Consumerism and the media Essay.
In this essay, by answering these 12 questions I intend to offer a brief, but critical & evaluative assessment, of the impact of advertising, consumerism and the media. * What according to Diamond creates communication technologies, & what is the impact of the telephone, as one example? The creation of communication technologies, such as the telephone systems or hand-held mobile phones, can be understood as both a commercial business driven by & distributed for the purpose of profit maximisation, and as a product of creative, intellectual activity, highlighting it’s dominance in technological progress.
However we are obliged to make cultural observations on the creation of these technologies (especially the telephone) & the roles they play, & affect they have on/in society. Stanley Diamond, in his works ‘In Search of The primitive: A Critique Of Civilisation’, explains how the introduction & mass production of these products are their to “… Absorb & displace attention from the isolation & frustration that its form of society generates; these objects & services then become necessary, a sign of progress, a proof of prestige for those who “own” them… A way of holding the people at large… They are in other words addictions.
” (Diamond, pp44, 1987) Even the way in which we use the telephone is a reflection of us as a society. “Thus the telephone ordinarily used becomes a sign, not of communication, but of lack of communication, & the consequent compelling desire to relate to others, but to relate at a distance… The telephone [is] an integrated aspect of the repressive culture of monopoly capitalism. ” (Diamond, ‘In Search Of The Primitive’, pp46, 1987) Communication has evolved. Personal, face-to-face interactions are reduced. We no longer visit each other, but instead partake in numerous (& often meaningless) phone conversations.
But the paradigm shift in cultural evolution doesn’t end there. With the increase of new technologies and their functions, the gulf of active, personal interaction is further widened, especially since the introduction of ‘text messaging’ (or txt MSG’s! ), we do not now even have to communicate verbally, but enjoy orality in the shape of text conversations. * How does glamour & envy operate in the world of advertising/publicity? However you choose to view the advertising & publicity industry, there can be no denying that it plays an integral part in our need to consume in accordance with their representations of glamour & envy.
It is this consumer culture & its representations that John Berger tries to address in his work “Way Of Seeing. ” In his work we learn to view adverts as “not merely an assembly of competing messages [but as] a language in itself which is always being used to make some general proposal. ” (Berger, pp131, 1972) These constant bombardment of images that seduces/deludes the public/consumer into believing that what is offered is a key into a more fulfilling or glamorous world, where you can become the envy of others. But this promise “…
Is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour. ” (Berger, ‘Ways Of Seeing’, 1972). By playing on our feelings of anxiety (where having nothing = being nothing), we fall into the illusion that these products have the ability & power to transform, to bring happiness or success. The gap between the you now & the future you (that these products offer) are bridged by the ‘glamorous daydreams’ portrayed in the images/adverts themselves “The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour.
And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour. ” (Berger, ‘Way’s Of Seeing’, pp133, 1972) To achieve this glamour, John Berger argues that ads/publicity present a world where our own glamour (or being envied by others) is just around the corner, only available after the purchase of a specific product. * How did the “Brand” begin its life, standing in for the social relationship between customer & small shopkeeper? Advertising today is not merely about selling products. It is about selling a brand, a dream, and a message.
But “Branding & advertising are not the same process. Advertising any given product is only one part of the game plan, as are sponsorship & logo licensing. ” (Klein, ‘No Logo’, pp5, 2000) You sell the message of your brand, not your product. With the new emergence of factories in the second half of the nineteenth century, entirely new products were being introduced, and old ones began appearing in various new forms. Once the market was flooded with these products, it became necessary to stand out & distinguish them from the rest of the market place.
“Competitive branding became a necessity of the mechanical age. ” (Klein, ‘No Logo’, pp6, 2000) The role of advertising changed from delivering a product, to building an image around a particular brand name version of a product. The mass influx of branding had a destructive effect on the social relationship between customer & small shopkeeper. The personal, social, interaction with the shop keeper, (who was often known for years, & trusted upon to give honest & informative information on products) was replaced by “Familiar personalities “such as Dr brown, Uncle Ben & Aunt Jenna…
A nation-wide vocabulary of brand names replaced the small shop keeper as the interface between consumer & product. ” (Klein, ‘No Logo, pp6, 2000) The brands themselves begun to speak directly to the consumer, by becoming (through advertising) a trusted face/brand. Reducing the need of the middleman/shopkeeper to a mere spectator. * How does advertising work as a magical inducement? Magic is a key theme in Raymond Williams’ ‘ Advertising: The Magic System’ (1969). It discusses how advertising is not just a means of selling goods, but that it is a true part of the culture of a confused society.
To Williams, the fundamental choice that emerges is the choice between man as a consumer and man as a user, as “The system of organized magic which modern advertising is primarily important as a functional obscuring of this choice. ” (‘Advertising: The Magic System’, pp186, 1969) “If the consumption of individual goods leaves the whole area of human need unsatisfied, the attempt is made, by magic, to associate this consumption with human desires to which it has no real reference. You do not only by an object: You buy a social respect, discrimination, health, beauty, success, power to control your environment.
The magic obscures the real sources of general satisfaction because their discovery would involve radical change in the whole common way of life. ” (Williams, ‘The Magic System’, pp188/9, 1969) Magic is not a single unified system, but a process, a mythical way of doing things, a transformation of a system. Magic is a tool around which misrepresentation may take place; it always involves a misrepresentation of time in space or of space in time * Who owns the media & how does that affect media information?
