Lull_Ideology&Consciousness

Lull_Ideology&Consciousness - I2 Introduction to...

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Unformatted text preview: I2 Introduction to demonstrate the limits of structure and th e vitality of agency in routine social interaction: Each speaker of a language is both constrained and empowered by the code that informs his language use. He or she has no choice but to accept the way in which distinctive features have been defined and combined to form phonemes. He or she has no choice but to accept the way in which the phonemes have been defined and combined to form morphemes. The creation of sentences out of morphemes is also constrained, but here the speaker enjoys a limited discretionary power and combinatorial freedom. This discretionary power increases when the speaker combines sentences into utterances. By this stage the action of compulsory rules of combination has ceased altogether. (I990: 63) About this book Moving forward then with an overarching philosophy that life’s vital trajectories are not predestined, we shall now explore the dynamic interaction of three themes that will make up the core of this book: mass media and information technology, patterns and processes of human communication, and the social construction of diverse cultures. The book is international, multicultural, and multidisciplinary. Many of the examples refer to cultures outside North America, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe. We study capitalist and communist systems, the First World and the Third, the rich and the poor, the mainstream and the margins. We evaluate media, commu- nication, and culture stretching from California to China, by way of England, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, and scores of other places. Theorists from outside the northern loop are prominent contributors to the points of view that evolve in the following pages. We will travel theoretical terrain that encompasses key concepts and issues from communication studies, sociology, cultural studies, political economy, psychology, and anthropology. We visit the premodern, modern, high modern, and postmodern eras. No facile, easy answers to complex, tough questions will be found in these pages as we strive to explain the forces of structure and agency in contemporary media, communication, and culture. Given the choice of privileging structure over agency, or agency over struc- ture, however, I choose the latter. I prefer to stand in the sunshine, not in the shadows, and I hope that by the end of our journey together readers of this volume will be inspired to do the same. 2 Ideology and Consciousness Mn.-..-.-—-m-«ru.\-r.uv....-.--.mn 1." ,. _ , We move forward with this critical analysis of media, communica; tion, and culture now by exploring concepts that should be part 0 any college student’s working vocabulary. Ideology. and consCious— ness are the subjects of this chapter, and a related idea, hegemony, will be the focus of the next. We will refer to ideology, conSCiousness, and hegemony throughout this book. The concepts are complex overlapping, though each has a unique emphaSIs and role in soc1a theory. To introduce the first two, _we can say that ideology is a system of ideas expressed in communication and eonsezottsness is theessencle or totality of attitudes, opinions, and sensmvmes held by indiVidua s or groups. Ideology In the most general sense, ideology_is organized thought — sets or: values, orientations, and predispositions that are expressed thcij'oulg technologically mediated and interpersonal communication. 1 eo o- gies are internally coherent ways of thinking. They are poznts of mew that may or may not be “true;” thatis, ideologies are not (rjieciessar— ily grounded in historically or empirically verifiable faclt. I eoiogielsl may be tightly or loosely organized. Somelare comp ex an we integrated; others are fragmented. Some ideological lessons hare temporary; others endure. Some meet strong reSistance, ot ers have immediate and phenomenal impact. But the varying character of ideology should not obscure its importance. Organized thought 13 never innocent; it always serves a purpose. Ideologies are implicate l4 Ideology and Consciousness by their origins, their institutional associations, and the purposes to which they are put, though these histories and relationships may never be entirely clear. In fact society’s power holders often prefer that people don’t understand or question where ideas come from, or whose interests are served by ideologies, and whose are not. Ideology is a term we can use to describe the values and public agenda of nations, religious groups, political parties, candidates and movements, business organizations, schools, labor unions, even pro— fessional sporting teams, urban gangs, rock bands, and rap groups. But most often the term refers to the relationship between organized thought and social power in large-scale, political—economic contexts. Ideology, therefore, is fundamentally a large-scale, “macro”—level concept. Selected ways of thinking are advocated through a variety of channels by those in society who have widespread political and economic power. The ongoing manipulation of public information and imagery by society’s power holders constructs a particular kind of ideology — a dominant ideology which helps sustain the material and cultural interests of its creators. Ideology as a system of ideas has persuasive force only when such ideas can be represented and communicated. Naturally, then, the mass media and all other large—scale social institutions play a vital role in the dissemination of ideologies. Fabricators of dominant ideo— logies become an “information elite.” Their power, or dominance, stems directly from their ability to publicly articulate their preferred systems of ideas. Ironically, in today’s world many of society’s “elites” must depend on non«elite cultural forms a the mass media and popular culture — to circulate their ideologies in order to maintain their elevated social status. The origins of ideology as a critical concept in social theory can be traced to late eighteenth—century France (Thompson 1990). Since then, by one definition or another, ideology has been a central concern of historians, literary critics, sociologists, philosophers, semioticians, political scientists, rhetoricians — theorists representing virtually every niche in the humanities and social sciences. European intellectuals in particular have given ideology a sharp critical edge. British social theo— rists, for example —— living in a blatantly class—divided society famous for its kings arid queens, princes and princesses, lords and ladies — often define ideology in terms of how information is used by one socioeconomic group (the elite or “ruling class”) to dominate the rest — especially the poor and the working class. Raymond Williams, one of the most respected communication theorists of years past, called ideology “the set of ideas which arises from a given set of material interests or, more broadly, from a definite class or group” (1976: 156; italics mine). He was saying that ideology is closely connected to eco— ldeology and Consciousness l5 nomic interests. Persons and institutions with political or economic power will try to use ideology to maintain their privileged position at all costs. To give a particularly consequential example, during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and early l970s the corporate manu— facturers of military weapons, equipment, and supplies vigorously supported the ideological assertion, “My Country Right or Wrong!” in order to keep the profitable war going as long as possible. Because “systems of ideas” are used in ways that favor the inter- ests of some people over others, we must never trivialize the meaning of ideology. For this reason, the British sociologist john B. Thomp; son insists that ideology is best understood in the aforementioned, more narrow sense of “dominant ideology,” wherein “symbolic forms” including language, media content, political platforms, insti— tutional messages from governments, schools, organized religion, and so on are used by those with power to “establish and sustain rela— tions of domination” (1990: 58). However, Thompson argues, “spe— cific symbolic forms are not ideological as such: they are ideological only in so far as they serve, in particular circumstances, to establish and sustain systematically asymmetrical relations of power” (Thomp- son 1995: 213). The socioeconomic elites can saturate society with their preferred ideological agenda partly because they have great influence, often ownership, over the institutions that author and dispense symbolic forms of communication, including the culture industries and the mass media. Ideology, then, is a very good place to begin a critique of media, communication, and culture. Our reflection begins with the term itself. Simply to refer to any system of ideas as “ideology” calls at— tention to the nature of that system of ideas, and opens the door for meaningful analysis. The expressions “capitalist ideology” and “socialist ideology,” for example, call attention to the fundamental principles that make up the two contrasting, often competing, political—economic—cultural systems. Using the term “ideology” directs attention to the values and practices of capitalism and socialism as political—economic—cultural schemas that are constructed and repre- sented rather than natural and self-evident. It problematizes capital— ism and socialism as sets of values, perspectives, and conforming social practices. A seemingly minor shift of language —— from “capital- ism” to “capitalist ideology,” for example — thus facilitates analysis and debate. That is a main reason why ideology is a favorite term of critical observers and theorists. However, the term can also be used in a way that discourages critical reflection. Some American politicians, citizens, and media complain of the “communist ideology" of “Castro’s Cuba” or of “red China,” for example. When used in this pejorative manner, the term “ideology” nearly becomes a synonym for l6 Ideology and Consciousness “communism.” It is the communists who suffer from ideology, according to this