Global Media As A Whole
When you think of media, you probably think of something like a news organization or a television show. However, media can also be a product or really anything that is made or produced. It can be tangible or intangible depending its form. Throughout the semester, in Global Media, we have looked at flows that go around the globe. A common theme that uncovered would be that there are a select few dominant countries that control these flows. It also important as there are different types of flows, some that push forward technology and others that keep the world economy afloat. This was discussed heavily in Arjun Apparadi’s readings. Moreover, in my research, I strive to show that the phrase “West to the Rest.” not only impacts those consumers who opt in for these products across the globe but can affect the nation that produces these items.
Technology As A Media
I am using technology companies, like Samsung and Apple, as my examples in this case. As every year the heads of these global conglomerates meet and plan out their product line. As we have seen in the past, with the iPhone 4 antenna gate issue and more recently with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 blowing up, things can go array with these companies. While these businesses are based in dominant nations like the United States or South Korea, the actual production and manufacturing of these devices occur elsewhere. Also, most of the people making these devices cannot afford the high price goods or understand the cultural phenomenon around them. There has been a lot of coverage on the manufacturing of these devices that have gotten to the point of encapsulating our lives and truly defining a generation. However, I am looking at this from the angle of these dominate countries putting pressure on these other countries to meet crazy demands. As while the iPhone has a global launch every year, those producing the phone work crazy hours to deliver a product that they cannot afford.
While this might seem like a large topic of research, I tried to narrow it down with my thesis: Dominant areas of the globe create media and set demand for other countries to meet— These companies push the product cycle and force innovation. This product life cycle becomes shorter and shorter, as companies try to increase the rate of planned obsolesce. This idea was discussed at length in Giles Slade’s book “Made to Break: Technology and Obsolesce in America,” specifically the chapter on “Cell Phones and E-Waste.” This goes into detail on the life post use for a smartphone, as many of the materials used these devices cannot necessarily be properly recycled. As there are many parts inside each of these devices, some that require materials that aren’t good for the planet and others that are hard to find a good source to mine for. Moreover, while there are scholarly works and readings for education on these topics, the media does not necessarily focus in on these.
These popular technology news sites do not shine a light on the poor treatment of factory workers making the latest and greatest, but rather they create demand for these products. In some ways, the media is an arm of the company, as the communications teams goal is to increase awareness for the products. They also fascinate the reader base, which is quite large, with leaks and rumors of upcoming products. However, when something goes wrong, this portion of the media can hit hard on the company, something that we saw with a very recent and short-lived smartphone.
Fighting Fire With Fire— Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7
Back in August of 2016 Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 7 to quite a bit of fanfare— It was being penned as the best Galaxy yet, and reviewers agreed with Samsung. It had a headphone jack, an Iris Scanner to unlock the phone, new S-Pen features, and a sweet coral blue color. However, very shortly after the successful launch, a weird thing began to happen, and that was several models of the Galaxy Note 7 began to explode. This was not just a few phones in isolated locations but rather a larger number on a global scale. Samsung attempted to fix the problem by at first issuing a voluntary recall and then a full recall of the device in which they would provide replacements units of the Galaxy Note 7. These new units would feature a different battery inside, one from a different supplier. The issues did not go away with these replacement units either, as some of them countries to explode out of nowhere or suddenly burst into flames. Samsung had a public relations nightmare and several lawsuits on their end— They were heavily criticized by the mainstream media and from those outlets that specialize in technology. As the devices exploding cause both injury to humans and to property alike. All in all this Galaxy Note 7 disaster has become notorious in the technology field, as a case study for how not to handle a product recall.
Many were wondering why Samsung had this issue in the first place and furthermore why it took so long for them to issue a recall properly. Well, the idea of an early launch, from the get, go, was stemmed from wanting to beat Apple to the punch before the next generation iPhone, in this case, it was the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus which have sold incredibly well since their launch. By pushing up the release time frame, it affected the factory making the device. The production line was sped up, and some supplies were taken from different manufacturers as well. All in all, it led to confusion, but a larger issue is the communication internally at Samsung. In a piece written about the recall process by Brian X. Chen and Shoe Sang-Hun in The New York Times, they had the chance to speak with an executive at the company who spoke under anonymity. This employee stated that Samsung was using a top-down management style that could be seen as a militaristic. This points out an issue with company culture, as the headquarters of Samsung is in that of a dominant nation, the Unite dStates and South Korea. While they send whats they want to these factories and teams in other countries, like China, where factory workers are underpaid and overworked.
