In the last 50 years or so technology had contributed to the exponential growth of the mass media where what started out with the telegraph was subsequently followed by the radio, the newspaper, magazines, television and the new arrival the Internet.
The outcome of all these subsequent introductions had made society to be dependant on information and communication for all the major steps they are taking and areas such as work, health care, education, interpersonal relationships, leisure time such as entertainment, travelling etc., doing business, investing, and most of the things people are doing are based on facts, information and recommendations they get from the various mass media. This means that, although while working it is possible that people depend on what they learned and the subsequent experience they gained, when it comes to their daily lives they, for the most part, rely on the media to find out as to what is current in the news and other facts that might affect their lives, the society as a whole and if there are areas that they have to be aware of.
Because of that it is possible to extrapolate that society had developed a trust towards the media over time to such an extent that it has become an authority in providing up to the minute news, entertainment, education, information etc. to the point where the influence of mass media on society and culture had become very significant. This study will try to highlight some of the influences affecting culture directly and which one of them have positive outcomes or otherwise. Historical Background
Throughout the years people had their own ways of communicating amongst each other and when the mass populous of any given community is involved the crude form of communicating, exchanging information and knowledge had been evolving over the years. The very early form of communication involved one able individual who could have a special training and would be at the service of the king or the religious establishment that mostly used to be the ones who would have some important message that is beneficial to a large mass of people.
Whether what is communicated is a message or news that the public will be interested in, using a single individual to address the public at a gathering was the most popular way to relay anything of interest to a gathered public that had been invited to attend such gatherings or it might take place where people gather to do other things such as trading.
The most critical announcements of the olden days were news about faraway colonies, if there happened to be a sudden death among the public figures such as kings or queens or if there is an activity such as a war that requires the participation of some of the members of the populous. What replaced this old method of communication was putting the news in some kind of print format where instead of people converging at a given place to receive messages, news, instructions, etc. whatever was to be communicated started to go wherever the people are in a form the earliest news letters.
When looking at what is taking place in modern days, the emergence of the modern mass media was the outcome of an advancement in technology where the convergence of various technologies such as print media, electronic media, advertising, public relation and currently the Internet formed what is today’s mass media. The current mass media has various outlets such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines and Internet that are easily accessible by the public and what is communicated through such mediums and how it is communicated had become very complicated.
Since the cost of acquiring such mediums had become affordable by the masses, the cost of communication had also gone down making communicating among people or those who have particular messages to the mass easy and can be done at a desired frequency without worrying about a very high cost. When looking at culture it is possible to perceive it as values that follow certain pattern and could have certain goals, beliefs, behaviours coupled by knowledge and experience that a given group will concede to share among themselves.
The same could apply to establishments that are out to accomplish certain tasks where they will have certain values or missions that make up their corporate culture and they will have to put to work these values and mission statements in order to meet the expectation of the public and community they are serving. That being as it is modern media has a considerable influence on such cultures to the point where it could dictate what the public as well as institutions should be doing to the point where the media might become authoritative and a force to reckon with.
If that is not the case a certain member of society or an institution could get a bad coverage that would affect the image of those involved and since the media had attained an authoritative status it can influence the culture of people, communities, as well as establishments that are out to serve the public. If that public has bad opinion about them because of what the media reports or preaches they will find it difficult to carry out their duty.
This demonstrates that there had been interdependence among media and culture that was outcome of the media dictating what the public and others that have various roles to play should do or adhere to. Since the number of media outlets had increased the outcome had been the sources where people are getting their information had also increased. This by itself had forced individuals to identify with some of the information and messages they get from the various media outlets and that had result in influencing how they do things and their overall culture.
Media Influence on Culture McQuail (2000) uses the gratification model why the public or a given audience would want to consume what the media avails through a given medium. Society as a whole, groups or individuals want to reinforce their basic behaviour and to accomplish that they start out by identifying themselves with roles or role players, the kind of value they hold or communicate and sometimes their gender and ethnicity might also be taken into consideration.
Another reason why whatever the media comes up with is consumed by members of society is there is always a need to interact with other people through what the media avails, whatever medium is used such as television, newspapers, magazines, movies, Internet etc. It is also possible members of a given society as a group or individually would need some kind a security source that will enable them to enhance their knowledge about the world they are living in or they might need information to carry on with their lives or with whatever they are doing.
