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Comunicar Journal 40: Interactive Youth (Vol. 20 - 2013)

Cultural diversity across the networks: The case of national cinema


Margarita Ledo-Andión

Enrique Castelló-Mayo


The research «Cinema, Diversity and Networks» tries to isolate the principal stimuli or reticences in the consumption of products generated by small cinematographies, analyzing the particular case of the diffusion through the digital interactive networks of cinematographic contents produced in Galicia. It is a multicentral investigation with the collaboration of the universities of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay – the countries with a significant migratory Galician presence, with special focus on the university groups of reception for their special predisposition to the media intercultural consumption. Our work addresses a statistical determination of the social-demographic and axiologic profile as well as the habits of consumption of the participant groups as an introduction to the confrontation with some representative films produced in Galicia between 2003 and 2008 in order to establish the influence of certain thematic, formal and linguistic variables in the acceptance or objection to certain messages. The study can be identified with the models of basic and applied investigation: basic, for its analysis of the cultural determinant indicators of the cinematographic consumption in communities, which although geographically dispersed preserve their identity elements such as the language; and applied, as our investigation provides a transfer of knowledge to their technological partners in addition to the opening of unexplored niches of transnational consumption through the potential that the digital networks offer nowadays.


Cinema, university context, digital exclusion, globalization, cultural identity, migration, digital networks

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1. Introduction and state of the art review

UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Linguistic Rights, adopted in Barcelona in June 1996, warned about the enduring communicative exclusion suffered by those geo-linguistic communities traditionally obliterated by global cultural flows.

Just over a decade later, this exclusion had worsened due to the exponential increases in migratory flows –with their inexorable cultural crossbreeding– and the unstoppable irradiation of those developed cultural industries which, taking advantage of the digital divide, amplified and diversified their dissemination and consumption models. As an attempt to reverse this trend, UNESCO proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages and organised a variety of international events to celebrate cultural diversity, which was supported by such initiatives as the Plural+ Youth Video Festival organised by the UNAOC (Aguaded, 2011: 7).

For its part, the European Union (EU) has developed joint actions with other cinematographies since 2000 (Montero & Moreno, 2007), whose policy implementation culminated in December 2007 with the creation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). In addition, the EU has intensified its support for national cinemas through its MEDIA programme.

In this regard, we agree with the definition of «national cinema» given by Vitali and Willemen (2006), who describe it as an industry and as a set of cultural strategies that do not exclude the recognition of national cultures as plural, heterogeneous and diverse. This view is shared by Hjort and Petrie (2007) in relation to the cinematography produced by small nations –of which Denmark, Wales and Scotland, in Europe, and Taiwan and Hong Kong, in Asia, constitute paradigmatic examples–, which consider the overseas promotion of their film productions as a cultural priority. However, making this type of idiosyncratic content globally available requires both the neutralisation of the factors that condition its circulation as well as an intensive exploitation of the global networks.

And precisely, this reflection, applied to the dissemination of Galician cinema in different Latin American countries, constitutes the central theme of the research presented here: «Cinema, Diversity and Networks». This study of the circulation potential of national cinema involves research traditions that cover the studies of the British Film Institute (Crofts, 2006) to the Canadian/Québécois studies (Lizarraga, 2007) that address the particularities that make certain types of cinema an unequivocal manifestation of cultural identity. These particularities include: the use of a particular language; the depiction of certain common spaces and the reiteration of certain themes as a reflection of the national history; the presence of cultural, ethnic or religious traditions; the depiction of the producing nation’s social organisation; and the uniqueness of the conflicts faced by the society in question.

This refined definition would be related to the sociological theory of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of «Habitus» (2005), which indicates that society formulates its definitions about reality from a media perspective; the consequences that, according to Marzal (2003), the «digital migration» would have for the Hollywood film industry and independent film industry; and the fears of Gozálvez (2011) about the effects that the possible reductive perception of citizens as digital consumers would have on the proper functioning of the democratic order. Similarly, with regards to the impact of the increasing communicative globalisation on those communities that have lower demographic, linguistic or political weight, it is necessary to mention the main contributions of Tristan Mattelart (2009), Sinclair and Cunningham (2000), Armand Mattelart (2006) and García Canclini (2004).

