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Mediated Cosmopolitanism

Mediated Cosmopolitanism

The World of Television News

ALEXA ROBERTSON

polity

Copyright © Alexa Robertson 2010

The right of Alexa Robertson to be identified as Author of this Work has been
asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in 2010 by Polity Press

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ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-5953-4

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Contents

List of illustrations

Preface

Acknowledgements

1   

Introduction: Nourishing the Cosmopolitan Imagination

2   

Reporting the World Back to Itself: Comparing News Coverage to Domestic and Global Publics

3   

The Woman with the Samsonite Suitcase: Journalists, Viewers, and Imagining How it is to be the Other

4   

A Wave of Cosmopolitan Sentiment: Television Coverage of the Asian Tsunami

5   

Old Wars in News Programmes: Cosmopolitanism, Media and Memory

6   

Brushing away the Flies: Concluding Thoughts

Notes

References and Bibliography

Index

List of illustrations

Tables

Table 2.1

Material on which chapter 2 is based

Table 3.1

Distribution of reports about Europe in SVT’s Rapport

Table 3.2

The different sorts of people interviewed in SVT’s Rapport news items about Europe

Table 4.1

The distribution of news items pertaining to the tsunami catastrophe in the main evening news programmes of eight broadcasters

Table 4.2

Percentage of all items in which a given country is the focus of a news item about the tsunami

Table 4.3

Percentage of tsunami reports on each channel in the sample in which a given problem/problem category is identified

Table 4.4

Responsibility for solving the problems depicted in tsunami reports

Table 4.5

Percentage of tsunami reports in each channel in which a given actor/type of actor is mentioned as a source of assistance

Table 4.6

Distribution of actors

Table 5.1

Distribution of items mentioning the anniversary of D-Day in the main evening news programmes of six broadcasters

Figures

Figure 2.1

Distribution of news in the 285 broadcasts, seen in terms of spatial location

Figure 4.1

The proportion of broadcasts devoted to news about the tsunami

Plates

Plate 1.1

A Sudanese fighter seen in close-up, yet cut off from the viewer, and without a mouth to engage the viewer in dialogue

Plate 2.1

The pedagogical BBC reporter teaches viewers about ‘forgotten wars’

Plate 2.2

East meets West on Swedish Television’s Rapport as the Kuscer family leave the old bloc and meet their Italian friends in the new Europe

Plate 2.3

India on the eve of the effection

Plate 2.4

Kiran Misra talks about developments in the Indian economy, as well as their impact on the lives of the Indian middle class

Plate 2.5

The ‘realist’ BBC narrator positions himself between the viewer and distant others

Plate 5.1

The BBC’s Charles Wheeler on the beach at Normandy

Plate 5.2

Karl Mass during an interview in a Normandy cemetery

Plate 5.3

Mary Crofton talking about her part in D-Day

Plate 5.4

The fallen support a new generation

Plate 5.5

Symbolizing French–German relations in wartime

Plate 5.6

Symbolizing French–German relations in peacetime

Plate 5.7

EuroNews urges viewers to remember historical atrocities and reflect on how reconciliation has become possible

Plate 6.1

A starving child with flies on her face

Preface

The world was watching when Barack Obama became US president in 2009. Aware that his inauguration was being followed live by over a billion viewers across the globe, Obama addressed not just Americans, but also the ‘other peoples and governments’ who were watching that day, ‘from the grandest capitals’ to the small village in Africa where his father was born. A political scientist sitting with her laptop in front of the television in one such capital (albeit only moderately grand) e-mailed a colleague in Washington and asked what it was like to be there at that moment. The political scientist in Washington replied that she was not in fact experiencing the inauguration with the crowds on the Mall a few blocks from her office, but in front of the television at home. Although they were an ocean and several time zones apart, it transpired that the women were taking part in the historic occasion in virtually the same space, and certainly at the same time.

