Global news flows
  6. world cinema
  7. development communication
  8. the Internet
  9. intellectual property law
  10. non-hegemonic communication flows[15]

Mehdi Semati listed the wide range of research subjects in international communication, which includes, but not limited to the following.[16]

Hamid Mowlana stated four key interrelated approaches to international communication

  1. idealistic-humanistic
  2. proselytization
  3. economic
  4. the political[17]

One of the most obvious manifestations of international communication are world news, when the media of one country cover news from abroad. But, apart from journalism, international communication also occurs in other areas (culture, technology, sciences) and the nature of the "information" that is circulated can be classified in a wide variety of categories, such as cultural (music, films, sports, TV shows from one country to another), scientific (research papers published abroad, scientific exchange or cooperation), and intelligence (diplomacy reports, international espionage, etc.).

Typically the study of international communication includes a deep attention to the circulation of news among different countries (and the resulting imbalances, from which came the concept of news flow), the power of media organizations (such as conglomerates and news agencies), issues such as cultural imperialism and media imperialism, and the political role that international cooperation can have in enhancing the media industry (and society as a whole) in a given region, such as proposed by development communication or communication for development.

Some renowned scholars in international communication include Wilbur Schramm, Ithiel de Sola Pool, Johan Galtung, Anthony Smith, Robert Stevenson, Jeremy Tunstall, Armand Mattelart, Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Ali Mohammadi, Annabelle Sreberny, Cees J. Hamelink, Daya Kishan Thussu and Chris Paterson. The International Communication Gazette and the Journal of International Communication are reference journals in this field.[citation needed]


The Second World War was a catalyst for international communication. Analytical tools for communications research are used to mobilize domestic public support for war, to understand enemy propaganda, and to develop psychological warfare techniques to influence the morale and opinions of allies and enemies.[18] The Rockefeller Foundation convened and funded a communications seminar every month from 1939 to 1940 years at the New York headquarters. The initial purpose was to bring together leading scholars interested in communication to provide theoretical guidance for future communication studies, including Lasswell and Lazarsfeld. When the United States entered the war at the end of 1941, with the outbreak of the European economic crisis, communication research became an important factor in discussing government policies.[19]

Communication Technology development[edit]

Media development can be said to be independent media created by private interventions during the transition period through international intervention.[20][21]

New Media: Internet and Wireless Communication.

International communication development[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, with the establishment and development of fiberoptic cables, satellites and the Internet, and the gradual proliferation are eroding space and time barriers and increasing speed, and reducing the cost of transmitting various information. This trend has pushed international communication to globalization.[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fortner, R. S. (1993). International communication: History, conflict, and control of the global metropolis. Wadsworth Pub. Co. p. 6.
  2. ^ Thussu, D.K.(2006).International Communication: Continuity and Change. London:Hodder Education.
  3. ^ Fortner, R. S. (1993). International communication: History, conflict, and control of the global metropolis. Wadsworth Pub. Co. p. 1.
  4. ^ Innis, H. (1972). Empire and communications. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 9.
  5. ^ Lewis, S. (1996). News and society in the Greek pols. London: Duck worth.
  6. ^ Voltmeter, Ingrid. "International Communication Theory in Transition: Parameters of the New Global Public Sphere". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  7. ^ Thussu, D.K. (2006). International Communication: Continuity and Change. London: Hodder Education. p. 7.
  8. ^ Thussu, D.K.(2006).International Communication: Continuity and Change. London:Hodder Education.
  9. ^ Thussu, D.K. (2006). International Communication: Continuity and Change. Hodder Education. p. 224.
  10. ^ Gibson, Robert. "Intercultural Business Communication". Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 November 2014
  11. ^ Gibson, Robert. "Intercultural Business Communication". Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  12. ^ Storey, Douglas. "International Communication". Journalism Quarterly. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  13. ^ Stevenson, R. (1992). "Defining international communication as a field". Journalism Quarterly. 69 (69): 543–553. doi:10.1177/107769909206900302.
  14. ^ Peters, J. (1993). "Genealogical notes on "the field"". Journal of Communication. 43 (4): 132–139. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01313.x.
  15. ^ Downing, John D. H. "International Communication". The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  16. ^ Semati, Mehdi (2004). New Frontiers in International Communication Theory. Oxford: Rowman $ Littlefield PUblishers. pp. 2–3.
  17. ^ Thussu, D.K.(2006).International Communication: Continuity and Change. London:Hodder Education.
  18. ^ Braman, Sandra (October 1994). "Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. 204 pp. Cloth, $29.95". American Journalism. 11 (4): 382–383. doi:10.1080/08821127.1994.10731681. ISSN 0882-1127.
  19. ^ "<bold>Communication Strategies for Family Planning</bold>. By Everett M. Rogers. New York: Free Press, 1973. 451 pp. $12.95". Social Work. November 1974. doi:10.1093/sw/19.6.754. ISSN 1545-6846.
  20. ^ Berger, Guy (19 October 2010). "Problematizing 'media development' as a bandwagon gets rolling". International Communication Gazette. 72 (7): 547–565. doi:10.1177/1748048510378143. ISSN 1748-0485.
  21. ^ "Sustaining Independent Media: Case Studies in Media Firms and Assistance Providers", Exporting Press Freedom, Routledge, pp. 223–272, 12 July 2017, ISBN 9780203792483, retrieved 13 June 2019
  22. ^ Gilbert, John A. (1 December 1987). "Development of Fiber Optic Systems for Recording and Transmitting Holographic Information". Fort Belvoir, VA.
  23. ^ Webster, Professor Frank (28 September 1995). "Theories of the Information Society". doi:10.4324/9780203991367.

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