Thus, this new research study conducted by the Audiovisual Studies Group (GEA according to its initials in Galician language) of the University of Santiago de Compostela, accepts the challenge, previously promoted by UNESCO and the EU, through the study of one of the most interesting manifestations of cultural diversity: the production and dissemination of minority cinematographies. To be precise, our study focuses on the analysis of the Galicia film production and its dissemination among the Galician diaspora in Latin America –and particularly its university community–, which are subject matters that have never before been analysed from the perspectives proposed in this study.

The study of reception in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil is justified because these countries host Galician migrant communities which, due to their demographic weight or their preservation of active identitary features, constitute referential universes of great interest for our study.

Moreover, the selection of university students to form the reception groups is based on their active intercultural consumption. Meanwhile, the choice of Galicia and its Latin American projection as objects of study is justified by the identitary uniqueness of this autonomous community which is part of two very diverse geo-linguistic areas: the Lusophone sphere and the Hispanosphere. In this sense, we cannot ignore the implications of Anderson’s concept of «imagined communities» (1983: 7) with regards to its conceptualisation of the origin of the collective identity in the acceptance of certain messages and symbolic rituals by its members.

In summary, the complexity of the object of study demands a series of objectives that concern diverse areas such as anthropology, economics, culture, and technology, and that could be summarised in the following points:

1) To analyse the reception and consumption of Galician film productions, and in particular to identify the sociocultural barriers that, in a manifest or latent way, affect their circulation through interactive digital networks, based on criteria such as linguistic understanding and the identification of a series of sociocultural elements, in order to formulate a series of recommendations to increase the circulation of Galician audiovisual productions.

2) As evidence of the interest generated by cultural diversity, another objective of the study «Cinema, Diversity and Networks» is to better understand language preferences in film consumption, i.e. to determine which percentages of viewers prefer to watch the original, dubbed, or subtitled versions of a film.

3) This research also aims to combine the polysemy of the concept of «network» in a double sense: on the one hand, as a community that works at the distance through differentiated nuclei and, on the other, as technological network that organises geographically distant groups, among which the dissemination of certain content would contribute to the creation or strengthening of certain identity values.

4) To contribute to future research works that are based on comparative reception studies between different countries, by determining the technological, social, and cultural relevance of the communication networks existing in the migrant diasporas, and by identifying those identity markers preserved by the geographically dispersed communities, in the sense proposed by León (2009).

5) To explore new niche markets for Galicia digital cinema, and by extension for the Spanish cinema, in Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries. Moved by the university mission of transferring knowledge to society, our objective is to offer our research results, which are useful for the development of future projects of cinematographic co-production and intercultural communication, to those public and private bodies that are engaged in the dissemination of Galician culture and, particularly, to the technological partners of this research project1.

2. Material and methods

As the following flow chart shows, our main challenge with regards to the methods to undertake our research was the synergistic combination of up to four types of data extraction and management: data from the universe of reference (divided in turn into sociodemographic profile and consumption habits), data from the reception of the audiovisual samples by the surveyed population, and data from the online discussion forums with our universe of reference.

The main methodological contribution of our study lies precisely to its original online instrument, designed ad hoc, based on a Web Content Management System called CMS Orchestra, developed by Imaxin Software. This program supports the online platform for the survey, the discussion forums, and the samples of analysis, as well as the extraction of the resulting data and the interactivity between the participating groups and the matrix group: hence the bi-directional vectors included in the previous figure.

As shown in the previous flow chart, the Orchestra software was complemented with the PASW (Predictive Analytics SoftWare) Statistics 19, for its proven capacity to support multiple collaborations in a single platform. As it can be easily inferred, the complexity of the involved sampling elements demanded enormous predictive potential in data management and systematic analysis, as well as some ability to produce reports and prevent errors or missing values.