The management team at Samsung requests features to be made and put into place for these phones, at times when they are not technologically possible. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 met this requirement, and it resulted in a significant amount of confusion and danger for their customers. This rests as an example of a dominant global company having an adverse effect, through global flows and production, on another country where the labor occurs.
Do you know where your iPhone is made
Similar to Samsung is the iPhone, and the many other products that Apple release and produce. Apple has a for a while taken some heat from select consumers and news sources for conditions in the factories where they outsource production. Most notorious is the Foxconn factory in China, with the nearby Pegatron factory coming in at a close second. There have been issues with these plants, specifically with very poor working conditions and very long hours. A few years back the situation got dangerous when workers tried to commit suicide, which prompted the factories to install nets outside the windows.
This as you can imagine caused many media stories tor cross the wire and promoted several publications like Bloomberg and The New York Times, to do some research and investigations into these locations. More recently a graduate student at NYU, Dejian Zeng, spent his summer working at the Pegatron factory in China. His thoughts and a full interview on his experience during this time was granted to Business Insider. Dejian Zeng had the unique experience of being there for both the manufacturing of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, along with the “new” yet to be announced, iPhone 7. His experience was there was quite expected, in that they had long hours and living conditions that were not up to code most likely. This interview also shined a light on the brand of Apple itself, a dominant brand based out of the United States, specifically Cupertino CA. As we saw in the film “No Logo: Brands, Globalization, Resistance” brands, like Apple, develop almost a cult-like following around them, on a global level. People camp out. At times for weeks, to be first in line to get the new iPhone or iPad. Even at their flagship stores in China, people line up, but these retail locations are miles away from the Foxconn and Pegatron factories. As Dejian Zeng discovered from his time at the factory, the workers there are unaware of the status that Apple holds. They are not fascinated by the devices, nor do they know about the cultural impact of the brand. iPhone and FaceTime have been words that people might learn at a very young age, and children can learn these devices in an instant. This is another way that a dominant global brand is impacting other cultures and societies of the world.
While these factory works spend long hours building these devices, they opt for other more affordable devices. However, to gain connectivity, a key feature of the iPhone and any smartphone, the have a freemium model to go through. In that, they need to promote the brand and complete tasks to earn coins to access the wireless network. Dejian Zeng and I both found this surprising, especially considering the realization that many may not even be able to afford the iPhone or some competing device. Put simply the faculty workers just see these devices, like the iPhone and iPad, as luxury goods that need to be produced to keep up with demand.
West to the Rest?
Globally dominant companies are not something that is going to go away, they are a fact of life and succeed. Where they are located could change in the future as the Global Flows continue to evolve. However, what has been uncovered here are the effects that dominant countries have on these other nations, whether it be culturally, politically, economically, or even in the light of the media. While many negatives have been mentioned in regards to Apple and Samsung’s leadership strategies and production schedule, the blame is not all on them. China’s laws and regulations allow for these working conditions. However, at the same time, these companies need to recognize the affects there products have on other nations.
Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. Theory, Culture & Society,7(2), 295-310. doi:10.1177/026327690007002017
Chen, B., & Sang-Hun, C. (2016, October 11). Why Samsung Abandoned Its Galaxy Note 7 Flagship Phone. Retrieved May 05, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/business/international/samsung-galaxy-note7-terminated.html?_r=0
Leswing, K. (2017, April 11). UNDERCOVER IN AN IPHONE FACTORY: What it’s really like to work in a Chinese mega-factory, according to a student who spent 6 weeks there. Retrieved May 05, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/qa-with-an-iphone-factory-worker-at-pegatron-changshuo-in-shanghai-2017-4/#-3
No Logo: Brands, Globalization, Resistance[Motion picture]. (2003). Media Education Foundation.
Slade, G. (2007). Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.