Effect of Media On Social Behavior and IdentityThe media play a massive role in our Western society and in deed in many areas of the world. We take for granted the notion that the news will be told to us at regular times through means of our television or through the choice of news papers available for us to purchase.
Even to the point that we can choose what type of newspaper we read. Whether it be a respected paper such as The Times or a tabloid such as The Sun. So have we always had this excess of media in our lives? For in today’s society it is hard to get away from. The first mass audience was reached through means of our televisions which first became available in the 30’s, however throughout world war two the development was put on hold. The television made it possible for people to become entertained and informed in their own home. It also allowed the broadcasters to reach a mass audience with little effort.
This idea held huge possibilities and the power of television was realized. The masses could be reached easily and this would enable us as consumers to be informed about world events and start the nation’s ‘love’ of the news. Living in today’s society years on, it would be impossible to imagine not having accessibility to the news whether it be local or world events. But the question now posed is if this is a negative desire? In an ideal situation the news would be available to everyone and would give a real and true interpretation of the event in question, but it is very debatable to whether this happens any of the time.
This paper will discuss how media affects social behavior and identity through fundamental literature research.Thomas DeGregori (1985) mentions the “adverse cultural change, deleterious environmental impact, and irrevocable biological destruction” that are by products of technology. Along this vein of opinion, the study argues that cultural change does occur because of the innovations of mass media. It is an undeniable fact that innovations spread from culture to culture by means of diffusion. Why would a culture accept a new method of performing a task or an invention? Primarily, it is because of the innovation or technology’s problem-solving capacity.Obviously there are some people who believe they require the technology to meet a need in their lives. Different groups and cultures may have contrasting ideas as to what constitutes a legitimate problem.
Some people may not think certain technological progress is necessary if they are satisfied with their current conditions of living. As DeGregori concludes, “the test of whether technological change has indeed been technological progress is whether our problems are worse today than in previous, supposedly idyllic, times.” In other words, will adopting innovations decrease the difficulties we encounter every day or will an invention, such as the Internet, just bring a new set of problems to be solved?No Sense of Place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior was one of the most valuable and insightful sources of material for this topic because the current project seems to mirror many of the same opinions and theories of the author, Joshua Meyrowitz. In his book, the author discusses many topics but these two stand out: “1.) How changes in media may change social environments and 2.) What effects a change in social environments may have on people’s behavior.
” For example, newer electronic media present the latest changes in the world of media and they in turn, may have effects on social behavior.To come to a new understanding of the effects of electronic media on social behavior, this book fuses together two theoretical perspectives that have dealt with these issues: 1. “medium theory”—the historical and cross-cultural study of different cultural environments created by different media of communication, and 2. “situationism”—the exploration of the ways in which social behavior is shaped by and in “social situations.”  In order to be clear on what Meyrowitz means by socialization, he later defines it as, “the process of ‘becoming,’ the transition from one role to the next.” In defining what he means by electronic media, Meyrowitz indicates that he includes television, radio, telegraph, telephone, tape recorder, and computer within this category.
No Sense of Place also deals with the different behaviors that people demonstrate with one another, i.e., their ‘front stage’ or public performance and ‘backstage’ or private behavior. Therefore, newer forms of media may have an impact on the rate or manner of socialization because people will not be as capable of controlling information about their private behavior. In other words, “the more a medium tends to reveal areas of group activity that might otherwise be private, the more it will undermine slow, staggered socialization processes. In addition, since the types of electronic media in the current study provide experiences (talking on the phone or emailing), which were once, limited to face-to-face interactions, so “it makes sense that they would have their greatest effect on those who are physically or psychologically removed from everyday social interactions.” He argues that electronic media also distance groups of people from traditional viewpoints because these groups were formerly “isolated together.