It may have been unprecedented for the black son of an immigrant to become the president of the most powerful nation on earth, but there was nothing unusual about the experience of the two women. For quite a while, people separated by geography had been sharing events in real time, thanks to developments in communications that had become as ubiquitous as they were rapid. Most people in the developed world, and many in less developed countries, had come a long way from the nineteenth-century breakfast table at which the man famously depicted by Anderson ([1983] 2006) underwent his ritual of reading the morning newspaper. Anderson’s man would meet only a fraction of the other members of his nation, but when he read his paper he did so confident that his fellow citizens were doing the same. By virtue of such routine media consumption, the newspaper-reader had become part of a community of the imagination. It was a national community, and the image of this man is deployed by Anderson in an account of nationalism. A number of scholars, however, have intimated that the image might work when transposed onto a larger canvas.

Television has no borders, as regulators have found, at times to their chagrin; nor should it, in the view of the European Commission.1 Audiences that have grown steadily in size and geographical scope since Anderson’s man opened his paper have watched together as Princess Diana was mourned, as the Twin Towers fell, as people were swept away in the Asian tsunami, as Obama placed his hand on Lincoln’s Bible, as Neda died on the streets of Tehran, and as legions of athletes and musicians competed in World Cup football matches and Eurovision song contests.

Such global mediated communion – be it on occasions of political gravitas or when Li Ning lit the Olympic cauldron in Beijing – is a central feature of the process which, according to Beck (2006), is making people cosmopolitans ‘by default’. Beck’s is a contested claim, and some are troubled by his insistence that it is possible to become a cosmopolitan without being aware of it. But the German sociologist shares with his critics an interest in conscious rather than unconscious or ‘latent’ forms of cosmopolitanism. Whether writing about the preconditions for cosmopolitan democracy, the emergence of a global public or the cultivation of a cosmopolitan awareness, such scholars maintain that, under globalization, citizens must be able, in ordinary ways, to form solidarities and connections with others who are distant (Stevenson 2003: 97).

This book is about the role that media actors can play in the making of such connections. Its point of departure is that television journalists are among the most powerful of societal sense-makers, and that the stories they tell about the world could help people relate to distant others or lead them to question whether those others are so distant after all. But it also explores the possibility that journalists rooted in different media cultures, or speaking to different audiences, may use the semiotic materials circulating in the global mediascape in different ways.

While concerned specifically with the role of the media – or, to be precise, television news – the underlying aim of the book is nevertheless to contribute to the larger scholarly discussion of cosmopolitanism. That discussion has a number of weaknesses.

First, scholars from different fields have had a tendency to talk past each other and often fail to engage with the insights of colleagues who are asking similar questions from different disciplinary vantage points. As Hannerz (2004a, 2005) puts it, there is a ‘fault line’ between political and cultural understandings of the term, and regrettable blind spots have been the result.

Second, the most significant contributions to the study of cosmopolitanism have, on balance, been theoretical. The empirical work that has been done is seldom substantial and – in an age when we are inundated by a plethora of media messages – has been based largely on anecdotal evidence which focuses on distant suffering and conflict.

Third, claims about the preconditions for the development of cosmopolitan consciousness are routinely couched in general terms. Little attention has been paid to how they may vary from one country or culture to another.

While not pretending to overcome such problems, an effort has been made here to avoid compounding them. The focus of the book is on news stories that have both a political and a cultural register, and it thus attempts to integrate insights from both political and cultural conceptions of cosmopolitanism. The study presented in the following pages engages with the substantial literature on cosmopolitanism and other theoretical realms pertinent to the inquiry, but it approaches that literature through an unusual empirical portal.

Scholarship in this field tends to have to do with global issues and a myriad of actors, so it is for good reason that it often takes a bird’s-eye view. But the work of imagination does not allow itself to be studied from such a vantage point, at least not empirically. It must be seen close up, and the voices of individual workers of the imagination, and the fruits of their labour, must be made discernible and placed in a meaningful context. For this to be possible, the scope must be radically narrowed. This book focuses on just two sorts of imagination workers – journalists and the people for whom they make news reports – and most of all the stories that are evidence of that imagining. At the same time, the focus is radically expanded in comparison with most other empirical studies of cosmopolitanism, as the insights contributed here are based on the analysis of over 2,000 news reports broadcast on eight different channels, some targeting national and others global audiences. The quantitative analysis of superficial features of those news items has been combined with closer readings of the narrative traits of representative stories.

