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News Media and New Media: The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook, Episode V

Editor: Madanmohan Rao
Publisher: Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003
Review Published: June 2006

 REVIEW 1: Yu Zhang
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Madanmohan Rao

I would like to thank Professor Yu Zhang for his appreciation of the book News Media and New Media, and David Silver for a great job of hosting and managing this useful forum.

This publication is part of the first series of books to systematically focus on the Internet in the Asia-Pacific, including Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Island nations. "The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook" series constitutes an important part of media scholarship by systematically chronicling new media impacts in the Asia region, and extracting larger issues and trends of interest to media practitioners, academics, civil society, and policymakers. Three books in this series have already been published: Emerging Powerhouses (published in 2002, about Internet infrastructure in Asia); News Media and New Media (published in 2003, about online communications in Asia and among its diaspora -- the book currently reviewed on this site); and Asia Unplugged (published in 2005, about the mobile and wireless ecosystem in Asia).

Asia is a fascinating domain of study for new media both for its sheer size as well as its diversity and innovation. Members of the Asian diaspora have also been avid users of new media, and are among its most voracious consumers of news.

The book has tried to tease apart the vast diversity of media diffusion in Asia, ranging from savvy pioneers such as Japan and South Korea to embryonic user bases in Afghanistan and East Timor. This has complicated and limited the choice of focus countries and themes in the book. I have also tried wherever possible to include contributions from citizens of each Asian country based in their home countries, or expats based in Asia, which has led to a variety of writing styles as Professor Zhang rightly observes.

One of the objectives of AMIC (Asian Media Information and Communication Centre), which partly funded the research for the book, is to build local capacity in media research in Asian countries. While not compromising on quality of publication, this includes roping in local contributors for books and journal articles wherever possible.

Commenting on the currency and relevance of the material in the book, Professor Zhang observes that "much of its contents are quickly out of date due to the rapid development of internet and wireless technology and policies in Asia." However, I would observe that while this is true of any kind of book that provides snapshots of any kind of media diffusion, this book and the others in this series have been written in such a way as to highlight deeper forces and longer-term trends rather than mere diffusion of PCs or online users in Asia.

For instance, four years ago the first book in this series identified media and telecom convergence as a key challenge facing regulators in Asia, which has become even more an issue today thanks to emerging spectrum issues for wireless communications via WiMax and WiFi.

The second book, focusing on news media and released in 2003, identified the Net as an important medium of news dissemination and community formation for Asian diaspora, which has been borne out by online mobilization by Asians worldwide at times of crisis like the tsunami of 2004 and the devastating earthquake that has hit Indonesia this month (May 2006).

The third book, focusing on mobile and wireless communications, identified media industries like music as prime candidates for disruptive effects and new business models, which is now even more amplified by the rise of the iPod and portable MP3 players.

All three books have also focused on cross-media effects, and not just on new media in isolation. Future books in the series are addressing issues such as e-government and civil society online, and will continue to break new ground in Asian communication research. They will each face challenges as Professor Zhang has identified: being accurate and relevant while not becoming out-of-date, and being comprehensive collaborative works while not being too inconsistent in writing style.

Madanmohan Rao

<madan@techsparks.com>

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