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MDSA01H3 (310)
Chapter 6

Chapter 6

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Media Studies
Michael Petit

6. CulturalAnalysis • How media texts shape the way we think about the world as cultural, political, and social beings • Culture can be described as the collection of artifacts, practices, and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular historical moment, supported by symbolic systems and directed by ideology • Ideology • Culture is ideological – The cultures we inhabit teach us to see the world in some ways and not in others • Cultures give rise to ideologies and ideologies influence how individual members of the culture see the world ◦ Ex: The majority of cultures in Renaissance Europe did not perceive madness as a problem. It existed as a constant in daily life, a factor as unpreventable and prevalent as death What is it? • Ideology: a system of ideas that unconsciously shapes and constrains both our beliefs and behaviours. ◦ Ideology is the sets of beliefs underlying the customs, habits, and practices common to a given culture. To members of that culture, the beliefs seem obviously true, natural, and universally applicable. They may seem just as obviously arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and false to those who adhere to another ideology. Within any culture, numerous ideologies coexist; some are marginalized, others are hegemonic (i.e. dominant and the cultural norm). ◦ Ideologies may be forcefully imposed or willingly subscribed to. Their component beliefs may be held consciously or unconsciously What does it do? 1. It limits the range of acceptable and even conceivable ideas. 2. It normalizes (e.g., naturalizes) particular sets of social relations. 3. It privileges some interests over others. 4. It interpellates individuals into subjects. (1) Limits • Promotes some perspectives and values while devaluing others • Some ideologies are easy to spot because the interpretations they promote are obviously one- sided ◦ Ex: Republicans and Democrats. Each party functions as a culture with particular artifacts, customs, and attitudes, and each party provides its members with an ideology that limits interpretation and helps those individuals distinguish b/t right and wrong, true and false, good and bad • However, some ideologies define our world in a more unconscious fashion. We enact and support them without realizing it. So ingrained in our minds we fail to see them as ideologies ◦ Ex: Biological sex in today'sAmerican society. We tend to understand the concept of sex according to one of two groups: male and female. In reality though the human form can often display physical characteristics of both sexes ◦ Ex: public restrooms are assigned according to male and female sexes, as are clothing and department stores ▪ India acknowledges a third sex and name it Hijra, so they have a diff ideology there (2) Naturalizes (normalizes) • Ideology often makes social relations and arrangements between people seem normal, and it makes established relationships of power appear to be the natural order of things • The social roles we occupy throughout or lifetime (child, student, employee) inscribe us into relationships of unequal power as a result of ideological value hierarchies • All social relations are inherently relations of power because all social relations exist in a web of ideologies which award power to certain roles ◦ Ex: instructor has power only becauseAmerican cultural ideology often awards authority to highly educated experts in a given field ◦ Ex: The ideology of American capitalism ensures that employers have power over their employees, and this relationship b/t owner and worker seems to be a natural part of everyday life instead of a culturally constructed system (3) Privileges • Ideology privileges some interests over others. In the process of normalizing relations of power, it also informally confirms that the perspectives, qualities, or needs of socially powerful groups are more important or valid than those of socially dominated groups ◦ The capitalist ideological structure ofAmerican business culture is an example: although employees tend to do much of the actual work in a capitalist business, it is the more socially powerful management and owners that reap the most profits generated from the work ◦ Most businesses in America favor managerial styles that emphasize masculine qualities like assertiveness, independence, or competitiveness, a fact that helps men move up thru a company and often creates difficult situations for women seeking a promotion (4) Interpellates • Turns individuals into social subjects. Individuals are actually a collection of different ideological systems fused into one identity through the process of “hailing” ◦ Hailing occurs when individuals recognize and respond to an encountered ideology and allow it to represent them • Ideologies exhibit the range of possible identity expressions, and individuals are a collection of the