The book’s main thesis is that, if we are to understand how media actors may help make the connections that underpin a cosmopolitan outlook, we must be attentive to evidence that not all do. The point is not that media globalization is a myth, as Hafez (2007) has admittedly good reasons for arguing, but that it is an empirical question. Rather than assuming that global broadcasters are those most liable to foster cosmopolitan ways of seeing and empathizing, we should entertain the possibility that broadcasters targeting national audiences in their safe front rooms (or wherever the screen in current use is situated) might be just as inclined to address their viewers as members of a larger community, or to ask them to imagine such allegiance. If this possibility is to be recognized and explored, it is not enough to look at what is being reported; we should also examine the narrative techniques involved in telling such stories.

The news stories in focus here were broadcast on television. Their selection begs a number of difficult questions. What is television today? And how are the people who use it to be conceived of – as citizens or media consumers; as members of the public or of the audience; or as producers of media texts in their own right?2 When the Berlin Wall toppled and media globalization was taking off, television was central to the directive governing media policy in Europe. Two decades later, Television Without Frontiers was upgraded and became the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The challenge identified by policy-makers was no longer to regulate media production and distribution in an age when satellite broadcasting was demonstrating the porousness of national borders. It was now to retain some degree of control over a mediascape in which 6,500 channels and a host of other digital outlets had become available to Europeans, who could now decide what they wanted to see and when they wanted to see it (Robertson 2010).3

While the technological and economic developments reflected in such policy changes are by no means insignificant, the media actors in focus in this book are nevertheless television journalists working for ‘traditional’ public service broadcasters, targeting national audiences, and mainstream global broadcasters whose moorings are in the public service tradition, even though they rely, to varying degrees, on commercial revenues.4 They represent continuity, in that most have been operating for decades (and, in the case of the national broadcasters, date back to the days when their viewers had only one channel to watch). But they also represent change, as they have had to adapt to radically altered technological, economic and political circumstances. Ongoing transformations in the media landscape notwithstanding, actors such as these broadcasters continue to play a central role in the sort of processes dealt with here. In times of turbulence and transformation, people continue to turn to familiar faces and voices for interpretation and reassurance.5 This, at least, is the point of departure for what follows. That most of the channels are based in Northern Europe can be seen as a limitation on the scope of the inquiry. On the other hand, the political and media cultures in which they are based vary in interesting ways, and, while the sample admittedly, and unavoidably, excludes a good part of the world’s media cultures, it is nevertheless an antidote to the predominance of studies of Anglo-American media.

The red thread throughout the book is the interplay between three key notions – cosmopolitanism, imagination and narrative – and their relationship to the world portrayed in television news. Chapter 1 introduces them more thoroughly, by reviewing scholarship relevant to each notion and to the study as a whole. Chapter 2 looks at everyday reporting over a period of six weeks in three national and three global channels and examines the narrative techniques that may bring the world closer or keep it at arm’s length. In so doing, it explores the role of journalists in the spatial dimension of cosmopolitanization. Chapter 3 takes a closer look at one of the news cultures featured in the preceding chapter, and more specifically at the relationship between the people who report the world, the people for whom the world is reported, and the reports themselves. Chapter 4 contrasts the everyday or ‘banal’ understandings that were in focus in earlier chapters with news coverage in the ten days following the Asian tsunami, when ‘unconscious’ or latent cosmopolitanism (following Beck’s train of thought) became conscious or active and gave rise, at least momentarily, to a global public. Chapter 5 asks whether cosmopolitanism, and the sort of news narratives that may have a bearing on it, could have a temporal as well as a spatial dimension. It reflects on the finding that history is often invoked when narrating the world of today, and in particular examines its symbolic role in live coverage of the anniversary of a bygone war. Chapter 6 pulls together the threads unravelled in the first five chapters and ends with a question: If we are to make connections with people elsewhere, what should be expected of journalism in the global era?

