Communications and new media 2014


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Communications and new media 2014

  1. 1. Communications and New Media March 2014 Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper. George Orwell In the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. ~ Charles Darwin
  2. 2. Focus Topics • How have communications changed in recent decades? • What role do the media play in shaping our culture? • How far are the media able to shape what we think? • How does sociology approach the media? • Who controls the media and does this matter? • How might bias be a problem for our understanding of society?
  3. 3. Towers of Babel and the World Wide Web 3 Men in their arrogance built a tower into the heavens. God destroyed it and created all the languages of the world so man would never again attempt to do the same thing.
  4. 4. Theoretical Perspectives on Media • Functionalism: Wright, C (1960); the media helps to integrate and bind society. McQuail, D (2000) five stabilizing functions • Political Economy: Chomsky (1991); Philo & Berry ( 2004); Frankfurt School (Horkheimer & Adorno 1947) • Jürgen Habermas (1962): the Public Sphere • Jean Baudrillard (1983;1991): Hyperreality • John Thompson (1990; 1995): 3 kinds of communication
  5. 5. Functionalism Wright, C (1960); the media helps to integrate and bind society. McQuail, D (2000) five stabilizing functions: • Information: lets us know what is happening in the world • Correlation: interprets information around established social norms and values • Continuity: expresses common culture whilst recognizing and incorporating new developments • Entertainment: amusement and diversion reducing social tensions • Mobilization: encourage action to meet social and economic goals
  6. 6. Conflict theory: Political Economy Who owns the media and what influence does that give them in society? How does the media act to protect the interests of those with wealth and power and to silence critical voices and the voices of the powerless? Two approaches: Chomsky Frankfurt School
  7. 7. Political Economy I: Chomsky Chomsky, N. (1991) Media Control: The Spectacular Achievement of Propoganda Large media corporations: • Control the information made available to the public • Create a climate of fear from external threats • Do not question the unaccountability of powerful corporations • Do not question the relationship between big business and the state •
  8. 8. Ideology • Destutt De Tracy (1700s) ‘a science of ideas’ – Implies neutrality • Marx sees ideology as important in the reproduction of the relations of class domination: – Powerful groups circulate their ideas – Justify their own position • Discourse analysis; ‘text analysis is an essential part of discourse analysis, but discourse analysis is not merely the linguistic analysis of texts’ (Fairclough 2000:3) • The Glasgow University Media Group: Bad News (1976) – Words chosen reflected bias: ‘trouble’, ‘radical’, ‘pointless strike’ – Videos: focus on confrontations – Bad News from Israel (Philo & Berry 2004) ( - 3.40) –
  9. 9. Political Economy II: The Frankfurt School • ‘The Culture Industry: the tyranny of mass consumption’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 1947) • Cultural goods are mass produced in the same way as other goods • Film, pop music and so on become bland and empty and dull the recipient • Art and ‘high culture’ become debased and lose their power to transform and challenge
  10. 10. Jürgen Habermas (1962) • The public sphere – arena of public debate; general issues can be discussed,opinions can be formed • The public sphere first developed as part of enlightened philosophical and political transformations to enable informed, democratic, public debate • The media has the potential to extend and deepen the public sphere • The media actually promotes entertainment and spectacle • Politics becomes reduced to photo opportunities and sound bites – debasing the public sphere • Habermas remains optimistic; it is still possible to have a political community where issues can be openly debated
  11. 11. In 2006, George Galloway participated in Celebrity Big Brother because, he claimed, it was a way of reaching out to younger people and engaging them in political ideas…
  12. 12. Jean Baudrillard (1983; 1991) It used to be possible to think of a distinction between the social world and the media which represented and reported on it. Now: • Modern media are everywhere and increasingly define and constitute the social world: reality is what is on TV • Rolling news channels report on events before and while they happen and therefore shape them in real time • In this ‘hyperreality’ images are constructed with reference to other images – they are not grounded in any external social reality • This may be an explanation for ‘celebrity culture’; success is appearing in Hello.
  13. 13. Jean Baudrillard (1983; 1991) • Baudrillard : – mass media is the most profound change in modernity – TV does not merely represent – it also defines our world • Baudrillard: the border between reality and representation has collapsed. • Media representation is now part of a hyper-reality.
