Hegemonic Effects of the Mass Media Apparatus

CONTENTS Page No.
 
HEGEMONIC EFFECTS OF THE MASS MEDIA APPARATUS
1. Introduction ………………………………………………………………… 2
2. Global Communications…………….…………………………………………………… 4
3. Social Impact of Mobile Technology………. 7
……………. ……………. ……………………..
4. Jouissance, Interpellation and Hegemony of the Mass Media

A)    Modernisation Theory

B)    Cultural Media Imperialism

C)    Globalisation…………….

9

11

12

13

5. Reference List 14
 

                                              INTRODUCTION

There have been many revolutions that have taken place around the world. The Industrial revolution which stemmed from the discovery of metals such as cast iron and steel and energy sources such as coal and steam. Electric Revolution enhanced this even further with the discovery of electricity. Morse’s Telegraph, the telephone, phonograph, radio,  et al are some good examples. The latter part of the last century- the 20th century-  saw yet another revolution in the form of information technology. This technology refers to the ways and the speed with which information can be exchanged respective or irrespective of the distances. This information could be in the form of sound (speech), data and video. This enabled industries such as telecommunications, electronics and computing industries to come together or converge into a synergistic medium known as Information Technology (IT).  The computerised devices are interlinked physically and non-physically (through wireless means). These devices have occupied both work-place and home to the extent that now it is known as the Information Age.

New information and communication technologies have changed the way we work, allowing greater control over the processes of production and distribution. Our ways of work have also changed in that regard. The economic importance of both media and communication is obvious through the impact of film and the television industries and it is less significant. However, the actual significance is that as a result of the convergence between computers and telecommunications, there are corporations that attempt to control both the infrastructure of delivery (telephone lines, fibre-optic cable, terrestrial and satellite television signals) and the content delivered materials such as films, programs, texts, Web pages, databases, educational materials or even data on corporations, governments and individuals. The merger between America Online and Time Warner is an apt example. The economic, social and cultural importance of the content remains the same. The change in the medium of delivery is of more than incidental importance. The first form of person-to-person communication, namely the telephone used to be confined only to the technology related media sector. However, It truly brings forth the telephone at the forefront in the present scenario. The mobile phone is a perfect example of this kind of change.

Mobile phone communications enable people across distances to communicate with a greater ease than normal telephones. Photographs and videos could be taken. The internet can be accessed through mobile handset, exchange photographs, movies, games and text messages. Mobile companies have even tied up with music record labels to market and even create contents (by compressing the file size without comprising on quality) to finally distribute these files to target these files to the artist’s fan base.

Nevertheless, we can see how right from Industrial Revolution through Electric and Information Revolution, the world has been shrinking and people are coming closer through communication and advancements in technology.

                                    GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

The internet’s promised universal access is only possible with a telephone line or a cable or wireless connection. Until the 1980s, telecoms were traditionally provided by a single operator holding a national monopoly such as Post Office (GPO), until British Telecom (BT) was created. But by post-1980s there were reforms to the telecom regulation. This involved making telecom services accessible to the whole population at constant prices. This eventually led from just holding a monopolistic network to duopoly to 3 operators to 4 operators  and finally multiple operators that spanned the entire globe.

However, so far, it is seen that instant global communications show few signs of producing  an economically more equitable global society. In fact, the stock trading centres that were linked together in the 1970s have created a global financial market that is increasingly detached from the actual performance of the national economies. The efficiency and the control made possible by IT, contributed to the growth of multinational corporations.

In advanced industrialised countries, the growth of the wireless telecom services have been used by the governments  to provoke greater competition. Although the established players have remained dominant in national telephone networks and competitive pressures have driven up the quality of services. At the same time, the growing number of cell-phone subscribers and the narrowing cost differentials between cell phone subscribers and the narrowing cost differentials between cell phones and fixed-line network have intensified the pressure to reduce prices.

New possibilities opened up the telecom companies tied with media based companies such as the merger between Hollywood studios, telecom and software companies. The experience of the USA and UK encouraged others to mix market competition with public regulation. In 1997, the World Trade Organisation started the Global Telecommunications Agreement that was signed by 60 nations. The agreement was designed to end state monopolies and to open the global market to international competition by allowing foreign investment in domestic telecoms. The pact accelerated the pace of mergers and acquisitions on a global scale. It put forth the likely domination of the world’s telecoms market by telecommunication giants.

As far as the social impact of the Information Revolution is concerned, there are some exaggerated predictions that Internet will destroy all educational institutions and traditional jobs. The manner in which they operate is changing for sure. Distance education was originally in the form of various correspondence courses through postal mails that enabled students who were in one part of the world to study without travelling to another (usually) distant place. Perhaps the situation of some people- job or financial status were reasons behind their choice for such a study and fundamentally the target of the “distant” institute. The books for a particular course used to be sent to the student who would then study and prepare for examinations.

However, now with advancements in technology, it has become more internet/web oriented means of reaching out to the student. It might be construed that distance education is actually a drawback because there is no direct, student-teacher interaction and there is no classroom environment. Although this view has some weight in the original scenario, as far as the internet based education is concerned, it is not entirely true or it is just having some preconceived ideas about the same.

