By: Katie Sheahin
“Media Theory” by Joshua Meyrowitz explains how, even with all the different theories theorists have covered, the interaction of media and culture, “ cohere together into a shared image of three phases of civilization matched to three major forms of communication: the move from traditional oral societies to modern print societies, to an electronic global culture”(King,Cook, Tropin, 63). Oral societies are dependent upon the living memory of people. The focus is on skills such as memorization and recitation. Within an oral culture one must physically be there because it is near impossible to interact with those not physically there and individuality is not common because it is too hard to just remember individual ideas and expressions. An oral society relies heavily on the interplay of the five senses. There are few distinctions of social status within the oral world, allowing everyone to be on the same page. However, once writing and print are introduced, this social status is broken up.
Writing allows for ideas that are too complex and too long to be memorized, to be known and preserved. Writing allows for “literate” people who live in the same environment to have different experiences and different world views about topics. “Writing, therefore, both splinters and unites people in new ways”(King, 63). The distinction between speech, hearing and writing, reading is that speech and hearing are “natural” means of communicating whereas writing and reading are not. Writing and reading are communication techniques that require a lot of learning and practice. That is therefore why social statuses start to create. However the printing press helps balance the use of reading and writing throughout cultures but then again reinforces the separation of, “people into different informational worlds” (King, 64).In further explaining the differences between oral societies and print societies, “print, even more than writing, undoes the tribal balance of senses”(King, 64). The printing press compared to an oral society allows for more growth of knowledge. The printing press helped with the occurrence of reforms and revolutions.
The next and final form of communication that Meyrowitz covers is electronic media. “While print allows for new ways of sharing knowledge, and industrialization enables the wide scale sharing of products, electronic media tend to foster new types of shared experiences”(King, 66). The scale of sharing events, ideas, etc. around the world is enhanced greatly due to electronic media. Meyrowitz goes on to explain how written and printed words emphasize ideas while most electronic media emphasize feeling, appearance and mood. Electronic communication is not subject to the physical limitations that spoken communication is limited to. This again leads into social statuses within communities. “People of the same status generally have access to the same or similar situations and information” (King, 66). To understand this concept more thoroughly, Meyrowitz discusses how social roles can be described in terms of an informative-network-sensitive triad of social roles. These social roles are broken up into three categories: group identity, socialization, and hierarchy. However, in many situations these roles can overlap with one another. Meyrowitz furthers his position by explaining that, “each of these role categories, in turn can be described in terms of set patterns of access to social information” (King,68). For instance, things that are told to sixth graders are hidden from fifth graders.
Social roles have changed with the rise of digital media with the Internet, social media and mobile devices media. The article “The Mobile Life Youth Report” gives more factual information about what I mentioned above relating to social roles, in referring to the usage of mobile devices with young Americans. The social role of the average 11-14 year old has changed in that it is normal for that age to now acquire cellphones. This social role is broken up into an even more specific group identity, with statistics showing that, “when choosing a mobile phone, for boys functionality matters more than style; for girls style matters more than functionality”(The Mobile Life Youth Report,16). As the teens get older they have more power over spending preferences for the phone they want, which creates another distinguishing social role within young Americans. One of the videos below talks about how teenagers these days depend on their cellphones and feel disconnected if they do not have their phones. This just shows how electronic media has become such a central role in the everyday lives of today’s world. To even prove this point further, in the article “The Mobile Life Youth Report” explains that, “78% of 11-17 year-olds say that having a mobile phone gives them a better social life, because they can more easily maintain contact with their friends. More widely, 70% say their mobile phone has made their life better”(12).Today’s communication relies heavily on these electronic technologies. The other video below, shows how the media uses these electronic devices, such as the T.V. or Internet, to portray certain ideas of how men and women are suppose to act within certain communities. In both videos and through the texts I have mentioned, it is evident that electronic media controls many aspects of our lives, including communication.
Teens and Cellphones:
Video about roles in media:
Elliot King, Russell Cook, and Mitchell Tropin, “Currents in Communication.” Dubuque, IA 2010. Print
“The Mobile Life Youth Report 2006.” N.p., n.d. Web.