interpretation, as if Americans and others in the “free world” don’t have to worry about any such political manipulations. Ideology and the mass media Some ideologies are elevated and amplified by the mass media, given great legitimacy by them, and distributed persuasively, often glamo- rously, to large audiences. In the process, ideas assume ever-increas— ing importance, reinforcing their original meanings and extending their social impact. Television has the unparalleled ability to expose, dramatize, and popularize cultural bits and fragments of information. It does so in-the routine transmission of entertainment programs, news, and commercials. The bits and fragments then become ideo- logical currency in social exchange. People talk a lot about what they read, see, and hear on the mass media and the Internet. Media frag— ments don’t stand alone — not in the media, and not in our conver- sations. Various bits of information often congeal to form ideological sets that overrepresent the interests of the powerful and underrepre- sent the interests of the less rich or simply less visible people. Although television may be the most obvious conveyer of such domi- nant ideologies, all mass media, including seldom recognized forms such as postage stamps, store windows, breakfast cereal boxes, auto- mobile bumper stickers, tee-shirts, grocery receipts, golf tees, match- book covers, restaurant menus, even the bottom of urinals carry messages that serve the interests of some groups and not others. Con— sider, for instance, the (dominant) ideological lessons given in these familiar American bumper stickers: He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins. 5:: I Owe, I Owe, 50 Off to Work I Go. I?" My Other Car is a Porsche. 9'3- My Boss Was a jewish Carpenter. Image systems Image . . . is everything. Tennis professional Andre Agassi in a TV commercial for a japanese camera manufacturer Image . . . is nothing. Professional basketball star Grant Hill in a TV commercial for an American soft drink company Ideology and Consciousness I7 / Representational units Ideational systems —\—: Internal organization Suggested interpretations / Technological mediation \ Social mediation Mediational systems Figure 2.| Image systems The Sprite commercial, of course, is meant to be heavily ironic. The soft drink company depends on Grant Hill’s image to claim that “image is nothing!” Appearances are extremely important in a mass— mediated world. The effective spread of dominant ideologies — those mainstream sets of ideas that reinforce the status quo — depends on the strategic use of image systems, of which there are two basic types: ideational and mediational (figure 2.1). Ideational image systems refer to bow ideas take form. M ediational image systems refer to bow ideas circulate in society. The key word in both cases is “system.” Ideologies make sense because their internal elements hang together in systematic patterns. Those patterns then become familiar and accepted because they are delivered to us systematically via the mass media, and are further circulated in the personal conversations we have with our families, friends, co-workers, teachers, fellow students, neighbors, email correspondents, chat-room partners, and others. Image systems, therefore, refer to the articulation of layers of ideo— logical representation and the tactical use of modern communications technology to distribute the representations, which, when successful, encourage audience acceptance and reproduction of the dominant themes, thus reinforcing relationships of power that are already in place. We use the term “image systems” to emphasize that ideology depends on the patterned construction, representation, and trans— mission of ways of thinking in order to be influential. Ideational image systems Let’s concentrate first on ideas. As we are learning, ideas are never neutral and they rarely stand alone. They are grouped together for l8 Ideology and Consciousness strategic purposes, refer to each other, and reinforce each other. A comparison with language may help clarify how systems of ideas work. When people speak a language, they utter sounds that are orga— nized into words, phrases, sentences, and so forth. Language as a system encourages certain responses and understandings, and not others. It is not a closed system — there is room for misunderstand— ing, disagreement, and invention — but it is a system that is structured sufficiently well so that people who share the code can communicate and coordinate their actions according to mutually intelligible assumptions and rules. The same basic process characterizes how systems of ideas take shape and move about. Let’s consider an extended example of an ideational image system — commercial advertising — a $200-billi0n industry in the USA alone. What commercial advertisers sell are not just products, services, or isolated ideas. Advertisers sell multilayered, integrated ideational systems that embrace, interpret, and project interdependent images of products, cheerful consumers benefiting from the products, cor- porations that profit from sale of the products, and, most important, the overarching political-economic—cultural structure - and the values and social activity it embraces - that presumably makes all the con— sumer activity possible. Advertisers want people not only to like the brands and product groups they put up for sale, but to believe in the economic system that underlies the very idea that “to consume is good.” Some ideas thus are acceptable to the economic elite who sponsor the advertising, while other idea are not. One idea that does not fit well with the ideational image system of advertising, for example, is the wellvdocumented scientific claim that current patterns of natural resource consumption on a global scale —especially at rates evident in the more developed countries of the northern hemisphere - are destroying the earth’s ecological balance and threatening the planet‘s very survival. Without much regard for environmental or social consequences, advertisers try to turn media audience members into consumers. Through advertising people are encouraged to become personally involved with commercial products by imagining contexts — the phy- sical scenes, emotional circumstances, and actual social situations in which they wduld be able to use various products. These projected imagined situations are grounded in an overarching value structure with which the consumer is already familiar. Advertising’s success thus depends largely on the interpretative chemistry of plausible imagined consumptive situations interacting with familiar and accepted value structures. 50, for example, a Nissan automobile commercial encourages viewers to buy one of their sleek-looking but competitively priced cars “Because rich guys shouldn’t have all the Ideology and Consciousness l9 fun!” These eight words sell much more than Nissans. They are used to construct an imagined situation framed by a value structure that embraces unabashed materialist competition, a commodified defini- tion of pleasure, reinforcement of the “naturalness” of a socially stratified society, an assumption that social aggressiveness is the ter- ritory of men, and permission to use the product in order to deceive others into thinking you’ve got a car that reflects high socioeconomic status. This example demonstrates how the various internal elements of a television commercial — the audiovisual cues, cultural values, and assumptions — all work together to create an ideational image system. Repetition is extremely important. Repeated presentation of domi~ nant ideological messages continues to define or “indicate” culture, particularly for people who are heavily exposed to media. For example, the “heavy viewer” of television (30 hours or more per week) tends to perceive the world in a way that is much more consi— stent with the images presented on the tube than those who watch less than ten hours weekly (Gerbner 1973; Gerbner and Gross 1976). Mass media greatly influence how people make sense of even the most basic features of their societies. The media give strong, repeated impressions about society’s racial and gender composition and roles, for example, as well as its vocational alternatives, political options, and levels of violence. In the United States we see lots of white and black people on TV, but few Latinos, Asians, or Middle Easterners. Most jobs apparently are quite glamorous, men are single and women married, very few children or elderly people exist, there are only two political parties, almost everybody is heterosexual, and the chances are excellent you will be shot the minute you walk out your front door. Television’s common themes regularly stereotype people and things, reinforce the status quo, and support the dominant ideology that is behind these ideas. As Gerbner and Gross say, “TV is an agency of the established order and as such serves primarily to extend and maintain rather than alter, threaten, or weaken conventional conceptions, beliefs, and behaviors . . . its chief cultural function is to spread and stabilize social patterns” (1976: 175). Consistent with the perspective we are developing in this chapter, Gerbner and Gross consider the content of television to be an ideologically loaded “message system.” The flood of commercials capitalizing on the national mood in the United States following the Gulf War in the early 19905 illustrates well how culturally based value structures can be used to sell prod- ucts. In these commercials, sponsors positioned their products inside the emotional context of nationalism, patriotism, and militarism that swept America after lraq surrendered — to “go with the glow,” in advertising terms. Post—war accolades in political rhetoric and cor- porate advertising incessantly celebrated what was called America’s L- 20 Ideology and Consciousness freedom—loving spirit, its selfless determination, and its technological superiority. As we’ve seen, a fundamental objective of corporate advertising is to gain and maintain credibility by embedding specific messages in more abstract and encompassing ideologies in order to create ideational image systems. In the case of the post-Gulf War rhetoric, commercial