Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Emerging Areas of Digital Media Expertise, Part 3: Global Knowledge and Geopolitical Risk

Posted on | March 5, 2016 | No Comments

This is the third post of a discussion on what kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed for working in emerging digital media environments. It is recognized that students gravitate towards certain areas of expertise according to their interests and perceived aptitudes and strengths. In previous posts, I discussed Design, Technical, and Strategic Communication aspects and then later Analytics and Visualizations. Below I will examine an additional area:

Global knowledge is increasingly expected in work environments, especially those dealing with digital media and cultural industries that operate across ethnic, racial, and national borders. While this area is fluid due to rapid technological and political changes, knowledge of regions, individual countries, and subnational groupings are relevant. The globalization of media and cultural industries is very much a process of adjusting to local languages, aesthetic tastes, economic conditions (including currency exchange rates), and local consumer preferences.

The challenge of operating internationally presents significant risks of alienating customers, audiences, colleagues, and potential partners. Cultural differences in tolerances to risk avoidance, emotionalism, punctuality, ethnic differences, and formality could influence product acceptance, viewer habits, and workplace friction. The world of social media, in particular, contains significant potential risks for brand and reputation management. Unresolved cultural differences can lead to losses in efficiency, negotiations, and productivity when management strategy fails to account for cultural sensitivities in foreign contexts.

Assessing economic, health and political risks are also key to understanding the dynamics of foreign markets and operations. Economic factors such as exchange rate instability or currency inconvertibility, tax policy, government debt burden, interference by domestic politics and labor union strikes can influence the success of foreign operations. Extreme climate, biohazards, pollution and traffic dangers can threaten not only operations, but personnel as well.

Political risks from the violence of war or civil disturbances such as revolutions, insurrections, coup d’états, and terrorism should be assessed as well as corruption and kidnapping. Regulatory changes by host countries can influence media operations such as Russia’s recent requirement to store all data on Russian citizens within the country. Copyright and other intellectual property infringements are of particular concern to cultural and media industries.

Global knowledge often involves understanding how digital media and ICT can contribute to national development goals. Sustainable development objectives regarding education, health, sanitation, as well as energy and food production involving digital media have become high priorities in many countries. Knowing how indigenous and local communities can use these technologies for their specific goals and how performers and cultural practices can protect their intellectual property are high priorities. Gender justice and the empowerment women often rely on media to enhance social mobility and viability. Local governance involving infrastructure planning, social change, ethnic harmony may also involve technological components.

Digital services operating globally face trade-offs between projecting standardized features and customizing for local concerns. The latter involves cultural and emotional sensitivities as well as the ability to apply rational analysis to assess dangers to property, operational performance and most importantly, the people involved in foreign operations.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea. Before joining SUNY, he taught at Hannam University in South Korea and from 2002-2012 was on the faculty of New York University. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, Marist College in New York, and Victoria University in New Zealand. He has also spent time as a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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