By Sankalpa Dashrath; Research Associate, The Media Map Project
A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment that got me very excited. I was asked to create a taxonomy of media development activities worldwide. The only condition was that the findings had to be visually represented in an attractive, easy to follow manner. My imagination ran wild as I started planning what I would create. The output would be lauded globally, I would be producing a document that everyone had always needed but never created. The plan was to chronicle every single milestone in the history of media development post WWII. I wanted to track each major donor, identify and analyze global giving trends and show them through an interactive data visual.
Unfortunately reality soon checked my runaway thoughts. Finding literature sources that meticulously chronicle media development was harder than I had expected. Some reports were US-centric excluding all other donors and activities. Others that included international donors were not detailed enough. Almost none focused on activities prior to the 1980’s. Somehow through this patchwork of information I was able to weave together – what I hope – is a coherent picture. Finding the relevant information was only half the battle won. Next, I had to find a way to create a visual representation of it. Trolling through the hundreds of open source software sites, I began to realize just how limited my options would be. A technology neophyte with such specific requirements as mine was pretty much doomed it seemed. I finally settled on Dataviz; mainly because of a recommendation but also because it promised an actual connection between my imagination and output.
I ended up with a map of the world, showing media development activities in chunks of time over a fifty plus year period (I chose to show them from a donor perspective and did not mention any implementing organizations). I found that media development activities mostly followed a global theme – which underwent a transformation roughly every decade or so – and could be traced to the international events occurring around the world. Media development of the 90’s saw a distinct focus on supporting post-Soviet countries, while the landscape after 9/11 turned to media development for democracy building and the most recent Arab spring portends a shift towards social media.
In the end, this assignment turned out to be just an interesting as I had anticipated but for reasons other than the ones I had imagined. Although I could not fulfill my original objective, I could definitely identify gaps in the information on media development activities, provide a snapshot view for the interested and a starting point for those willing to dig deeper.
Stay tuned for the timeline…