messages were reinforced almost daily by former president George Bush’s pronouncements of America’s promi- nent role in what he called the “New World Order.” The “New World Order” is actually an ideological term created to promote US politi- cal and economic interests on a global scale. Photo 2.l Freedom to consume . . . if you've got the money. American adver- tising links ideology and nationalism .with a marketing strategy. even in Moscow (photo by James Lull) Ideology and Consciousness 2| Nationalist rhetoric and flag waving in television commercials long predate the self-congratulatory indulgences that saturated the air— waves following the Gulf War or the more current exercises in japan and China bashing. A common technique has been to ridicule other nations and peoples. Films, television programs, and commercials chastised Germans and japanese for years after World War II ended. The Cold War ideological standoff in effect after World War II until the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the ultimate di5integration of the Soviet Union provided a political context in which American nation- alism and capitalism were exalted by blatant negative stereotyping of communist nations and peoples. The typical strategy has been to create or promote good feelings about American culture (of which the product is a part) by encouraging the audience to laugh at the dramatized cultural (and racial) incompetencies of foreigners. Rus— sians were frequent targets in the 19805 (Real 1989). Since China’s military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, the Chinese often have been posed as the feared and hated “other,” a per— spective that emanates from, and fuels, political purposes on the right and the left in the USA. The action movie Red Comer, for example, is a particularly horrible and misleading representation of Chinese culture. The red, white, and blue flag—shaped logo of the Tommy Hilfiger line of sports apparel is a noteworthy recent example of how famil- iar, patriotic symbolism continues to be used as a marketing strategy. But in the multicultural realities of today, the “market for loyalties” (Price 1994) is complex. One of the Spanish-language radio stations in San josé, California, for instance, uses the red, white, and green colors of the Mexican flag in all its public promotions to compete with other stations. Inside Mexico, red, white, and green banners are used by the powerful political party Partido Revolucionario Institu- ciomzl (PR1), a tactic some observers believe tricks semi-literate voters into thinking that when they vote for a PRI candidate, they are voting for Mexico. Commercial advertising not only asserts, references, and reinforces preferred ideologies, it often suggests that products and services exist to help create a better world, despite strong evidence to the contrary in many cases. Specific campaigns are designed to sell images of companies as socially responsible as much as to sell their products. This indirect technique is called institutional advertising. Warm, fuzzy, incomplete, often misleading claims - all designed to make us feel good about the sponsor and about ourselves — are regularly made on TV to accomplish this goal. International Business Machines (IBM), for example, claims to be “helping to put information to Fr 22 Ideology and Consciousness work for people,” without spelling out which people benefit, in what ways, and at whose expense. A West Coast telephone company claims that “technology will give people more time to be more human” and that we should turn responsibility for managing the technology over to them. Dow Chemical, the company that scorched Vietnam with napalm and Agent Orange, now presents dreamy National Geographic—style visuals on its TV ads while claiming to be the company that “protects wildlife.” Xerox unblinkingly says it is “documenting the world.” Citicorp Bank opines that its services are necessary “because Americans want to succeed, not just survive.” Federal Express is “the way the world works.” A TV “public service announcement” produced by the Ad Council, a federation of American advertising agencies, tells citizens that “people cause pol- lution, people can stop it,” ignoring the fact that the most damaging environmental polluters are industrial corporations who refuse to accept the responsibility. Advertising reinforces the class-based structure of society by sym— bolically rewarding workers’ contributions to the system, thereby further legitimating the system itself. The working class is commonly saluted on American television. The humor and lifestyles of the working class are imitated in television programming, especially situation comedies, reinforcing many central beliefs and values held by American workers and their families, thereby helping to keep them amused with representations of themselves while they are encouraged to keep working and consuming. Working—class spirit — a great Western culture myth — is especially celebrated in American beer com- mercials. Blue-collar work settings and leisure-time activities are shown while the narrator gives the verbal reward: “For all the men and women who have served this great country, this Bud’s for you” or “Buy that man a Miller.” Explicit advertising claims are sometimes repeated so frequently over time that they become part of audience members’ assumptive worlds. Perhaps the best example is Bayer aspirin. The assertion for years that Bayer is the “best” aspirin has contributed, along with other marketing strategies, to a widespread perception of this brand as superior to its competitors, even though Bayer, like all other brands, contains only five-grain aspirin. Similarly, General Motors’ fictitious,,friendly, fair, and ever—so—competent “Mr Goodwrench” became America’s generic mechanic thanks to an advertising cam— paign that went on for years. Even the body can be normalized ideo- logically. In an American television commercial for the cosmetic product I’orcelaire (a cream that covers liver spots), a woman calls Ideology and Consciousness 23 the spots on the back of her hands “ beauty spots.” The spokeswoman for the product quickly interjects, “Some people call those age spots!,” correcting a healthy perception of the woman’s skin to conform to the sponsor’s objectives. And when things go wrong in marketing and advertising, sheer repetition of a positive message in the face of criticism — commercial stonewalling — is a way to over— come a damaging perception. A major lumber company indicted for irresponsibly slashing and cutting the emerald hills of America’s Great Northwest, for example, referred to itself for years in TV commer— cials as “the tree growing company.” In the unctuous wake of the Alaska oil spill some years ago, Exxon still vigorously promotes an “environmentally conscious” image. Dominant ideologies reflect the values of society’s politically or economically powerful institutions and persons, regardless of the type of system in place. In capitalist countries, corporate executives greatly influence media content by sponsoring programs and advertising products. Because media content in those nations is not financed directly by government or associated in the minds of most people with administrative authority, its ideological tones and trajectories are not easily detected, a fact that helps magnify the ideological impact. Dictators in authoritarian regimes, on the other hand, restrict access to information and to communications technology in order to maintain control. Socialist nations use mass media to promote political, economic, and cultural programs that are decided upon democratically in some cases, imposed in others. In the few remain- ing communist nations, party officials develop explicit ideological objectives and lessons which are then sent to the people through media programming. In China, for example, television and other media remain full of glarineg biased news reports, programs that salute “model workers” and “model citizens,” politically correct dramas, documentaries that praise socialism and the Communist Party, and bluntly didactic editorials. Communist ideology is straight— forwardly prescriptive, no apologies made. The Communist Party, after all, supposedly acts in the best interests of the people who are said to need and want ideological supervision. Sources of ideology and the image systems they help create often go unrecognized. T0 refer to a profitable use of computer software as a “killer app” (application), or to say that a marketing scheme remains “on target,” locates such businessworld activity within a familiar lexicon that subtly reinforces aggression and militarism. City skylines, the height and shape of skyscrapers, bridges, theme parks, and tourist sites are all developed to create certain impressions 24 Ideology and Consciousness and feelings inspired by global competition for business and tourist dollars. At county fairs in Mexico, the tallest, most exciting, and most expensive ride children and adults can experience is “Kamikaze” (sometimes known in the USA as “The Hammer”). This huge pendulum features two opposing silver—colored, cylindrical cabins which hold people as they swing violently, right-side up, upside down, round and round for a few terrifying minutes. As the cabins slice through the air, huge national flags attached to the pods stream along gloriously to increase the visual impact for viewers on the ground and attract riders. Which national flags are chosen for this awesome power display? The United States, Germany, and japan. Mediational image systems Ideology in any political—economic-cultural context is represented partly in language and interpreted through language and other highly elaborated codes and modes — including visual forms and music — which are then further interpreted and used by people in routine social interaction. These communication processes all contribute to the ideological effect. They comprise mediational image systems, which can be further divided into technological mediation and social mediation. Technological mediation refers to the intervention of communica— tions technology in social interaction. Let me again use the case of commercial advertising to illustrate the point. Billions