Definitions: Starting Points Ch. 11-14

Chapter 11: Families and Socialization

Family: for the purpose of this chapter, any social unit, or set of social relations, that does what families are popularly imagined to do, by whatever means it does so.

Nuclear family: a group that usually consists of a father, a mother, and their children living in the same dwelling. Such a family comprises no more than three relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, and between siblings.

Extended family: multiple generations of relatives living together, or several adult siblings with their spouses and children who share a dwelling and resources. More than three kinds of relationship may be present.

Census family: a household that includes two spouses — married or cohabiting (if they have lived together for longer than one year) — with or without never-married children, or a single parent with one or more never-married children.

Socialization: the lifelong social learning a person undergoes to become a capable member of society, through social interaction with others, and in response to social pressures.

Primary socialization: learning that takes place in the early years of a person’s life that is crucial to the formation of an individual’s personality.

Secondary socialization: learning that occurs after childhood, usually involving learning specific roles, norms, attitudes, or beliefs, and sometimes involving self-imposed learning.

Anticipatory socialization: learning about and preparing for future roles, built on accumulated learning.

Resocialization: learning within social institutions aimed at retraining or reprogramming people.

Chapter 12: Schools and Formal Education

Education: a process designed to develop one’s general capacity for thinking critically, as well as a capacity for self-understanding and self-reliance.

Formal education: education received in accredited schools during formal teaching sessions.

Informal education: the variety of ways we undertake to gain knowledge for ourselves outside institutions of formal education (e.g. schools, colleges, and universities).

Training: a process designed to identify and practise specific routines that achieve desired results.

Hidden curriculum: lessons that are not normally considered part of the academic curriculum that schools unintentionally or secondarily provide for students.

Meritocracy: any system of rule or advancement where the rewards are strictly proportioned to the accomplishment and all people have the same opportunity to win these rewards.

Chapter 13: Churches and Religion

Religion: any system of beliefs about the supernatural, and the social groups that gather around these beliefs.

New religious movements (NRMs): groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious institutions.

Church: any social location or building — church, mosque, synagogue, or temple — where people carry out religious rituals.

Seekers: people and groups who draw on the teachings of several religions and philosophies to fulfill their needs for spirituality.

Secularization: a steadily dwindling influence of formal (institutional) religion in public life.

Civil Religion: an organized secular practice that serves many of the same social functions as traditional religion, by giving people direction, explaining how the world works, and providing solidarity.

Chapter 14: Media and Mass Communication

Mass media: the technology that makes mass communication possible; it includes the printing press, radio, television, photocopier, and camera, among others.

Mass communication: the transmission of a message from a single source to multiple recipients at the same time.

Political economy perspective: a viewpoint that focuses on the ways private ownership affects what is communicated, and the ays it affects the exercise of power.

Conglomerate: a business structure that engages in several, usually unrelated business endeavours: for example, moviemaking gambling casinos, and alcoholic beverages.

Cross-ownership: a business structure in which one corporation owns media businesses of different types. For example, a large corporation may own newspapers, magazines, television networks, and radio channels.

Cultural studies perspective: a viewpoint that focuses on the types of communication to which people are regularly exposed and especially on messages conveying the dominant ideology.

Alternative media: channels of communication used by subordinate groups to promote their own messages and points of view.


Week 8: Reading Sociology Part 16

Estimated Reading Time 00:03:08

Reading Sociology

Part 16: Media

Chapter 64: Fallen Women and Rescued Girls: Social Stigma and Media Narratives of the Sex Industry in Victoria, BC, from 1980 to 2005
by Helga Kristin Hallgrimsdottir, Rachel Phillips, and Cecilia Benoit

Some points:

  • Sex workers used to be presented as morally and criminally culpable in the 1980s but not anymore. Newer media reports focus on victimization. Society’s role in producing these sex workers also receive less and less attention from media.
  • From firsthand interviews we learn:
    • There are male sex workers too
    • Some sex workers need to care for dependent children
    • Sex workers are socially disadvantaged, not morally corrupt
    • The money they earn is spent on food and living, not (usually) drugs
    • Sex workers are not simply abducted. This is work. Some apply voluntarily.
    • Just like every kind of work: some like it; some hate it.

Notable quotes:

Media narratives offer a voyeuristic and consumerist interpretation of the sex industry, through which a mainstream audience is titillated with stories of culpable and wicked females (in the earlier time period) or the entrapment and seduction of innocent girls.

