Simon Fowler's Blog

rLiving Day 8: UK/US ‘Special Relationship’ (Continuity/Multiplexity)

Posted by Simon on May 7, 2010

You’d never know it – if you live in the US – but there was a general election in the UK yesterday, that resulted in a hung parliament. The last election was four years ago and the last hung parliament was in 1974. There was very little US media coverage of the election, so most Americans probably have little idea about it.


Image: screenscrape using Jing from news.bbc.co.uk

The US election, which seems to go on for four years even though it’s only held every four years, is covered by the British media head to foot.

Relational Proximity Dimension #3 is Multiplexity: a relation between two countries is better and healthier if they interact in two or three different contexts rather than just one. This is, essentially, about knowledge of the Other.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

With respect to ‘knowledge’; the media is one way the US and UK ‘interact’, get to know each other as nations. So you can see from the example of election coverage that there’s a huge imbalance, not to mention deficit and distortion, of information and understanding between the two countries. Unless an American and Brit meet, or travel to one another’s country, the media is the only way the countries will build an understanding of each other as a people. The news media (let’s be specific here) is just one ‘context’. We need more (type, quantity & quality) if we’re going to have a better relationship.

With respect to continuity; a relationship anticipates a future, and a shared future (Dimension #5, Purpose). A relationship cannot rest solely on its past, shared history. It has a timeline but that timeline has to extend forward if it’s to be considered a relationship. The election coverage doesn’t reveal this, but I don’t get any sense of forward thinking between the countries.

Little knowledge, and little future planning. Doesn’t sound very special to me.

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