ideologies to which they consciously or unconsciously ascribe How does it do it? • How do ideologies within a culture become widespread, common, or dominant? Three concepts: Myth, doxa, and hegemony Myth • Asacred story or “type of speech” that reaffirms and reproduces ideology in relation to an object • Myth operates as the “higher” level of meaning of a particular object. ◦ Ex:All objects relay a basic meaning. Super Mario bros literally means “a video game named Super Mario Bros.” However, most objects also relay larger, culturally connotative meanings: the realm of myth ▪ Ex: In addition to signifying “video game,” Super Mario Bros also relates a classic story of a hero undertaking a voyage to rescue princess from villain. ▪ In this way, the mythological, or “higher level” meaning of the game connotes ideas of bravery, heroism, and masculinity that are central toAmerican ideological formations ◦ The game reinforces certain ideologies over others by making their mythological content seem innocent, everyday, or “natural” • Myth is the preservation of ideology through the active retelling of dominant cultural stories. Doxa • In other words, doxa refers to the constructed aspects of a culture that its members don't really challenge or critically reflect upon ◦ Agood synonym for doxa is “common sense.” Like myth, doxa supports certain ideologies over others by making them seem natural or simply as “the way things are.” ◦ Those with social power wish to preserve the cultural doxa, while those without power seek to resist or alter it • Doxa is the preservation of ideology through silence and maintaining the distinction between what should and should not be debated Hegemony • Important because it accounts for the evolution of dominant ideologies. Doxa and Myth lend insight into why certain ideologies are more widespread than others • The process by which one ideology subverts other competing ideologies and gains cultural dominance • Hegemony is the process of convincing people to support the continued existence of a social system that does not support them in return. “Spontaneous consent.” ◦ The working class (or any marginalized group) doesn't revolt because they actually consent to being dominated by the ideologies of privileged groups • Dominant (hegemonic) ideologies still reflect the desires and interest of socially powerful groups, but these ideologies also come with the added promise that it's in the best interest of dominated individuals for them to accept these particular values and beliefs ◦ socially powerful groups seek to have their worldview accepted by members of society as the universal way of thinking, and individuals within the culture accept the hegemonic ideologies because these systems of interpretation seem to benefit them in some way ◦ Basically, although these systems (paying for college tuition) ultimately harm us as consumers, we willingly consent to systems of ideological domination because of the perceived benefits (education and better pay in future). • If a marginalized ideology does happen to gain visibility in a culture and pose a challenge to the hegemonic ideologies, the dominant ideologies won't simply fall. Instead, they absorb the marginalized ideologies and integrate them into the privileged ideological matrix ◦ Ex: Wearing blue jeans used to be a sign of opposition to the dominant america culture. However, as the popularity of such a resistance began to take hold, retailers responded by creating an elaborate system of different mass-produced styles and labels for jeans. Jeans became popular and normal. In response, many people tried to rip and disfigure their keans , but retailers again began to fade and destroy their jeans on a larger scale. The jeans were absorbed and put in the service of hegemonic ideologies. • Hegemony is the preservation of ideology through won consent and flexible adaptation toward resistance Social class • Social Class – the division of society into the ‘haves’and ‘have-nots’. The term ‘have-nots’ denotes a lack of wealth, but it also connotes a more basic incompleteness—a lack of “cultural capital” • Two differences between Marx's original divisions of social class compared contemporary American capitalist society. ◦ 1 : Size of the petite bourgeoisie (middle class). Unlike in Marx's time where the class encompassed a relatively small number of professionals, the middle class now represents the largest class division inAmerican society ▪ The growth of the middle class (and shrinkage of the upper and lower classes) is tied to the second important deviation from Marx: ◦ 2 the rise of information – and media-based occupations in the 20 century.th ▪ Newly created white collar jobs increased the size of the middle class and patterns of ownership became increasingly focused on the cultural production of lifestyles and leisure • Two concepts to help us understand how class ideologies function inAmerican media • (1) American Dream, (2) Conspicuous Consumptio
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