In any case, our priority in the design of this online tool aimed to make its management almost intuitive to respond to the diversity of ICTs competences of our reception groups. In this sense, the testing of beta versions of this tool on a representative sample of respondents contributed to its conceptual, ergonomic or procedural optimisation. Moreover, the coordinators of each reception group were trained face-to-face by members of the GEA research group who visited them in their respective cities. For a better understanding of our methodological design, the following three sections describe the different phases of the multistage sampling –survey, film-watching sessions, and discussion forums–, while the fourth section describes the profile of the surveyed population.

2.1. The survey

The access to the online survey was restricted to users provided with password-protected accounts. After identification in the login page (shown in the following figure), users had to respond to a group of 16 questions –of which 13 were closed questions, 1 open question, and 2 were mixed questions– that investigated their user profile. The second block of questions investigated consumer habits and consisted of 27 questions, of which 19 were closed and 8 mixed2.

2.2. Viewing of the sample of films

This type of analysis was chosen to avoid typical risks such as the obsession with empirical information and context and the return of biographism, which have been rightly pointed out by Zunzunegui (2007: 51-58). Thus, the type of study proposed to participating groups is part of the content analysis tradition, which has been reviewed by Krippendorf (2004), who elaborated on the impact of audiovisual narratives in intercultural relations in educational contexts (Bautista, 2009) and anticipated identity prejudices present in literature or cinema (Rodríguez, 2011).

With regards to the cinematographic body of analysis, we selected eight Galician films produced from 2003 to 2008, with the aim of establishing the influence of certain thematic, formal and linguistic variables in the assimilation and acceptance of certain contents. In order to streamline the screening and analysis by our reception universe, we limited the length of the film samples to a maximum of fifteen minutes, and selected those that had the largest number of representative items for our research.

2.3. Discussion forums

From its initial online conception, «Cinema, Diversity and Networks» aimed to create a space for virtual dialogue between the participating groups and the matrix group. From this perspective, the successive discussion forums that we enabled served two needs: the information of conceptual, ergonomic or procedural incidents by users and the exchange of opinions about the key questions raised in this research.

Although most of the consultations initially had procedural purposes, like the confirmation of entry data and filling of forms, they gradually led to the emergence of some discussions that exceeded the initial previsions of the GEA research group. For example, with regards to cultural identity, one of the main aspects of the study, there was an intense debate around the sociodemographic and cultural elements which, despite of being absent from the proposed body of analysis, could also be considered defining features of the Galician community3.

Finally, the analysis of the participation in discussion forums, according to the origin of the group, revealed that those users belonging to the migrant communities favoured the use of forums because they allowed greater freedom to express feelings and emotions, while the users belonging to university centres were more inclined to the quantitative methodology of the questionnaires.

2.4. The surveyed population

From the outset, our study was articulated around two different universes of reception: groups composed of members of the various communities of Galician migrants belonging to different generations and groups with no contact with the Galician culture. In both cases, the research was carried out telematically, thus fulfilling one of the main requirements of the research programme.

For its part, the definition of the population of analysis was complicated by the data extraction model proposed by the GEA research group, by the technological training needed to use this ICTs tool, and by the apparent heterogeneity of the transnational and transcontinental cultural and human environment, despite these difficulties were anticipated since the conception of the study.

As noted above, this study, «Cinema, Diversity and Networks», was articulated through a network of reception groups residing in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The reception groups were selected with the rigour needed to transform a convenience sample into a strategic sample. That is why we investigated participants’ education, age, gender, sociodemographic features and degree of proximity to the Galician culture. In addition, the reception groups, which were constituted with a minimum of 10 members and a maximum of 20, were articulated based on two interest groups (A and B) and one contrast group (C).

The dominant profile in our general reception sample –integrated by 79 valid respondents from a population sample that initially exceeded 100 people4– was female (65.8%), aged between 25-34 years (29.1%), located in urban centres –whose population ranged from 0.5 to 2 million inhabitants (31.6%) and from 2 to 5 million inhabitants (31.6%)–, university educated (78.48%) –40.51% had undergraduate studies, 37.97% postgraduate studies, and 21.52% were high school students–, and self-identified themselves as middle-middle class (65.8%) and low-middle class (24.1%).

3. Analysis and results

Before showing the reception groups the film samples, we deemed necessary to establish the initial profile –axiological, of cultural proximity, and consumption habits– to achieve a better understanding of the potential barriers and motivations.