of dollars are spent each year to find just the right mediational systems for the purposes of profit—obsessed commercial advertisers. Advertisers’ strategies take advantage of the full range of mass media’s persuasive potential. Selection of corporate spokespersons, visual logos, audio jingles, catchy slogans, the style and pace of commercials, special technical effects, editing conventions, product packaging, and the melding of print, electronic media, and interactive media campaigns, to name several central factors, all combine to generate the desired result, selling big and bright products and the political—economic— cultural infrastructure that goes along with them. Even mass media’s presentational formats cue certain expectations and responses. When commercial advertising first appeared on tele— vision in the United States, for example, sponsors concentrated strictly on the attributes of their own products. No mention was made of competitors’ products, except for occasional comparisons with “Brand X.” This advertising practice changed in the 19705 so Ideology and Consciousness 25 that names of marketplace rivals were mentioned in commercials. When this happened, the public cried “foul!” Many people com— plained that it is unethical to identify the loser in a product comparison, even though this practice was never legally prohibited. The public reaction to the change reveals a crucial dimension of mass media’s role as a transmitter and shaper of ideology — its power to establish and uphold widespread patterns of thought not only by repeatedly calling positive attention to particular objects of content, but by framing content in such a way that standardized presenta- tional formats themselves connote particular ways to think. Such con- ventions influence not only audiences, but the creators of popular culture too. Most pop musicians, for instance, have adopted a song« writing style where the predictable formula — verse/chorus/verse/ chorus/bridge/chorus — has become the norm. Global advertising, news programs, talk shows, and music television formats are likewise structured, imitative, and predictable. Modern communication technologies deliver values, perspectives, and ideas to people of various cultures, social classes, and ages all over the world. Young children, of course, are particularly enthusi— astic media users. Consequently, pervasive popular culture figures (human and otherwise, it doesn‘t matter much) such as Ronald McDonald, Will Smith, Madonna, Tony the Tiger, Michael jordan, the Spice Girls, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Xuxa become celebrated acquaintances and purveyors of ideology — and not just in media—saturated North America or Europe. A compilation of Walt Disney cartoons, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, became the most popular television program in the People's Republic of China by the late 19805. Its characters challenged the sanctity and popularity of children’s Chinese folk heroes such as Chi-kung, the “crazy Buddha." In order for Chi-kung to maintain an elevated position in Chinese culture today, he must appear on television. Donald Duck and his family of Disney pals have also become more familiar to children in some South American countries than the heroes of their own history and folklore (Dorfman and Mattelart 1972). Brazilian villagers could more easily identify Michael jackson from a photo than they could any of their own presidential candidates in a recent election, although, in general, Brazilian media are far more attentive to their own cultural heroes than they are to foreign personalities (Kottak 1990). A transformation of folkloric characters and stories from print media to television is taking place all over the world. A mass medium is not just a “vessel” which carries ideas from one place to another, but is itself a subjective, interpretative, ideological form (Martin—Barbero 1993: 102). As the famous media theorist 26 Ideology and Consciousness Marshall McLuhan put it: “the medium is the message.” This means that the technical form used to move information from one place to another communicates something itself that is just as important as, if not more important than, the medium’s apparent “content.” As a simple example from American culture, there is quite a difference between sending mother a card on Mother’s Day and calling her by telephone with a greeting. The way the message arrives will itself mean something important to dear old mom. What it means, however, is not the same for every person. Some mothers prefer cards because they believe cards show planning and thoughtfulness on the part of the sender. Other moms would much rather hear their child’s voice, and may consider a card to be a “cold” way to send a per- sonal greeting. Preferences often differ by culture; the more print— oriented northerners of the world frequently prefer cards, while oral traditions of the southern regions may suggest that for others a spoken message is better. The new global personal communications medium — email — combines features of print (written, private) and orality (immediate, informal) to make the choice of which medium to use even more complex. Just as language and other communication codes are learned and reinforced in everyday social interaction, ideology is likewise made familiar and normal in routine social intercourse. These are the processes of social mediation. Mass media’s ideological representa— tions are recognized, interpreted, edited, and used in audience members’ social construction ofdaily life. Children, for example, reg- ularly put TV‘s commonly known imagery to work in their everyday communication. They often refer to TV characters, programs, and themes to explain or clarify real—world situations, enter adult con- versations, and play games with their peers. But television and film provide much imagery useful to adults in their routine communica— tions too. People commonly retell each other news stories they see on television, for instance. Men re—create sporting events, and women commiserate over dramas. Even as the first Gulf War was heating up in the early 1990s, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein warned the Americans that the war was “not going to be another Rambo movie. ” He promised instead the “mother of all battles.” When the mother of all battles failed to materialize, Americans picked up and exploited the phrase, even commercially. For years now we have heard about the “mother of all comebacks” on sporting fields, the “mother of all examina— tions” in classrooms, and the “mother of all sales” at local retail stores. Pizza Hut was still hyping the “mother of all pizzas” a decade after the war ended. l Ideology and Consciousness 27 What may seem to be trivial extracts from TV commercials, news, entertainment programs, and movies assume more ideological impact when they are circulated through social interaction. John B. Thompson (1990) calls this the “discursive elaboration” of ideol— ogy. As ideological messages pass from one person to another, or from one medium to another, the ideas they contain are embellished, reinforced, and extended. Consider how the following media messages are given increased impact by their reproduction in communication: ‘3 Cable Network News (CNN) shows a United Nations aircraft preparing to bomb Bosnian Serbs in the 19905. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line “Hasta La Vista, Baby” (from the movie Terminator 2: judgment Day) is scrawled on the side of the plane. Mexican crafts vendors walk the beach in front of Mazatlan’s luxury hotels enticing North American tourists with sales pitches that feature English—language media expressions: “Hey, K-Mart shoppers. . .” “Please buy something, lady . . . go ahead, make my day!” “Happy hour now. . . two bracelets for the price of one.” 3-: I explain to a checkout clerk at a supermarket near my home that I’m eating a candy bar in the late afternoon because “it’s snack time.” She notes what I’m eating and asks, “Isn’t that supposed to be a SnickerSP,” referring to the candy company’s advertising pitch as the snack that satisfies between meals. Some brand names become normative language, referring to ideas and actions that transcend the product: “Let’s have a Coke.” “I have to Xerox this report.” “This is a Kodak moment.” The United States Defense Department calls a press conference to urge increased military presence in Somalia in order to “Give Peace a Chance.” "I; An announcer for the Atlanta Braves baseball team says during a broadcast that it’s time for one of the team’s pitchers to throw a “Visme ball.” Visme is an eye-clearing product that claims it “will get the red out.” Atlanta was playing the Cincinnati Reds. “1.: Boston Celtics basketball coach Rick Pitino claims that when his team wins games “[we] start doing the Toyota commercial” (where everyone iumps up and down). P7 28 Ideology and Consciousness Americans frequently hum the “do-do-do—do, do—do—do—do” music from the TV show Twilight Zone when something unex- plainable happens. .