It is, of course, not only scholars who are concerned about the power of communication and the political work of the imagination. Governmental and non-governmental actors all operate on this wavelength, and it has been said that the contest to control imagery in a global setting is the predominant political struggle of our time. Journalists are also keenly aware of the responsibility that rests on their shoulders (or in their viewfinders, or in the hand that holds the microphone or hovers over the keyboard). The evidence of this is abundant and can be found in programme policy documents, trade publications, training handbooks, interview material and trailers for the channels’ own programmes. In one of these, broadcast shortly after operations began in the autumn of 2006, a British journalist working for Al Jazeera English encapsulated the challenge: ‘You have to report the world from many different perspectives in order to report the world back to itself.’ The question that serves as the leitmotif of the book is: How is that work best done?

Acknowledgements

Ulf Hannerz is a major presence in these pages, and not only because of his theoretical contributions to the study of cosmopolitanism or his initiative in putting together a project team to explore its empirical foundations. Had he not encouraged me, one dark December day, to stick to my idea of presenting my work in the form it takes here, it would have remained a collection of scattered articles and conference papers, obscure to all but the most determined googler. He was also the first reader of the manuscript, which benefited from his comments. Annika Björkdahl, Lilie Chouliaraki, Martin Hall, Maria Hellman, Annabel Herzog, Frank Möller and Kristina Riegert read various parts of the text fragments that preceded that draft; apart from their feedback, their interest in this research was invigorating. The intellectual stimulation and moral support provided by Alexandra Segerberg and Nina Burge, culturally competent political scientists, was more important than they can imagine. I appreciate the time taken and openness shown by the journalists, farmers, librarians, musicians, construction and factory workers and pensioners whose stories form the foundation of chapter 3, which is based on an article previously published in the Swedish Statsvetenskaplig Tidskrift. A vote of thanks is due Minna Frydén, Alexandra Martin, Spela Mezik, Helena Onn, Veronica Persson, Carly Sawyers and Jasmine Tournaj for their patient and altruistic assistance in coding the material reported in chapter 4. The intellectual resources on offer in the classroom are often underestimated and, unbeknown to them, my students at the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University have contributed to this study with their curiosity and enthusiasm. The two wise but anonymous reviewers who read the entire manuscript provided suggestions that not only improved the book but were also a pleasure to follow up on. I am also grateful to Caroline Richmond for her attention to detail, as well as Andrea Drugan at Polity Press for fielding a manuscript that landed, without warning, on her desk late one Friday afternoon, and for providing prompt and encouraging feedback in the months that followed.

Watching television for a living is not always as much fun as one would think, and watching as much as I have was only possible thanks to grants from the Swedish Research Council and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (including an additional grant that made it possible to reproduce the images in plates 1.1, 2.1, 2.3, 2.5 and 5.1, courtesy of BBC News, and plates 2.2, 2.4, 5.2 and 5.3, courtesy of SVT); the support of Claes Linde and Anncristin Länta; the cheerful technical assistance of June Head, Ulrike Klingemann, Michael Lundin and Roland Fredriksson; and, most of all, the wizardry of Bernard Devine, who is the Dumbledore of the Stockholm University Media Library.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my children, Nick and Clarie, for agreeing to share their bedrooms with VCRs and computers that digitize broadcasts day and night, and my husband Claes Åkesson, who struggles valiantly to get the family to pay attention to the news that is unfolding today, and not just the old news in the Media Library. It is also largely thanks to Claes that Nick and Clarie are growing up to be cosmopolitans of the actually travelling variety and not just mediascapers. This book is for them.

We were not always burdened by debt, dependent on foreign aid and handouts; in the stories we tell of ourselves we were not the crazed and destitute radicals you see on your television channels but rather saints and poets and – yes – conquering kings.

Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)

1

Introduction: Nourishing the Cosmopolitan Imagination

Over half a century ago, Kenneth Boulding suggested that, to understand international relations, it was essential to realize that people respond not to the objective facts of the situation, but to their image of it. ‘It is what we think the world is like,’ he wrote, ‘not what it is really like, that determines our behavior’ (Boulding 1959: 120). Central to such responses was the national image, which in his account extended through time, ‘backward into a supposedly recorded or perhaps mythological past and forward into an imagined future’. Boulding thought the consciousness of shared events and experiences, of having gone through something together, was of the utmost importance in forming such collective images. But he also thought they could be developed or, as he put it, sophisticated.