HKH, RP, and CB

Chapter 65: Feminist Activists Online: A Study of the PAR-L Research Network
by Michèle Ollivier, Wendy Robbins, Diane Beauregard, Jennifer Brayton, and Genevière Sauvé

Oh look — it’s Beauregard again.

PAR-L can be useful:

  • Brings together women in diverse areas
  • Alternative to mainstream media
  • Helpful for research
  • Provides a discussion forum for women
  • Exposes reader to competing feminist views
  • Minimizes sense of isolation to feminists

PAR-L can be frustrating:

  • Lack of adherence by subscribers to format of messages
  • Inconsistent enforcement of list policies by list moderators
  • Tone of certain exchanges and questionable conduct of a few participants
  • Underrepresented minorities — e.g. lack of male feminists on the website

The authors, for all their work, doesn’t seem to have an explicit thesis.

Notable quotes:

Achieving equality remains a clear, central objective of feminist praxis. However, eliminating difference per se is not and should not be an option. Equality is not a synonym for sameness, and homogeneity was never the goal. Individual autonomy and equality of access are in a fine balance with collective norms of behaviour and a sense of belonging.

BO, WR, DB, JB, and GS

Chapter 66: “Keeping Your Minds Sharp”: Children’s Cognitive Stimulation and the Rise of Parenting Magazines, 1959-2003
by Linda Quirke


  1. Parents increasingly view their children as unique, with individualized traits.
  2. Topics such as schooling and cognitive development are receiving more and more attention, probably due to prevailing credentialism in society.
  3. Parenting magazine data really has nothing to do with childrearing in real life.

Notable quotes:

The findings of this study suggest that there is a changing ethos of childrearing in Canada. Parents are actively encouraged to foster their children’s cognitive development, with the aim of enhancing and maximizing their children’s chances for academic success.

Linda Quirke

Chapter 67: Packaging Protest: Media Coverage of Indigenous People’s Collective Action
by Rima Wilkes, Catherine Corrigall-Brown, and Daniel J. Myers

Another technical one. This can be summarized in a bunch of quotes.

Notable quotes:

In summary, the results clearly indicate that while tactic escalation increases the amount of coverage, only disruptive tactics are more likely to appear on the front page.


However, the findings also show that being contentious or unusual is not a guarantee of high-profile packaging. If this were the case, there would have been a strong relationship between land occupations and media packaging. The tactics that did generate prominent packaging — road and rail blockades — can be distinguished from land occupations in terms of their capacity to disrupt the lives of outsiders.


Standoffs generated significantly more attention across multiple packaging elements than other forms of contention. […] This means that difference in packaging across events […] is exponential rather than linear.

RW, CC-B, and DJM

Creative Commons License
SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Week 8 Lecture Notes – Starting Points Ch. 14

Estimated Reading Time 00:04:31

I burned my right hand on a soldering iron today. D’:
So uh, today is not my best note-taking day.
These are about as much as I can get down typing with my left hand.

Lecture 8

Mass Media and the Social Construction of Reality

“hello.” -teppy

We got a test next week. Check BlackBoard.

You should also vote for the UTSU election.
Don’t vote for renew they are corrupted. Vote for the independent candidate.

sociologists are interested in people construct fantasy worlds.
so yeah media.

“It’s rare for students to read newspaper anymore.” -Teppy

“I prefer the Globe and Mail; the writing is less idiotic.” -Teppy

“[Pointing at the newspaper] This is a fantasy world.” -Teppy

We are in constructed realities. We do this through social interaction. Reality, as we experience it, is always up for debate. Different newspapers present different viewpoints of what is important (and worthy of the front page).

Reality is constantly being constructed. Since social construction isn’t real, it needs to be reaffirmed.

How do you influence change in a society where majority of social institutions want to keep the status quo?

Sociological view of media:
they construct reality. they have biases.
“We live in a world surrounded by lies.” -Teppy

What can we do in this ocean of lies?
Mainstream media convey simple, stereotypical images of reality.
e.g. women portrayed as sexual objects

Tracing a causal link between image and reality is almost impossible.
If we live like Hollywood, we’d either be shooting or screwing all the time.

Some say media encourage violence by modelling violence.

40% of american parents believe that media contributes “a lot” to violence in children.