‘1 San Francisco Bay Area women are told to be wary of “Radar,” a serial rapist said to resemble the meek character from the film and TV show M.A.S.H. After hearing an airline captain make his pre-takeoff remarks, a passenger says, “Wow, he sounds just like the comedian I saw on TV the other night.” These seemingly innocuous examples help illustrate how media- originated ideological fragments are creatively used in routine social interaction — sometimes further mediated by public institu— tions, including other mass media. Selected values, ideas, slogans, and products become popularized in the process. In cases such as these, the social mediation of ideology contributes to its expansive, integrative, systemic character. All the verbalizations “work” because of the widespread familiarity and stereotypicality of the images to which they refer, a condition that is directly traceable to the distributive capability of mass media technology. When people refer to media images in everyday conversations, privileged ideolo- gical themes are once again articulated and validated. Complex ideas are frequently reduced to catchy sound bites and advertising slogans. Furthermore, reality is framed according to prior media representations and their underlying assumptions and analogs so that mediated imagery becomes the referent with which the “real world" is often compared. This inversion occurs routinely for children, for example, whose primary store of knowledge often comes from television, video games, popular music, and other medi— ated sources. Not only the messages have an impact, however. When audience members repeat a phrase from mass media the utility and credibility of the media technology itself are also reinforced once again. Consciousness Ideological image systems cannot impose or confer meaning on people. The consequences of communication do not always match message senders’ objectives. Still, to the undeniable benefit of those who have the power to dominate the media’s agenda, most people in the world’s more developed societies are not only massively exposed to media, they depend on them for many things. In the United States, Ideology and Consciousness 29 for instance, the typical family keeps at least one TV set turned on more than seven hours daily. Two—thirds of the American public gets all its news from TV. Consequently, Americans routinely encounter key social themes that are weighted substantially in line with spon— sors’ values and objectives and are fitted within the ideological con- tours of mainstream culture and politics. Mass media transmit highly selective images framed with ready—made viewpoints on many issues that lie outside most audience members’ personal knowledge and experience. This is particularly true ofglobal political matters. People the world over, for instance, were entirely dependent on media and government (as reported by media) for accounts of American mili— tary incursions into Lebanon, Granada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia during the past decade or so alone. Consciousness is influenced by the transmission of the domi- nant ideology to the extent that society’s powerful institutions can infiltrate thinking and affect human action. The definition we gave at the beginning of this chapter suggests that consciousness is the essence or totality of attitudes, opinions, and sensitivities held by individuals or groups. That sounds rather vague and general, but such is the nature of consciousness. Consciousness is a mindset — a synthesis of what a person or group of people knows or thinks about, and how they think. Clearly, the mass media play a very influential role in consciousness formation. Even when audience members flatly reject ideas expressed by the media, they do so only after being introduced to and, at some level, recognizing and contemplating the ideological themes contained in the messages. Of course, con5cious— ness is not fixed; it is impermanent and malleable. It is shaped by the media, but by other information sources too. Nonetheless, consciousness reflects the inevitable inculcation of ideological themes delivered by mainstream media in ways that inspire con— cordant thought and social behavior. Furthermore, consciousness formation is not always self-evident. Like the fish who don’t prob- lematize the water in which they swim, people certainly don’t always analyze how their everyday environments, including media messages, shape thinking. Consciousness, thus, broadly reflects the dominant subjects and patterns of mass-mediated ideological representation. What we think about, and how we think, can never be com— pletely determined by any single source of information. Still, sheer repetition of ideological themes sends ideas deep into individual and collective consciousness. Commercial advertisers, for instance, depend on such repetition. One of the primary objectives of the 30 Ideology and Consciousness advertising business is to determine the optimum frequency of message repetition so as not to waste money while achieving the maximum persuasive impact. Teachers, parents, and others with motives that are quite different from advertisers’ also depend on rep— etition of key information to achieve their goals. Producers of the famous American children’s television show Sesame Street, for instance, use constant repetition to teach the alphabet and other basic lessons. The idea is to saturate your human subjects — potential con— sumers, students, children, whomever — with information you want them to retain. The “saturation effect” works constantly. Particular expressions, and the values and assumptions they uphold, reside like a recessive inventory of ideas in the memory systems of people. These ideologi— cal memory traces are evoked contextually. This dynamic relation between the presence of particular messages and individual con- sciousness can be illustrated by how people listen and respond to popular music. If you are asked to recite the lyrics of a popular song, for instance, you probably cannot do so. But if a recording of the song is played, you very well may be able to sing along perfectly. Something quite interesting and important happens when the music starts — a sonic context is established, acting like a cueing system that stimulates not only recall of the words, but how they should be sung, the melody, and, frequently, vivid sentimental associations with people and events - interacting layers of ideology and meaning. The same basic process occurs at the collective level in society. Con- sciousness also reflects the “collective memory” of a people — shared ideological resources that are put to work in complex ways by groups. Two important factors in consciousness formation, then, are direc- tion and repetition. By directing people’s attention to certain ideas, and repeating the key information, especially if it can be packaged in clever ways, the potential for creating the desired awareness is devel— oped. That’s how ideology and consciousness are connected. Ideol— ogy refers mainly to the representation of ideas; consciousness is the impression those ideas leave on individuals and groups. Because con— sciousness is not a closed or permanent state of mind, we sometimes hear terms like “consciousness raising” or “changing people’s con- sciousness.” Still, consciousness is not easily altered. It’s easier for most people to keep believing what they already think is right and true rather than challenge their values and beliefs. That’s one reason, for example, why splinter political groups and candidates, environ- mental organizations, gay and lesbian rights groups, sufferers from Ideology and Consciousness 3| uncommon diseases, and others often encounter cold indifference or resistance from mainstream society. We all remember that one of British Princess Diana’s humanistic projects was to express great public concern over the devastation brought about by land mines in places such as Bosnia, Angola, and Cambodia. She used television and other media to call attention to the issue, thereby bringing the problem into mainstream con— sciousness. The emotional nature of the land mine issue (where inno- cent children are the main victims) and Diana’s positive public image combined to catch people’s interest in a favorable way. The princess may have detested the intrusion of media into her private life — and some people even (wrongly) blame the paparazzi for her death — but putting the unglamorous land mine issue on the world’s moral agenda could only have been accomplished by linking the appeal of a celebrity person with the technological reach and impact of mass media. Let’s consider an even more far—reaching example of how ideology, media, and consciousness interact. Television didn’t become a common household appliance for families in the People’s Republic of China until the 19805 when the government’s “modernization” plan was put into effect. Although the authorities tried to control televi- sion programming in order to promote the values and policies of Chinese communism, people were suddenly exposed to images they had never seen before. For the first time Chinese people could see places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, London, and Paris, for example, by watching television news. They could tune in to profes— sional basketball games from the United States, see international foot— ball (soccer) games from the UK and Europe, watch japanese soap operas, and learn about fashion, cosmetics, rock music, and Western— influenced lifestyles and popular culture in general. The most common response to the new medium by people in China was to con— sider it a “mind opener.” From the beginning, Chinese people used television to stimulate vicarious travel and to compare China with the rest of the world (Lull 1991: 170—7). Television “turned on” the mainland Chinese by expanding their cultural consciousness, leading to what john B. Thompson calls a “symbolic distancing from the spatial-temporal contexts of everyday life” (Thompson 1995: 175). The social construction of just such a critical distance, particularly among urban dwellers, became one of the main inspirations for the student—worker revolt at Tiananmen Square just a few years after television had become a common domes- tic appliance in China. In fact, the overthrow of communism in all 32 Ideology and Consciousness the nations which made up the former Soviet Union — especially East Germany — was inspired largely by media, particularly television, whose sparkling images interacted with the drab realities of everyday life in those places. The ideological challenges to communism are among only the most recent and sensational illustrations of how television expands human consciousness. When television first became part of American culture in the 1950s, for example, espe- cially in the more remote, agricultural parts of the country, people enthused about how the new medium had expanded their worlds. I can tell you from personal experience that growing up in the farm— lands of Minnesota, I couldn’t wait to get to California after watch— ing Route 66 on TV and listening to Beach Boys albums on my stereo system. The subconscious Consciousness is profoundly mental. but it does not imply complete or current awareness. Many media messages are more implicit than explicit and are not intended to be interpreted with focused, full awareness in the first place. An extreme