Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Media, Culture and Society

Posted in assignment, Media, Media culture and Society by Shekhar on January 23, 2009

Introduction to Culture

[Collected and edited from Student’s notes]

Culture:

Culture is a way of living. It is something that connects us with the previous generation. It is a mirror of life. It is a set of values that gives someone a certain identity. It is a reflection of society in terms of norms, values, tradition and development. It is an invisible regulatory mechanism varying from one society to another, which has brought human civilization thus far. It guides our behavior and shapes our lifestyle.

Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that is passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, games, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the art.

Culture is manifested in human artifacts and activities such as music, literature, lifestyle, food, painting and sculpture, theater and film. Although some scholars identify culture in terms of consumption and consumer goods (as in high culture, low culture, folk culture, or popular culture), anthropologists understand “culture” to refer not only to consumption goods, but to the general processes which produce such goods and give them meaning, and to the social relationships and practices in which such objects and processes become embedded. For them, culture thus includes art, science, as well as moral systems.

Characteristics:

  • Social but not individual
  • Idealistic
  • Total social heritage
  • An integrated system
  • Language as its chief vehicle
  • Transferred from old generation to new generation and has tendency to go further

Society:

It can be defined as a combination of several communities.

Community:

It can be defined as a group of people sharing the same language and ethnicity. It cannot be multi-cultural. It is an extended form of family.

Association:

It is an organization or union having certain objective, strategy, course of action and written rule. There is a body of people governing it and media is used by association to gain publicity.

Factors of social change:

  • Technology
  • Education
  • Media and communication
  • Information communication technology
  • Globalization
  • Politics
  • Mobility
  • Industrialization
  • Assimilation
  • Human nature

Additional [from different notes]

Culture refers to the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. This is possible only when it is passed from one generation to the other. Culture is an invisible regulatory mechanism varied from one society to another that has brought human civilization this far. Culture simply guides our lives and moulds in accordance with the environment that we live in, thus making it the mirror of our life. Culture sculpts the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc. So in this regard, we can say culture is the way of living that determines our identity and makes our existence worthwhile.

Culture does not always necessarily mean the traditional culture. The traditional culture can be affected by the social changes; culture changes according to the changes in society which may be brought out by revolution, war, political changes and other factors as well thereby hybridizing the traditional one with many other cultures and increasing its complexity. Culture is not only the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another but also the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group, for example; the youth culture, drug culture, jeans culture, and so on.

Society and Culture

Society is an emblem of sharing and multiplicity among a group of people that could belong to a community of multi ethnicity and multi culture. Culture, thus is the reflection of a society and norms, values and traditions that social beings follow.

Role of Media in defining and representing culture

Media Representation:

It refers to the combination of aspect of reality (people, events, places, cultural identity) in the media. The term refers to the processes involved as well as to its products. For instance, in relation to the key markers of identity – Class, Age, Gender and Ethnicity (the ‘cage’ of identity) – representation involves not only how identities are represented (or rather constructed) within the text but also how they are constructed in the processes of production and reception by people whose identities are also differentially marked in relation to such demographic factors. Consider, for instance, the issue of ‘the gaze’. How do men look at images of women, women at men, men at men and women at women?

Gaze theory:

The concept of gaze theory describes how men view women or how women view other women and how women view themselves. Marxists believe that female bodies are representation of commodity. There is a debate about the representation of women in media. Some view it as exploitation whereas others believe it to be independence.

Queer theory:

It explores the representation of homosexuals as well as sexual orientation. Queer theory’s main project is exploring the contestations of the categorization of gender and sexuality.

More reading

Media influence and culture are something that are very much intertwined and proportional to each other. Our situated culture exists within a much wider mediated world. Mass media are centrally involved in the production of contemporary culture. Media production, media inclusion and cultural response are like a series of interlinked paths. What is produced is influenced by cultural values; similarly, what are the cultural values also influences what is to be produced. For example, we have programs on TV like Dohori Karyakram, Krishi Samachar, Samay Baji, Nyalla Bya, Titto Satya, Madan Bahadur, Hari Bahadur, Ghumgham, Tirtha Yatra etc aired from different Nepali channels. In one way or the other, these programs are representing our culture. This is even bigger, when it comes to FM stations and Community radios in Nepal. Also, advertisements are playing their own part in defining our media and in a way it has also been the medium of representation for our culture like the Advertisements of Rumpum noodles, Mero Mobile etc. This is an example of how culture is represented in the media and the influence of culture on the media.