The percentage of top grossing US films were 90% violent in the past decade, compared with 40% in the 1940s.

Video-games may also influence behaviour:
playing violent games may increase aggressive behaviour.

“Cultivation” is the possible link:
*Cultivation theory*: heavy TV viewing -> mean world syndrome

But cause and effects are still muddled! People who have violent inclinations may consume more media.

Also some data don’t support the hypothesis at all.
An increase in video game consumption has occurred alongside a decrease in juvenile crimes.

Media are “agenda-setting.” e.g. We don’t normally think about Africa until the media reminds us.
Media are also capable of creating “manias”.

Media filter content and promote mistrust of other viewpoints.
They use the same techniques to sell news as products.
Selling these news/products are based on panic and shame.
Extremely powerful sociopsychological factors.

Media creates moral panics and folk devils.
e.g. Child predator: child molest is the moral panic, child predators (e.g. LG/LB hunters) are folk devils.
Moral panics are short-lived but do have consequences such as hurt feelings and mistrust.

Media and Politics
“News” as presented by mainstream media is a carefully designed commercial good.

It matters who owns the media
Media seeks to appease its owners.
It matters if media is publicly owned rather than privately owned.
Public media have less bias maybe.

Concern: most of mass media are privately owned.

Some public media are owned as a Crown Corporation; owned by the government but operates independently from it.

Since 1983, the number of corporations that control the majority of US media companies has (roughly) reduced from 50 to 5.

Editors and reporters make choices about who and what to cover.

-powerful friends
-influence on public policy in their own interest

Media tend to promote the dominant ideology of society.
Tends to be friendly towards the most powerful members of society.
Less powerful have less money so why portray them?

Are we really defenceless?
Fortunately we are intelligent people who can think for ourselves

Katz and Lazarsfeld
*Personal Influence: the part played by people in the flow of mass communications*
Studies how influence flows from the media to the audience.
Researched for Coca-Cola on condition that they get to keep the data.
Came out of survey for private interest.
High quality information!
Central Query: how to change people’s minds?

Two-step flow of communications
-Earlier theories assumed a direct flow, but no!
-people listen and emulate people they respect (opinion leaders)
-ergo, goal of advertising: change the minds of opinion leaders
(reminds us of the “small-world” theory)

Where are we now?
A short history of media 1400-2100AD
-In medieval Europe, monks copied manuscripts believed to be the word of God
-The printing press spread literacy.
-It mass produced information that people could interpret themselves.
-Protestantism: interpret Bible for themselves!
-Everyone could be a knowledge consumer.

How do you consume knowledge?
-go to school
-buy “how-to” books
-consume the media
People have been more informed of the world than ever before.

It’s easier and easier to be knowledge producers.
Today, ANYONE can be both a knowledge producer and a knowledge consumer.

Today, the internet is the first place we now go to to seek information.
Increasingly, we trust the information we get in this way.

As of 2009:
60% of teens go on internet any given day
80% reported being active on Facebook.

New reciprocal links between producers and consumers
-we don’t need to rely on the mainstream media anymore!

The Internet is a Form of Alternative Mass Communication
More than half of internet users contribute.

Existence of virtual communities does not replace face-to-face relations

Internet censorship issues
Internet is somewhat anarchic
Voluntary controls doesn’t seem to work.

Tutorial 03

Estimated Reading Time 00:01:29

I burned my right hand on a soldering iron today. D’:
So uh, today is not my best note-taking day.
These are about as much as I can get down typing with my left hand.

Tutorial 03

Josh Kurtis

1) explain test structure
2) discuss 3 chapters

4 chapters in SP + 4 chapters in RS

20 from RS
20 from lectures
60 from SP

Final only has 35 reading soc questions (?)

2.identify main argument
3.important names

College drinking

dilemma: people who get into college are healthier later on in life
but why do college students damage themselves by drinking, then?

all behaviour need to be compared to others
do you think that same age, non-college people drink as much?
do you think you drink more than other people

2. Do you think there’s something at UofT that makes it different in terms of drinking culture?
3. Do you think that campus culture promotes drinking?

Due to work schedule
“I drank everyday after work when I was working in the summer as an undergrad.” -Josh Curtis

UofT has no “central” feel.
When you are with like-minded others, you’ll be influenced more easily.