  14. 14. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Baudrillard, J. 1991) • George Bush and Saddam Hussein both had to watch CNN to see what was actually happening. The war wasn’t real until it was on TV. • Hyper-reality – the world is created from simulacra – images that get their reality from other images and hence have no grounding in external reality. • Criticism: – events fall outside the interest of western media – Darfour- there is still a world outside post-modern hyper- reality.
  15. 15. US THEM We have... Army, Navy and Air Force Press briefings They have... A war machine Propaganda Our boys are... Cautious Dare-devils Loyal Brave Theirs are... Cowardly Cannon fodder Blindly obedient Fanatical Our missiles cause... Collateral damage Their missiles cause... Civilian casualties We… Precision bomb They… Fire wildly at anything in the skiesAll the expressions above were used by the British press during the 1991 Gulf War
  16. 16. Two authors, two visions of the future… • George Orwell 1984 • Aldous Huxley A Brave New World • Themes in both: – Media, the control of information, ideas and ideologies
  17. 17. Two Visions of the Future: • A brave new world (Huxley, A., 1932) • London Hatching Centre: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon • Soma – drug; pain relief • Reproductive rights controlled through sterilization. Promiscuity encouraged. • Use of science and technology to create a happy, superficial world • Technology makes the citizens so happy, they do not care about their personal freedom • WuiaT0nX9ls • 2.40 • 1984 (Orwell, G., 1949) • Oceania; London • Winston, member of The Party • Everywhere he goes, he is monitored; filmed • Works at Ministry of Truth: altering papers • Newspeak- language • Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia, and allied with Eastasia DUJTnNU
  18. 18. Amusing Ourselves to Death Postman, N (1986) • Orwell fears: – Those who ban books – Those who would deprive us of information – The concealment of truth – We will become captured/ captive – People are controlled by pain or by fear – What we hate will ruin us • Huxley fears: • Those who give us so much information we become passive • That there is no one who wants to read a book • The truth will be drowned in a sea of irrelevance • What we love will ruin us
  19. 19. Amusing Ourselves to Death Postman, N (1986) • Postman argues that Huxley, rather than Orwell, is correct in their interpretation of the future • TV trivialises, politics, education, news, are all reduced to entertainment. • This is because TV as ‘the form’ is incapable of sustaining serious ‘content’ • Printed word is capable of sustaining complex and serious content • Print creates a rational population • TV creates an entertained population
  20. 20. Bowling Alone Putnam, R (1995; 2000) • Social capital: ‘ the social knowledge and connections that enable people to accomplish their goals and extend their influence’ (Giddens 2009:817) Example question: Which, if any, of these things have you done in the past week? Discussed politics – Had dinner in a restaurant – Had friends in for the evening – Went to the home of friends – Saw a movie • Bridging Social Capital (Outward-looking; inclusive, e.g. civil rights; blacks/whites) Bonding Social Capital (Inward-looking; exclusive, e.g. church- based women’s group) • TV viewing is strongly negatively correlated to social trust and group membership – 1950 – 10% of Americans had a TV set – 1959 – 90% had a TV set • Heavy watchers of TV are unusually sceptical about the benevolence of other people
  21. 21. Controlling the global media • Held et al (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture: – Increasing concentration of ownership: • dominated by a small number of powerful corporations – A shift from public to private ownership: • Liberalization of the business environment; privatization and commercialization of many media companies – Transnational corporate structures: • Media ownership rules loosened; cross-border investment and acquisition – Diversification over a variety of media products: • Diversification and less segmentation (Time Warner – mix media, music, news, print, TV programming) – A growing number of corporate media mergers: • Media becomes increasingly integrated
  22. 22. The question: whose vision of the future is right? • Orwell, or Huxley? • Discuss with your partner, referring to: – Putnam (1995; 2000) – Held et al (1999) – Postman (1986) – Functionalism: Wright, C (1960); the media helps to integrate and bind society. McQuail, D (2000) five stabilizing functions – Political Economy: Chomsky (1991); Philo & Berry ( 2004); Frankfurt School (Horkheimer & Adorno 1947) – Jürgen Habermas (1962): the Public Sphere – Jean Baudrillard (1983;1991): Hyperreality – John Thompson (1990; 1995): 3 kinds of communication
  24. 24. The Impact of the internet • Virtual Communities • Control and Surveillance • The Network Society