Besides, be it the culture of social networking or be it the culture of using i-pods, or be it the culture of following the style of Bollywood stars, media certainly has a larger hand in bringing these cultures to our life, through various mediums like TV, newspapers, magazines, Internet, Magazines etc. In this process, knowingly or unknowingly our culture is being modified or rather amended, thus defining it in a new way, something different than what our ancestors had perceived and followed. This is an example of how media is redefining our culture.

Media representation means the aspect of reality of people, of events, of culture and of environment in regard with CAGE ( Caste. Age. Gender. Ethnicity)

When it comes to impartial representation in media, we can find that media are mostly used by elites or people from higher class, to manifest that whatever they want people to know is what ever media shows, this is a conspiracy or propaganda. Besides, trans-genders, gays, lesbians and other sexually minor people’s issues are undermined by the media. This has caused not-so-impartial representation in the media. Mostly, who owns the media determines the liberality or democratic vision in the work and representation in the media. Media institutions like Jagaran media mainly focuses on Dalit people. This, in a way is step towards including the minors of society but then it is far from full representation of a wholesome society but just a group from it.

Media as a Cultural Institution

Marriage, festivals, guthis etc. are the cultural institutions. Media is cultural construct. It has existed for long time due to need of people. Pop culture, eating-out culture, beauty pageant culture, and wearing jeans are adapted from cultures. Culture is either inherited or derived. There is culture so there is media.

Grabbing publicity has also become a culture. When we market things also we need to consider culture. We need media because there are controversies and issues. Media will improve only if we have these issues. Unconsciously, media is seeping into our lives

Reading newspaper has become a part of culture. The time of news broadcasting is around 8. This is also due to culture.

Cross/ inter cultural considerations in media production

Media is one of the fastest growing industries. Over the years, media’s  influencing power has been felt like never before. Therefore, people seek space in the media. Demand for the democratization of everything has raised issues of inclusiveness in all walks of life. And, media is no exception. In this light, inclusiveness has become a boon for all those who seek their representation in media.

Addressing a wider audience in a single platform has become a challenge for media houses. While doing so, questions of financial sustainability are likely to arise. State media is compelled to make its productions inclusive because it has to reach people throughout the country. Unlike state media, private media are under no compulsion as such to make inclusiveness an issue in their productions. However, the rising cut throat competition among media houses has proved campaigning for inclusiveness not only relevant but also beneficial for them.

The question of democratization in media comes with the inclusiveness issue. Commercial media needn’t always be inclusive. But being inclusiveness has been a new source of revenue for the private media. Since a wider readership is likely to be gained through inclusive media content, the advertisers are willing to be a part of media houses promoting inclusiveness.

Additional reading

[This part is relatively weaker, but you can read it for additional points of reference.]

Cross-cultural consideration: This is a notion that all cultures are intertwined. We can also see merger of cultural characteristics. It is about adapting to both kind of culture. As for instance, we, Nepalese, celebrate Mahashivaratri, Christmas, Id, etc.

Intercultural consideration: We look at culture as individual units but functioning together and participating as different entities. In intercultural consideration, we give space to each culture. We learn cultures linking with each other.

Multicultural consideration: It refers to giving space for many cultures. It is about learning different cultures individually.

There is segregation between black and white, between male and female even in the US which is considered as a developed country. In case of mainstream media, even the private media sloganeer for inclusion, which is influencing the content of media but they cannot and do not represent all classes of people. Should the media include all kinds of people? Can we please everyone? Shouldn’t we go for competence rather than ethnicity? These are the questions that arise when we talk about the Quota system and inclusions but the answer is No. It is not possible to include each group in media. There should be this proportion of male and female, certain proportion of Dalits and janajatis.

