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Lecture 5

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SOCI 2001

Sociology 1002-A th February 7 , 2012 Christian Caron Mass Media Agenda: • Everyday Life and Neo-Tribes • Mass Media Defined and Studied • Media Bias • Mass Media Effects and Audience • Mass Media, The News, and Web 2.0 • Mass Media and Power • Midterm Discussion • Optional Homework Everyday Life • Most of us see ourselves as self-determined, that is, autonomous beings that have both the ability and capability of acting according to the ends we seek. • Ex. We make trivial decisions such as ‘what will I eat?’ as well as bigger decisions such as ‘where will I obtain my degree and what will it be?’ • Yet, our environments influence us. We are the product of the interaction between ourselves, others and the environments we inhabit. • We’ve talked about “the social” and its enabling and constraining influence. - Massive institutions such as education and technology, or gender, race and sexuality. • Print, television, radio and background music in supermarkets. - In the background music of supermarkets, nothing is left to chance. It is specially picked out to put you in a more satisfied mood, causing you to be more patient and be in a better mood. Mass Media – Identity • Mass Media tied to Identity: As consumers we wear certain clothes, practice certain activities, listen to certain music, watch particular programs and use specific technologies that form part of our identities. Authors call these consumer groups ‘neo- tribes'. • Unlike traditional tribes from distant land, these consumer-oriented ‘neo-tribes’ have no councils of elders or boards or admission committees to decide who has the right to be in and who ought to be kept out. • ‘Neo-tribes’ are everywhere. Mass Media – Neo-Tribes • They employ no gatekeepers and no border guards. • They have no institution of authority and no Supreme Court which may pronounce on the correctness of members' behaviour. • In short, the form of control is dissimilar and they do not undertake to monitor degrees of conformity at a collective level. • Thus, it seems that one can wander freely from one neo-tribe to another by changing one's dress, refurbishing one's apartment and spending one's free time at different places. • If neo-tribes do not guard entry in a formal manner, the market does. • Neo-tribes are, in essence, lifestyles and these relate to styles of consumption. Access to consumption leads through the market and to acts of purchasing commodities. • Essentially, anyone can enter a store, however not everyone can walk out with a purchase. Marketing and advertisements make it seem like products are accessible to everyone because they are broadcasted to everyone. Not everyone can afford the products being advertised however. • Styles that can be put together without spending a lot of money may be looked down on, deprived of glamour and prestige, disdained, considered unattractive and even degrading. • Often if a young girl or boy is wearing something that is seen as unattractive or not ‘cool’, people automatically link that to their status and come to the conclusion that they are just not as cool as other people. They do not stop to think that maybe that is all they can afford, or the best they can do. • Some lifestyles and tastes are given a higher rank than others. • Indeed, wearing the wrong type of training shoe has been linked to bullying in school playgrounds. • What, therefore, of those who lack the means to exercise the choices that are apparently open to all? They cannot afford to be choosy and their acts of consumption are thereby limited. • The silence surrounding those who find themselves in conditions of poverty in a consumer-oriented society becomes deafening. • The apparent availability of a wide and growing range of neo-tribes, each sporting a different lifestyle, has a powerful yet ambiguous effect on our lives. • We are apparently free to move from one personal quality to another, choose what we want to be and what we want to make of ourselves. • No force seems to hold us back and no dream seems to be improper in that it is at odds with either our existing or potential social position. • This feels like liberation from constraint: an exhilarating experience in which everything, in principle, is within our reach and no condition is final and irrevocable. Mass Media - When is it enough? • At what point can we say 'We have arrived, achieved all we wanted and so can now relax and take it easy'? Just when this may be possible, a new attraction can appear. • Consumerism is the process of continuously having new needs and wants. New styles, new ways to wear things etc. • The result of this freedom to choose in pursuit of the unattainable appears to be condemned to remain forever in a state of relative deprivation because there are always ever-new temptations and their apparent accessibility. • Relative deprivation is the feeling of always wanting something else, or just a little bit more. Myth of Accessibility • The market, through the mass media, implies an equality of consumers in terms of their capacity freely to determine their social standing. In the light of such assumed equality, the