example of indirect, low— awareness ideological influence is subliminal persuasion — the attempt to manipulate behavior by infiltrating the human subconscious. Sub— liminal persuasion captured the public’s interest in recent years and has been the subject of some academic studies in the psychology of perception. Interest in subliminal persuasion was aroused primarily by three provocative but highly speculative books written some time ago (Key 1973; 1976; 1980). Unfortunately, the titles of these short books (Subliminal Seduction, Media Sexploitation, The Clam Plate Orgy) and the author’s sensationalized treatment have undermined serious consideration of the topic. Subliminal messages are embedded in advertising texts and in other media content. They are often designed to enhance the attrac— tiveness of a product by appealing to subconscious, unarticulated desires. Based on motivational principles deriving from Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the persuasiveness of subliminal messages stems from their ability to provoke subconscious release of repressed sexual energy and by appealing to the “death wish.” According to this way of thinking, if advertisers can associate their products with our powerful but repressed sexual drives, or with the fascination we have with our own physical demise, then they have tapped into highly emotional but subliminal (below the level of conscious awareness) channels which may help provoke the consumer responses they desire. Ideology and Consciousness 33 Photo 2.2 Let it flow. Subliminal sexual intercourse in magazine advertising (reprinted with permission) Subliminal messages are buried in media texts in ways that defy consc10us perception. For example, visual subliminal messages are embedded in films, TV, and videos and are flashed on the screen for only a fraction of a second so that viewers receive, but don‘t actually “see,” the decontextualized messages. In recorded music, spoken messages are inserted on discs and tapes in a way that cannot be consciously heard, or can be detected only by playing the song backwards. Print media, especially magazine advertising, contain below-the-level-of—consciousness suggestions in their photographs and graphic art. When we scan the image we get an impression a feeling, but we don’t stop to critically review the content for its subitle messages. We are influenced by such messages, the theory goes, Without knowing it or being able to defend ourselves in a rational way. 34 Ideology and Consciousness Despite considerable popular attention given to subliminal per- suasion and the fact that it has been debated and banned by several government agencies and industry organizations in‘many countries, we have little scientific knowledge about it. Analy2ing the effects of subliminal messages is difficult because audience members do not rec- ognize the images. That’s the point. Subliminal persuaSion depends on undetected influence. In spite of the mysterious and Charlatan nature of subliminal persuasion and the way it has been proselytized for profit, however, the phenomenon is not sheer folly. Subliminal messages are simply among the most subtle forms of mass media per- suasion in an informational/media environment that is so competi— tive all possible channels of influence will be exploited. Temporal and spatial consciousness So far we’ve been discussing consciousness mainly in terms of media forms, message content, national cultures, and political. history. But modern mass media, especially electronic media, also influence human consciousness in ways that are even more fundamental to the human being. Consciousness is not only about “sense,” or what we commonly know, but about “sense making.” Because consc10usness reflects both what the world appears to be, and how we perceive that world, what could be more important than the way(s) we con- ceive of and use time and space, the most basic structural features of our environment? . i We are concerned with two basic processes here. First, media indus— tries have the ability to overcome the limitations of unmediated (“real”) time and space by applying their technologies in ways that promote their interests. Second, audience members interpret and use mediated time and space in ways that differ from their unmediated, “real—time” experiences that also work to their benefit. Liv1ng in an increasingly mediated world, industries and audiences therefore combine to “produce” new meanings of time and space. Still, there are crucial differences between the domains of industry and of audience in this transformation of the assumptions and flow of everyday life. How media industries use technology to affect human perceptions of and relations to time and space is an important and enduring theoretical question. Harold Innis, a Canadian social theorist whose commentaries appeared just as television began to saturate North America after World War II, was the first writer to systematically address this issue (Innis 1950; 1951; 1952). Rather than celebrate the technological wizardry of modern 'media, a common View expressed in the popular press at the time, Innis worried about Ideology and Consciousness 35 the media’s economic, political, and cultural consequences. He was especially concerned with the electronic media’s ability to radically alter the meaning of time and space. Innis began by examining what the term mass communication implies — that messages become detached from their senders and from the times and contexts oforigi— nal production. Mediated messages are then received by a great number of people at many different times in a wide range of places and circumstances. This observation may seem like old news to us today, accustomed as we are to living in a mass—mediated world where time and space can be routinely shifted about for whim or convenience. The origins of mass media’s pervasive influence on consciousness can be traced to a time that precedes the introduction of electronic communications technology. Invention ofthe high—speed rotary print— ing press, the linotype machine, and the start of mass publishing widened the gap between rich and poor because these groups have very different levels of print literacy. Next came railways and roads, followed by the telegraph, the telephone, radio, and television. At the same time banking and financial institutions expanded the industrial and technological base for trade and investment. Moving commodi— ties and messages around competitively has always been a central feature of industrial and post-industrial capitalism; it’s happening today on a global scale. Modern mass media — especially the electronic forms — thus make possible an unprecedented technological conquering of time and space. However, this achievement must be qualified. In the process of spanning time and space with tremendous speed and efficiency, media technologies also influence the assumptions and flow of everyday life in ways that provide great advantage to those in positions to profit from such temporal and geographic compressions and reconfigura— tions. Much like advanced twentieth—century transportation forms which stimulated an economic boom for urban industrialists, c0in— munications media also “bind” space, according to Harold Innis, in ways that regulate how business is conducted. Modern forms of trans» portation and communication give certain individuals an advantage because those few people with money enough to buy the equipment can manage time and space more effectively than everyone else. A critical observer, Harold Innis worried about a world where time and space could be managed by media industrialists to unfair and unhealthy economic, political, and cultural advantage; specifically, that a measure of control over two of life’s most basic resources was being turned over to an elite group of urban businessmen whose only motivation is to make a profit. Under the expansionist tendencies of capitalist ideology and the development of mass media, time and 36 Photo 2.3 Media divide and capitalize the natural rhythms of time to meet the ideological preferences and production schedules of the economic elite (reprinted with permission) space have thus become more and more unevenly distributed in the human population. That owners of modern communications media can dramatically reduce physical distance and compress time in ways that reward them financially is a form of “economic neocolonialism,” according to this way of thinking. An American communication theorist, Joshua Meyrowitz, tried to expand the sociological dimension of McLuhan’s perspective. Mey- rowitz (1985) attempts to specify what radical changes the mass media stimulate in our sense of time and space by discussing how actual social situations have been altered since the electronic media Ideology and Consciousness :32»; 2.! main Marshall MeLuhah's Globalyiiiage ' Harold In'niis'sWritingset- the stageifor many more commentaries on the crucial relationship 'betWeen technological form, timeand _ .isp‘ace; 'and commu'ni ' I ‘ ‘T',dian',':,the Ilite'r‘a' 096233964“ McLu an-and-Fiore-l967). « iv _ _ ‘ :Wh‘ere _ . _lnn_ x'plicitly; warned 'irof the dangers he thought I'_:Imodemfcommunicationstechnology pose 'to‘society, McLUhan was 'u'r'e. p‘rdfesséu'nd mediaf'theorist' Marshall McLuhan (Mos notable: is thel'work 'ofhis fellow Cana-_ 37 .__far;,|e's's"<:ritica Nonetheless."McLUhan's‘theories about mass media rld .famou “His. books.articles, VideOs, and other " havebeCOme' I _. _ .'_"workr.are'_--'_crammed'(-‘with. fascinating, contrciversialt insights. 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The‘phrase :inspires; a “We are -the World!” image. 39 ;'j- and- united] throughflvvi'délyshared 'viSceral, emotional experi- ‘ I . "'ences, facilitatedby': breakthroughs. in electronin communications technologyg’ifi” I: ,' '- '_ ’ ‘ -"13.Th'é-‘_="glolial.