3.1. Axiological features and proximity to the Galician culture

In order to establish the appropriate recommendations about the implementation or obliteration of certain axiological values in those contents suitable for transnational circulation, we investigated which were the most important social values for respondents. In this regard, the most important values were: «Justice», «Human rights», «Peace», «Identity», «Collective rights», «Individual rights, «Tolerance», «Democracy», «Solidarity», «Respect for the environment», and «Religion». On the other hand, the most pressing issues for respondents were, in order of importance: the «Educational System», «Health Care», «Violence», «Environmental Degradation», «Economic Crisis», «Unemployment», «Energy Depletion», «Crime», «Immigration», and «Terrorism».

The next block of questions in our questionnaire investigated the family, tourist and cultural proximity of respondents to Galicia. In this regard, more than half of the respondents (54.8%) did not have relatives in Galicia; while 9.6% had first-degree relatives; 24.7% had second-degree relatives; and 8.2% had third-degree relatives. In addition, when asked whether they had visited Galicia, 65% of respondents stated they had never done so; 22.8% stated they had done so between 1 and 5 times; 2.5% stated they had done so between 6 and 10 times; and 8.9% stated they had done so periodically. When respondents were asked whether they were members of any association of Galician emigrants, only 25.3% responded affirmatively.

Finally, despite the fact that the information provided by respondents up to this point indicated that the majority of them were disconnected from Galicia, the resulting data on the degree of contact with the Galician language was surprising as 49.4% of the sample had had «contact» with this language.

3.2. Consumption habits

The first fact about consumption habits is that the Internet is the most consumed medium (50.6%), followed by Books (16.9%), Cinema (13%), Press (10.4%), Television (9.1%), Radio (9.1%) and Video/DVD (7.8%). This list reinforces the focus of our study in audiovisual media.

As mentioned above, one of the main objectives of this study was to quantify respondents’ attitude towards the dubbed or subtitled versions of the films. In this regard, 92.2% preferred the original version, with or without subtitles.

Concerning film preferences, respondents were asked to list four recent films of their interest and to specify the media or platforms used to watch these films. The results provided a list of 305 titles with a remarkable plurality of themes, formats and national origins. The list of films included5: «Black Swan», «The King’s Speech», «El secreto de sus ojos», «Un cuento chino», «El hombre de al lado», «Invictus», «You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger», «Copie conforme» and «Pan’s Labyrinth». The unquestionable preferred medium for consumption was the movie theatre (52.8%), followed by DVD (19.4%), computer (downloaded video) (11.1%), computer (streaming video) (8.3%), and television (4.2%).

Respondents identified a total of 79 Galician films, including «A Lingua das bolboretas», «O lapis do carpinteiro», «Mar adentro», «O bosque animado», «Trece badaladas», «Pradolongo», «A rosa de pedra», «Castelão e os irmáns da liberdade», and «Os luns ao sol». Once again, the movie theatre was the preferred medium for consumption, followed by DVD devices and computers (downloaded and streaming video).

With regards to participants’ knowledge about the leading international film professionals, they mentioned a total of 214 professionals, including: Woody Allen, Juan José Campanella, Ricardo Darín, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodóvar, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, Natalie Portman, and Álex de la Iglesia. This list is mostly composed by directors (62.8%) and actors (30.7%). Respondents showed a similar preference towards actors and directors when mentioning Galician film professionals. A total of 57 Galician professionals were mentioned, of which the majority were Actors (54.2%) and Directors (34.7%): Luis Tosar –with a high degree of notoriety (24.6%)–, Antón Reixa, Margarita Ledo, Carlos Piñeiro, Juan Pinzás, Manuel Rivas, Andrés Pazos, Antonio Durán «Morris», Carlos Núñez and Chano Piñeiro.

When questioned whether they perceived a numerical dominance of males or females in the group of protagonists of the audiovisual media culture, 47.4% of respondents believed males were more predominant than females, while only 1.3% believed that the opposite was the case. Respondents were also asked which age group they consider to be more predominant in the group of protagonists of the audiovisual media culture. In this regard, 36.8% believed that this group was dominated by 31 to 40 year-olds, followed, in decreasing order, by older age groups.