”Therefore, “the undermining … leads to the dilution of traditional group behaviors and the development of “middle region” compromise behavior patterns.” Meyrowitz concludes that electronic media poses a challenge to many traditional authorities. Meyrowitz recognized the writings of other scholars on this topic, but was able to add a piece that was missing in their analyses of electronic media.“What is missing from these theories, (Levinson, Horton, and Wohl) however, is an appreciation of how much social behavior changes when people are able to communicate “as if” they were in the same place when they are, in fact, in different places.Much as Meyrowitz’ study did, “By logically isolating the variables of media, situations, and social roles, my analysis suggests that electronic media have specific types of effects on social behavior.
”Since this research project pertains to both media and socialization, a deeper look at sociology is necessary. One such piece of literature is Ferdinand Tönnies’, Community and Society (1957). The introduction to Tönnies’ book on community and society, outlines theoretical sociology, or “the first sphere of Tönnies’ pure sociology—fundamental concepts of Community and Society.” Tönnies’ definition is succinct. “When group life has the characteristics of Community, the norms of order are based upon concord; when the life is essentially that of the Society, they are based upon convention.
” He elaborates further on convention, noting the differences between conventions and traditions.Tönnies states that traditions are kept as “sacred inheritance of the ancestors, while conventions are not. According to Tönnies, sacred customs of a group would fall in the “traditions” category, not under “conventions.” He also discussed Community in relation to a group of people with the same customs who may be physically separated from each other. “Community can nevertheless persist during separation from the locality, but it then needs to be supported still more than ever by well-defined habits of reunion and sacred customs.” Yet he concludes by stating that people who are not constrained by the same sense of Community will be in more opposition and conflict with each other concerning “their wills and abilities.”To continue on the theme of sociology, it would be remiss not to mention Goffman.
Again, Joshua Meyrowitz best states the position Goffman holds in regard to changes and socialization and in relation to McLuhan. Goffman offers one factor that molds behavior: the “definition of the situation” as it is shaped by particular interactional settings and audiences. Yet Goffman explicitly ignores changes in roles and the social order. McLuhan, on the other hand, points to the wide scale change in social roles resulting from the use of electronic media, but he provides no clear explanation of how and why electronic media may bring about such change.Thus, we can see that there are problems with both Goffman and McLuhan’s approach to studying society in relation to electronic media. As Meyrowitz also notes, “McLuhanism” seems like overwhelming truth to those who believe in it and like hogwash to those who do not.” Nevertheless, due to a lack of critique on electronic media, in must be concluded along with Meyrowitz that, “McLuhan’s difficult mosaics remain the richest source of hypotheses that relate specifically to the telephone, radio, and television.”Although many books have been written dealing with issues of media and technology, perhaps one of the most relevant works to the study at hand has been Marshall McLuhan’s, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man because his theory of globalization is implicit in this study.
McLuhan was a scholar of social and psychological effects of technological change. In the chapter, “Challenge and Collapse: The Nemesis of Creativity,” McLuhan discusses the “technique of suspended judgment,” stating that this technique “anticipates the effect of some action and offsets the effect before it happens.”Just the simple process of accepting a new medium is difficult for many subgroups of society.
McLuhan gives several reasons for this, one of which is the following, “massive social surgery is needed to insert new technology into the group mind.” It is obviously much harder to get a cohesive group to accept something new than to convince isolated individuals. However, McLuhan uses the example of a Chinese peasant to better illustrate how technological change “alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation.”The peasant is asked why he still carries water, bucket, by single bucket, to a canal ditch when he could install a simple lever to draw the water out in large quantities. The Chinese laborer replies, He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity.
He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul…It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.Since McLuhan promotes the idea that media use tends to make societal members have more shared experiences, what impacts one television viewer may affect the viewing public as a whole. McLuhan compares the use of new media (TV, at that time) and technologies to a “huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete disregard for antiseptics.
” His argument follows that there is then a risk of “infecting the whole system during the operation.” Likewise, indiscriminate users of electronic media may be ‘infected’ by whatever is currently being promoted in the media.In other words, there may be harmful risks to media and technology use, as well as the good information they bring.
McLuhan believes one of the effects of television could be allowing unprincipled advertisers and programmers to manipulate viewers through their own visual, auditory and cognitive capacities. “Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handling over the common speech to a private corporation,” to which he is opposed. McLuhan quotes Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History, which examines the difficulties many cultures have experienced through the ages.
