The Sociological Perspectives of New Media

  • Technology has changed how we interact with each other. Through Facebook, we might know about an old school friend’s new job before his family does. Social media has also made it possible to share mundane news with hundreds or even thousands of people who might know us only slightly, if at all. On the other hand for personal gain, we can now market ourselves professionally to the world with LinkedIn. We also use it to “like” certain TV shows, products, or celebrities. News Paper and Television are too not working in isolation as we are interacting with them through tweet, text, call or apps like ALIVE.
  • As the technology is expanding the boundaries of our social circles, it is also bridging the gap between our entertainment and our own lives. Does the immediate and constant flow of information mean we are more aware and engaged than before or are we witnessing the today’s version of ancient Rome’s “bread and circuses”?

Bread and Circuses

  • Bread and circuses refers to a to a superficial means of appeasement. In a political context, the phrase means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or basic requirements by offering food (bread) or entertainment (circuses).
  • This phrase originates from Rome. Roman politicians passed laws in 140 B.C. to keep the votes of poorer citizens, by giving out cheap food and entertainment, and thus \”bread and circuses\”, became the most effective way to rise to power.
  • Basically ancient Rome was a society that completely revolved around war, and where compassion was not considered as a virtue. Romans saw gladiatorial contests not as a form of decadence but as a cure for decadence. Watching people and animals slaughtered brutally during games was seen as a way to keep the civilian population engaged with military-style functioning because they didn’t see combat.

Impact of Media and Technology on Society

  • The web is both a form of technology and a form of media, and it links individuals and nations in a communication network that facilitates both small family discussions and global trade networks.
  • From a sociological perspective following questions arises:
  1. What social purposes technology and media serve?
  2. What is the role of media and technology in social dysfunction?
  3. How the systematic inequality created by differential access to media and technology?

Technological Inequality

  • The word technologydescribes the application of science to address the problems of daily life.
  • In today’s world the way digital technology ranging from cell phone to artificial intelligence to advanced robotic devices shapes how we live today, the creation of stone tools shaped how pre-modern humans lived and how well they ate. Technology plays a role in absolutely every aspect of our lives.
  • As with any improvement to human society, not everyone has equal access. Technology, in particular, often creates changes that lead to ever greater inequalities.  There are two forms of technological division:
  • Digital Divide – Differential class-based access to technology
  • Knowledge Gap – An ongoing and increasing gap in information for those who have less access to technology
  • Data from the Pew Research Center (2011) suggest the emergence of a new divide. As technological devices gets smaller and more mobile, larger percentages of unprivileged groups are using their phones to connect to the internet. It might seem that the internet connectivity is growing but there is a notable difference like filling out a job application are much harder on a cell phone than on a wired computer in the home. As a result, the digital divide might not mean access to computers or the internet, but rather access to the kind of online technology that allows for empowerment, not just entertainment.
  • Researchers also found that although the gender digital divide has decreased in the sense of access to technology, it remained in the sense that women, who are accessing technology shaped primarily by male users, feel less confident in their internet skills and have less internet access at both work and home.

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