Friday, February 18, 2011

Technopoly and Media Saturation

Every day, we are assaulted by a torrent of technology and media.  No matter where we go, we see advertisements on billboards and screens.  Within our own homes, we invite this flood in with our televisions and computers.  Neil Postman and Todd Gitlin both take the attitude that this media and technology is taking over our lives.  While it may be true that technology and the media have become major parts of everyday life, it is not true that they are completely taking over. 
                Neil Postman, in his book, Technopoly, takes an extreme attitude about the inundation of technology.  Throughout time, man has created tools and new technologies to help make life easier.  Every technology created has been to help the society deal with some challenge, from the issue of providing enough food for a village or tribe to enhancing business communications.  There has been a steady evolution of the tools humans create since our existence, and as a new technology becomes old, it becomes as much a part of our society as we are.  We see it less and less as technology, and more and more as an appliance.  Postman argues that new technology is not, in itself, a problem, but that we are become too dependent on it.  The culture of old is giving way to the technology, and we are losing these cultures we have spent so long cultivating (1992).
                Todd Gitlin, on the other hand, argues about media itself.  New technology has given way to new ways media can invade our lives.  Like Postman discussed the history of technology, Gitlin gives an evolution of media.  As a capitalist society developed, companies advertised.  Individuals advertised.  There came a time when you couldn’t take a walk on the street without seeing posters or hearing vendors trying to attract customers.  It wasn’t long before the concept of branding became common place.  Now, we see ads everywhere.  Many have become walking advertisements for the brands they like, paying extra money for the name.  The image given by the brand name has become everything (2002).
                It is true that technology and media have become ever present in our society.  Many can’t wait until the new computer or cell phone comes out on the market.  We search the internet, watch televisions, and comb magazines for new ads from our favorite brands or stores.  At work, I see women carrying expensive brand name bags, like Coach, wanting to give this image of being successful, but at the same time, I hear them complain about not being able to pay off bills or buy their children Christmas presents.  In student teaching, I heard the seventh graders talking about what stores they went to, and saw the labels on their clothes.  The labels helped create their identities as being unique, but still part of a larger group.  Their branding put them in a certain sub-culture within the school.
                Even in this class, we are dependent on technology.  We use the internet to do research, to communicate with one another, to assess our learning, and to turn in our assignments.  At work, I use email and texting to communicate with students who do not come to class.  I have even set up a blog where I post what we do in class and what the homework assignments are (  My students are using the internet to do research for their final research papers, and all our essays and papers are typed.
                However, many of my students don’t have computers.  Their main mode of communication with people is their cell phone, and many of them need to have it on all the time.  They are dependent on that technology because of ailing parents and unreliable child care providers.  The technology of the cell phone is allowing them to pursue an education they never thought possible while keeping up with their outside responsibilities.
                Though the technology has helped me keep in touch with people, I do not have to have the technology everywhere with me as Postman indicates of society.  The technology of today has become as commonplace as the technologies of old.  We have incorporated them into our everyday lives, but it is not taking the place of culture.  Society itself evolves over time, and as it evolves, it takes the new things to make it its own.  We are not losing culture, we are creating a new culture.  We use the technology to help enhance our world.  We use it to learn about others, to gain insight into the world, to help preserve the world’s traditions.  I have used the internet to learn about Japanese culture, and to see arts from around the world.  My friends and I share news from all over the world, and we learn about each other’s heritage.
                In conclusion, though Postman and Gitlin have created this image that the media and technology are destroying our cultures, it may not be as absolute as they imagine.  There are many people who can live without technologies others take for granted, and there are those that use the technologies to help further their own cultures, interests, and educations.


Gitlin, T. (2002). Media unlimited: How the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives. New York: Henry Hold and Company, LLC.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Media and Bias

               The media have flooded our lives.  They are everywhere.  We invite them into our homes through our televisions, our computers, and our newspaper subscriptions.  We are met with media advertisements and information on billboards, the radio, and even the clothes we wear and the cars we drive.  The bias in the media has been a long debated topic, but there are good reasons behind the bias they present.
                First and foremost, it must be accepted that the media is biased.  A study done at UCLA by professors Groseclose and Milyo (2004) showed that many major news outlets are biased one way or another.  The Wall Street Journal, for example, was found to be the most liberal in the news they presented, while The Washington Times was found to be the most conservative.  While this may not be a shock, consider Fox News Network.  In Outfoxed, the audience is shown irrefutable evidence that the Fox Network is conservative.  Rupert Murdock himself asserts that there are liberals on his payroll, they tend to be on the conservative side of liberal, and the number of conservatives brought on the shows far outnumber the liberals (Achbar & Wintonick, 1993).
                Now, the question would be, why are the media biased?  The news networks and other outlets, by convention, should strive to provide unbiased information to the public, and to offer all possible sides to any story.  Many people still buy into this idea, and believe that the media do that.  However, there are many others who know of the bias, and are outraged.  They never consider the reasoning behind the actions of these media outlets.
                One reason is that it takes a great deal of money to begin a network, newspaper, magazine, or other media outlet.  In order to open any business, and media is a business, a large building must be found.  If it is a television or radio station, the buyer must be allowed to put up satellites and antennae so the signal can be sent to the consumers.  The machinery and equipment needed is expensive, and a lot of it must be purchased.  The machinery for running a newspaper would require the largest outlay of capital.  Therefore, the media would be at the mercy of those who help fund their start-up costs, namely, their owners/investors.
                Another problem is the amount of money required to keep the outlet running.  Newspapers used to be kept up by the sales of the papers.  When some papers began using advertisers, though, they were able to lower the cost to the readers, and were able to drive those without advertisers out of business.  Since then, the media have been using advertisers to fund their running costs.  Because of this, the media are dependent on their advertisers and cannot risk losing them by producing something that would offend them (Chomsky, 1988).
                What could be considered yet another issue is the fact that the media are dependent on government officials to act as primary sources.  These sources, though many would want to consider them unbiased, are careful to only report the information that the government wants people to know, and to do it in such a way as to convince the people to their side.  In this way, the media can give the impression of being objective, while aiding in spreading propaganda.  If the media outlet were to criticize these officials in any way, then they would lose their primary sources and powerful allies in staying in business (Romano, 1986; Chomsky, 1988).
                In summary, it is known to many that the media are biased.  Some are more liberal while others are more conservative.  However, there are many reasons why they would present biased news stories and programming.  There are reasons such as start up costs, operating costs, and source management.  All these point towards a need to stay in business and earn money, which is an effect of residing in a capitalist environment. 