It is akin almost to a Copernican revolution: the unsophisticated image sees the world only from the viewpoint of the viewer; the sophisticated image sees the world from many imagined viewpoints, as a system in which the viewer is only a part. The child sees everything through his own eyes and refers to his own immediate comfort. The adult learns to see the world through the eyes of others; his horizon extends to other times, places and cultures than his own. (Boulding 1959: 130)

At around the same time, the social theorists Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan were reflecting on how the evolution of the media matters to people’s sense of place and belonging. As alluded to in the preface, it is a thought that the political scientist Benedict Anderson developed later. He was by no means alone. John Thompson, a sociologist, later coined the term ‘mediated worldliness’ to denote how our experience of the world is increasingly shaped by mediated symbolic forms. He maintained that, as our sense of the world and our place in it becomes increasingly nourished by messages circulating in media texts, ‘so too our sense of the groups and communities with which we share a common path through time and space, a common origin and a common fate, is altered: we feel ourselves to belong to groups and communities which are constituted in part through the media’ (Thompson 1995: 35).

Thompson was not referring to the experiences of passive media consumers, into the empty minds of which broadcasters deposit messages. He, and others working within the hermeneutic tradition, is concerned with what has been called the ‘active audience’. The idea is that the consumers of news and other media products actively engage with them, work with them, and create meaning in their meeting with the text, rather than having the message imposed on them. These scholars are in effect writing about the work of the imagination, sometimes implicitly (Ang 1985; Barker 2000; Liebes and Katz 1991; Morley 1980), sometimes explicitly (Appadurai 1996; Boltanski 1999; Chouliaraki 2006, 2008; Delanty 2006; Nava 2007; Silverstone one 2007; Stevenson 2003).

While Boulding used the word ‘seeing’ and Thompson wrote of ‘feeling’, the verb that will be privileged in what follows is, rather, ‘telling’. The creation and maintenance of community is thought by a number of scholars to be one of the leading political uses of narrative. Our identities, insofar as they hinge on our sense of belonging, are not givens. Through the agency of storytelling, our situation in the political and cultural landscape, and that of everyone else, is set out, maintained, negotiated and adapted to new circumstances (Clayton 1994; Coole 1999; Mottier 1999; Mumby 1993; Tambling 1991: 70; Whitebrook 2001: 7–8).

The argument pursued here is that television is a key site for the narrative acts that help us get our bearings in the world and maintain or negotiate a sense of belonging. Television not only has the power required for the imagination of community to which Anderson called our attention; it is also a rich resource in Boulding’s process of sophistication – a process which Beck (2006) would be liable to refer to as cosmopolitanization.

One purpose of this chapter is to set out the three key concepts in this book – cosmopolitanism, imagination and narrative – and to consider how they may inform each other. Central to the relation between these concepts is the relation between the political and the cultural. A second purpose is to review work that has addressed that interface and to consider where television comes into the picture (to use an unfortunate phrase). Insights gained from this review of the literature will, finally, be translated into research questions. The chapter ends with a brief account of the method used to find answers to them.

Cosmopolitanism

As mentioned earlier, cosmopolitanism has meant different things in different contexts. For those who consider themselves champions of human rights, the word has positive connotations; for those who consider themselves patriots, it has negative, or at least thin, cold ones. For some, cosmopolitanism is highly controversial: the classic debate invoked in this context is that represented by the contributors to For Love of Country (Nussbaum et al. 1996), who are far from achieving a consensus as to whether cosmopolitan and nationalist affinities are mutually exclusive. For someone like Beck, cosmopolitanism is not (just) a matter of what is good or bad, it is simply the way things are. It is not without good reason that Brennan (2002, 2003) has remarked that cosmopolitanism is an ambiguous phenomenon.