§_villagef?._..de32:ribed b'yT‘McLuhan became a feel- ;13'goodv term-that makes._it."smind' like everybodyeverywhere is "Where -, peoplejoi'nfhahds'y and ...'sing'. in harmony \as ,they 'struggle ”that'electronic_ media do more to divide the world than The‘retribalizati of‘theivibrldfereates‘ no tribe. The global village 'no-v'illag'é'. andtHe television-screen no village square.We are better “ I'offlunder'standing‘ the present-iwo'rid‘oi’m'edia (orfw'orld With-mediaf I to taliettoomuth for:granted about their importance) on its own ' Moreoi/e'r,'_ivvhile McLuhan suggested that electronic «media’s rrefash- F 'ioning'".of itin'i'e'ahd, space ha” "shocki_n‘g":impli'cations for-society. his» I theory"'of~. mediated [communication yvas',.’nev'er‘ very [coherent and . ' idn’t have mueh .togsayraboutwho. the I c'elf lainix 5.196 tritiéai-TH. ' l ‘ 'theiglobal.\iill_age'. ' ire-lo 'instahéeiicswj‘muc'h they. pay'their died-"li'ifo‘régthe'filh togethertogendeOrldf'hunger and create everlasting peace‘. Many ; ' '-__medi'a eritics';3-hovv'ever;"harsle criti'ci'ze,;'McLuhan's' ideas becauSe " ‘ -'they-."beiieVe-.the,' eieCtronic gm‘edia .'have I actually done "just the ,I opposit V "to.'unite' t: " terms, ratherithari. way of these'metaphor's: _(Ha'nnerz_'|_"992: 28) ’ _ erhet explosion, of. today. '. itiqsmfhis‘wojrk:invites: it wouldihave been _' "\- 40 Ideology and Consciousness arrived full force. Meyrowitz is optimistic about what these changes mean for society. Social situations are no longer tied to physical loca- tions, according to Meyrowitz, and as a result our social categories and normative forms and places of interaction are blurred. The elec- tronic media produce a new social order, one in which distinctions between childhood and adulthood are reconstituted, gender and racial statuses and roles merge, and political authority and power relations are recast in a more democratic way. Ultimately, Meyrowitz claims that the “unique power” of television is to “break down the distinctions between here and there, live and mediated, and personal and public” (p. 308). The mediation of human experience can be a good thing overall, Meyrowitz believes, because it tears down tradi- tional social differences and hierarchies. The shifting significance of physical space in the age of electronic media includes a substantial transformation of public (“on-stage”) and private (“back—stage”) behavior, according to Meyrowitz. This perspective — based on the work of Erving Goffman (1959; 1963; 1967; 1969) — also informs the theoretical work of Anthony Giddens and john B. Thompson. Giddens’s (1984) theory of structuration and Thompson’s (1990; 1995) theory of mediazation both try to account for how time and space are experienced in modern societies. But more like Innis than McLuhan or Meyrowitz, the British theorists attend to social structure as a critical factor in how time and space are per- ceived and Used. So while Meyrowitz concludes that our world is now “relatively placeless,” Thompson (1990) argues instead for a new understanding of how the mass media “extend the availability of symbolic forms in time and space" (p. 221) in order “to establish and sustain relations of domination” (p. 106). At the same time, Thompson (1995) and others acknowledge that electronic media also hold society’s political-economic—cultural power brokers accountable to their constituents, clients, and publics in a way that cannot be matched by any other system of checks and balances. Television makes powerful people visible like never before. It’s more difficult now for politicians, billionaire business- people, sports heroes, movie stars, pop singers, or members of the royal family for that matter, to keep their “back-stage” behaviors out of public view. Who can argue sensibly that the media only glamor- ize and empower people like Bill Clinton, 0.]. Simpson, Hugh Grant, jim Bakker, Richard Nixon, Prince Charles, Maradona, or Carlos Salinas de Gortari? Even the highest—level officials of the Communist Party in China — who before the advent of TV were able to stay com- pletely out of public view and scrutiny — now must make regular appearances in order to pacify the people. Ideology and Consciousness 4| Domestic time, space, and place The electronic media not only transmit ideological themes and prompt a rethinking and reorganization of time and space, they also influence our domestic sites — how we perceive, arrange, and use our living areas and how we interact with others who reside there. It is in domestic venues and within the contingencies of everyday routines where new communication technologies alter people's worlds, sometimes radically so. But it is also at home where time and space certainly have not been abolished, where social categories have not always merged, and where traditional lines of authority often persist, sometimes becoming even strong— er with the introduction of consumer technologies. Patterns of family television viewing, uses of personal computers and VCR machines, and management of TV, VCR, and compact disc remote control devices, for example, all reflect gender and generational hierarchies. Introduction of new communications equipment into the home necessarily alters the living space, how it is interpreted, and how it is used. So, for instance, when a family brings home its first TV set, regardless of where in the world it happens, domestic space and its meanings change. When my parents bought their first TV set in the early 19505 in the United States, for example, they placed it at the end of the rectangular living (or “sitting”) room in the front part of the house. But from the point of view of my parents, televi- sion became an unwanted intrusion on family life within a few years. My mother insisted that we add a small room to the house especially for TV viewing — the “TV room.” Placing the TV set out of the way restored the living room to its original purpose — for reading and relaxing without distraction, and a setting to entertain guests. This example reveals at least five fundamental dimensions of how a family’s experience with mass media interacts with domestic space, time, and place: reception of television programs is micro- social activity that dynamically intermingles with interpersonal rela- tions that are embedded within cultural contexts that are further affected by social structure. So our family’s characteristic TV viewing activity, which influenced the interpretations we made of TV pro- grams, took place under circumstances set by a parent who deter- mined what role television should play in family life and was supported by financial conditions sufficient to permit a range of relevant options. iud Photos 2.4, 2.5 WebTV. Every technological advance reshapes temporal and spatial consciousness. The integration of television and computers may radically alter how domestic space is perceived and used (reprinted with permISSIon of Microsoft) Ideology and Consciousness 43 Today the personal computer has become a significant domestic issue in the world’s more developed countries. Computers became part of the “media ensemble” (Rogge and jensen 1988) at home. The degree to which the computer has been accommodated into domes— tic life, however, depends on several factors. First and foremost is eco- nomics. Personal computers are simply out of financial reach for the vast majority of the world’s families. There are still very few home computers in sub—Saharan Africa, for instance, and fewer than one telephone line (necessary for most computer—based communications functions) for every 200 families there, according to World Bank and International Monetary Fund data. China, India, and the nations of Southeast Asia also have a very low penetration of computers and telephones. At the other extreme is the wealthy, high—tech environ— ment of Silicon Valley in northern California where nearly every family has a telephone and two-thirds of homes have at least one computer. Overall, more than half of American families have a com- puter at home, a proportion that continues to grow, and many have more than one. In general, the more rich the country, the higher the penetration of computers. How the computer fits in with television, video, and other electronic equipment as domestic appliances, though, is still being worked out both at home and in the laboratories and marketing departments of computer manufacturers. One industry solution is to combine tech— nologies, and change patterns of domestic activity. Microsoft, for instance, has successfully marketed WebTV — a system that allows users to navigate the World Wide Web and send and receive email using the television screen as a monitor. The Intel Corporation, the world’s largest producer of microprocessors, is working on a project to encour— age families to gather around the “family computer” much like the family TV set (and earlier the family radio) for “social computing." The family computer, sold as “Family Room PC,” features a large screen, smart TV receiver, surround sound, and all the accessories, including digital video discs, a message center for telephone and email, and video conferencing. Intel is attempting to turn the personal com- puter from an individually used appliance into a multi—person tech— nology. They are not simply selling a new piece of equipment. Intel wants to change how we think about domestic time, space, and place. Moreover, the company is trying to meld two media normally used for very different purposes — the TV and VCR for entertainment and relax— ation, the computer for information and work. Such technological fusions, however, can never be forced on society. Only time will tell if people are Willing to restructure their domestic routines to coincide with the merchandizing recommendations of the high—tech companies. 