Greenwald, R. (Producer/Director). (2004). Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Retrieved      from:
Chomsky, H. &. (1988). A propaganda model. In Manufacturing consent. New York: Pantheon.
Groseclose, T., & Milyo, J. (2004). A measure of media bias.
Romano, C. (1986). Grisly Truth about Bare Facts. In e. M. Schudson, Reading the news (pp. 38-78). New York: Pantheon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Identiy Construction and Facebook

Identity Construction and Facebook
                The internet offers many different options for users to construct themselves and the images they put out about their personalities and interests.  These options, such as social networks, online gaming, forums, chat rooms, instant messaging, and virtual worlds all offer different ways of showing parts of ourselves that we want others to know about.  The internet has become an important way in which many in networked countries identify themselves and construct their identities.  Facebook is one such service which has become an everyday thing for many Americans.
                This discussion, however, is not adequately discussed without a short description about identity.  Identity itself is a representation of who we are.  The theory of coordinated management of meaning contends that our identities are in a constant state of flux, and that we create these images through communication.  George Herbert Mead in his symbolic interactionism theory holds that we are all constantly negotiating with others to help define ourselves and our identity.  This indicates that the question of identity is not merely who we are and how we define ourselves, but also how others define us and who they think we are (Griffin, 2009).
                Now, in continuing with this, the internet, or more appropriately, the web, has opened up new venues in which people can communicate and assert themselves as independent and autonomous thinkers while, at the same time, belonging to several groups.  One such example is Facebook.  Katie Ellis wrote an article exploring how Facebook has created a social network where users create their selves online and to what extent this plays in identity.
                In Facebook, as many know, you answer some personal questions which help to identify yourself such as where you live, where you are from, when your birthday is, your marital status, your race, and even your sexual orientation by answering questions about what gender you are and what gender or sex you are attracted to.  You do have the opportunity not to answer some of those questions, but many do.  You can also create networks based on where you went to school or where you are going to school, where you work, and so on.  Though these things can be changed on your profile at any time you choose, many leave them static.  This creates an identity that your friends can see.  You can also choose your privacy setting, which allows you to choose if this information is open for anyone who searches and finds you on the site to see.
                In all this, Ellis contends that people put their “real selves” on Facebook.  They use their real names, put on their real gender, their real birthday, etc.  This, along with the seemingly straightforward way of creating an identity through the profile, creates the image that identity is static, which goes against the theories discussed above.  However, these accounts can be changed as the individual sees fit, and much of the identity is not just created by the profile, but by the news feed.  Users are free to put what they want up on the news feed including pictures, links, videos, and thoughts.  Friends are free to comment on these status updates, and to like them.  If we go by the theories mentioned above, this creates a dynamic venue through which individuals continue to construct their identities.
                Ellis also mentions how the social networks can extend much further than many think.  She has many friends on the site, but knows only a few of them offline.  She knows them by the identities they have portrayed on the site and by nothing else.  This happens quite often.  However, how much of what is portrayed is the real self, how much of it is false, and how much of it is just a portion of the self?
                Unlike Ellis, I do not have a great deal of friends on my main account.  I did use my real name, place of residence, birthday, and work, but I included nothing about sexual orientation because I think it is not important.  I created the account so I could keep in contact with my students after they are out of my class, and am careful not to post anything that may be deemed inappropriate for my work status.  Is that an identity construction?  Of course.  Is it all I am?  No.  Do I have a lot of friends on there I don’t know offline?  No.   However, I do have another account I created using a pen-name I hope to use if I ever get any novels published.  That account is completely different, and offers another part of my own identity.  I also know that I am not the only one who has done this, as another of my friends has (Ellis, 2010).
                In conclusion, the internet has offered many ways for individuals to communicate and to assert their individual and social identities.  Facebook is one of the more prevalent and more popular sites offering such a service.  However, to what extent is the self we portray on such sites our real selves, and to what extent is it just a portion of ourselves?  To what extent is the internet changing how we construct our identities and negotiate those of others?


Ellis, K. (2010). Be who you want to be: The philosophy of Facebook and the construction of identity. Screen Education (58), 36-41.

Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory (7th Edition ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Eduction.

Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer mediated communication: Social interaction and the internet. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Inc.