Two of the adventurous academics who have attempted to sort out the various understandings of the concept are Vertovec and Cohen (2002). They distinguish between six main conceptions: the socio-cultural condition that interests Appadurai; the philosophical take on the world expressed in Beck’s cosmopolitan manifesto; the political project to build transnational institutions that Kaldor has written about; the political project to achieve recognition of multiple identities associated with the work of Held; the mode of orientation to the world with which Hannerz is connected; and a set of competences that make it possible for people to get along in other cultures, about which Friedman has written. There is, however, considerable overlap, both between these different conceptions and between the concerns of the aforementioned scholars. In The Cosmopolitan Vision, for example, Beck writes as much about a condition as a philosophy, and even in his early pieces on the topic Hannerz wrote a good deal about competence. There is much to be said for Delanty’s argument (2006: 27) that the very notion makes it necessary to recognize many kinds of cosmopolitanism – a challenge to which Holton (2009) has risen by distinguishing no fewer than seventeen types.

What Delanty has in mind, however, are three broad types of a phenomenon that has to do with how we relate to the world: moral, political and cultural cosmopolitanism. This is not far from the bifurcation identified by Hannerz (2004a, 2005) between political and cultural understandings of it, as the political variety at least has pronounced moral overtones. Because this book has to do with cosmopolitanism as an empirical phenomenon rather than as a normative vision, the moral type will be left to the political philosophers to explore, and the focus in what follows will be on the other two types.

Political cosmopolitanism

According to Held, the new circumstances prevailing under globalization compel us to find common frameworks for political action and institutional arrangements. The ethical and political space provided by such frameworks ‘sets out the terms of reference for the recognition of people’s equal moral worth’ (Held 2002: 313). Cosmopolitanism in this conception has to do with defending the right of people to be treated with equal respect, which in turn entails a transnational democracy project that extends beyond the nation-state.

‘Weaker’ versions of political cosmopolitanism can be found in theories of citizenship. In Benhabib’s rendition, cosmopolitanism has to do with furthering multiple and overlapping allegiances in societies that are growing increasingly multicultural. It thus involves sustaining such allegiances across communities of language, ethnicity, religion and nationality (Benhabib 2004: 174–5). The requisite sustenance is to be derived from safeguards to protect the rights of minorities to their own culture and representation, and the rights of all to the information technology on which modern social life is predicated.

Proponents of political cosmopolitanism are concerned with issues of gender, environment, human rights and peace: as Hannerz (2004a) has so pithily observed, it is ‘cosmopolitanism with a worried face’. The figure in focus is not just someone with human rights and the right to political representation, however. He or she also has civic obligations, and is familiar as the ‘well-informed citizen’ at the heart of democratic theory who is expected to keep abreast of developments in the political environment, and to act in a responsible fashion on the basis of that information.

Political cosmopolitanism has been described as ‘thin’ (Calhoun 2002: 878) and is often seen as an elite project with a ‘top-down’ trajectory. It thus makes sense that it is often associated, in concrete applications, with the project of the European Union, which has yet to succeed in engaging the hearts and minds of its inhabitants. But the claims of political cosmopolitanism transcend the regional: as one of its foremost proponents (Habermas 2001) has argued, only the development of a genuinely global civil society and public sphere will foster the development of cosmopolitan solidarity. It is at this point that the political merges with the cultural.

Cultural cosmopolitanism

Stevenson (2003) has drawn attention to the relationship between the practice of politics and an increasingly ‘symbolic’ society. In order to understand that relationship, he says, it is not enough to explore the political itself. There is a relationship between culture and globalization to be addressed, and cause to consider the cultural dimension of cosmopolitanization.

Schirato and Webb (2003) are two of the writers who maintain that globalization should be considered in terms not only of politics (and economics and technology) but also (and perhaps primarily) of culture. Invoking Bourdieu and Bauman, they argue that the changes we need to understand are located within powerful discourses that shape everyday life, discourses which simultaneously name, and thus help to bring into being what they are supposedly designating or describing’ (Schirato and Webb 2003: 9). Writers such as these urge us to shift our analytical gaze from ideas and political projects to discourses and everyday practices. This is the realm of culture.