When that is the case there is no better source to resort to other than the media and its various mediums or outlets that include books. It is also possible from a very early age people had been reliant on some form of entertainment so that they can use it to pass time, as an escape or they might need emotional release such as excitement, suspense, laughter etc. Based on such findings it is not difficult to surmise that the influence of the media on culture is at the very high level currently, because the earlier days did not have to deal with such barge of media broadcasting using various mediums on a daily basis.
Because of the high level of exposure people are getting to modern media they cannot avoid their culture being heavily influenced by what they consume from the media. This will make it possible to say that the way people behave in modern times is the reflection of the kind of influence they receive from the modern mass media. The modern media deals with daily politics, current affairs, it is the major source of entertainment and the like where people that interact with a certain medium would also pass what they encountered to others that could result in shaping how such individuals interacting with each other would behave.
Use of Entertainment to Influence Cultural Practices Entertainment had been one of the effective vehicles the media uses to influence culture. All entertainment programs aired on television, the music played at the home, workplace, in vehicles and at entertainment venues, all the stories written on newspapers, magazines, even books will affect the participating public’s culture to the point where it is possible people could learn new and better things that will force them to drift away from the older values their culture holds that will result in people adopting new behaviour.
What had been taking place was that the media had managed to bring together what is taking place around the world on one platform so that people can compare various cultures, outlooks, and way of doing things and adapt to the ones they find to be palatable to their taste and understanding. This is accomplished on the part of the media by employing surveillance on what various groups of people are doing and exposing these activities to others using various mediums to an extent that some groups could be encouraged to showcase their culture to others who could eventually adopt them if they attain a liking for them.
How Media Educates People to Handle Their Daily Activities The media could also educate people how to do certain things by showing them how to handle it better or conduct certain activities where it is possible to show people to conform to certain ways of doing things that could result in changing their way of life. This would enable people to adapt to what is taking place in the grater world in stead of being confined in their own culture only that will result in people adopting new cultures because of their being exposed to the modern media.
New ideas will not only be limited to those who will only have a firsthand encounter to various happenings, as these people will pass what they saw or learned to others. Such transferring and communicating of information had been made faster because of the coming into the picture of the Internet, mobile telephones, TV that can be accessed from anywhere as long as there is Internet connection, radio that could be broadcast globally and magazines that could find their way into the global marketplace. Conflict Resolution Among the various advantages media avails to communities one of them is conflict resolution.
Most world communities are afflicted by various kinds of conflicts that could be the outcome of competition or rivalry among various groups. Such conflicts will result at times in mass killing or unjust practises taking place that would affect innocent civilians. In a situation like this, the media can play an intermediary role by exposing bad practices and by coming up with just solutions where it could possible to implement the introductions to solve conflicts. The media is in a position to use effectively various mediums such as films or stories written on newspapers, magazines, news broadcast etc.
to serve a given purpose in curbing violence and bring back normalcy to besieged communities. The media had also been actively influencing the political sphere and can put pressure on various governments, especially in democratic countries such as the US and the UK as to how to implement certain policies they come up with. Whenever there is an election the media also plays a crucial role by allowing the candidates and electorate to interact with each other through interviews, debates or question and answer secessions where the audience participates live.
This kind of an exposure is capable of affecting the culture a certain group is practising, including the stand of political parties and their leaders. Furthermore, occasions such as debates, question and answer periods or broadcasting speeches made by prominent individuals for mass consumption will all result in nurturing the thinking, the outlook and the culture of the participating public that will lead in enabling the participants to take certain actions that are mutually beneficial
The media also had been playing a crucial role in improving people’s lives, by advocating that the public as a whole has to be responsible about what would happen to the environment. The media had also been intervening in drug abuse, certain immoral behaviours, violence and the like that would result in brining down the occurrences of such incidents and eventually people could make the positive outlooks communicated part of their culture and could refrain from violence or would avoid abusing drugs that will result in enhancing a given community’s long held culture.
In all this, there are three highlighted stages through which the interaction and media consumption can take place. The first is direct consumption where the individual will directly be involved in using the medium used such as TV, reading newspapers or surfing the Internet where there is no interference or destruction from any other source.