The idea that student’s drinking behaviour is affected by the drinking norms of their campus is a principle of:

Disconnect: higher education leads to healthier lives in general but college students drink.


Arranged Marriage

One of the arguments:
divorce rate of arranged marriage: 50% (15%)?
divorce rate in Canada: 40%


Which hypothesis predicts the collapse of arranged marriage system in India?
modernization theory.

Critique: Only interviewed 15 affluent men/women from one region in India.

Duality of Diversity
Immigration: “generational effects”
Second generation immigrants.

Week 8 – Starting Points Ch. 14

Estimated Reading Time 00:21:04

Starting Points

Chapter 14: Media and Mass Communication

Mass media is important. It is powerful. And it can change us. Today no one reads books anymore. They watch the news instead for information.

“Come on Ted! It’s 2012. What do you expect? To meet some cute travel agent when you’re reading a newspaper in a bookstore? None of those things exist anymore.”

Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

Traditional forms of printed information face an unprecedented challenge: the Internet. Cellphones are another example — it is common to own a cellphone but not a landline. The trend is toward more and more flexible communication devices.

Even mainstream (mass) media had to compete with the open-sourcing tendencies of the Internet. But mass media is still not entirely replaceable for the same reasons that universities can’t be replaced by Wikipedia alone. Mass media still influences our tastes, opinions, and beliefs.


Functionalists are interested in the way mass media are organized and how it contributes to equilibrium. Media is a mechanism for informing, socializing, and educating the public. (Especially in developing countries).

Media literacy and mass media consumption are important factors in “modernization”. As people consume more media, they become more knowledgeable toward the world and about cultural diversity — they are more likely to demand an open, democratic society.

But what if people consume media hostile to modernity or Westernization? Then they’d hate Westernization too!
But you can’t underestimate the importance of information flow in and of itself. e.g. To an extent, Soviet society imploded because people gathered (forbidden) information about the Western world.
(In Soviet Russia TV watches YOU!)

As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message”. Content aside, information flow by itself increases the appetite for more information.
At the very least, the media create and feed curiosity about the world. Increasingly the media are forces in “social engineering” — or brainwashing, if you’re the cynical type.

Critical theories are interested in ways powerful groups use media to perpetuate their dominant ideologies. A variant of this approach is the political economy perspective.
Critical theory is important in understanding the manipulative side of mass media. e.g. over-coverage or slanting of particular topics; which is a notion in cultivation theory by Gerbner and Gross (1976).
Cultivation theory: mass media, especially TV, have become the main source of information in society today. People who watch TV for more than four hours a day are exposed to lots of news about violence! And so they think the world is mean.
Gerbner: the overuse of TV creates a homogenous, fearful populace.

TV normalizes violence, numbing violence for some individuals, while heightening it for others. e.g. Child abductions make parents worried!
Gerbner and Gross essentially assumed that the populace is passive and uncritical: people just believe whatever they see on TV, conforming easily.

Advantages of the Gerbner and Gross (GG) approach: it is easy to apply to a wide range of texts.
Disadvantage: the theory denies people agency, ignoring the intelligence of audiences. In reality communication is more complicated. Sociologist Herbert Gans takes an approach a little bit more sophisticated than Gerbner and Gross.


Classic Studies: Deciding What’s News

We can’t be experts at everything, so we rely on the media. We are (usually) unable to challenge their story with opposing facts — in this sense, media act as filters, showing us some things and ignoring or even hiding others. Gans is the first researcher in this topic.

How do events become news? Gans did his research in late 1960s choosing CBS, NBC, Times, and Newsweek news journals. He asked participants in these four companies: how do they choose stories to become news? Gans also analyzed 3500 news stories spanning eight years. Both quantitative and qualitative data.


  1. News wants audiences. There’s usually an inclination to include at least some stories that appeal to mass audience. e.g. famous people, violence and bloodshed, and sex scandal. Tendency to report “negative news” — if it bleeds, it leads.
  2. National news is shaped by and serve the interest of people in high positions. Tell the truth or keep your job? Seems like job is more important.

Despite competition, there is large degree of consensus. All four organizations include value of individualism, belief in responsible capitalism, and desire for social order and strong national leadership.
Also, much of the news communicated to audiences is inaccurate or at least distorted. It benefits people with power over the media. No Big Brother in America? Think again.

