The content of the current media culture is often blind to a young person’s cultural,economic and educational background. The concept of a media culture has evolvedowing to the increased volume, variety and importance of mediated signs and messagesand the interplay of interlaced meanings. In the world of young people, the media are saturated by popular culture and penetrate politics, the economy, leisuretime and education. At present, the global media culture is a pedagogic force that has the potential to exceed the achievements of institutionalized forms of education. As Henry Giroux puts it:“With the rise of new media technologies and the global reach of the highly concentrated culture industries, the scope and impact of the educational force of culture in shaping and refiguring all aspects of daily life appear unprecedented. Yet the current debates have generally ignored the powerful pedagogical influence of popular culture ,along with the implications it has for shaping curricula, questioning notions of high-status knowledge, and redefining the relationship between the culture of schooling and the cultures of everyday life.”
The concept of media culture encompasses not simply symbolic combinations of immaterial signs or capricious currents of old and new meanings, but an entire way of life7 in which images, signs, texts and other audio-visual representations are connected with the real fabric of material realities, symbols and artificialities.8Media culture is pervasive; its messages are an important part of the everyday lives of young people, and their daily activities are structured around media use. The stories and images in the media become important tools for identity construction. A pop star provides a model for clothing and other style choices, and language used by a cartoon character becomes a key factor in the street credibility of young people. Under the present circumstances, there are few places left in the world where one might escape the messages and meanings embedded in the televised media culture. In a mediated culture, it can be difficult for young people to discern whose representations are closest to the truth, which representations to believe, and which images matter.
This is partly because the emergence of digitalized communication and the commoditization of culture have significantly altered the conditions under which life and culture are experienced. Many are still attached to the romantic image of organic communities in which people converse with one another face-to-face and livein a close-knit local environment. Digital communication is gradually undermining this traditional approach:“Most of the ways in which we make meanings, most of our communications to other people, are not directly human and expressive, but interactions in one way or another worked through commodities and commodity relations: TV, radio, film, magazines, music, commercial dance, style, fashion, commercial leisure venues. These are major realignments.” 9In the world of young people, the media culture may be characterized primarilyin terms of three distinct considerations. First, it is produced and reproduced bydiverse ICT sources. It is therefore imperative to replace the teaching of knowledgeand skills central to agrarian and industrial societies with education in digital literacy.
A similar point is made by Douglas Kellner, who contends that in a media culture it isimportant to learn multiple ways of interacting with social reality.10 Children and young people must be provided with opportunities to acquire skills in multiple literacies to enable them to develop their identities, social relationships and communities, whether material, virtual, or a combination of the two.Second, the media culture of youth extends beyond signs and symbols, manifestingitself in young people’s physical appearance and movements. The media cultureinfluence is visible in how youth present themselves to the world through meansmade available by prevailing fashions; the body is a sign that can be used effectivelyto produce a cultural identity. Furthermore, various kinds of media-transmitted skill sand knowledge are stored and translated into movements of the body. This is evident in a number of youth subcultures involving certain popular sports, games and music/dances such as street basketball, skateboarding and hip hop.
The body is highly susceptible to different contextual forms of control. While they are in school, pupils’ movements are regulated by certain control mechanisms and cognitive knowledge. In the streets, youth clubs and private spaces, however, their bodies function according to a different logic. Informal knowledge absorbed through the media culture requires some conscious memorizing but also involves physicall earning, quite often commercialized.11Third, in the experience of young people, media culture represents a sourceof pleasure and relative autonomy compared with home or school. As P. Willis states:“Informal cultural practices are undertaken because of the pleasuresand satisfactions they bring, including a fuller and more rounded sense of the self, of ‘really being yourself’ within your own knowable cultural world. This entails finding better fits than the institutionally or ideologically offered ones, between the collective and cultural senses —the way it walks, talks, moves, dances, expresses, displays— and its actual conditions of existence; finding a way of ‘beingin the world’ with style at school, at work, in the street.” Experts on young people have long appreciated the complexity of the concept of youth, especially when examined from a global perspective.
The best summation is perhaps that the concept of youth today is historically and contextually conditioned;in other words, it is relative as well as socially and culturally constructed. In the present media culture, the age at which childhood is perceived to end is declining, and the period of youth seems to be extending upward. It is useful, however, to recall that the majority of young people in the world do not live according to the Western conceptions of youth. For them, childhood and adolescence in the Western sense exist only indirectly through media presentations. The same media culture influences seem to be in effect outside the Western world, but their consequences are likely to be somewhat different owing mainly to variations in definitions of childhood and youth and to the different authority relationships prevailing in individual cultures. Children and young people are often seen as innocent victims of the pervasive and powerful media. In the extreme view, the breakdown of the nuclear family, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, paedophilia, child trafficking and child prostitution spreading through the Internet, drug use, juvenile crime, the degeneration of manners, suicide and religious cults are all seen as problems exacerbated or even inflicted upon society by the media.
Parents seem to have become disconnected from their children’s education. Schools have been transformed into teaching factories incapable of providing young people with the coping skills they need to survive and thrive in themedia culture.14 The media, especially television, present material that disturbs children and makes them passive, because they have not yet reached a stage of development that allows them to appropriately process the information they are receiving. From this perspective, children and young people are seen as tractable recipients of messages, as spellbound viewers susceptible to a range of addictions. An even clearer manifestation of such pessimism is “media panic”, which describes the concern, worry or fear that arises from the use of new devices or the adoption of new cultural forms by children and teenagers during a period in which they are challenging earlier cultural practices and conceptions.
It is useful to remember that, years ago, the spread of the cinema to a wider audience unleashed a panic and inspired a wave of research intended to provide empirical proof of the destructive effects of motion picture viewing. Another panic emerged in the early 1950s in the United States (and in the following decade elsewhere) when the television became a standard feature in many homes. The third media panic—focused on the detrimental nature of ICT—is occurring now. A sad fact about media panics is that they rarely evoke questions about what might be called pr however, that these panics are becoming less fierce in nature as social reality becomes increasingly pluralistic with regard to ethnic foundations, gender codes and culturalmeanings.15 The dystopic view inspires remedial action, including the creation of rules for dealing with the problems of networked societies and the globalizing world, but it also functions to construct a demonized image of youth. At the other end of the spectrum, children and young people are seen as those who stand to benefit most from the ICT revolution.
In his opinion, most schools in developing countries and many in the developed countries function primarily as storehouses for children and youth. In the global assessment, schools display tremendous variation with regard to teachers’ qualifications and other resources. Schools have failed to adopt the type of pedagogical thinking required in the Internet era, based on the old idea of learning to learn: “What is really required is the skill to decide what to look for, how to retrieve it, how to process it, and how to use it for the specific task that prompted the search for information.”
Owing to the miserable state of schools, the task of preparing young people for the new era is left to the home, a fact that is likely to add further to the disparities in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of children and young people. The introduction of ICT is linked to a number of practical problems that are especially relevant in the poorest areas of the world. One primary concern is the lack of money and ICT resources. Most agree that a significant increase in development aid is needed. A second concern is that the newest ICT applications are far too expensive from the perspective of developing countries. One solution that has been suggested is to use freeware and to develop devices that are sufficient for the needs of users but do not represent the newest or fastest technologies.