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Reviewed by:
  • Communication, Culture and Society in Papua New Guinea: Yu Tok Wanem? edited by Evangelia Papoutsaki, Michael McManus, and Patrick Matbob
  • James Slotta
Communication, Culture and Society in Papua New Guinea: Yu Tok Wanem? edited by Evangelia Papoutsaki, Michael McManus, and Patrick Matbob. Madang, png: Divine Word University Press; Auckland: Pacific Media Centre, 2011. isbn 978-18773149-4-3, xi + 235 pages, maps, tables, photographs, notes, bibliography, index. nz$35.00.

Given the many recent changes in communications technologies and practices throughout the Pacific region and globally, this volume provides a welcome look at the contemporary state of media and communications in Papua New Guinea. From research on “old” media to discussions of the impact of the Internet and mobile telephony, contributors cover a wide [End Page 251] range of topics that yield a clear sense of the significant role of communications in many pressing contemporary issues. The volume follows in the footsteps of previous publications from Divine Word University Press and the Pacific Media Centre, which have presented valuable research by both established and emerging scholars in Papua New Guinea and beyond. Readers with an interest in Papua New Guinea, communications in the Pacific, or media and communications more generally will find insightful analyses of the history and present state of communications in the country and the region.

The editors’ introduction sets a critical and reform-oriented tone that can be seen across the contributions. Cataloging a number of problems that plague Papua New Guinea, from the rising number of hiv infections to the ever-expanding extraction of natural resources, the editors note that the lens of media and communications offers a valuable means through which to examine these problems. Though the litany of problems they catalog will be familiar to readers acquainted with Papua New Guinea, the role that communications play in precipitating, reinforcing, and exacerbating the challenges of contemporary life in the region offers a useful perspective on matters that are too often discussed in purely economic and political terms.

Given the volume’s concern for connecting communications to broader social issues, a number of articles center on the role of media in shaping people’s understanding of some of those issues. Drawing on a variety of research approaches—particularly content analysis of media publications set alongside surveys and focus groups with media consumers and producers—several contributors investigate how the media report on particular social issues and how audiences view these issues and the reporting on them. The topics covered range from family violence (Glenda Popot) to women’s issues (Janet Rowaro) to hiv/aids (Brenda Peter Cangah). The authors explore the relationship between the circulation and consumption of news and particularly how the media’s framing of stories on this subject matter affects the public’s perception of these issues. Other articles focus on mass media representations of people and peoples, including landowners and others around the muchcontested Ramu Nickel Project site in Madang (Joel Hamago), as well as representations of Papua New Guinea itself, as communicated in the media in both Papua New Guinea (Celestine Ove) and Australia (Martha Ginau, Evangelia Papoutsaki, Lee Duffield, and Amanda Watson). Each of these articles brings new and valuable data to bear on the question of how news reports transmitted through “old” media such as newspaper, radio, and television shape audiences’ understanding of the world around them.

Other authors direct their attention to language used in the mass media—a matter of great importance in a nation with a number of national languages and a tremendous diversity of vernaculars. A couple of articles focus in particular on Tok Pisin, the English-based creole spoken in much of the country. Alphonse Aime, Geraldine Vilakiva, Philip Cass, and Papoutsaki offer a history of Tok [End Page 252] Pisin, focusing on the numerous varieties that have emerged over the past century. They give particular attention to the weekly newspaper Wantok, the only newspaper printed in Tok Pisin, and to the variety of Tok Pisin that it promulgates. Henry Yamo looks at the way Tok Pisin is used in hiv/aids awareness campaigns, highlighting the limitations posed by illiteracy, customary and religious propriety, and broadcast modes of distribution in widely disseminating...


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pp. 251-254
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