To summarize, the decision journalists make in choosing coverage is influenced by:

  • “news-worthiness”
  • internal pressures
  • tastes of the audience
  • responsibility and ethics

In particular, journalists need to bear moral responsibility for the coverage they provide.

Robinson (1980) said this book succeeds in linking sociological theory and data to make a solid argument. Graber (1979) said the book offers valuable insights to the world of news making. The book also reveals role of journalists in perpetuating “the political status quo they helped create. (Robinson, 1980)”

This book is a foundation, said M. D. Murray.
(His name kind of sounds like Andy Murray; wonder if he plays tennis.)

Media Ownership

Media broadcasting is affected by its ownership. But its ownership varies: they can be publicly owned, by governments, or privately owned, by corporates and/or conglomerates. Historically media is owned by individuals or small groups, but over time they merged into massive multimedia empires.
In US especially three out of four major TV networks are part of multimedia giants.
ABC – Walt Disney Co.
Fox – Rupert Murdoc News Corp.
NBC – General Electric

In Canada ownership too is concentrated. The Royal Commission (aka Kent Commission) was created due to newspaper closings in Winnipeg and Ottawa in 1980. Kent Commission reported in 1981 that newspaper chains are owned by conglomerates, and argued that such cross-ownership would compromise journalism’s social responsibility to the reading public.

The Kent report said:

  • smaller news services are good, but may not survive
  • electronic media and telecommunication endangers the press newspaper

Both of which are fully warranted concerns but the report generated little interest at the time. In fact, it was fiercely attacked by newspaper chains whose very interests it put into peril, by proposing the Press Rights Council.
As a result, the problems remain unresolved, and media still gets owned by large business enterprises.

Canadian Content

Canadians always want to protect and preserve Canadian culture. Hmm. Go figure. USA is rich, large, influential, and corporates are more incentivized to broadcast American content — which always guarantee profit — than non-cost-effective Canadian content (CanCon).

(What kind of acronym is that?! CanCon?! It’s the sound an aluminum can makes when you drop it down an elevator shaft. No wonder these companies don’t want Canadian content. This word is just embarrassing to mention.)


  1. Canadian government, through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), has to force private media companies to include CanCon.
  2. Canadian government has to provide financial incentives to promote CanCon.

But then broadcasters are often underfunded and many Canadian media industry workers have left for America.

Since 1969, the CRTC has been the key independent public authority on the regulation and supervision of CanCon.
Furthermore, Canada’s media are regulated by a federal Broadcasting Act, est. 1968 and amended in 1991. The purpose is to strengthen Canadian culture through related politico-economical institutions. In practice though the Act and CRTC both are more sympathetic to private media than public ones and there are always little leeways to make politicians happy.

Media and Politics

You get news from media; true. But what you get isn’t just truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. You get a carefully assembled package of information that promotes a certain ideology. News stories are coded messages about the nature of society and social life.

Let’s look at politics. Increasingly politicians dumb down their language to appeal to the people. Due to limited time and space, providing in-depth analysis in newspapers no longer seems possible. Most journalism today is (slightly) biased toward one political party or ideology, as reflected in editorials etc.

In addition, media coverage is superficial. Media covers statistics — seemingly caring about the vox populi — but provide no close examination of competing views. This polling turns democracy into a popularity contest. (Good old high school student activity councils…) Undecided voters are less likely to engage in political debate.

Media can additional influence voting by:

  • “Agenda-setting”: focusing on some issues but not others
  • Report on candidate’s characteristics: such as Sarah Palin’s style of dress.

So the role of the media in politics is neither informative nor integrative. It simply serves its owners and powerful parties.

Global Media

As you may remember from an earlier chapter (huh?), some have called globalization “American Imperialism”. Neo-liberal free trade treaties (e.g. NAFTA) have increased the impact of cultural goods and American media companies.
e.g. Hollywood.
Canadians consume lots of American culture/media but not vice versa.

We must be aware of bias! In media portrayals of other cultures! Even media coverage of human rights abuses is biased. According to a study done by The Economist and Newsweek, the media are more likely to report abuses when they occur in large, economically-developed non-Western countries. Such as China or Russia. What about Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, Canada, USA? Not so much.

Jürgen Habermas (2006) said mass media is only helpful when it is not involved in its social environments. Which is never.

Classic Studies: Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory

Feminist researchers were among the first to focus on media representation of disadvantaged groups — women. The way media depicted women would influence, as well as reflect, the way women were treated in society.

