Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Media and Social Stratification

Posted in Media by Shekhar on January 16, 2009

Social stratification refers to the hierarchical arrangement of different social classes, castes and strata of people within the society. Nineteenth century philosopher Karl Marx’s division of society into Bourgeois and Labor may be the perfect example of social strata of his time but the globalization and the digitization of people’s life has created new kind of social strata at present context. This division exists even between the users of the internet technology and the non-users. ‘Digital Divide’ 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.

Digital divide:

The fact that nearly 97 percent of the world’s population remain aloof from the  internet technology due to lack of money, access, or knowledge depicts the depth of huge gap between the users and nonusers of the media and cultural products.

Digital divide is the contemporary emblematic issue of the whole world. It exist among the users, among the non users and finally between the users and non-users. Active users of the media technology have instant access to the information and thus extract economic advantage creating their own stable identity in the virtual society. While unprivileged ones and the passive users of information and technology fail to meet even the minimum standards. Active users range from bloggers to animators working in visual effect company. They occupy interests of the audiences creating a fantasy world with miraculous outcomes out of their creativity and technical skills. Faithfully, their audience are striving for the high tech products like online news-sites, user-friendly softwares, easily accessible web-search engines, high graphic supported 3D games, movies full with animation and visual effects and many more. Such fulfillments give rise to the thick demarcation line between active and passive users of technology.

Media and social stratification:

Informed and educated people are the richer and powerful person in today’s digital galaxy. If we don’t update ourselves either by using new technologies that has arrived in the market or by discussing a controversial issue that is hanging on every news channel, we feel a kind deep isolation from the information society. Media highlight the news, advertise the product, comment on celebrity, create a common platform for commoners to discuss on any issue without any pressure but it doesn’t encompass the views of those illiterate and underprivileged people alienated from the digital world that exist in greater figure.

Case study:


1) From Rajan’s experience:

Born in a remote village, always wondering how it feels riding in a vehicle or just to see it, my childhood passed as a normal Nepali village fellow, wandering around the rivers, and traveling up and down to school and home. But, having faced many hurdles and deprivations in the course of obtaining higher level education, and timely recognizing the importance of it, my father did not wait to send me to the capital city to be graduated from English medium school.

My village pals, now most of them laboring in Golf countries could not cope with the poor education system of this country. I, the most fortunate one of my contemporaries kept the first step into the digitizing world asking one of my classmates, who mocked me for that, how a computer is switched on. Few months later, I started surfing the internet. I had a walkman then. Later I was accompanied by Discman, Mp3 player and finally the I-pod.

Weekly one hour internet surfing at the beginning days has now become inseparable stuff of my life. I do it more than anything. I do class assignments on it. My mind really goes dumb at the time I’m plunged into the internet. I search for minor issues and topics also. I chat with friends studying there at Australia and America. I comment on my friends’ photos and articles at Facebook. I try to update my blogs with hot issues, articles and eye catchy photos so that the viewers would go through the Ads on it. I have a world in front of me. But much fewer contemporaries have the same privileges and access as I have after I left my village. I see many of them learning computer basics so that they can find a better job at Malaysia or Qatar.

Three years back, Rajkumar, who used to amaze me by showing tricks in his digital watch, sent by his father working in Letang as a rickshaw-puller, was left mouth-opened when I show him his portrait and video in my digital camera. He even didn’t bother to call it a small television. He was right in his case. Nepal is a land of these Rajkumars where information privileges are rare cases. Kathmandu, the existing symbol of westernization and so called globalization, even has information poors in its core. Still the information have-nots cover the greater population in the city.

2) Mr. Shrestha’s family:

Mr. Shrestha’s is currently working abroad while his wife with their 2 sons resides in Koteshwor, Kathmandu. Mrs. Shrestha sticks her finger to the TV remote all the day looking soap in Hindi channels. Her smaller son Mintu is all the time busy in playing 3D graphics game in PC while elder son Shail is busy with his HDV Camera taking shots and applying different effects on it. Rare conversation takes place between these brothers because Shail is not interested in his brother’s game and Mintu’s age is ignorant of the value of HDV camera. Mrs. Shrestha feels irritated with the sounds and clicks of those gadgets because she is unfamiliar with them. The Family has plunged into the digital world. They bear the partial isolation from the real world and the society. One of the reasons is their attachment with the virtual society created by technology.

Media and gender discrimination:

Women are portrayed in media generally as victims, subservient, nurturing, sacrificing and objectified sexualized beings. This not only inaccurately represents the diversity of women’s lives, roles and experiences, women’s contributions to the socio-political and economic development of society are often neglected. The perpetuation of stereotypes in images and representation solidifies women’s traditional roles and unequal gender relations in multiple ways. There are many more examples, such as women’s portrayals in an increasingly consumer-driven culture and the commodification of women’s bodies in advertising, pornography and conflict situations. Such stereotypical and controversial media content widen the gender disparity. That might be the reason todays educated bunch of feminist prefer alternative media to advocate their rights and social identity.

Media and power division:

The information rich have good access to information — especially online, but also through more traditional media such as newspapers, radio, television, and books — and can plan their lives and react to changes in circumstances on the basis of what they know or can find out. The information poor don’t have such access and are vulnerable to all kinds of pressures. Though the information rich are mainly in the industrialized countries and the information poor are mostly in the developing world, similar splits are obvious between prosperous and disadvantaged groups inside industrialized countries. As a consequence information rich people will enjoy more privileges and power. They occupy the major decision making positions of government or any institution and use unprivileged ones for their benefits.

Media and economic stratification:

New media facilitates its users to create their own economic platform. Bloggers widen their network with their clients, advertise diversified products and generate income through online participation in various commercial activities, and through their contextual information disseminating activities. The large array of people who remain isolated from the digital world become the scapegoat of such advertisement of various cultural products like clothes, movies, domestic needs etc.

Media and virtual society:

With the advent of various social networking sites like Facebook, Hi5, Myspace etc, people seem more enthusiastic in creating their own identity irrespective of sex, races and economic background. Their privileges to communicate with high-profile people of the society lead to their strong networking ability and finally the platform in which they can utilize their talent. Besides grabbing opportunities, users have full control over their identity and create discourses on their favor.

Media and cultural imperialism:

Media in the third world countries bear deep influence from the western world regarding their cultural products like fashion, movies, sports etc, so the media content that portrays the western culture are imposed upon the people of third world countries. This leads to rapid change in the behavior and lifestyle of imperialized. This clarifies the gradual penetration of western culture in our authentic local and native values and norms, giving rise to cultural imperialism in the name of globalization.

Media and generation gap:

Even there exist two classes of people in a family- the old generation and the new ones. The new generations, that live with technologies all the hours rarely share their time with their parents and society for any kind of discourses and discussions. Rather they create discourses in internet over the globe. There is difference in pattern of thinking and lifestyle between parents and offspring. There occur misunderstanding in them due the kind of lifestyle and behavior. Father may not like the way son talks or cloths; and the son may not care his parents’ desire. So this so called digital galaxy is obviously fragmenting a social life and that begins from the unit of society- the family.

Conclusion:

People deprived of new media technologies are not only lagging behind in terms of information sharing but they do are missing economic platforms and virtual society. A social life has obviously been harmed due to people every time plunging into the newer and newer media technologies and cultural artifacts. Real society nonetheless is being fragmented to create virtual worlds within the cores of society. Internet is no longer simply a technological marvel. It is having a very significant impact on people’s lives. The way things are now one can forget higher paying jobs if s/he don’t know how to use it and majority Nepalese don’t have access to it.

—  Shekhar KC and Rajan Kathet

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10 Responses

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