TV channels want to reach a wider audience, so they can attract audience and they can attract advertisers. For this purpose of reaching a wider audience, they include matters of public interest of all kinds of people from all kinds of background. Hence, media has to be inclusive to reach wider audience for financial reasons. Also it is also done to keep the media platforms inclusive and democratic.

Buying newspaper and watching TV don’t mean viewing everything. We have certain things which we like to watch. So the mass media has to cater all kinds of programs to reach the audiences of different interest. However, media has to give consideration to these issues- Caste, Age, Gender, Ethnicity. But we consider media not for selfless, honest service but for earning fame, earning money. People desire to live freely, independently and have space in society. We have space when we have identity. So, everyone fights for getting their identity.

Media as an agent for socialization and acculturation

The boom in media industry has distorted our traditional way of socializing with people. Earlier there ware limitations of various sorts hindering the socialization process. Our social circle was limited. But now with increasing number of people having easy access to media, mainly internet, the face of socialization has changed forever. People have become accustomed to socializing in the virtual world. The rising number of social networking sites to the number of people searching for their soul mates in the virtual world proves how media is fast becoming an agent for socialization.

Media has grown to cover societies all over the world that we had no clue about. Being aware about the presence of societies with cultures so different than ours has become possible due to media. Foreign culture no longer seems foreign because of our constant exposure to it through media. We’ve now grown as accustomed to foreign cultures and have incorporated in our own lives. Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Christmas, organizing masquerade parties are all the results of acculturation that has been brought about by media.

Additional

1.

Media has become basic need for us. We know world through media and on relating to those we interact with others. We transport our knowledge and share ideas. We talk about the incidents happening around the globe, about our favorite celebrities and programs. Internet creates a community. Through internet we meet new people. Hence, in all these, media is the mediator that brings topics for communication which helps us in socializing with people.

Every society is influenced more or less by others. We learn about different people and their cultural backgrounds through media and hence it helps us not to become alien with those cultures. We learn to accept those cultures and apply those in our everyday practices. Speaking in English language, wearing western dresses etc. are examples of acculturation.

2.

Somewhere around the age of two or three, children in our society first encounter the media as an agent of socialization in the form of TV. Socialization comes through from children’s shows, cartoons, and, most especially, commercials. Socialization comes through the characters, images, words, and narrative story lines. Some media specifically act to be agents of socialization but most only strive to be entertainment sources.

Media influence continues and strengthens in adolescence based on a merger of teen subculture, pop culture (music & movies), and corporate marketing. Sports, increasingly a branch of marketing, become especially influential for teenage boys. The internet (web pages, e-mail, chat rooms) have emerged as another media socialization source for people. Besides, more and more people are flooding to online socialization sites through internet. Social networking sites like facebook, hi5, MySpace, Orkut etc have evolved to provide services beyond just frivolous interaction and entertainment. People have started to become busy in these online sites more than just being out socially in real, through the cables and wires and few other technological devices. Apart from making friends, uploading pictures and videos related to campus, groups, discussing campus events, these sites, like Orkut and Facebook or even Blog sites, have even helped a lot with one’s career.

But with this, little of privacy and a narcissistic fascination of self-display       might just bring the identity crisis among people

1.      Acculturation: It is the adoption of the culture of one group by another group. It is a one way process where the dominant group has no effect in its culture.

2.      Enculturation: It simply means the assimilation of two or more cultures.

Further readings

Socialization

Source: [http://www.gossamer-wings.com/soc/Notes/zation1tv/tsld001.htm]

Socialization is: THE LIFELONG SOCIAL EXPERIENCE BY WHICH INDIVIDUALS DEVELOP THEIR HUMAN POTENTIAL AND LEARN PATTERNS OF THEIR CULTURE.

Importance of socialization

  • Essential for individual survival: lifelong process
  • Essential for a society’s survival
  • transmission of values, norms, culture
  • Nature vs. Nurture: certain traits are developed through upbringing and exposure.