  25. 25. The Virtual Community Rheingold, H (2000) • Virtual communities: social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on… public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace’ (2000:5) • Being part of the WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) is a disembodied form of the real world: – Argue – Gossip – Make plans – Fall in love – Make friends – Lose friends – In other words, we do the same, but leave our bodies behind
  26. 26. The Virtual Community Rheingold, H (2000) • There are positive sides to computer- mediated communications: – Supplement existing relationships – Maintain contact with friends and relatives when abroad – Increased toleration of distance and separation – New types of relationships; annonymous chat – Expansion and enrichment of social networks
  27. 27. The Virtual Community Rheingold, H (2000) • There are negative sides to computer-mediated communications: – Commodity fetishism: gathering details and selling detials – Intensified surveillance; state monitoring: – This last point is of course strongly related to Michel Foucault’s thesis regarding power and surveillance… – sults_video&playnext=1&list=PLCA2759BD95C139E4
  28. 28. Discipline & Punish Foucault, M (1975) • ‘Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?’ (1975:228) • Principles of surveillance, observation and correcting unwanted behaviour do not stop at the prison gates: – These are part of modernity itself – Prisoners are compelled to behave well, as they never know when they are being observed – This makes for a ‘carceral society’, placing citizens under a managerial gaze • We now live in a ‘surveillance society’ (Lyon 1994)
  29. 29. State Cyber Control • Likewise it offers new opportunities for invasion of personal privacy- vast amounts of data are collated, on things like shopping –Amazon sending you lists of similar types of books to those you have placed in your basket. • Consider- US government’s demand that ISPs keep all e- mails for 2 years, so they can be accessed by law enforcement agencies. 30
  30. 30. Lull, J (1997) cited in Hogge (2005) • 100 Chinese families: – ‘Masters of interpretation’; reading between the lines – Viewers were skilled at imagining the true situation, knowing the government reports were bent or exaggerated – Access to TV and films showed images contrary to their own way of life • Google agreed to censor sensitive results for China (2006): – Tiananmen Square massacre (1989) – Promotion of Taiwan independence – Tibet – This supports Hackett and Zhao (2005) (last week) profit making rather than American values drives US media companies
  31. 31. The rise of the Network Society Castells, M (1996; 2001) • It is impossible for organizations to survice without being part of a network • IT enables growth • Organizational networking represents disintegration of traditional, rational bureacracy (challenging Weber’s thesis) • For individuals, the Internet is: – New combinations of work and self-employment – Individual expression – Collaboration and sociability – Possibility of political activism • ‘The network is the message’ not ‘The medium is the message’
  32. 32. Media Imperialism (Herman & McChesney 2003) • The paramount position of the industrialized countries (above all US) in the production and diffusion of media: – A cultural empire has been established. – Less developed countries especially vulnerable because they lack the resources to maintain their own cultural independence.
  33. 33. Media Imperialism • ‘hypodermic needle’ model which tends to assume that Western cultural products carry Western values that are ‘injected’ into passive consumers around the globe. • Audience studies: – consumers are active, not passive, watchers and listeners – may reject, modify or reinterpret the messages in media products. Ien Ang’s (1985) study of Dallas • Glocalisation – Robertson, R (1995)
  34. 34. John Thompson (1990; 1995) Three Types of Interaction: 1. face-to-face, 2. mediated, 3. quasi-mediated The Frankfurt School underestimate the extent to which the consumers of media messages (mediated quasi-interaction) actively make sense of them through other forms of interaction Baudrillard overemphasises the dominance of mediated quasi-interaction on social life
  35. 35. Conclusion • To what extent is contemporary society is a combination of an Orwellian/Huxley nightmare? – To what extent doesmedia imperialism, especially ownership, spreads the ideologies of the powerful, ensure the public remain ‘entertained’ and dull to real situations. • Or, new media has the potential for a Habermasian public sphere of debate. As Thompson argues, face-to- face communication and quasi-mediated interaction enable criticism. • You decide!
  36. 36. Set reading • Crime: – Giddens, Ch. 21. – Macionis & Plummer, Ch. 17.
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