Suzanna Walters wrote a book. Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory looks at well-known female icons in pop culture, such as Madonna. How does media depict women?

One of the key concepts in the book is the “male gaze”. Is the gaze inevitably male or do female gaze too? Walters also looks at the female “ways of seeing”, as well as related themes of spectatorship, audience, subjectivity, and positioning.

Walters said there is a need to integrate feminist cultural theory with other traditions, such as ethnography. We can start with real women and see how media affected their world.
Reviewers praised Walter’s book for her systematic outline of an emerging field in feminism.

(Interestingly enough, this is the only classic studies to offer a book with no criticism. I guess everyone just wants to be politically correct. But true academia may not thrive if all criticism is silenced, eh?)

The Cultural Studies Perspective

Cultural studies is interdisciplinary. Not exactly sociology but it too is grounded in the Frankfurt School’s critical theory tradition. In Canada, we have Marshall McLuhan. A good man. He wrote before the development of current cultural studies but he’s a prophet. So it’s all cool.

The cultural studies approach tries to understand “culture” by analyzing the sociopolitical context. Kind of connected to the institutional ethnography of Dorothy Smith, to be discussed later.

The political economy perspective focuses on media ownership and control; while cultural studies perspective focuses on the the media’s role in supporting and manipulating power. The cultural studies approach focuses on the messages communicated in media content, the interpretation of this content by audiences, and the struggles of some groups to change mainstream media messages or communicate their own messages in alternative media forms.

Applying the cultural studies perspective to gender issues, let’s talk about “appearance”. Women, much more than men, are subject to appearance norms. They are judged (and judge one another) according to beauty. The mass media played a central role.

Appearance norms are shared notions about beauty that attracts us to some people and repels us from others. We all apply sanctions like ridicule, exclusion, or disapproval to people who fail to meet our culture’s standards of beauty and attractiveness.
Abundant images glorify ideal mean and women. Our culture idealizes youth, a slender toned body, and symmetrical delicate facial features.

This results in the perpetuation of social disadvantage. We are unprepared for life in real world after seeing so many perfect people. Erving Goffman, using the dramaturgical approach, examines appearance and notes that we all bring social expectations to any situation. But our ability to “follow the script” is compromised by a flawed or deviant appearance. For example, a prominent facial scar undermine the actor’s performances and impede social interaction.

Any feature that has such a discrediting effect is called stigma by Goffman. It reveals a gap between virtual and actual social identity. In its most general meaning, stigma is any characteristic, behaviour, or experience that may cause the “branded” person to be rejected by others.

Additionally, appearance norms reflected in the mass media tend to promote appearance pathologies such as anorexia. Eating becomes ritualized and people become OCD. About 95% of anorexics are women. Bulimia nervosa — throwing up food after eating it — is another one. Bulimics consume large amounts of food in a short time. About 50% of people who have been anorexic develop bulimia — your body wants the food back and overcompensates.

Media Representation of Disadvantaged Groups

Groups are not only misrepresented but also underrepresented, for various reasons — especially economic ones. Producers and advertisers only want to make programs that appeal to the rich.
Also, dominant groups are more commonly presented in media because they are more commonly in positions of media control.

Media Portrayal of Women and Gender

Often mass media present women in stereotyped and conventional ways — as either the Madonna or the whore. These approaches cause real women performance anxieties.
Even in video games, a woman’s appeal still depends as much on her sexiness as on her competence.

In newspaper and TV news women are described by their looks, age, and how many children they have, while men are described by their occupation or political affiliation.
Even media advertising are gender specific: Barbie dolls for girls, and male action figures for boys. Since we strive for normality, we emulate the media.

The media slant information to conform to a particular gendered approach — “the Male Gaze”. When a story is told in a male point of view it is assumed to be objective and unbiased. But is it? The “point of view” itself subtly marks the tone of the story. The implication is that news embodies stereotypical masculine qualities of objectivity, reason, coolness, and practicality.
(I may be chauvinistic here but–what’s wrong with objectivity, reason, coolness, and practicality?)
Women tend to be treated more dismissvely than even the most inept men. e.g. Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean.

Media influences us and perpetuates stereotypes because we tend to emulate successful, attractive, admired figures on TV. The theoretical framework that deals with this issue is feminism. Sometimes, alternative media can provide an outlet for these progressive views. Alternative media can provide us with true and critical understandings of the world.

