reflections on media and culture

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 11 Mar 2006 - 13:41:48 GMT

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    I've been reading (uh oh) Ryan and Wentworth's _Media and Society_ and this book has got me thinking in terms of how media may impact culture and individual behavior. How do the various forms of media act as conduits for culturally relevant info and how much of an effect do they have on how people behave?

    Ryan and Wentworth note how there have been shifts in media over the years, from radio to TV to the internet and video games. Each of these is a time sink. There's competition between each for our time and attention. Look at computer related media. The more time spent cruising the net means less time in face-to-face encounters (the proverbial banter over the back fence at the clothesline). I probably spend more time reading posts on this list than I do talking to my own neighbors. My neighbors probably don't know much if anything about memetics, so this attention to the list is edifying in that regard.

    With the emergence of mass media people are more aware of global events, which is not necessarily bad, but I wonder if they tend to know more about what happens at the global level (wars, natural disasters, etc) than they do at the local level (struggles between developers and conservationists at city council meetings). There are local (typically free) newspapers available, but do people generally spend much time reading them? Do they tend to follow national level election cycles more than local election cycles?

    There are many ways we can use our television sets. We can watch local news, cable news, cartoon networks, music programming (though MTV now tends to devote more time to "reality TV" than music), etc. But the advent of DVD seems to cut into our TV time. The local Blockbuster offers movies that had once graced the silver screen. One can also rent somewhat educational documentary type DVD's that never made it to theaters. One can learn about all kinds of historical issues via DVD IF one is so inclined.

    Audio CD allows one to listen to books that they are too busy to read. They can keep up with best sellers while driving to and from work (where they can discuss the Da Vinci Code at the water cooler). But they can also learn a new language. While in their car they can grasp the fundamentals of Spanish or German or whatever.

    With all the various forms of media, how do these channels contribute to the transmission of cultural information and how does a sense of culture emerge from them? How does this differ from previous generations when these media were not available? The invention of the printed word certainly changed the face of the world, but that was many centuries ago. What was communication like in the EEA and how has it shifted over the millenia since then?

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