Toynbee observes that the challenge of a civilization set side by side with a tribal society has over and over demonstrated that the simple society finds its integral economy and institutions ‘disintegrated by a rain of psychic energy generated by the civilization’ of the more complex culture.Sale (1995) also relays an account of how the transistor radio impacted the lives of the traditional Ladakhi society of Northwestern India. “Only a short time after its introduction people no longer sat around the fields or fires singing communal songs because they could get the canned stuff from the professionals in the capital.” This was a profound cultural change caused directly by ownership and use of technology. Sale (1995) maintains that technology in its very composition is artificial and causes people to turn against the natural environment.
Nevertheless, the isolated people are immortalized only for resisting change, not halting it. Therefore, Sale concludes that society should resist the industrial, materialistic system, “based on some grasp of moral principles and rooted in some moral revulsion.”Rosack’s (1994) essentially deals with living in an age of information overload, and how society should get back to basic thinking.
He feels that few original ideas are being formulated while media are deluging society with their agendas. As Rosack makes clear in the following passage, the agenda-setting media may not have the best interest of society in mind when they create programs to entertain the public.In our society, T.
V. and the movies are among the most powerful means of instruction, often to the point of eclipsing the lackluster materials presented in school. Unhappily, these major media are for the most part in the hands of commercial opportunists for whom nobility of purpose is usually nowhere in sight.Hans Lenk (1998) further explores into the issue of new technologies. Lenk writes that there is not one specific trait that defines technology. His philosophy of technology instead, “must supply a kind of total view of the phenomenon of technology, including historical trends as well as cultural traditions, along with new revolutionary outlooks caused by technological breakthroughs such as the ‘information revolution.
’” Lenk maintains that humans now live in a ‘socio-technological’ or an increasingly artificial world. He then lists 30 traits that he believes defines this technological world.The ninth trait involves techno-media or multimedia, “a kind of co-action or co-evolution of different information technologies and media.” These information technologies would, of course, include television and online news sources. Lenk mentions that these media have a “common impact” on society.
Later, under the 19th trait listed, mega-information systems and mega-machine, Lenk writes, “there is a tendency to conceive of the whole world as technology-dominated, manipulated, organized, shaped by techno systems.” This theme is further emphasized in the 21st trait, where Lenk discusses mediated virtual reality. “What was not written about is not real used to be a saying of historians; now it is, what is not in a system is not real.”The theory of media critique attributed to Harold Innis (1952), Canadian, who had the following indictment to deliver concerning information dissemination from the United States media. “The pernicious influence of American advertising reflected especially in the periodical press and the powerful persistent impact of commercialism have been evident in all the ramifications of Canadian life.”Harold Lasswell (1966) also writes about the “structure and function of communication in society”, although it is somewhat dated since it was written.
Nevertheless, Lasswell delivers his classic definition of types of communication studies in this chapter, “Who, says What, in Which Channel, to Whom, with What Effect?”“Those who look primarily at the radio, press, film and other channels of communication are doing media analysis. When the principal concern is with the persons reached by the media, we speak of audience analysis. If the question is the impact upon audiences, the problem is effect analysis.”David Altheide and Robert Snow (1991) critique on both society and electronic media. This is an excellent look at the situations that different media face in the recent decade.
In the first chapter, “Media as Culture,” under the heading, “Communication, Power, and Social Control,” the authors mention three general problems with effects theories. “But the third problem is the most critical. Virtually all theories and models of media effects are based on content of messages rather than the communication form.” This fact should concern all researchers in the field of media because undue attention is being given to the ‘messages’ and not ‘the messengers’ or the actual technology that brings us the information.