Most media organisations are often owned by multinational, multi-million pound corporations, that are often involved in a number of business ventures apart from the media. They view the use of media as one component for broader campaigns. Media content can be seen to reflect the ideology of the particular owning corporation, with concentration of ownership & lack of diversity key issues. These corporations “Sell their product to a market, & that market is of course, advertisers. ” (Chomsky, ‘What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream’, pp22, 1997)
Commercial TV stations, radio stations & most newspapers receive most or all of their income from advertisers. The media are a means of exposing audiences to advertising, with media corporations selling a product (audiences) to buyers (advertisers) Chomsky in his work, ‘What Makes The Mainstream Media Mainstream’ describe how the boundaries between the media & advertising have become increasingly blurred, as corporate influence on content and information are often not without bias or prejudice. This can lead to imbalance, & not being able of getting opinions/information covering the whole spectrum (refusing to give us the full picture)
“The obvious assumption is that the product of the media, what appears, what doesn’t appear, the way it is slanted, will reflect the interests of the buyers & sellers, the institutions, & the power systems that surround them… ” (Chomsky, ‘What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream’, pp22, 1997) These corporate influences of the television, radio, Internet, news, newspapers etc are acting as another agent of social control, by determining the output that most people depend on for information about the world. ? Is the Internet interactive, in Rushkoff’s view, & is it communication?
In its early conceptions, Douglas Rushkoff believed the Internet to be “A true communications medium from the start. It was as much about sending & receiving… Users would send email, join live chats, or participate in asynchroumus discussions on bulletin boards. ” (Rushkoff, ‘The information Arms Race’, taken from R, Kick ‘you Are Being Lied To’, pp 85,) However he argues that the Internet has no caricatured into a source pool of information. No longer about interpersonal exchange, but for the retrieval of data. “The World Wide Web became a navigational tool.
Unlike bulletin boards or chat rooms, the web is for the most part a read-only medium… you can’t see through it to the activities of others. We don’t socialize with anyone when we visit a website; we read text or look at pictures. This is not interactivity. ” (Rushkoff, ‘The Information Arms’) Rushkoff also argues that the information cannot be actively a form of communication as “Communication is a living exchange between equal partners… for wherever real communication is occurring, there is life. ” (Rushkoff, ‘The Information Arms (extracted from R, Kick ‘You Are Being Lied To’ pp82)
However it can be argued that the Internet (& other medium) is a form of indirect communication, which represents a simulation or substitute for the lack of interactive, personal communication lost in today’s society. * Summarise Sale & Postman’s comparisons of George Orwell’s 1984 & Aldous Huxley’ brave New World, & consider Illich’s commentary on 1984. Give your own response to the relevance, considered by Sale, Postman & Illich, of these future visions in contemporary culture Society, identity & control seem to be the main themes in Orwell’s 1984 & Huxley’s Brave New World.
There are however “Certain similarities in both versions, for they were written only 16 years apart: authotorian governments, advanced technologies of control & conditioning, low caste humans for menial work, lack of privacy, limited range of thought [&] manipulation of memory. ” (Sale, The Ecologist, pp41, 2000) are all key issues. Even though some of the examples in Orwell’s 1984 have not materialised in our society today (such as the non-existence of capitalism & consumerism), Sale (& Illich) still seem to view these two works as an early prophecy of the conditions we now face in the 21st century.
He argues that the language in which we speak, the programming of materialism through the media (especially the T. V set), & politics are ways in which “The Process continues in subtle, persistent, unnoticed ways, as with so many other schemes & ideologies & thought-systems by which capitalism maintain it’s hold. ” (Sale, ‘The Ecologist’, pp43, 2000) In terms of relevance to today’s society, we can see the introduction of ‘big-brother methods, i. e.
CCTV, the ‘tagging of criminals, the concentration of ownership of the media & its lack of objective, unbiased reporting/coverage, the proposed introduction of electronic I. D cards & the various bills & policies (immigration & declassification of drugs) passed by Government (which the public & those who are placed to represent the public, have little or no influence) as agents of social control, designed to place the power in the hands of the few, & distract the masses through diversion via ‘entertainment’ & the availability of drugs.
These tools are used to keep us asleep & slumbering on, unable to see the new methods of totalitarianism & global control/dominance, going on around us each day. * Conclusion We live in a society that is increasingly infiltrated by mass media. For most, television, film, radio & print are integral parts of our daily lives. With the introduction of new media (such as the Internet & digital technologies) the way in which we view the media (the world & ourselves) has also changed.
Some see it as a tool of control, whilst others may view it as giving a freedom of choice & communication. However you choose to view the media, it is the actual role & influences of the media that may give cause for concern. Above we have already discussed ownership & ideology of various media & media corporations. But we are often unaware of the power of these media & its connections to shape society or (at least the dominant culture’s society) to fit in with the political & economical ideology of the controlling forces.
I for one do not want to be subject to what can be fundamentally labelled as brainwashing, to fit into a particular train of thought or belief systems. As globalisation becomes ever more prominent, the role of advertising, consumerism & the media also increases. While consumption has been a part of our history, the level of mass consumption beyond basics is now a fundamental part of our culture. Advertising consistently promotes the myth ideology of consumerism, that we must (or should I say to for a better word, NEED) more & more products in a rapidly expanding world.
However without failing to realise that it is just this consistent over absorption of the worlds natural resources, & the ever increasing gap between rich & poor, that is threatening humanity as a whole. We have already done almost irreparable damage to the Worlds resources, yet the media, advertising & consumer ideology fail to report this. For they know that with the decrease in consumption, the whole unstable structure that they have thought for nearly a hundred years to maintain, will be threatened with collapse.