Homogenization and Niche Marketing

How do you broadcast to people, some smart, some dumb? Easy — just dumb everything down to the dumbest level so that everyone can understand. This is mainstream media. It approaches us viscerally, at the animal or chemical level.

As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” The way media affects us depends on whether it is printed or visual. Cold or hot. TV is much more direct and visceral and emotionally provocative than printed books. In a sense, we are massaged psychologically in an uncritical, yet emotionally arousing way.

There are limits to the homogenization effects of mass media though. (After all, modern society isn’t milk.) Post-industrial societies with organic solidarity are necessarily diverse.

There is an opportunity for profit through segmentation: niche marketing is developed. Different media have different target audiences.

Certain commodities are visible though. Adoption of merchandise follows an S-shape: at first the courageous rich try it, then early adopters buy it, then laggards buy it, then prices fall, commodity go from luxury to commonplace, and people need a second TV, a second car, a second PS3, etc. (No idea why the textbook suddenly talks about this.)

Poor people though still can’t spend as much and so they aren’t as important in companies’ eyes.
“Captains of consciousness” mould the desires, needs, and intentions of the spending public.
Market research are more sophisticated with elaborate demographic and psychographic models.
Sociologists have played a (not always glorious) part in market research. To market household products sociologists advised companies to play on working class wives’ fears of losing their husbands to other women.

Because of niche marketing, mass media have segmented and are becoming less homogenizing.

Media, Conflict, and Crime

The media often portray people using violence to deal with problems. They also portray news in a narrow, biased, and conflictual fashion.
Both news shows and dramas depict violence in a variety of forms, including rape, murder, gunplay, fist fights, and so on.
It is still unclear how much this media influence contributes to actual violence though. As opposed to childhood trauma, etc.

Boxer et al. (2009) recently addressed this issue and says that yes, violent media does increase the likelihood of violent behaviour and aggression. But of course it is still difficult to disentangle media effects from other social influences, since different kinds of people watch different media.

This circular argument went on for 40 years and is summarized on the website Media Awareness Netwark. Cross-national research presented some evidence that media causes violence. But Jonathan Freedman calls it into doubt. Japanese media (e.g. manga and anime) were really violent! But Japan has much lower rates of murder than Canada or the US. Cultures teach us different ways of dealing with violent arousal.

1930s “frustration-aggression hypothesis”: frustration always leads to aggressive behaviour. But it is not true! People only react aggressively if they have been socialized to react aggressively.

Media and the Construction of Social Problems

The media tell us what problems to pay attention to.
As Herbert Blumer (1971) points out, social problems develop in stages:

  1. Social recognition: the point at which a given condition is first identified as a potential social concern.
  2. Social legitimating: social institutions formally recognize the issue as a serious threat to social stability.

The mass media both raises awareness and mobilizes legitimacy for the problem. e.g. During the 1990s media warned of sex offenders against children. But in actuality these offences remained the same — or even declined! The media coverage was nothing more than a socially constructed panic.
Catholic priests molest children, but media doesn’t really cover that.

In a sense all social problems are socially constructed. Hitler needs to be on the news for us to consider him as evil. So we can’t assume that “facts speak for themselves”. Many “facts” are half-truths, and many facts never surface. Bringing issues to public attention is key to the social construction of social problems.


Another Frenchman! Delightful!

Well known for his work on hyperreality (such a French thing to do). Especially American’s construction of hyperreality–a fantasy world that they believe to be real but where nothing is authentic. One does not experience life but simply watches performances and are controlled by illusions.

So uh, Baudrillard basically denied that the first Gulf War existed at all. Before the war began he said that there’d be no war. After the battles ceases he continued to assert that no war had taken place. The textbook said this illustrates his use of hyperreality but sounds to me like this dude’s just in denial.

Baudrillard also used Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism. A Marxian definition of commodity fetishism would be the transformation of subjective, emotional, bonding human relationships to objective, unemotional, nonchalant material relationships by capitalism. e.g. People weigh careers not by their passion in the field but by how much money they can earn.

Even those most sympathetic to baudrillard’s approach criticize his work, finding his style exaggerated, chaotic, and lacking systematic analysis. (Well, he’s French.)