The authors expand on the theme of the impact of technology by referring to the giants of technology critique.“The important work of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan not only directed attention to the contribution of the technology of the media for any message, but further argued that it is the technology that is most important in altering information and social relationships.”It is the similar possibility that the social relationships of some isolated people may change after several years (or maybe it will take decades) of using computers, etc.
that concerns this research project. For example, it has been observed by scientists that, “some people can easily go into an alpha brain wave state as they watch TV, or fall asleep almost instantly. Television may be the only major mass medium that can function as a biofeedback technique or sleeping pill.”In agreement with McLuhan’s theory of the globalizing effects of electronic media, James Carey (1992) also believes a certain amount of standardization occurs due to use of technology, but Carey calls this ‘cultural invasion’ in his thoughtful essays on communication and culture. Actually, Carey was referring to the reservations held by Harold Innis when he used the term above. However, Carey has this to say as an analysis of popular culture, “surely tradition was being evaporated..
.surely ordinary people were under a constant barrage of shallow and manipulative culture controlled by a ‘power elite.’”This perspective toward cultural invasion makes it appear more as cultural erosion, by means of electronic communications. As Carey continues later in his work, “The archetypal case of communication, then, is persuasion; attitude change; behavior modification; socialization through the transmission of information, influence, or conditioning.
..” When written about in the latter way, the cultural invasion does not appear in as negative a light.
In fact, Carey lists the following men as great proponents of new technologies that electricity could bring to society; Marshall McLuhan, R. Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Alvin Toffler, Zbigniew Brzezinski.In contrast, Carey writes that there was also a group of individuals who did not unreservedly approve of technology. “Jacob Burkhardt and Anatole France in Europe and Henry Adams and Samuel Clemens in this country devised the strategy of inverting the technological sublime and portraying the new technology as a specter of disaster.” In addition, Harold Innis is among this group of thinkers. Carey noted that Innis was particularly concerned about the ease with which electronic media crossed into other countries. “Innis argued that changes in communication technology affected culture by altering the structure of interests.
..by changing the character of symbols.
..and by changing the nature of community.” These opinions were delivered at a time when they were rather unpopular, since technology was king, much like today.
Carey acknowledges Innis as a major contributor to communications criticism, but mentions that his particular perspective has been mostly unheeded. He continues his own critique of the technologies of communications – electronics – by comparing them to the evolution of print media. He claims that the field of electronics, much like early print, “is biased toward supporting one type of civilization: a powerhouse society dedicated to wealth, power, and productivity, to technical perfectionism and ethical nihilism.”Ithiel de Sola Pool (1990) raises queries concerning communications technology in just the opposite direction. He was worried about the subversive factions that could result if there were not [emphasis added] a mass media perpetuating a mass culture toward which all wished to conform. Pool claimed that special interests groups could cause problems in the way society operated. According to Pool, “the cohesion and effective functioning of a democratic society depends upon some sort of public agora in which everyone participates and where all deal with a common agenda of problems..
.”Pool is aware and mentions that there is a conflict between foreign nations and societies that would like to have the use of electronic media, but resent the social costs they may have to pay for it. In his reference to television, Pool says it receives the credit for bringing ‘commercialism, consumerism, violence and pornography’ to groups that are not prepared to deal with this exposure.
“United States television, in particular, is blamed for spreading those evils to countries that held different values.” Pool reaches the heart of the issue when he writes, “They lament the erosion of cultural integrity…They resent the decline of compliance and of acceptance of the status quo.
”When members of some group are exposed to outside influences (via electronic media), they may not as readily comply with the status quo of their marked separation from the rest of American society. Pool continues by stating that people generally figure out their identities just once, “and they quite understandably become ardently attached to the symbols of that identity.” It is only normal to expect they will resent any threat they sense to their chosen way of life and seek to halt ideas that are foreign to it.Herbert Schiller (1992) mirrors the repeated themes of the standardization of society, pollution and cultural invasion that the use of electronic media facilitates, in this biting criticism of technology. To give a brief context for the critique that follows, Schiller was writing about how advertising has been the means for funding most of mass media programming from the beginning.
“No sudden coup, therefore, captured broadcasting for commerce and turned American radiotelevision programming into the soul-destroying wasteland it is.” Since its conception, educational radio did not fare well. Of the 202 licenses issued between 1921 and 1936, 164 expired before 1930.Schiller mentions that when radio technology was created, those in leadership at the Radio Corporation of America consortium were not as worried about what programs would be broadcast as they were with who got to retail them.