The second type of media consumption is when there is another tool or anything of such nature interfering with the direct consumption of what a given medium communicates such as talking on the phone while watching TV or cleaning utensils while watching TV etc. The third consumption method is when the individual is not directly using the medium because some of the things the individual is doing are interfering directly where the individual cannot pay attention to the point there will not be any new information learned to affect the individual’s culture or behaviour.
When looking at various findings there had not been certain indications as to whether the media is beneficial or otherwise in spite of the numerous debates that had been staged to arrive at the reality and there is no certain indication that the escalated media consumption has affected the long standing cultures of communities positively or negatively. However, when looking at some of the mediums that have become largely available for use by the public such as the telephone, Internet, computers, television, radio etc.
it possible to say they have positively enriched people’s lives, hence their culture, although there are negative impacts too. In modern days people have a much better means of communication that were not available a few decades ago enabling them to communicate with family members, friends, employers and co-workers in such a way that it had become possible to do so without incurring a high cost.
When looking at what is taking place in modern media such as 24-hour access to television and radio broadcasting and programming, or participating in a given medium through talk-shows that are open to the public, or simply writing an article and having it published on newspapers, magazines, newsletters or on the Internet had become much easier and could result in many people communicating their ideas where they can interact on blogs and chat rooms in real time.
All new ideas and suggestions communicated using such channels had become useful as they will end up influencing existing cultures. The outcome of such interaction had been seen as a major contribution to modern culture where various programmes such as news, documentaries, interviews, advertisements etc. will all contribute to the modern culture because they can reach a big number of people. They could serve as a catalyst that will create a streamlined outlook that will result in making the world culture more-and-more similar.
Peculiar cultures such as circumcising young girls that takes place in cultures such as Kenya could be put in check because people will know it is harmful, as well as affects the normal life of the girls as they grow up. Furthermore, access to a vast amount of media such as TV or affordable Internet access has enabled people to improve their vocabularies and thinking pattern because their chance of being exposed to experts, role models, politicians and the like has become much higher.
Accordingly, such exposures will enable them improve their perception as well as their linguistic ability, which is more so to younger students. Interpersonal relationship had also got a boost because individuals could learn more positive manners from the media that improves their behaviours and would enhance the socialising capability of individuals enabling them to meet more people, whose interaction will always enhance one’s culture.
Consuming what modern media avails also encourages individuals to be socially responsible, because there are factors such as opinion polls that will shape how people think or see things and the outcome will be they can take better control of their daily life and if they happen to be in a position of authority they will always pay attention to how the media is portraying them. In spite of the benefits the media brings to the fore there are certain areas that have negative impact on society such as violence that could originate from media outlets that are not regulated.
The side effect of such exposure could be it will raise the level of violence in a given society since most people, especially younger ones are always prone to imitate those who they consider to be role models. Another area that has a negative impact is the escalated immorality level in modern society that is the outcome of interacting with modern media. It is so because of the assumption that as long as certain acts originate from socially accepted sources such as the media, the fact that a certain act is immoral could be side-stepped.
This could lead to certain diseases such as aids and other sexually transmittable diseases, early teen pregnancy and unprotected sex to go unchecked because if the media portrays such incidents as not grave problems there are many that will be victimised (Shaw and McCombs, 1972). The media is also constantly exposing people to fancy outlooks or lifestyles and this will affect the culture of communities because their members could disregard their cultural values and could end up chasing what the media is exposing them to.
Modern media had increased the rate of criminal activities in many societies, because most media outlets portray numerous criminal activities as good, acceptable and normal leading some to succumb to committing crimes. There are scenes in the media that show abusing drug as a good act or at least as not a dangerous engagement or using dangerous weapons could be portrayed as a normal thing to do leading the youth of certain communities to be caught imitating these acts.
The media also ends up portraying certain races or ethnic groups better than others resulting in discriminatory behaviours. Criticisms to Correct Wrong Outlooks Sources such as Ganutlett (1998) had refused the upheld belief concerning modern media being the source of violence. He had stated that the first task to accomplish is to focus on the so called social violence and examine the causes based on the identity of those who commit such violence, their background, character etc.
before blaming all incidents on media. On the other hand, when looking what effects theory has to say it promulgates that commercials, advertising, as well voter campaign and the like influence behaviour and culture. Some examples to cite are trials of celebrities and prominent individuals that had attracted mass attention and had ended up shaping opinions and to an extent behaviours, but it is not possible to say that will always be the case.
