By Melanie R. and Andrew R.
Today, we live in a media driven society where the dominant form of communication is that of the internet. This revolutionary information communication technology (ICT) has transformed media messages; how messages are constructed and deconstructed by society is developed by ones ability to use the resources available from internet technology. The digital divide, apparent from within minority groups, results from the inadequate understanding or availing this technology affects the spread of popular culture in societies.
Personal computers became available from the early 1980’s and a survey by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) conducted in 1994, post world-wide-web introduction, found significant inequalities in the use thereof. (Compaine, B. 2001, 3) Studies indicate that 21% of the population in the US do not have regular access to the internet. (Pernisco, N.) Factors contributing to the digital divide are that of income and ethnicity. Underdeveloped countries are greatly affected by the digital divide; however, rural areas in developed countries are faced with the affects of the digital divide, resulting from lack of telephone access and sufficient education in ICT. These marginalized groups are unable to participate in mainstream mass communication.
When we analyse popular culture, we understand it to be how ideas and perspectives of social attitudes are formed. Mass media heavily influences society’s everyday lives. Popular culture is an ever changing, progressing attitude. Groups view music, film and television and relay this into their everyday lives. However, these are often superficial representations of life. Many music videos are raunchy and explicit. Much film and television contain themes of violence, greed and aggression; not desirable for mainstream society to mimic or act. Newspapers, radio, and magazines, once dominant forms of popular culture are taking second place to the internet. Whilst many individuals possessed literacy from available print, with ICT evolving, media literacy is essential. The internet represents mass media on a global scale; power to its users; a deluge of information available within reach, at our fingertips.
In order to gain power of communication, individuals and groups need to possess literacy, followed by media literacy. Literacy is gained through education and knowledge within one’s society and culture, although the US government has acknowledged that only fifty percent of the adult population possess literacy skills which are considered essential components in the workplace of today. (Bovee & Thrill) Media literacy is acquired through understanding of ICT, its symbols and the decoding of such. One needs to understand and comprehend why and where this message is being channelled from and its intended message conveyed to audiences. (Tallim, Jane.) This new form of discourse transforms previous passive relationships into those which are competent and operative ones.
Interpreting messages constructed on the internet takes both time and knowledge to develop.
In mainstream society recipients decode messages and respond to these by assigning meaning which are influenced by their culture; through learning and experience. Collective representation in society allows the spread of popular culture. Those who possess media literacy gain power as their representation is embedded into the beliefs of a large percentage of the population. Minority groups are unable to receive messages or develop meanings embedded in popular culture. Popular culture has influenced semiotic analysis, a skill critical in media literacy, and without the effective interpretation, communication is limited.
Whether using linguistic codes for text, art, film, television or video, these signs allow consumers or individuals to internalize media representation or broadcasts. Minority groups, subjected to the digital divide, will not understand the interpretation of many codes which are used in popular culture. Rather than participating in sharing collective memories, participating with their peers, or developing and producing new skills attained through information communication technology, self expression achieved through social media concepts and storytelling techniques; vital narrative techniques in today’s society, will be non-existent. With such limited semiotic analysis, skills needed in postmodern media literacy; minority groups will be inadequate to comprehend critical analysis. Interpreting skills are fundamental when understanding the point of view, purpose, genre, and context of messages. Exclusion from the internet will mean their knowledge of popular culture will not develop fully.
A simple non verbal meaning of a symbol of a small blue bird in the western world, media literate users will interpret as being the code for twitter, the social media tool. Individuals not proficient with the internet, would interpret and decode that symbol as merely a blue bird, and wonder what the meaning thereof is defined as; whether it is a symbol for the species of blue bird, or genus of Sialia of the thrush family, or whether it is a child’s drawing.
Availing employment will be limited to marginalized groups as the internet is becoming the dominant source by which to search and apply for jobs. To compete in society, one needs to be flexible. Employers are looking for communication skills, intercultural awareness, data collection analysis and effective decision making. In order to do this effectively, ICT skills are required; being able to research, identify needs and acquire data and convert that information into useful knowledge assists in making rightful decisions.
Children at school are expected to competently use computer technology for the completion of and submission of assignments; without media literacy skills they will not advance at the speed of their peers; causing substantial inequality. Through lack of availability or lack of understanding, these groups will not be able to acquire comprehensive literacy skills needed as part of everyday life in popular culture. Rather than browsing the web, selecting and producing work on the internet, they will be excluded from mainstream society. Other meanings and effective communication of the majority gain influence in popular culture and take for granted such as participating in online discussions; sharing information through crowd souring, platforms used to understand solutions, market trends and share ideas;, shopping online; leading in their sub-cultures by producing blogs, microblogs, video clips or other information by which audiences in peer groups can learn from. Rather than expressing or endorsing values and ideologies, the minority groups will become stagnant.
Of major concern is that the minority groups resulting from the digital divide will become recognized as a naturalistic occurrence. Whilst this may be the case in the elderly, where their memory skills may be fading and find it unnecessary to avail themselves this postmodern technology, it is however, of major concern that the younger generation will be ostracized.
This lack of integration into the use of the internet will result in social exclusion for those not computer savvy. Although collective groups have the ability to view film and television, if this is their dominant form of media representation, they may develop a distorted outlook on life as what is presented on by these is often unrealistic. Audiences attribute meaning, and may structure their lives according to this form of representation. With the heavy onset of violence in film and television, this could lead to confusion and an undesired form of popular culture being spread.
Most take for granted the availability of deconstructing messages of media through the day-to-day experiences of life. Availing regular beliefs, individuals deconstruct meanings from ICT and mass media communication and develop these further to immerse themselves into popular culture. This is how we form ideas, perspectives and social attitudes. However, minority groups who are unable to embrace information communication technology cannot immerse themselves into mainstream media communication as such, and as a result, suffer exclusion. This has become a serious social issue. Without the access to media communications individuals remain stagnant in ideas, beliefs and tastes.
Compaine, B.M. 2001. The Digital Divide – Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth? 2001 Print, Pg. 3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Bovee, C.L. & Thill J.V. ‘The Visual Evolution in Business Communication.’ Business Communication Today. 2011. Print. Pg. 379.
Pernisco, N. Closing the Digital Divide. Understand Media. February 6, 2012. http://understandmedia.com
Tallim, J. Media Awareness Network. 2011. http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/teachers/media-literacywhat_is_media_literacy.cfm