Notes:

Biosociology maintains that human behavior in primarily the result of genetic influences and physiology. For example, male aggression has been linked to higher levels of the hormone testosterone. Therefore, biosociologists would say that males are inherently more aggressive than females and that this is a positive trait from an evolutionary standpoint because the more aggressive males would have been most likely to survive and acquire mates thus passing their aggressive genes along to their descendents. I suppose the gentle males all got wiped out….

Well that’s the nature viewpoint in a nutshell- the nurture viewpoint would not deny the impact of biology on behavior but proposes that human behavior is much more complex than can be explained by raging hormones and that the influence of socialization far out weighs the impact of biology. Males may have testosterone, but they learn to be aggressive and they can also learn to be compassionate.

Humans are social primates. You have read about Harlow’s experiments with monkeys and about the effects of social isolation on children. The socialization process transmits society’s values, norms, and culture to the young. Without this society itself would cease to exist.

Nurture: Socialization is needed and occurs because humans:

  • have no instincts and so must learn everything
  • have a long period of infant dependency
  • have a need for social contact
  • have the ability to learn and

    the capacity for language

Notes: To repeat: Most social scientists agree that, while biology does influence some portions of our personalities, human beings have no instincts. The newborns are incapable of caring for themselves. In the case of humans this dependency lasts up to 20 years (socially anyhow), perhaps longer. Sociologists therefore maintain that the self we develop is a result mainly of our social circumstances. However, it is a part of being human, being a primate, to nurture. Therefore, the nurture side is not entirely devoid of nature.

Agents of Socialization

Family:

Provides: social position, emotional support, physical support, role models

Notes:

What is a primary group? What is a secondary group? In which of these do we spend most of our adult lives? The period from infancy to about five years is the most important time in our lives for socialization. We learn more during this time span than during the entire rest of our lives. We start out at birth knowing nothing. By the time we are 5 we can speak, write (some), count, tie our shoes, walk. . . .

We learn values as well during this time. The family serves to place us in the stratification system of society. It gives us a social class position at birth.

Mass Media & Socialization

Types of mass media: movies, television, print- magazines and newspapers, books, etc. music; electronic communications

Notes: The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children as young as 2 are spending, on average, 16 to 17 hours in front of the television every week; children, on average, view about 10,000 violent acts on television each year. The Academy has further recommended that children under the age of 2 watch no television.

Mass Media Functions to socialize:

  • Mass Media Functions to socialize:

Provides:  information; contact with others; viewpoints on issues; access to consumer culture; entertainment; education?

  • Positive and negative aspects

Notes:

While we are accustomed to complaints that children (or adults) watch too much television, a new mass media problem has emerged since 1994- Internet Addiction. The American Psychiatric Association has recognized Internet Addiction Disorder. Some indications include:

1. Tolerance- needing more time online to achieve satisfaction.

2. Withdrawal symptoms that develop within a few days to a month after reducing or stopping use. The resumption of use decreases the symptoms.

3. Use of the Internet more often for longer periods of time. And spending time on        Internet related activities (reading books, trying out software, etc.)

4. Neglect of other important life activities.

5. Excessive use impacts negatively on job, relationship, or other role obligations.

Some research has indicated that middle aged women and people already prone to depression and bipolar disorders are most likely to develop this disorder. The subject has been studied by psychologists.

Resocialization: Process of learning new and different norms and values. Can be voluntary- enter a new status on our own through marriage, military service and job.

Notes:

Socialization is a lifelong process. Adult socialization often includes learning new and sometimes very different norms and values from those in which the person was raised. This process can be voluntary. Currently, joining the military qualifies as an example. The norms and values associated with military life are different, in some cases very different, from those in civilian life.

Resocialization into a total institution involves a complete change of personality.

Sociologist Erving Goffman studied resocialization in mental institutions. He characterized the mental institution as a total institution- one in which the entire scope of the inmates’ lives was controlled by the institution to serve the institution’s goals. For example, the institution requires that patients comply with regulations, even when compliance is not necessarily in the best interests of an individual.

