What is the thing or person that everyone must get access to everyday? It is probably not your parents or your friends, but the media. Teenagers listen to pop music and read magazines so that they will have same topic with their friends. Middle-aged people read newspapers to know about the current affairs. The elderly are entertained through watching soap operas. Through various forms of media such as television, newspaper, magazine, internet, radio, film, advertisement, music and video games, people get to know about what is happening around us and it facilitates communication. To have a deeper understanding of media, this essay concerns itself with examining why media will be termed “consciousness industries” and followed by that, it will discuss how the media construct social and political attitudes and values with examples. It will also look at the influence that this has on an individual’s perception of their social world.
Media is termed to be “consciousness industries” and it is not the same as any other industries. Like any other industries, media helps the advertisers sell products and services to its potential consumers. However, other than that, the media sells something else that is intangible but more fundamental to its audience and that is ways of thinking, seeing and talking about the world around us. The conception of the world that we gain through media has a great impact on what we think, how we think and what we think about and thanks to this reason; media is called “consciousness industries” and it does play an important role in constructing social and political attitudes and values. (Graeme Turner and Stuart Cunningham)As I have mentioned before, social and political attitudes and values are constructed by the media and it is closely related to the impact of ideology. Ideology can be defined as the influence of ideas on people’s beliefs and actions.
The concept can be divided into two strands: the neutral conception of ideology and the critical conception of ideology. The neutral conception of ideology refers to the “science of ideas” while the critical one regards ideology as “false consciousness” which means powerful groups are able to control the beliefs and actions of the powerless by dominating the ideas circulating in the society. As a result, the powerful groups of people can keep their power and their status can be justified and strengthened. (Giddens A. 2001) Take television as an example to prove this.
Television is a common appliance which every household would probably have one. Everyday, there are thousands and thousands of different sorts of television programs like news roundup, soap operas, commercials, films and music videos broadcast and the information is sent to every household. In this situation, audiences who sit in front of the television everyday are assumed that they are primarily powerless in the face of television messages and after the continuous repetition of programs, people’s conception such as class, wealth, poverty, racism and male-dominant gender roles are fostered. As a consequence, such objectionable ideologies are developed and social attitudes and values are constructed.
Another theory that is concerned about how the media construct social and political attitudes and values is McDonaldisation. It is ‘the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world.’ (Ritzer) McDonald’s is a very popular symbol in the society today and they are located everywhere, with more than 30,000 in the United States and shops in 119 countries out of the United States. (Newman) Everyone living in the society knows the McDonalds.
However, McDonaldisation is not only a business model, but also applies to the media. Information can be sent to everywhere of the world very quickly thanks to the development of technology and common access to different forms of media. This is just like McDonaldisation. This efficient transfer of information benefits the whole world as all the people are able to know what is happening around us so that we can make the right decision in particular field. Nevertheless, this can also be problematic when the information spread are false or biased, especially when it comes to current affairs. False information may cause instability in stock market, public panic. This would possibly affect individual’s perception towards the society and politics.
The social and political attitudes and values in a society will have an impact on one’s perception of the society and politics. Firstly, due to the ideology theory in media, individuals would develop social conceptions like sexism, racism, class, wealth and poverty. Because of these concepts, individual may consider the wealthy are noble while the poor should be looked down. This will probably form an unhealthy society. Secondly, as everyone can acquire news and entertainment from the media, people can get to know more about around us and there are same topics for individuals to talk about. However, if wrong information is spread, individual may be affected and they may make wrong decision and cause troubles.
To conclude, media, the social and political attitudes and values and the perception of individual are very closely connected and they are interacted to each other. Media is a very special industry that it is selling their audience intangible goods like thoughts and feelings. The ways that media construct social and political attitudes and values are elaborated by the media theories ideology and McDonaldisation. And this would influence individual’s perception toward their social world.
1.Graeme Turner and Stuart Cunningham, The Media and Communication in Australia Today2.Giddens A. 2001, Sociology, 4th Edition, Polity Press, Cambridge3.Newman D. M., 2004, Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, 5th edition, Pine Forge Press. Thousand Oaks, CA.