failure to obtain goods that others enjoy is bound to create feelings of frustration and resentment. • Lack of accessibility gets interpreted as an individual failing instead of just simply not having the money. Limited Access to Certain Neo-Tribes • This failure seems unavoidable. The genuine accessibility of the alternative lifestyles is determined by the prospective practitioners' ability to pay. • Quite simply, some people have more money than others and thus more practical freedom of choice. In particular, those with the largest amount of money, who possess the true passports to the wonders of the market, can afford the most lauded, coveted and hence most prestigious and admired styles. Myth of Equality • At the end of the day, it transpires that with all the alleged freedom of consumer choice, the marketed lifestyles are not distributed evenly or randomly; they tend to concentrate in a particular part of society and acquire the role of a sign of social standing. • Therefore, lifestyles tend to become class-specific. The fact that they are assembled from items that are all available in shops does not make them vehicles of equality. Summary • Our identities are being transformed in various ways not only through the introduction of new technologies, but also through the increasing role that markets play in our everyday lives. • The market plays this role mainly through the institution of the mass media. It is to the characteristic of this mass media that we now turn our attention to. Mass Media Defined • The term mass media refers to print, radio, television, and other computer-mediated communication technologies. • “Mass” implies the media reach many people. • “Media” signifies communication does not take place directly through face-to-face interaction but rather technology intervenes or mediates in transmitting messages from senders to receivers (media is plural of medium). • Communication via mass media is usually one-way, or at least one-sided (although internet and social media are an example of two-way communication). The Rise of the Mass Media • Most of mass media are recent inventions. The first developed systems of writing appeared only about 5500 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia. • Print media became truly mass phenomenon only in 19 century and daily newspaper first appeared in United States in 1830s. It was the dominant mass medium even as late as 1950. • Most electronic media are creatures of 20th century: - Rerunner of Internet established in 1969. - World Wide Web established around 1991. - Facebook, YouTube, Twitter founded since 2004. Theoretical Perspectives • Technological perspective: Focuses on the technological influence of various mediums, such as Print vs. television vs. CMC. - “The medium is the message” - “Global village” McLuhan • Critical Perspective: Focuses on relationship between media and inequality (dominant ideology) and between media and social conflict (hegemony). • Hegemony: How things have always been, and how things are. Mass Media as a Social Institution • Mass media performs important functions including the following: 1. Coordinate operation of industrial and postindustrial societies. - This allows for the transfer of information 2. Act as agents of socialization. - “Here is acceptable/unacceptable behaviour in society” 3. Engages in social control by helping ensure conformity. 4. Provides entertainment. Political Economy • Mass media favours interests of dominant classes and political groups. • There are two ways in which dominant classes and political groups benefit disproportionately from mass media: 1. Mass media broadcast beliefs, values, and ideas that create widespread acceptance of basic structure of society, including its injustices and inequalities (dominant ideology and hegemony). 2. Ownership of mass media is highly concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and is highly profitable for them. Media Ownership in Canada • For decades, most of Canadian mass media have been owned by fewer than one-dozen families. • There are just six multimedia giants in Canada, with combined annual revenue of about $16.5 billion in 2007. • About 90% of mass media in Canada are privately owned (media conglomerates). • Over time, concentration of privately-owned media has increased. • Since the 1990s, we have media conglomerates that control production and distribution in many fields. Consequences of Media Concentration • Concentration of mass media in fewer and fewer hands can give rise to the following: 1. It deprives the public of independent sources of information. 2. It limits diversity of opinion. 3. It encourages the public to accept their society as it is. Media Bias • Biasing mechanisms include the following: 1. Fewer sources = Direct and open interference with editorial policy (uncommon though in liberal democracies, such as Canada). 2. Advertising - Fear of losing business may lead news carriers to soften stories that big advertisers might find offensive. 3. Sourcing - Most news agencies rely heavily for information on press releases, news conferences, and interviews organized by large corporations and government agencies.
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