What the critics of media effects theory had been advocating was that when examining most incidents labelled as copycat murders, suicides or violent acts the contributing factors had been upbringing harbouring that it must have been abnormal for the most part. More than media environments that were violent, emotionally not fulfilling and a prolonged exposure for a prolonged period to aggressive environments are more contributing factors than watching movies, commercials, listening to certain music etc. It is also important to look at mental instability, as it had been a major cause for most violent crimes.
This means that findings indicate that any kind of violence or any act deemed immoral such as abnormal sexual interactions are not at all considered as influencing factors, because most people who grew up bombarded with such acts have finished to be normal members of society, although there are few that had been victimised. According to sources such as Baker (2001), the major source of violence is background and upbringing instead of watching movies on various mediums that depict violence or other indecent acts.
According to him daily news consumed by many people could also be full of violence, but that does not instigate many people go out and copycat the acts and if that happens the main reason would be the social background of those who commit such acts instead of what they consume from various media outlets. Freedman (2007) was among researchers who had shown evidence by showing what took place in the US and similar countries where crime had increased sharply between 1965-1980 blamed on the violence originating from various media.
The same violence act precipitated at around 1992 although the usual media outlets that were releasing violent material were doing it at a much higher level showing that societal violence is not a direct outcome of consuming violent or immoral material availed by various media outlets forcing critics to look elsewhere for the cause. In stead, there are other areas where the media has a major influence on how people behave, act or perceive certain things. One such area is agenda-setting that is the outcome of how news is gathered and dispensed ((Shaw and McCombs, 1972).
Good examples cited are the four major news agencies such AP, UPI, Reuters and Agence-France that are responsible at least for around 90% of news consumed through various media outlets. The material such agencies come up with had impeccable reliability over the years to the point where they had gained some public respect and authority. However, critics eye this interaction as a close collaboration of the news agencies and existing establishments, where in tandem they are out to manipulate society, culture, behaviour and thinking so that existing status quo will continue to reign.
This means that media could be instrumental rather than being true agents of propaganda. Such a stance will always make them finish as supporters of those who have economic power who in fact are spending money on the media agencies in a form of advertising, airtime etc. so that they will go out and influence the culture on their behalf, altering their habit of doing things such as spending, buying, voting, leisure activities etc. which are part of the components that make up modern cultures.
Whatever the cause and drive behind the measure the media takes, at the end of the day the media would end up influencing culture reforming it to serve a certain purpose the media wants that will reflect the desire of those who are responsible for oiling the machine of media such as politicians, big business, government and interest groups showing that there is interrelation in what is taking place and certainly media is impacting culture on a daily basis.
There are sources that emphasised how media had become instrument of control. New media such as the Internet is facilitating more than ever such social control because, currently the number of the participants had exploded by the emergence of such new media tools such as blogs that are having impact on culture as society members are not consumers only anymore and they have become participants and have become responsible in affecting their own culture.
That does not, however, means they take the place of the mainstream media that always had influential power as witnessed from what took place in geographical locations such as Asia where a rapid social change had taken place that had been attributed to be the effect of media on culture. This shows that wherever the modern media penetrates it will affect the culture of backward communities for the better creating a more or less global village and such outcome had been noted when television had been introduced in Bhutan where the culture had undergone a rapid Westernisation.
It does not mean everyone sees such changes positively as Schiller (1976) had called such impact cultural imperialism, where those who have economic and political power could end up imposing their will and culture on weaker societies by manipulating the media effectively. In a situation like this it is possible to see media as a means of social control, in spite of the fact such imposition will also be accompanied with higher standard of living, urbanisation, literacy etc.
requiring more fortified exposure to mass media so that what is gained will not be reversed. Because of that if there is going to be some gain attained, there has to be some degree of adaptation to make and that might end up altering a given culture. Whether the introduced change is good or bad it is up to the onlookers to judge, but the reality is willingly or otherwise, modern media could affect culture to the point where those affected could lose control their indigenous culture.