Media as cultural artifact

With changing times, media has evolved as cultural artifact. Media has become a part of our everyday experience. It has become a culture primarily because media has begun taking some space (although not physical) in our lives.

Cultural artifacts reflect our everyday life and media does the same. We have increasingly become more dependent on media. We are guided by media and people can relate to the media contents. Newspapers, radios, televisions, internet and mobile technologies have become an integral part of our life. For instance, radio dramas are cultural artifacts because they are representational and participatory.

Additional

Cultural artifacts are some symbols of culture like Doko, nanglo – these aren’t just instruments. They denote a lifestyle. When something becomes part of everyday experience and when it is reflected in our attitude and behavior; when something becomes a part of us and our living, it becomes a cultural artifact.

For anything to be labeled a cultural artifact, we have to consider how widespread it is.

Even if something is disappearing, like pagers, it will still be considered a cultural artifact as it denotes the culture of a certain time-frame in history. This is to say, culture is not just something from today. It is something from the past as well. Not everything becomes culture. It becomes culture when it becomes a part of your life which invades your life. A flash drive which only stores documents isn’t a cultural artifact because not everyone can use it. But a music player is.

Media as a whole becomes a culture because we are guided by it (learning, exposure, information); we are dependent on it. It represents who we are. It creates our identity; our experiences are also represented in it. Cellphone is not just a device; it is a part of living, of experience. The things that become part of living becomes culture in the course of time

When it is reflected in our everyday experience, it becomes cultural artifact. We love it, we preserve it.

Media, education and awareness

This is to discuss how development of (mass) media technologies has helped promotion of education in the world.

Radio: educational program — formal on language training, tutorial programs run by   community radios in Nepal, distance education programs by Radio Nepal

Non-formal on agriculture, health and environment

Print: books, journals, magazines and newspapers

Print as source of education

Formal education and training through newspapers

The Internet Boom:

Proliferation of educational sites; promotion of educational institutions, globalisation of education systems; digital archives and libraries; distance education

Media used in distance learning:

  • Technologies, telephone, videoconferencing’ web-conferencing;
  • Audio cassettes, emails, message boards, social networking, print materials, faxes, video-cassettes, voice

Media Controversies

The concept media controversies encompasses diverse issues accompanying media’s role in the society. The issues can be the ones that different media platforms try to cover and represent or the ones that emanate from media’s own role. In other words, the controversies are the issues media deal with and those that the media audience and users experience as the consequences of good or bad representations.

Some pertinent controversies in media are:

  • Political/ ideological biases: often seen in connection with political parties owning and controlling media houses; makes the concept of independence arbitrary very often.
  • Censorship of contents: seen in the autocratic government system
  • Manipulation of media by power groups: the criticism that certain powerful groups control and mould the functions of media institutions
  • Freedom of expression: right to information as the fundamental human right. Is it always so? What is the limitation of exercising such right. The collision between the concept of freedom, journalistic ethics and state laws on media regulations
  • Transparency: the issues dealing with the scope and limitation of the rights to access public information. To what extent should public information be transparent to the general people? Doesn’t it violate individuals’ right for privacy?
  • Yellow journalism: ethical issues involving bad journalism. But what are the standards for measuring the goodness or badness of media practices.

More issues [http://faculty.deanza.edu/grobmanbeth/stories/storyReader$849?print-friendly=true 14 November 2008]. Note that the issues are related to US media.

1.      Are American values shaped by the mass media?

2.      Are freebies (gifts) given to journalists the same as bribes?

3.      Are news agencies that use press releases and video news releases without attribution guilty of unethical behavior?

