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Chapter 5

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Marshall Mcluhan, Orthodox Marxism, The Affluent Society


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Robert Brym
Chapter
5

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Chapter 5: The Mass Media
Communication: bringing together one unifying by establishing shared meanings
and understanding between groups and the individuals
o Through transmission of information, knowledge or beliefs by means of
language, visual images and other sign systems, such as music
Mass media: communication flows are unidirectional members remain
anonymous/isolated from one another
Interactive: communication flows back and forth, people interact in transmission
and reception of communication
Technological Perspective
2 seminal scholars: Harold Innis and Marshal McLuhan
Innis: time-biased from space-biased media
o Time-biased: modes of communication that endure over time but are
relatively immobile across space
o Space-biased: cover much greater space, less durable
o Foster 2 different arrangements of institutions and cultural values
TB: conducive to strong sense of tradition and custom, which
promote religious forms of power and belief
SB: assist territorial expansion, empire building, secular form of
power and culture such as dominance of military institutions and
growth of the state
Different forms of power create different types of social division and conflict
o Elite who controls media try to use it to preserve their privilege and
interest
o Those excluded struggle against elite control and the process stimulate
development of new, alternative forms of communication
o Historically, this struggle resulted in shift from time to space based media
Innis’s ideas influenced McLuhan (1964)
o Argued that relationship between communication and institutions and
culture was mediated by the way that the forms of communication change
our sense of perceptions and cognitive processes
Ex: invention of printing vs. oral communication
Rise of nationalism
TV=global village

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The Critical Perspective
Institutions such as news media and processes such as socialization and social
control cannot be understood from the viewpoint of society as a whole, but only
from that of unequal and conflicting groups and classes
2 variants
o Emphasizing the relationship between media and inequality
o Emphasizing the relationship between media and social conflict
1st variant derives from orthodox Marxism
o Role of media defined in terms of how the media serve the economic
interests and political power of those who own and control the means of
material production
o To maintain and consolidate its power and interests the dominant class
also exercises control over the production of ideas, beliefs, values and
norms that constitute a society’s dominant ideology
o Media by disseminating this dominant ideology create acceptance and
legitimization of the status quo
o Max Horcheimer and Theodor Aracho (1972 and 1947)
Saw mass media as broader “culture industry”
Function to create mass deception about exploitative and
oppressive nature of capitalist society
Role of mass media to distract and pacify people by feeding
standardized images that stifle capacity for independent, critical
thought
Propaganda model
o Serve interest of leading political and economic class by filtering info to
reduce radical/subversive views
o Horman and Chomsky 1988
o 5 filters
Media’s orientation to profit making
Dependence on advertising from revenue and profit
Reliance of powerful institutions and individual sources of
information
Negative reaction (flak) if media deviate from promoting elite
interests and values
Adherence to anti communism as an overreaching belief system
Morphed into war on terrorism
2nd variant acknowledges that the capitalist class and other powerful groups use
dominant ideology to reinforce their position and maintain the status quo
o Establishment of hegemony
o Use of media and other cultural institutions to represent their interests,
values and understandings as natural and universal
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Political Economy of the Media
Focuses on the ownership and control of economic resources and the effect of
technology and economic power on cultural values social structure and political
decision making
Media functions like any bureaucracy
o What then are its primary goals?
o Entertain and inform or revenue?
Ownership and control of mass media becoming more concentrated in smaller
number of giant corporations
o Trend of economic globalization
o Creation of multimedia chains
To secure and enhance their market position multimedia chains practice
horizontal and vertical integration
o HI: refers to sharing of facilities and resources between different plants
and outlets
o VI: involves control of resources and assets at different stages of
production such as ownership of sports team along with stations and
channels that televise team’s games
Leads to greater homogenization of ideas and cultural production
Impedes progressive social change by favouring interests of the powerful
Newspapers: concentration monopoly and advertising
Concentration raises question about freedom of the press and diversity of
democratic society
Ability of newspaper proprietors to dictate news content continues to depend on
need to make a profit and ability to attract advertisers
o Must also appeal to readers and subscribers that advertisers are trying to
reach and persuade
Television: Economy, Culture and Identity
Commercialization and advertising dependence have had greatest impact on the
content and role of the media
o Private TV companies motivated by profit not cultural goods
o Relies on American programming
Dominance of American entertainment programming amounts to cultural
imperialism
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