The whole idea of virtual campus was that there is a central university in a particular place- say in the capital of a country. Then this institute has a tie-up with some other institutes or colleges- known as tele-learning centres. The tele-learning centres were connected to this university through satellite and through Wide Area Based Network. The lectures in a virtual distant learning programme are held via live satellite broadcast or teachers used to be allocated in all these centres where they conduct lectures or practicals. Students are free to attend these sessions at their own convenience. There are multiple sessions so that the students would not necessarily miss out on any class. The lecture notes are downloadable in electronic format. Here even the concept of distance is lost and is more traditional but then again it was cutting edge technology. Some exams are computer based and posted in electronic format. The students get the marks for their subjects through the institute’s home page. The students can communicate with the teachers through a chat page on the institute’s web site at a particular time decided by the University. This  web based concept is very useful, especially for those who are working and like to take higher qualifications without sacrificing their job. Also, the much sensationalised phenomenon of telecommuting using computers and online facilities to work from home is a new way of working being adopted mainly by some large organisations. The proportion of companies using them is rising.

In terms of culture, the industrial significance of the media and of entertainment is growing. The home has almost become a hub for entertainment based activities. There is an increase in the use of  video games, online shopping, Bluetooth technology. Mobile phones or cell phones allow people to connect to the digital world without the traditional telephone lines and terrestrial infrastructure. China and India have large number of subscribers of mobile phones. In fact, China has more subscribers than anywhere else in the world except for USA and this is despite the fact that China has got fewer telephone lines. The average Chinese subscriber chats for over 400 minutes a month-three times longer than the average American.

Competition and liberalisation affect cell-phone adoption. In 1999, Lebanon had the lowest prices at 7 cents a minute against a North African and Middle East regional average of 40-50 cents; charges in Norway dropped by 60 % and in Germany by 70%. On the other hand, in most of Latin America, where governments maintain monopolies on networks, prices stayed high- as much as ten times the cost of the local call. Despite this, the market there was buoyant. (Balnaves, Donald, Donald, 2001)

SOCIAL IMPACT OF  MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

There was a time when working with technology provided an outlet for brilliant but anti-social people who found something in their machines that provided them with what they wanted in ways that people did not. Now, it is just the reverse. Apple’s iTunes, listening to music on one’s mobile handset and exchanging multi-media files are just part of the social trend as opposed to the anti-social and individualistic function that technology was initially thought to serve.

There is a marketing strategy and a number of sociologists that tell the common public A-list of things that one should know in the next five to ten years. So, spotting a trend has in itself become a trend. A trend does not merely denote a “shift” in the way people do things or on “development”. It is not just an evolving “preference”. Penn (2007) makes a very thoughtful remark that reaches the core of the actual demand for the mass media apparatus from a socialistic point of view:

A microtrend is an intense identity group, that is growing, which has needs and wants unmet by the current crop of companies, marketers, policy makers, and others who would influence society’s behaviour (Penn M.J., 2007: xx)

The implications for technology marketing are stunning. The technology based companies used to target their products to a niche market, now it it is being sold as a common necessity. Computers and mobile phones are the obvious examples. There are people who read about advances in consumer electronics and digital devices. They are into latest technology, particularly up to date with computer software and new versions of operating systems.  There are also people who are the most busy juggling family, work and school, and who are living the most active and engaged lifestyles. They go for movies, concerts, exercise and play outdoor games and listen to downloaded music far more than those on the other side who buy and use technology only when they really need. These people come under the moniker of “Social Geeks”. Thus it is seen that technology which was once at one end of the socially cut-off is now the centre-piece of a network of social gathering. (Penn, 2007)

JOUISSANCE, INTERPELLATION AND HEGEMONY OF THE MASS MEDIA

There are people who take a conscious stand against gadgets such as mobile phones and computers because of the fear of invasion of privacy or simply lack of interest. There is a general unrest amongst a certain section of people that technology takes away the life of any traditionally known way of communicating or they take away jobs. There was a period of unrest similar to this in 1800s group of English workers who smashed textile machines to protest the changes- especially the loss of their jobs- that were brought about by the Industrial Revolution. They eventually lost and have been termed “Luddites” or the mythic members. They were those who fought for artistry over automation and humanity over productivity. The scene is quite similar in the present day of microchips and integrated circuitry although less aggressive.

There are people who reject such a change could be due to factors such as age,Geography and income. In other words, they are those who find the technology too intimidating or who can’t use it because of their location and those who find it expensive. So, they either reject technology or are ignorant about it due to their circumstances. However, there are many younger, urban and employed, the so called- “New Luddites”. One in four people in a survey mentioned that they stopped using the Internet because they did not find it useful and was not a good use of their time.

