An Ecology of control and destruction? The domino effect of mainstream media representation #ARTS3091

15 Mar

In it’s simplest form, Neil Postman asserts that,

Media ecology is the study of media as environments (Media Ecology Association, 2009).

If the media can be classed as an environment, it is essential to ask what kind of environments different media platforms create. Are these virtual media environments having a detrimental effect on societies’ immediate and future physical environments? In order to answer these complex questions, it is necessary to examine what sorts of environments are created through personal media usage and vise versa with public media engagement.

Personal Media Usage
The two most prominent media platforms I use would be either iMessage or Facebook. Right from early in the morning I use the “Text my Bus” App to find out what time my bus will be arriving. During my bus trip I would likely be texting or Face booking a friend, and even during lectures and breaks I spend a fair amount of time scrolling through my Facebook homepage or replying to messages. I would feel extremely lost, and almost naked, if I realised I’ve left my iPhone at home…it would put me in a frustrated mood too.

From this brief description of my personal media usage, it is evident that a kind of virtual ‘instantaneous social environment’ has been created. This environment seems to shape the dynamics of my daily routine into one of constant socialising and networking with others. The individual and arguably solitude, act of riding a bus or walking down the university main walkway is transformed into a virtual ground of social conversation, laughter and gossip. How others communicate with me through texting has the power to influence my behaviour throughout the day. As Neil Postman emphasises,

…an environment is, after all, a complex message system which imposes on human beings certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving (Media Ecology Association, 2009).

If somebody posts something funny on Facebook I may laugh, or if I hear some shocking news from a friend I will likely feel anxious for the rest of the day. My daily media communication has the power to place me in a social environment, which arguably has the ability to immunise the immediate/physical happenings of the public environment all around me.
From this analysis of my own personal media usage, it must be questioned whether individuals are controlled by their media environments? This inquiry will be critically discussed and analysed below.

Public Media Engagement
The public sources their news and entertainment from many different types of media platforms (the internet, television, the newspaper etc.) I am going to specifically examine the type of environments television can create, as this media is watched by the younger, middle aged and older generations daily.

A study published in the US journal Pediatrics in 2010, found that kids who spend hours each day in front of the TV or games console have more psychological difficulties like problems relating to peers, emotional issues, hyperactivity or conduct challenges, than kids who don’t (SMH 2010). The researchers found that children who spent two hours or more a day watching television or playing on a computer were more likely to get high scores on a questionnaire, indicating they had more psychological difficulties than kids who did not spend a lot of time in front of a screen (SMH 2010). It cannot be said from this evidence alone that engaging with television from a young age has an effect on all children’s psychological patterns. However, it is interesting to note the potential ‘future environment’ television might be creating for some children. It is arguable that too much television watching may lead to bleak and psychologically draining physical environment for children as they venture through school, work and their everyday habitation.

Furthermore, as we will see from the following YouTube video, the effect of mass media misrepresentation can create almost fantasy environments, which can dangerously lead to dictating communities’ views and opinions. The video is a report on how, since 2007, the Adelaide press have run more than 150 articles on a supposed violent Aboriginal gang – dubbed the Gang of 49 – terrorising Adelaide with hundreds of crimes including ram raids, robberies and high speed chases. As we will see from this video, research shows that there is actually no gang at all, and as a result younger Aboriginal’s within Adelaide communities actually want to be part of this imaginary gang when they grow up. This overblown media misrepresentation has arguably created an “environment of fear”, where society assumes, if they see a young group of Aboriginal men, that they will be dangerous and violent.

YouTube Video on the Gang of 49:

This destructive environment that television viewing (and other types of media) has the potential to create, is reinforced through Anon’s statement,

Industrial capitalism has enhanced our knowledge and technological capabilities beyond belief. Yet despite this technical and scientific advancement we still are faced with massive inequalities of wealth, poverty on an enormous scale, millions of annual deaths from easily treatable diseases and numerous wars, both between and inside states (Anon 2008)

Will the constant evolving of new media environments have a lasting effect on people’s lives to the extent of completely controlling their decisions and the way they live? We must remember the importance of our immediate physical environments, and not let media misrepresentation dictate our decisions to the point of controlling our feelings, thoughts and lives. Society must take more care to not believe everything that they engage with when delving into their media environments.

References

Media Ecology Association 2009, accessed 16 March 2014, http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/

(Author not named) 2010, ‘Too much TV psychologically harms kids: study’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October, accessed 16 March 2014, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/too-much-tv-psychologically-harms-kids-study-20101011-16fo4.html

Anon, 2008, ‘The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari’, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 15 March 2014,
http://mediaecologies.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/the-three-ecologies-felix-guattari/

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