In terms of television consumption, more than half of our respondents (52%) indicated that their average daily consumption ranged from 2 to 3 hours6. Meanwhile, the most common daily average radio consumption (48.1%) ranged from 0 to 1 hour. The average daily time dedicated to reading by respondents ranged from 2 to 4 hours, while their preferred platforms for reading were paper (for 72.9%), computer-screens (with online text) (25.4%) and e-books (1.1%).

98.7% of respondents revealed themselves as experienced Internet users, since they indicated that their house was their preferred space to get connected to the Internet (83.1%) and showed a preferential commitment to the use of email, online searches, social networks, instant messaging, and the consumption of downloaded and streaming audiovisual content, the creation of online professional profiles, the consumption of online radio, and the participation in forums. Likewise, respondents identified themselves as active users of download networks –of which the most mentioned were: Ares (29.9%) and Skype (27.3%)– and social networks –of which the most popular were Facebook (58.6%), Twitter (17.2%), LinkedIn (7.1%) and Last.fm (5.1%). The main motivation to use the social networks was friendship development, for 55.7% of the sample, followed by the knowledge of other cultures (for 7.2% of respondents). In this sense, there is another illustrative figure about the strong intercultural appetite of our respondents: 83.1% of them visit websites of other countries in their original language, without the support of online translators, being cinema the most demanded intercultural content.

The last item about consumption habits asked respondents to assess (as indispensable, useful, unhelpful or non-essential) the role of the production and distribution of audiovisual content on the identity configuration of a given culture. The results are: 63.2% considered the role to be indispensable, 36.8% useful, and nobody considered it to be unhelpful or non-essential.

3.3. Viewing of audiovisual samples

For the viewing of the film samples respondents chose the following language versions: Galician with Spanish subtitles (58.2%), Galician with Galician subtitles (14.1%), Galician without subtitles (12.9%), Spanish without subtitles (6.4%), Spanish with Galician subtitles (4.1%), and Spanish with Spanish subtitles (3.9%). Meanwhile, the degree of linguistic understanding stood between 80% and 90% among those participants who chose to watch the Galician versions without subtitles. The number of central themes detected in the film samples exceeded 1,600 entries in the open question, which demanded an intense semantic and orthographic homogenisation: «Migration», «Family», «Love», «Identity», «Education», «Nostalgia», «Work», «Strike», «Schizophrenia», «Solidarity», «Memory», «Disease», «Roots», etc.

Respondents placed their degree of familiarity with the cultural context reflected in the film samples close to 100%, and also identified numerous themes that define the Galician culture: «Traditions», «History», «Social conflicts», «Migration», «Art and architecture», «Language», «Music», «Religion», «Rural environment», etc.

For the purposes of assessing the influence of the formal variables in the assimilation and acceptance of the film samples, respondents were asked to rank (with a 0-5 scale) the quality of the different aspects involved in the production of the sampled films. Taking 4 and 5 scores as excellent evaluations, the best-ranked production aspect was the «Script» (by 75% of respondents), followed, in decreasing order, by «Photography», «Production», «Art Director», «Editing and Postproduction», and «Sound and Music».

4. Discussion and conclusions

The dissemination of the cinematographic works produced by minority cultural industries requires the establishment of alternative exchange flows capable of enabling, through an intensive exploitation of interactive digital networks, a constant contact with those communities that are connected by certain identitary features and other cultural industries which, with a markedly different perspective, act outside the media markets with unifying objectives.

In this sense, we must stress that the main barriers identified in our research were not linguistic, thematic or axiological, but technological and accessibility-related, which resulted from the insurmountable bandwidths imbalances –which forced us to hire local providers– involved in the ICTs training of users and the access to identitary cinema circuits. As a result, our main recommendation for public institutions is to minimise the digital divide through the provision of technological infrastructures and the promotion of digital literacy. It is paradoxical that Latin America is experiencing the greatest increases in Internet users, social networks and online content consumption, despite of being one of the regions with the lowest level of implementation of broadband networks per population density (ComScore, 2011).

