Outline and explain two ways in which the new media may be creating a global popular culture. [10 marks]
Commentary on the question
This seems to be a good question – there are some obvious links between new media and global popular culture, and two obvious points can be made – contrasting the neophiliac perspective with the cultural imperialist perspective.
Neophiliacs tend to emphasise the positive ways in which new media, such as social media sites, are creating a global popular culture. In short, neophiliacs believe new media is creating a global popular culture characterised by more choice and individual freedom of expression than ever before in human history.
Sites such as Facebook allow people to connect with others who share similar interests, instantaneously, in any part of the world, and thus there are now thousands of new ‘global tribes’ – groups of people with shared interest, connect globally through social media.
New Media has led to a more diverse global popular culture – as groups who have been historically invisible and marginalised due to lack of access to the mainstream media have proved to be very active in their use of new media – there are many disable and LGBT bloggers and vloggers for example. In fact it might even be the case that the greater diversity and choice offered through new media has led to broader representation of minority groups in mainstream popular culture forms such as films and television.
It is also possible that new media is leading to a new consensus of acceptance of diversity and equality, as minorities who are oppressed in one country feel a sense of solidarity with those who are not oppressed in other countries, which puts pressure on oppressive governments to become more liberal. For example, it is harder for some less developed countries to keep homosexuality illegal, or to oppress women, when social media connections constantly remind people that such things are not acceptable in (typically) more developed countries.
Cultural Pessimists on the other hand argue that New Media is largely responsible for creating a narrow and homogeneous global popular culture which transmits the dominant ideology and distracts people from important political issues with a diet of trivia.
Cultural pessimists argue that the New Media are primarily own by four large media conglomerates – namely Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon – ownership is concentrated in the hands of these four companies and they use their platforms primarily to make a profit by selling advertising space – thus global popular culture mainly exists and is transmitted to sell advertising space and keep consumer culture going.
Constant advertising results in a very distracting experience for users as they are constantly bombarded with media messages telling them to buy things they don’t need, which creates false needs and keeps people confused and anxious, especially if they don’t have the money to buy the things they are told they should have.
Global popular culture is also quite narrow – consisting of ‘approved cultural products’ such as music and films which for the most part do not challenge the dominant ideology – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have even DE platformed some radical commentators from both the left and right ends of the political spectrum, for example.
Finally, cultural pessimists argue that new media creates a fragmented, divided and polarised global popular culture as we are increasingly fed news from those we follow, rather than those we might disagree with, which creates bubbles or echo-chambers, which makes us less tolerant of those with different points of view.