The same thing happened with television, where “production of equipment took precedence over, indeed eliminated, concern with the content of the medium.”Schiller tackles the issue of standardization of society or the barrage of social images and commercials that inundate those who have electronic media. “The mass audiences of radio-television broadcasting are continuously persuaded by the materials offered them of the desirability of the cultural, political and economic status quo.” These audiences, wherever they may be, are equally unprepared to deal with the advertising blitz and attempt to mimic the presented images.Continuing his criticism, Schiller approaches the ‘polluting’ aspects of electronic media.
He mentions that there are negative characteristics of the electronic images that are being beamed around the world. Even in the United States, regarding research on children’s television, a New York Times’ education editor inquired if TV, as presently carried on in the United States, was not polluting the nation’s children. Finally, the Director-General of All-India Radio said, “a whole world let loose on unsuspecting and comparatively less sophisticated people may have far-reaching consequences.
”In keeping with the topic of cultural invasion, Henry Comor, a Canadian, writes, “By the process of osmosis America is destroying not only our television, but our values and our very culture…American television has made the development of a Canadian cultural identity almost impossible.
” Likewise, a one Ambassador to the United Nations, when concerned about the influx of television, said,We should, without delay, proceed to take an exhaustive inventory of the artistic and cultural stock of all peoples in order to conserve it so that it may become a part of the universal civilization…before they perish under the increasingly overwhelming pressure toward the international standardization of man.With this sentiment, we come full circle to investigate one such unique culture before it becomes standardized and assimilated due to the onrushing tide of electronic media that is all but unavoidable in our current era.I would agree with Marshall McLuhan’s claim that ‘The book is no longer King,’ because in today’s world, I don’t think that the book leads in sources of information, but I do believe that it is still very much used and life would be more restricted for information and research without it. Although it is still very much in use, there is the use of the interconnected world, just as McLuhan predicted. The Internet is used every day by millions of people, for research and work purposes, as well as many other requirements. It is a quicker and much more accessible way of finding out information, and search engines, such as “Google” and “Ask.com” provide pages upon pages of information concerning the desired topic. The information appears to be endless.
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 Ibid., 152 Joshua Meyrowitz, No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985): 15. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 60. Ibid., 120. Ibid.
, 149. Ibid., 149. Ibid., 122. Ferdinand Tönnies, Community ; Society (East Lansing, Mich.
: Michigan State University Press, 1957): 4. Ibid., 8. Ibid., 43. Meyrowitz, No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior, 4. Ibid.
, 21. Ibid., 23. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). Ibid., 62. Ibid.
, 63. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 64. Ibid.
 Ibid., 68. Ibid., 69. Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution, Lessons for the Computer Age, (Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995): 265.
 Ibid., 269 Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking (Berkley: University of California Press, 1994): 239 Hans Lenk, “Advances in the Philosophy of Technology: New Structural Characteristics of Technologies,” Techne: Journal of the Society for Philosophy and Technology 4, (1998): 4 Ibid., 8 Ibid., 11-12 Ibid., 13 Harold A. Innis, The Strategy of Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952) : 19.
 Harold D. Lasswell, “The structure and function of communication in society,” In Reader in Public Opinion and Communication, eds. Bernard Berelson and Morris Janowitz, (New York: The Free Press. 1966): 178. David L. Altheide and Robert P. Snow, Media Worlds in the Postjournalism Era (New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1991): 3.
 Ibid., 8. Ibid., 32. James W.
Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (Routlegde: Chapman and Hall, Inc., 1992): 135. Ibid., 38 Ibid.
, 42 Ibid., 114 Ibid., 123 Ibid., 160 Ibid.
, 171 Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies Without Boundaries: On Telecommunications in a Global Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990): 15. Ibid., 80 Ibid., 101 Ibid., 122 Herbert I. Schiller, Mass Communication and American Empire, 2nd.
ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992) : 64. Ibid., 69 Ibid., 70 Ibid., 73 Ibid., 153 Ibid., 168 Ibid., 123 Ibid., 165