Assess the Postmodernist Views of the Mass Media Essay Sample

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M argue mass media are central to the PM theory, as the decline of traditional communities, time-space compression and flexible production – all derived through the media. PM argue the global society is media-saturated, making it harder to distinguish between reality and hyper-reality, and making culture fragmented and unstable. PM challenge viewing audience as passive and easily manipulated, as they use media images to construct individual identities. The major criticism of PM is that their argument is based on abstract concepts and a lack of empirical evidence. Marxists criticise PM for ignoring inequalities in media access, and that the media messages can mislead the audiences, as the main effort behind them is maintaining profit for capitalists.

PM argue the society today is media-saturated. BAUDRILLARD argues the media messages dominate and distort the perception of the world. People live media-led virtual lives, spending time on social networks (eg. Twitter) or playing such video games as Second Life. Media-saturated society had created increasing uncertainty in the world by making it hard to discern reality from fantasy. BAUDRILLARD notes people are bombarded with the mass media daily. As a result, the media define our sense of reality and self-perception. To support, BAUMANN suggests people live in a liquid modernity, where we base our identity around consumption, and pick n mix identities. BAUDRILLARD agrees that identity is driven my media-created pressure to consume. However, Marxists argue capitalism is behind media-created pressure to consume, and the growth of consumerism represents the success of capitalism rather than diverse media messages. Nonetheless, BAUDRILLARD still argues that identity is formed by media images, rather than class and imposed values.

PM argue the media acti

vely create reality. BAUDRILLARD argues media images have replaced reality to such an extent that we

live in hyper-reality, i.e. reality structured by electronic communication. In turn, the media present simulacra (artificial copies of real events), which is hard to differentiate from reality. There is no longer separate reality for things like TV programmes, highlighted by media stories about fictional characters. TUCKLE notes that the lives of TV characters have become more real to the audience than actual communities. For example, people felt so strongly about TV show Cheers that they created Cheers bars in America, similarly to creating Central Perk coffee shops after popularity of Friends.

Moreover, the media can create realities of such major events as wars. BAUDRILLARD argues that the First Gulf War was a simulation created by the media, noting that ‘the war only happened on TV’. While not denying the existence of conflict, he criticised its portrayal in western societies. However, the impact of hyper-reality and simulacra is uneven between social groups. They are only significant to those who can access them. PM are criticised for ignoring that media images can increase perception of inequality. More importantly, PM ignore concerns over concentration of media ownership and ideological function hyper-reality may perform. Marxists suggest the RC may create the hyper-reality to reinforce their ideology, whereas Feminists suggest some aspects of hyper-reality, particularly games like GTA, reinforce patriarchy and misogyny.

PM highlight the increasing importance of popular culture promoted by the media. STRINATI notes the mass media have caused a breakdown of distinction between high and popular culture, making popular culture dominate the way people define themselves. Popular culture has more influence on our lifestyles than social structures, as opposed to Marxist view that the media owners influence the media output thus influence our identities. However, PM are criticised for not being able to empirically prove the link between popular culture and creation of identities. PM conducted small scale ethnographic research, as they reject possibility of discovering objective truth about social world. However, it severely undermines their argument. In support of PM, however, neo-functionalist PUTNAM found empirical evidence to highlight the breakdown of the real world social interaction and declining social capital due to the influence of the media, and especially new media.

In conclusion, PM view of the media is influential in drawing attention to the impact of the media on creation of identities and how consumption influence people’s ability to create their identities themselves. However, the major limitation of PM theory is reluctance to recognise the significance of the market forces and concentration of media ownership in understanding the media impact on the society. Moreover, PM do not acknowledge the media’s role of promoting and exacerbating inequalities among audiences.

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