4.      Are newspapers insensitive to minorities?

5.      Are people better informed in the information society?

6.      Are the dangers of concentration within media monopolies overstated?

7.      Are V-chips and content ratings necessary?

8.      Can privacy be protected in the information age?

9.      Can the music industry survive despite technologies that facilitate downloading?

10. Do advertisers unduly influence news and program?

11. Do African American (Asian/Latino/Middle Eastern, etc.) stereotypes still dominate entertainment television?

12. Do magazines compromise their editorial integrity in their push to obtain advertisers and celebrity news?

13. Do media drive foreign policy?

14. Do media technologies increase citizen participation?

15. Do new media have an immediate effect on our behaviors and attitudes?

16. Do paparazzi (freelance photographers) threaten privacy and First Amendment rights?

17. Do public relations practitioners provide a valuable service to the public?

18. Do ratings work?

19. Do some men’s magazines promote sexual stereotypes?

20. Do television programs stereotype women?

21. Do the mass media undermine openness and accountability in democracy?

22. Do the media have a liberal (conservative) bias?

23. Do the media introduce us to new ways of thinking about things?

24. Do very thin “heroin chic” fashion models encourage eating disorders and/or drug use?

25. Do women’s, men’s and teen magazines promote unattainable body shapes?

26. Does concentration of ownership limit the diversity of voices in the newspaper industry?

27. Does electronic media enhance political knowledge?

28. Does media coverage of criminal trials undermine the legal process?

29. Does media violence cause more violence in society or merely reflects that society is violent?

30. Does the “blockbuster syndrome,” — the publishing industry’s obsession with books that will have sales in the millions — freeze out young talent?

31. Does the globalization of media industries homogenize media content?

32. Does the Internet have the power to transform culture?

33. Does the low number of women and minorities in the newsroom affect the way in which news is covered and presented?

34. Has coverage of political campaigns improved?

35. Has democracy been transformed by new uses of media?

36. Is advertising ethical?

37. Is censorship always wrong because it curtails freedom of expression?

38. Is economics the bottom line in the newsrooms of today?

39. Is emphasis on body image in the media harmful only to females?

40. Is enough being done to regulate deceptive advertising?

41. Is Internet addiction a social problem?

42. Is it wrong to present the news in an entertaining way, distorting the information it conveys?

43. Is local television news unnecessarily superficial?

44. Is negative campaigning bad for the American political process?

45. Is television harmful for children?

46. Is there a conflict of rights between a free press and the rights of a defendant for a fair trial?

47. Is there scientific proof (in addition to anecdotal evidence) that movie violence has caused real-life violence?

48. Should advertising be regulated during children’s programming?

49. Should books sometimes be censored or banned by government or quasi-governmental organizations such as schools and libraries?

50. Should children be protected from Internet pornography?

51. Should freedom of speech ever be restricted?

52. Should Internet access be regulated?

53. Should news reporters vote or belong to political parties, or is that a conflict of interest?

54. Should public relations professionals be attributable to a government agency?

55. Should radio content ever be censored?

56. Should shock (or hate) radio be legal?

57. Should smoking in movies be eliminated or at least made to look unglamorous, since health experts believe it leads to increase smoking among young people?

58. Should songs with explicit lyrics be banned from radio and television?

59. Should television networks be required to show a certain amount of educational programs for children?

60. Should the names of rape victims be reported?

61. Should violence on television be allowed?

62. Will technology change social interaction?

Digital divide and new social order

[This part is from the collection of Amol Acharya. He needs to acknowledge the source.]

The term digital divide refers to the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology and those without. It includes the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen. In other words, it’s the unequal access by some members of the society to information and communications technology, and the unequal acquisition of related skills. Groups often discussed in the context of a digital divide include gender, income, race and location. The term global digital divide refers to differences in technology access between countries.

Origins of the term:

The term initially referred to gaps in ownership of computers between groups, during which time the increase of ownership was limited to certain ethnic groups. The term came into regular usage in the mid-1990s, though the term had previously appeared in several news articles and political speeches as early as 1995. President of the United States Bill Clinton and his Vice President Al Gore used the term in a 1996 speech in Knoxville, Tennessee. Larry Irving, a former United States head of the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and technology adviser to the Clinton Administration, noted that a series of NTIA surveys; were “catalysts for the popularity, ubiquity, and redefinition” of the term, and he used the term in a series of later reports. Since the start of the George W. Bush Administration, the NTIA reports have tended to focus less on gaps and divides and more on the steady growth of broadband access, especially amongst groups formerly believed to be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

It should be noted that there is a considerable literature on information and digital inequality that predates this current label. The concept of a digital divide is more of a new label and less of a unique concept.