These New Luddites are exactly polar opposite to the aforementioned people in the previous topic who uses it in daily part of their lives. In contrast to the Social Geeks who use technology to advance their outgoing approach to the world, the New Luddites are more pessimistic, guarded and perhaps more lonelier. Over half of them believe that most people would take advantage of others when given an opportunity and there will no-one to eventually get support and help from when they really need. Internet and mobile savvy people and Social Geeks generally tend to believe that they have control over their lives. Whereas New Luddites reject technology because they suspect that technology would control them. However, they do have reasonably valid points that technology has only made life more stressed and busier. There is also too much of communication because of the availability of instant communication. This is not reflected in the way, in a modern and affluent place like the United States of America where people in general do not take time out for vacation or even work lesser despite the fact that knowledge and communication are readily available. They are more interested in the natural social aspect than the more robotic passionless form of communication.

Also  concerns of safety has led cell phones to be banned in aeroplanes because they interfere with the navigation equipment and on-the-ground calls. Also, people generally object to conversations – sometimes lengthy in a plane. This sentiment is carried out in places of worship, study, concerts, museums and libraries where a certain sanctity needs to be maintained. Then there are unwanted commercial aspects that need to be really checked if we actually need those “trendy” or extra features.

There is a subgroup of Social Geeks knowns as “Tech Fatales” that consist of the female section of the society. They just do not use the technology but drive, shape and decide the majority of consumer purchases in Amercia.  Given their inborn nature, they could sense the user-friendliness and the image of a gadget much more than males. According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, girls are more likely than boys to use mobile phones. They are the heavy users of technology and who love to communicate all the time. The mobile and in general computer based companies cannot ignore their needs. They prefer gadgets that are light, durable and effective. They have specific preferences for keypad or looks of the phone. So, generally there is a tendency for females to be open to technology because of the image and the possibilities of communication. (Penn, 2007)

  1.        A)  MODERNISATION THEORY

The growth and the influence of global media and communication  was shaped by the modernisation theory. It plays a huge role in the process of economic and social development. After the second world war, there was a period of de-colonisation. Many countries in Africa and Asia got their independence from their former colonial masters.

The main goals during the initial phase of independence was development. It was seen that some of these countries would have to break down certain ways of thinking and embrace change by imparting modern values. The media played a key role in communicating the modern values, skills, attitudes and structures needed for development. However, modernisation theory has been found to be insensitive to the needs of these African and Asian societies sometimes even pointing out that dependency on these Western societies as a reason for their underdevelopment. (Williams, 2003)

  1. B) CULTURAL MEDIA IMPERIALISM

There is a dependency theory to explain the gap between the West and the rest of the world. The theory highlights that they cannot develop because they continue to be held back by their dependence on their former colonial powers despite gaining political independence. If colonialism is a form of imperialism wherein one nation is controlled by another, neo-colonialism is cultural imperialism which has got media at its centre. The global television music channel MTV, Hollywood films and soap operas can be seen as “westernisation” are said to be a part of this trend. It is often believed that this contributes to the erosion and moral decay of local values. It is believed to be a part of the American military-industrial conspiracy.

However, there are some reasonably valid points, the short-sightedness of this theory is also exposed. For instance, the seemingly US global media dominance is due to natural advantages. This is sometimes due to aesthetic terms. American television programmes are watched in greater number because they are better made, characters are more appealing, plots are interesting, they are presented well, production values are higher and the economic advantages (low cost). The Cultural resistance can also take several forms. (Williams, 2003)

  1. GLOBALISATION

Globalisation undermines national culture and identity in a variety of ways. People in nearly every nation are open to cultural experiences from around the world. National borders are no longer a barrier to the influx of alien ideas and values. Satellites above and the Internet below have played a crucial part in making the modern nation porous. (Williams K. 2003:226)

Globalisation is the process by which economic activity, political values and culture have ceased to be constrained by Geography and territory. It strongly emphasis the role of the media. New media technologies such as satellites, mobile telephony and Internet represent a giant step in the capacity of the media to bring people closer together. Whereas cultural imperialists see the flow of information as one-way, globalisation embraces the capacity to audiences to engage in a two-way communication with the help of the e-mail and the World Wide Web and gadgets such as mobile phones. It is seen as both embracing cultures from around the world yet keeping their original natural traditions intact. It also addresses world issues through different media to create an awareness and to initiate a helping hand. It is definitely a hybrid and healthy concept.

The vast atrocities and dominating dictatorial regimes that suppress the growth of a nation have also been exposed due to the input of global media technology and the quick conveyance of information. The prime examples are overthrowing of former communist regimes in Eastern Europe. So, the media has given a sense of universal or collective identity which gives the feeling of “belonging” or something that can be relied on. Information is the defining feature of the modern world and an authentic ideology of our time. There is more information than ever before and there are more media devices such as computers and mobile phones that connects individuals irrespective of any form of boundaries. Thus we have really entered the information society as a result of information transmitting devices. (Williams, 2003)

                                          REFERENCE LIST

  • Balnaves M., Donald J. and Donald S. H. (2001) ‘The Global Media Atlas’ (First Edition), Myriad Editions Limited, Brighton, UK
  • Penn M.J. and Zalesne E.K. (2007) ‘The Small Forces Behind Today’s Big Changes- Microtrends’ (First Editon), Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York 10014, USA
  • Williams K. (2003) ‘Understanding Media Theory’ (First Edition), HodderHeadline Group, 338 Esuton Road, London NW1 3BH, UK
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