However, what puts the fear to rest is governmental intervention at every level is available in any community where there is censorship to weed out offensive material, where there could be licensing laws in place that will take measures for failing to comply with the agreed upon rules showing that all objectionable material could be kept out of the reach of people.
However, with the advent of mediums such as the Internet that might not be totally possible, but the responsibility could shift to the participants where they can congregate and critically assess what they are encountering on the new medium that are accessible through an Internet connection, where discussing the merits and demerits of what are made available will be possible.
This means that the consuming public had been the sole decision maker when it comes to what to consume or what not to consume on the Internet to such an extent reason, logic and good judgement had become the regulators instead of governmental decrees, although still governmental decrees also dictate what cannot be made available on the Internet and at the end of the day it is what the public and others are doing that will end up influencing behaviour, thinking and culture.
It is no longer media alone, for the most part, that would impact culture as it used to be because the media would have to share the prevalent platform with the participants who are gaining more control. In spite of the independence individuals attained to act on their own, when looking at the public sphere, media could still have a stronghold where it can form public opinion which could also be applicable in the public’s consumer behaviour scene where those who claim to be connoisseur could influence how the public reacts to what is directed at it in a form of goods and services.
However, when it comes to politics findings indicate that even if there are those who say media simply fixes or confirms what people held as their strong conviction, the reality could be a large number of people could lack political experience and correct perception making them heavily reliant on the trusted and autocratic media and in the long term it will dictate their behaviours, thinking and culture.
Yet, there are sources such as Thompson, (1995) who claim one-way communication, which had been the media approach and mainstay does not work effectively when compared to where there is interaction through telephone and currently blogs, chat rooms etc. where live interaction could be involved, including posting photos and videos or using web-cam to directly access someone important such as a politician privately.
When examining the effect the media has in a free enterprise society, items such as news, commentaries, documentaries and similar informative programmes could be dealing most of the time with controversial and real world problems and subjects. Whereas, the rest of media is mainly entertainment or it is advancing the cause of sponsors without whom the private broadcasting companies would not exist.
Therefore, the second genre of what media represents is the advancing of the interest of the various enterprises that have products or services to the viewing public and their main concern is selling what they are bringing into the marketplace. With the same token, they would want to influence the public to use their products, because most products require getting used to in order to pay money for them.
Looking at the prevalence of telephone service in an advanced community is a good example, because starting from the homes, workplaces, public meeting places, various shops, malls and streets all can be fitted with some kind of telephone service that include cars. Amongst all these possibilities there are mobile phone manufacturers that should convince the public to use cell phones in addition to whatever they are using demonstrating that they might not need anything else since the device can go with them everywhere.
In order to change people’s view who used to using the traditional telephone system the makers of such phones and service providers have to spend a lot of money on media ads to educate the public whose outlook, habit, usage and culture will be affected both by the ads, as well as the new products showing that whatever way it is looked at and whatever source or interest group uses the mass media to serve it certain purpose, people’s outlook, thinking and culture should go some kind a transformation ascertaining to a good extent mass media, whoever employs it, in the long run it will affect culture.
REFERENCE Barker, M. “the Newson Report: a Case Study in Common Sense III : Effects in the Media /Violence Debate, (second edition), ed. Martin Baker and Julian Petley (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 27-46. David Gauntlett (1998). “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’”. Approaches to Audiences – A Reader. Available online: http://www. theory. org. uk/effects. htm. Accessed July 23, 2010 Freedman, Jonathan. ‘No Real Evidence for TV Violence Causing Real Violence’ First Amendment Centre, 2007, online, Available:
http://www. firstamendmentcenter. org/commentary. aspx? id=18490 Accessed July 23, 2010 McCombs, M & Shaw, D. L. (1972), ‘The Agenda-setting Function of the Mass Media’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 73, pp176–187 Mcquail, Denis (2000) McQuails’s Mass Communication Theory (fourth edition), Sage, London, pp. 16-34. Schiller, Herbert I. (1976). Communication and cultural domination. International Arts and Sciences Press, 901 North Broadway, White Plains, New York 10603. pp. 9–10 Thompson, J. (1995), The Media and Modernity
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