The Sociological Aspects of the Media and Popular Culture

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The media influence how people experience social life. Media such as newspaper, television and film, are important sources of information, education and entertainment. It can be used to learn more about the world and the people in it. In this regard it can be said that the media represent, interpret and endorse aspects of social experience (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2005). The media are also implicated in social regulation, or in other terms, the government of society. The media are implicated in government and politics in an obvious way because modern systems of democracy are conducted through the media. But the media have a bigger role to play in government by structuring how society is controlled and maintained.

In addition, while the media are owned and run by government, commercial, and community interests, commercial interests dominate. In this regard there is cause to argue that the media serve the interests of those who own them. Adorno and Horkheimer have argued that the mass media in particular operates as a ‘culture industry’ (Van Krieken et al, 2006: 441). It supplies ideological products for mass consumption that preserve and extend the dominating position of the ruling classes. There is also an argument that corporate monopolisation of media ownership and modes of production mean that the media have become the instrument of private capital and mediated colonisation. The essay will discuss the sociological aspects of the media and popular culture with reference to the social impact of the internet and related technologies and the role of media in globalisation.

Probably the biggest technological change in media and communication in recent times has involved the rise of the internet and related technologies. The internet has added a new, powerful, and rapidly changing technology to media and communication. Unlike the broadcast media, the internet also has pronounced interactive features because it allows people to communicate with each other. Innovations such as FaceBook and MySpace combine images, text, and messaging to create new possibilities for social interaction. Websites such as YouTube combine broadcast media with the self-directed properties of the internet. SMS texting has revolutionised the social lives of many people. All these media allow people to sustain relationships across time and space in ways that have never before been possible. Some are concerned however, that over-reliance on such forms of communication reduces the importance of face-to-face social experience. Others argue that such media present new ways of defining our identities and establishing new kinds of social interaction (Castells, 2000).

Since its introduction on a public scale in the 1990s, the internet has been associated with many changes in social experience. Many aspects of social life such as education, work, commerce and even personal relationships have changed through the internet. However, researchers have found that, at least in the early years, access to the internet is shaped according to gender, class, ethnicity and education. During the 1990s the typical information technology user was a white, male, professional with a background in IT. This bias in internet access was named the ‘digital divide’ to point out the implied social inequalities. It was said that the internet was managed and exploited by one group at the expense of others (Mosco, 2004) but today the digital divide no longer exist to an extend it once did simply because of the growing number of internet users worldwide.

In terms of sociological aspects cyberculture and social networking media. The term cyberculture is useful because it provides the basis for simultaneously addressing the new media technologies and their social effects. As such, cyberculture draws attention to several aspects of the society-technology link: the effects of new media technologies themselves, for example, email or SMS texting; the merging of the social and...
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