Moral Economy of Digital Media Technologies: A Comparative Study of Ghanaian and the US Media Industries

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
205 South Hall (South Hall)
Elizabeth N Appiah, Pentecost University College, Accra, Ghana
Daniel Nkrumah, Pentecost University College, Accra, Ghana
Moral economy of digital media technologies

A comparative study of Ghanaian and the US media industries

Key Words: Moral Economy, Digital Media Technologies

* Dr. Elizabeth Appiah & Dr. Daniel Nkrumah

Growth of digital technologies has had various implications on mass media growth and influence. From an era of high mass media influence of traditional media channels such as newspaper, television and radio, new media have today revolutionized the ways in which the information is disseminated and received. 

An era of new media bliss has spurred technologies such as the Internet, World Wide Web, social media, news blogs, internet newspapers, internet TV and Radio. While the same media technologies have been adopted in low, middle and high income economies with differing economic cultures and norms, there is the assumption that their impact in terms of the economics of the media are likely to reflect the variations in economic cultures and norms in the various jurisdictions.

This study presents a comparative analysis of how modern media technologies may have some influence on developing and developed economies within the context of the moral economy of digital media technology.  The study acknowledges that technology deficit between different countries studied may serve to present gulfs in the expressed media economics of the countries, but it still carefully negotiates this and rather seeks to firmly establish whether different economic cultures and norms influence mass media industry both in the perspectives of traditional and new media.

The objectives of the study are in threefold.  First it is to establish how contemporary digital technology inspired media economics in the countries studied reflect the countries’ prevailing or underlying economic models or philosophies.  Second, we discuss the differing ways in which digital technology in the countries studied reflect different expressions or levels of ‘digital moral economy’.  Finally, it identifies if there are any new theoretical approaches to conceptualising the relationship between moral economy of digital media technology and contemporary media economics.  It will also seek to analyse consumerism trends of traditional and new media consumers, patrons or users and how consumerism habits are peculiar to different digital economies studied. In this regard, it would analyse already existing documents and data that relate to the study. 

This is a qualitative study and will address the topic from both a theoretical perspective and analysis of relevant data and documents. We will employ secondary data to do the analyses. The study will be situated in two jurisdictions; Ghana and the United States of America; two countries that reflect different economic and technology outlooks and growth levels.  In a theoretical sense it will seek to explore the theoretical foundations of mass media growth and influence of new media in the countries studied within the context of their economic cultures/philosophy, history and trajectories. We then discuss how culture and norms may influence digital technology, which can ultimately impact development of contemporary media technologies as a positive externality of media economics, and analyse existing evidence.

Our findings reveal that while current media technology advances and adoption have had positive impacts on media economics on social welfare, development outcomes and labor market efficiency in many advanced countries, there is somewhat limited evidence in many developing countries including Ghana.  In addition, advances in digital technology alone cannot serve as the “quick fit” for development of media economics in Ghana and many developing economies. Thus, careful impact evaluations of media technology on contemporary media economics are required to better understand their impacts on media economic growth in Ghana.  Since media technology is not considered as a public good, the data indicate that many Ghanaians lack knowledge of the benefits of media technology, hence weakens their effective patronizing of media technology.  Furthermore, unlike the United States, the culture of Ghana is such that it comparatively down plays the importance of the media.  A plausible reason for this may be lack of universal formal education and access to modern media technology.  Ghana has not attained universal secondary education and many of the secondary school and university graduates do not access information through the media apart from the social media.

The data also indicate that the existing norms in Ghana limit Ghanaians from taking advantage of the full benefits and uses of contemporary media technology that has the potential for development of media economics. A typical example is during elections.  Many Ghanaians vote for a presidential candidate not because of what the candidate stands for on policy issues, but based on their ethnicity or tribe.  This defeats the importance of democracy.  Other developmental goals that are not realized as a result of culture and norms are spurring population growth, which puts enormous pressure on government resources for development.  Therefore, to realize the full benefits of digital media technology, the media technology must work in partnership with other public good provision and investment.

* Dr. Elizabeth Appiah is the Head of Department of Economics Marketing and Services at the Faculty of Business Administration, Pentecost University College. Dr. Daniel Nkrumah is a lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies, Pentecost University College.