World culture, according to Hannerz, is not about reproducing uniformity but about organizing diversity. His cosmopolitan is someone who has developed the competence to do such work, who can respect and deal with such diversity, and who is willing to engage with the Other. Cosmopolitanism in this version ‘is an intellectual and aesthetic stance of openness toward divergent cultural experiences, a search for contrasts rather than uniformity’ (Hannerz 1990: 239). Cultural competence is important to the study reported in this book. It is not a simple notion, however: it has two sides, both of which are activated when the subject matter is media texts and audiences. The challenge is to be able to discern the meanings that culturally competent audience members develop out of media discourse, and which comprise one dimension of the communicative relationship that journalists have with their readers, listeners and viewers. But the challenge also involves keeping an eye on how such media work may help audience members develop competence at manoeuvring in cultures with which they are less familiar, and which may become less strange through increased exposure.

Connectivity is a key term in Tomlinson’s influential account of globalization and culture, which he ends by asking what it means ‘to have a global identity, to think and act as a “citizen of the world” – literally as a “cosmopolitan”’ (Tomlinson 1999: 184). Taking Hannerz’s cosmopolitan as his point of departure, he adds some requirements. To merit the name, a cosmopolitan needs to have a sense of wider cultural commitment (ibid.: 186), an active experience ‘of belonging to the wider world’, and an identity ‘that embraces a sense of what unites us as human beings, of common risks and possibilities, of mutual responsibilities’ (ibid.: 194). At the same time (and here he is on the same wavelength as Hannerz when the latter writes about the propensity to organize diversity), the cosmopolitan must have ‘an awareness of the world as one of many cultural others’ (ibid.). This awareness must be reflexive, which means that people must be open to questioning their own cultural assumptions and myths. Tomlinson acknowledges the tension that exists between these attributes, but argues that they are nevertheless ‘mutually tempering’ and (if his idea is to be translated into the sort of terminology used earlier) part of the negotiation involved in identity work.

Szerszynski and Urry continue the discussion and ask how a wider awareness of the world might be altering the nature of local feelings of belonging, and what role the media play in the production and maintenance of cosmopolitan attitudes to the ‘wider world’ (Szerszynski and Urry 2002: 462; see also Holton 2009: 44). In their view, a cosmopolitan predisposition involves extensive mobility. This need not be physical or, as they put it, ‘corporal’; it could be virtual or imaginative. It involves curiosity about many places, peoples and cultures; a willingness (familiar from Hannerz’s account) to take risks by encountering the Other; semiotic skills to interpret images of various others; and ‘an ability to “map” one’s own society and its culture in terms of a historical and geographical knowledge, to have some ability to reflect upon and judge aesthetically between different natures, places and societies’ (Szerszynski and Urry 2002: 470). Cosmopolitanism, seen in cultural terms, has to do with inhabiting the world at a distance (Szerszynski and Urry 2006: 115).

Nava (2007) has also written of corporal or, as she puts it, ‘visceral’ engagement with the other. But she takes writers such as Szerszynski, Urry and Hannerz to task for assuming (presumably unconsciously) that the cosmopolitan is a man, and for focusing on distance and on the activity of seeing the world from afar. Cosmopolitanism, in her historically informed account, is a structure of feeling that can have a local incarnation and be rooted in the everyday: it is ‘not only visceral and vernacular but also domestic’ (Nava 2007: 12).

Political and cultural understandings of cosmopolitanism coincide in the notion of citizenship. In the political version, citizenship has to do with the right to belong and with the obligation to keep informed about matters of concern to the wider community. In the cultural version, it has to do with the right to information and to develop the competence to deal with that information – to understand – and with an obligation to use that information and understanding in a way that promotes solidarity with others, even if they are distant or different. Seen from a cultural perspective, these rights and obligations are not just connected to information. They have to do with images, visuality and meaning as well – if not more so. Cosmopolitan citizenship thus has to do with ‘a transformation of vision’ (Szerszynski and Urry 2006: 115).

Television and cosmopolitanism