Current usage:

There are various definitions of the term “digital divide”. Bharat Mehra defines it simply as “the troubling gap between those who use computers and the internet and those who do not”. The term initially referred to gaps in the ownership of, or regular access to, a computer. As Internet access came to be seen as a central aspect of computing, the term’s usage shifted to encompass gaps in not just computers but also access to the Internet. Recently, some have used the term to refer to gaps in broadband network access. The term can mean not only unequal access to computer hardware, but also inequalities between groups of people in the ability to use information technology fully.

Due to the range of criteria which can be used to assess the imbalance, and the lack of detailed data on some aspects of technology usage, the exact nature of the digital divide is both contextual and debatable. Criteria often used to distinguish between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of the digital divide tend to focus on access to hardware, access to the internet, and details relating to both categories. Some scholars fear that these discussions might be discouraging the creation of Internet content that addresses the needs of minority groups that make up the “have nots,” as they are portrayed to be techno phobic charity cases that lack the desire to adopt new technologies on their own.

The discussions on digital divide often are tied with other concepts. Lisa Servon argued in 2002 that the digital divide “is a symptom of a larger and more complex problem — the problem of persistent poverty and inequality”. As described by Mehra (2004), the four major components that contribute to digital divide are “socioeconomic status, with income, educational level, and race among other factors associated with technological attainment”.

Recognition of digital divide as an immense problem has led scholars, policy makers, and the public to understand the “potential of the internet to improve everyday life for those on the margins of society and to achieve greater social equity and empowerment”.

Digital divide evolution:

Typical measurements of inequality distribution used to describe the Digital Divide are the Lorenz Curve and Gini coefficient, however, the question of whether or not the digital divide is growing or closing is difficult to answer.

In bridging the digital divide:

An opportunity for growth for the 21st century, examples of these ways of measuring is illustrated. In the Lorenz curve, perfect equality of internet usage across nations is represented by a 45-degree diagonal line, which has a Gini coefficient of zero. Perfect inequality gives a Gini coefficient of one. Therefore if you look at figures 2.4 and 2.5 in the document, both graphs show a trend of growing equality from 1997 to 2005 with the Gini coefficient decreasing. However, these graphs don’t show the important, detailed analysis of specific income groups. The progress represented is predominantly of the middle-income groups when compared to the highest income groups. The lowest income groups continue to decrease their level of equality in comparison to the high income groups. Therefore, there is still a long way to go before the digital divide will be eliminated.

Digital divide and education:

One area of significant focus was school computer access; in the 1990s, rich schools were much more likely to provide their students with regular computer access. In the late 1990s, rich schools were much more likely to have internet access. In the context of schools, which have consistently been involved in the discussion of the divide, current formulations of the divide focus more on how (and whether) computers are used by students, and less on whether there are computers or internet connections.

The E-Rate program (officially the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund), authorized in 1996 and implemented in 1997, directly addressed the technology gap between rich and poor schools by allocating money from telecommunications taxes to poor schools without technology resources. Though the program faced criticism and controversy in its methods of disbursement, E-Rate has been credited with increasing the overall number of public classrooms with Internet access from 14% in 1996 to 95% in 2005. Recently, discussions of a digital divide in school access have broadened to include technology related skills and training in addition to basic access to computers and internet access.

Technology offers a unique opportunity to extend learning support beyond the classroom, something that has been difficult to do until now. “The variety of functions that the internet can serve for the individual user makes it “unprecedentedly malleable” to the

(This whole article was uploaded on the consent of our subject teacher Assistant Professor Hemraj Kafle (Blog 1, blog 2 blog 3 ) and our Media Students)

7 Responses

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  1. samsung tema said, on January 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    thanksss…

  2. Anonymous said, on June 18, 2012 at 2:55 am

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