The recognition of the original versions as differential element, the depiction of those places that identify a territory, and the use of the themes that define each community, their history and conflicts, are included among our basic recommendations to achieve a better acceptance of national identity cinema. These recommendations are applicable not only to those communities that share common codes, but to any foreign community.

We identified as a clear sign of the appetite for diversity the fact that all of the participants requested to watch the complete cinematographic work in those cases in which only a fragment had been offered for viewing. We should also warn about the age and gender inequality that persists among the most relevant media protagonists, decades after the Annenberg School of Communications (Gerbner, 1980) warned about the growing media protagonism of middle and upper class young white males with liberal positions of social success, proportionally accompanied by the media victimisation of women, children and ethnic minorities: a biased representation that does not reflect the current sociodemographic reality.

The research also confirmed the benefits provided by the identitary cultural repertoires, as assets for the configuration of globalisation, through the advancing of the knowledge of the film industry as a driving force behind cultural diversity and digital literacy. In this regard, the answers to the question about the role of audiovisual works on identity configuration confirmed our hypothesis since the items «Non-essential» and «Unhelpful» were never used to assess this role, while most respondents assess the role of audiovisual works as «Indispensable» and «Useful».

The methodological achievements of our research include the consolidation of an operational extranet for academic multi-centre cooperation, which can be easily transferable to any study leading to the elimination of barriers in the transnational circulation of culture and, and once registered, will be made available to the international research community.

The best evidence of the transfer of strategic knowledge to our technology partners is the creation of the «Mar Maior» project: a new firm oriented to the editing and marketing of, primarily audiovisual, cultural products and will begin its operation in Argentina in 2013, with the participation of the Galician Centre of Buenos Aires and the Galaxia Editorial Group.

We are also aware that the main limitation of our study to be able to universalise its results lies in its number of respondents and participating countries. In fact, the logistics and financing problems inherent to transnational studies, in addition to the exhaustivity of the data to be obtained, limited the geographic scope of our study and its focus into a specific target.

However, these limitations do not prevent us from considering our research as a pioneer in its field, and to long for successive studies that advance and expand what we see as an operating model of reference for the analysis of the relations between small cinematographies, diversity policies and new modes of cultural consumption. This model is part of the chain of previous and upcoming efforts made by an international research community committed to the circulation of identitary cultural productions that become assets for the construction of diversity and the culture of peace.

Funding and acknowledgements

Funding and acknowledgements

1 This research has been financed via competitive bidding by the National R&D Plan of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (CS02009-13702).

2 In addition to the authors of this article, the research team is formed by: Dr. Antía López, Dr. Marta Pérez, Dr. Ana-Isabel Rodríguez, Dr. Xosé Soengas, Dr. Amanda Alencar, Xan Gomez (B.A.), Silvia Roca (B.A.), María Salgueiro (B.A.) and Dr. Francisco Campos (collaborator). Finally we would like to thank the international coordinators of the reception groups for their invaluable participation.


1 Bren Entertainment (Filmax Animation Group), Cinemar Films, Compañía de Radiotelevisión de Galicia (Public Broadcasting Company of Galicia), Imaxin|Software and Merlin Communications (Galaxia Editorial Group).

2 In order to avoid redundancies, see section 3 for a breakdown of the survey through its results.

3 Without a doubt this debate generated the strongest interests and emotions, especially among second and third generation emigrants, as shown by the following comment: «For me this sample is very representative of the Galician culture, although I cannot speak much about this matter because my family tried to forget it, in order to blend, or to avoid suffering, I don’t know; now I am trying to experience this culture, which is also mine».

4 The category of «valid respondent» was given only to those participants who answered the whole survey and watched the whole sample of films, in addition to actively and regularly participating in discussion forums.

5 Given the large number and variety of quotes provided by users, on this occasion and thereafter we will only refer to a concise selection of them, ranked according to their frequency of mention.

6 In light of Gerbner’s postulates (1982), which equate the intensity of the «cultivation effect» with exposure to television, it is important to mention that people who watch television an average of two hours per day are identified as «light viewers», while those who watch between 2 and 4 hours per day are identified as «heavy viewers».


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