44 Ideology and Consciousness The role of culture Culture is a vital factor to consider in understanding how media tech— nologies become a part of everyday life. There are many ways to live in the global village. The meaning of home, family, time, and leisure differs greatly from culture to culture, as does routine domestic activ— ity, including patterns in the flow of human traffic in and out of the living space, the specific functions of domestic space, gender roles enacted there, and characteristic modes of mass media recep- tion. Media technologies enter cultural settings in ways that extend the characteristic traditions, values, and styles that are already in place while at the same they also challenge and transform the [oun— dations of culture (Lull I988). The free—form quality of the Internet, for example, has sent governments all over the world scrambling to decide what, if anything, can be done to “protect” their cultures from this technological interloper while at the same time upgrading their technological infrastructures to accommodate demands of the new global economy. A stark cultural contrast to the West is the People’s Republic of China, a nation where television entered nearly every urban house— hold during the economic boom of the early 19805. Despite the political—economic-cultural authority wielded by the Communist Party, China is becoming a “consumer society.” At the top of the list of consumer items Chinese families want are electrical appliances, especially media equipment (Yi 1997). Indeed, more and more fami— lies have been able to buy color TVs, VCRs, audio and video disc players, and personal computers lately. Unfortunately, however, China’s impressive recent economic growth has done little to improve living conditions for many families in terms of domestic space. In Shanghai, for example, many families of four or five members still live in one or two small rooms. Television’s impact under these conditions is necessarily immense — different from other cultures — affecting the most basic assumptions and practices of daily life. Requirements such as providing adequate study time and space for children, assuring prime—time entertainment for working adults, respecting the program preferences of elderly family members, and getting enough sleep, to name some key cultural considerations, is complex family work. Domestic TV viewing in China occurs in “public home space” com- pared to the relatively “private home space” characteristic of larger living areas more available in several other countries. India signals still other contrasts. In rural India, introduction of TV into the household has restructured family members’ perceptions and uses of time during the day and week in ways that have radically Ideology and Consciousness 45 challenged some long-standing traditions concerning gender roles and relations, work routines, child raising, and domestic tasks. Natural time — the demarcation of temporal increments by the rising and setting of the sun — has given way to television time. Sunday has become a “TV day” in India; night—time activity now focuses on TV viewing, thereby bringing men and women together for a common form of entertainment; food and the way it is prepared have changed in the interest of preserving time for TV viewing. According to Indian researcher Neena Behl (1988), these changes in rural India‘s family life have made some aspects of domestic relations more democratic. Behl claims that TV smoothes out sharp status differences between males and females and differences between old and young viewers. At the same time, however, other key features of radically stratified Indian society are reinforced in acts of television viewing. Where people sit when they watch TV, for instance, typically reflects caste differences between viewers of unrelated families and differences between gender-based statuses within families. Those with higher status — males, elders, and members of higher religious castes and socioeconomic classes — are given the best seats for TV viewing. This example from rural India shows how the introduction of new technology both changes and reinforces cultural traditions. Television’s influence on how time, space, and place are perceived can be seen in shifting patterns of touch, talk, sleep, food prepara— tion and consumption, and other routine forms of communication and domestic activity all over the world. Without doubt, social assimilations of communications technology and the modifications of consciousness it stimulates have deep implications for gender rela— tions and family life in general. Exactly what those modifications are, however, is a cultural matter. Women in Germany, for instance, often complain that television destroys marital communication, while rural Indian women say that the medium brings them closer to their husbands (Rogge and Jensen 1988; Behl I988). Contrasts in television's role in the domestic life of these two nations stem in part from differences in national development. TV has simply been a part of life in Germany longer. But the dissimilarities also reflect real differences in cultural values and their corresponding social practices. Another sharp cultural contrast can be shown by comparing South American with North American and northern European families. For example, in Venezuela women are heads of the household in a major— ity of homes and routinely control the domestic agenda, including choice of television programs and the establishment of desired viewing environments (Barrios 1988). Many Brazilian women, like 46 Ideology and Consciousness their Venezuelan counterparts, spend their evenings watching na— tional soap operas (telenouclas) in an atmosphere dictated by them. Family television viewing in North American, northern European, and British families, on the other hand, is far more dominated by men, at least when they are employed outside the home (Morley 1986; 1988; 1992; Lull 1988; 1990). For example, David Morley has shown how men in working—class London families exercise greater power than women over what programs are watched at night and on weekends, that they plan their viewing more, watch with less domes- tic distractions, dominate the remote control device, and feel less guilty than their wives about watching TV. In japan another domes- tic development is taking place. Because of the tremendous amount of time japanese men spend at work and in traffic every day, women and children have gradually assumed more and more influence over television and video viewing, and other home activities. The different ways males and females of all ages watch television and video, use the computer and compact disc player, read the news- paper, and participate in every other kind of media activity reflects their social roles in general. Preferences for media content — TV, movies, video games, computer programs, and music especially — differ for males and females in similarly patterned ways all over the world. Boys and girls and men and women respond differently to the media they engage. Boys, for example, act more aggressively than girls when watching violent TV or movies. The media environment and interpersonal realities reinforce each other, and a gender—based cycle of difference stays in motion. just as families, houses, homes, everyday activities, and concep- tions of time, space, and place vary within and among nations and cultures, so too do the institutional features of television, its content, and its modes of transmission. The number of channels available for viewing, program priorities and types, program scheduling, and the availability of VCRs, for instance, all extend certain cultural values and practices, thereby influencing how people watch television (Lull 1988). Even television audiences’ “rhythms of viewing” are condi- tioned largely by the way program segments are divided up. A commercial format, for instance, creates a sequence of timing expec- tations. Program segments of ten minutes, for example are followed by commercial clusters of five minutes, then back to the program, then the commercials again, ad infinitum. Years of exposure to these patterns create expectations that are felt close to the bone. When Americans travel to England and watch commercial—free BBC televi— sion, for example, the change in viewing rhythm can actually be unsettling (“But when do I make a sandwich or go the bathroom?”). Ideology and Consciousness 47 And it works the other way too. Europeans accustomed to non— commercial television adiust uncomfortably to the frequent program interruptions when they visit the USA. Commercials are placed in clusters outside programming in many parts of the world; however, the relatively recent triumph of cable and satellite television on a global scale is breaking down the protected national systems and cre— ating cultural crises in the process (for example, see Gripsrud 1995; 1999). Although TV clearly impacts on domestic life in different ways all over the world, audiences in those same places have influenced the institution of television too. The electronic medium doesn‘t just dictate expectations and regulate social activity; it also responds to social and cultural patterns. This has often been said of program ratings, for example, in the sense that statistical approximations of audience acceptance ultimately determine the success of a program. In the end what we have is a “give and take” between industries and audiences, with a fair amount of power to shape consciousness held by parties on both sides of the equation. No individual person, social group, or institution dispenses ideol— ogy as attractively and continuously as the mass media. Despite this awesome power, people are not unthinkingly stimulated by mediated representations of political positions, product advertising, or any other ideological domain. Ideational and mediational image systems ultimately are not perfect unities or closed systems and people are not imitating dupes in any political—economic—cultural environment anyway. Individual and collective consciousness is never simply a product of ideological representation or technological influence. The meanings we give to our symbolic environments take shape in the routine social exchanges of everyday life. Consciousness formation, therefore, is an interpretative process, and “this process of interpre— tation is interpersonal. . . individual experience is to some extent dependent upon categories made available through others’ activity” (Chaney 1994: 66). But interpretation of the worlds we live in never leads to any uniform point of view: “just as there is no individual existence, there can be no singular thought. Our consciousness is but a meeting ground, the crystallization of various currents which . . . intersect, attract, or repel on another” (Maffesoli 1996: 68). One way to understand how the many possible outcomes of this complex inter- play of ideology, consciousness, and social interaction develop is the subiect of the next chapter — hegemony. ...
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