Baudrillard is nonetheless important in calling our attention the way hyperreality pervades the media, and the way liberalism and Marxism have both ceased to function as overarching narratives. As a result, people are neither behaving like active informed citizens or proletarians yearning for revolution. Instead, they sit on their fat arses and watch TV.

Gauthier (2009) commemorated Baudrillard by saying that in him we find a seductive defiance of perception — “that reaches heights seldom seen before in the history of thought… a path that typifies the vigilance of the humanist thinker”. In other words, he admires Baudrillard’s denial of reality. Gee sociologists are weird people.

We do need to rethink our ideas, methods, and taken-for-granted assumptions though. Sefat and Kelly (2009) follows Baudrillard’s logic and concludes that sovereign nation-states may not be real.
(Though to be fair, Baudrillard’s argument goes something like this: since US is so much more powerful than the Iraq there was never any doubt that the US will win. So it’s not a war, but a domination, an abuse.)

Staples (2009, coughcough, nice name)notes that media stresses symbolism of 9/11 attacks but overlooks the global role of US power. Staples used Baudrillard’s work on the “binary of the Other” and shows how media justifies the American “culture of terror”.

Walters and Kop (2009) note that digital technology not only transforms the world but also revolutionizes people’s inner lives as well. Facebook changes lives yo. Digital revolution is qualitatively different from the printing revolution described by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Torikian (2009) says that postmodernism is a dangerous philosophy because it questions whether there can (ever) be objective reality. Hyperreality is an attempt by postmodernist thinkers to discover the “truth behind truth”. But come on! They are veering dangerously close to the cliffs of nihilism.

Kellner (2006) notes that events following 9/11 brought Baudrillard back into the mortal world. Before, Baudrillard viewed world history as composed of “weak events” and boring politics, but after, he viewed terrorism as a sign that the world has entered a new world defined by globalization’s war with itself.

Politics become nothing more than a struggle to broadcast the most compelling images. Baudrillard’s idea of the “immanent reversal” captures the process by which triumphant display of US military success and power instead becomes powerful global symbols of defeat, showcases of American brutality and arrogance.

Baudrillard viewed signs and symbols as realities in their own right, regardless of a material reality. So absolute truth is non-existent. Is reality really real?
Rennett (2009) calls the term “reality TV” a euphemism–these programs don’t show “real life” at all. Reality TV shows a pretend world so powerful that they can “erase the original”.
(Quite right, in fact I think I read an except of that in one of the SAT readings I did.)

So Jean Baudrillard, though a bit loopy, is actually quite often cited. He deserves a place in our fusion approach to sociology, but more importantly in our hearts.

New Insights

Two Parrots
Gane (2005), parroting Baudrillard, asserts that media technologies have become the foundation of human life. So what if we question media? Kittler, parroting Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Marshal McLuhan, Jacque Lacan, and Michel Foucault, question materiality of information technology.

Rabot Rhymes with Parrot
Rabot (2007) argues against the trivialization of media imagery, noting the need to recognize their potential for deep social importance. New technologies can potentially “demythologize” the society.

How to Start a Revolution
Fuchs and Sandoval (2008) look at alternative media, including print, online, and broadcast forms. These alternative media critique globalized capitalism not only through content but also through organization, journalistic methods, production, distribution, etc. These media exemplify the “prosumer” concept: making people both producers and consumers, reducing oppression.

Ortiz-Negron (2008) argues that traditional lines between government business, and media have become blurred. Media influence politics and workings of government by publicizing various social problems.

Together We Can Rule the Galaxy
Berardi (2006) notes that over the last 15 years Italy has submitted to “semi-capitalism”. Government controlled conglomerate incorporating and used it to control the public.

Gather ‘Round People, Wherever You Roam
Martelli (2005) notes that two religious events, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the World Youth Day, have received exceptional coverage. Currently, TV favours postmodern religious expression, which has a mystical, collective flavour, as opposed to modern, ascetic, individualistic faith. Post modernity brings about “de-secularization”.

Baptized in the River, I Wanna Be Delivered
Lyon (2006) notes a similar religious reawakening among Protestants, making use of modern media. Young (mainly urban) people tend to approach Christianity in non-traditional ways. Worshipping with rock music, etc.

Lau (2004), contrary to Gans, argues that news reporting is influential not only by outside forces but also by internal forces, such as actions and choices of journalists themselves.

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SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.