Between the two topics that the writer can choose from for this paper, we opt to discuss postmodernism in contemporary media. Exploring postmodernism tackles time and how media have drastically changed through time. Certainly, media have acquired layers of complex histories. However, with time incorporated through the study of postmodernism, we are sure to learn valuable and boundless wisdom that we can use in the understanding of our near future in the media. In this regard, we argue that although the media has a challenging history, its influence continues to expand and transform through postmodernism.
Before anything, let us first explain the concept of postmodernism. We would explain it through the historical perspective. Discussing media theory in our course would enable us to encounter four eras of its transformation over the past two centuries. The first era was referred to as the Mass Society Theory. It is a western view during the industrial society that was associated with a powerful yet negative role of the media. The programs produced were catered to the masses. Unfortunately, the elites feared this. This era is an assembly of conflicting views at the time of industrialization when cities rose and expanded (Baran and Davis 27-28; Ellis 1-2).
The second era transitioned around the 1940s when researcher Paul Lazarsfel explored method developments for social science. From here, Lazarsfel inferred that people have been finding ways to resist media influence. Media, nonetheless, were treated as reinforcing social trends than disruptions. With this, this era revolved around the so-called Limited-effects theory. A new era had taken over. However, the previous did not seize to exist. In fact, conflicts between the mass and the elite perspectives continued (Baran and Davis 30).
The third era around the 1960s was full of debates. Given the circumstances at the time, there were various notions challenging the existing theories, especially the recent Limited-effects theory. Thus, this era did not have a particular label to go by. Yet basically, the debates were about the effects of media and the ongoing spread of the previous theories. Elites still disagree with mass media. Nonetheless, in this era, Neo-Marxism was adapted. This is the theory that assumes that elites would be able to maintain their power through the media (Baran and Davis 34).
The most recent or fourth era is said to be just in its early stages. As of now, the previous theories, particularly the Limited-effects theory, has changed through cultural studies influences. Also, the new technologies are greatly affecting traditional views in media consumption. Consequently, new perspectives are formulated. Summing these perspectives gives rise to “meaning-making”. People as the audience have become active that they engage and even create their own contents. Meaning-making assumes that significant results are produced when people utilize the media to build meaning and to induce experiences (Baran and Davis 35; Harms and Dickens 210-211).
The fourth era is certainly what has been referred to as postmodernism. The term postmodern is diverse. As what we have encountered in the history of the media, the age that has emerged into what is today is full of contradictions. In essays, Postmodern has been interpreted as the cultural logic of capitalism. Here, postmodernism is a cultural form that fits into today’s stage of worldwide capitalism. Also, it is viewed as the fragmented vision and the hyper real society of stimulation. This means that an object can be made more real than the original.
French theorist Jean Baudrillard, on the other hand, differentiates modernity from postmodernity. The former pertains to an era that revolved around production while the latter is about simulations. This means that with postmodernity, the ones depicted in the media simulate what is real. The assumption includes that even copies represent the real (Durham and Kellner 447-448).
Disney has been a long-standing company that it is pervasive in the media. Consequently, it does not only affect one but all the bodily senses. This accumulation of sensitivities heightens one’s experiences as every feeling that one gets is a confirmation that something truly exists. The more confirmation there is, the less doubts there would be. Thus, this is when he can perceive things as real.
Another example is the HBO series The Sopranos. The creator David Chase stated that he sought a kind of quality that demanded each episode of the series to be movie-like. This is in attempt to advance ordinary television. The images in HBO are rendered in high definition, which allows for perceiving real depictions (Schwaab 24-25).
The innovation of HBO not only follows the change in the media but the change in the audience as well. Perhaps HBO knew the kind of audience that the people of today has become. We no longer have the mass as the sole audience. The audience has become so fragmented that the media has to target them in a more focused manner. Since the beginning of postmodernism, everything has been about reality. Thus, HBO wanted to feature images as clearly as reality. This goes for other high definition channels as well.
Most importantly, the programs have various ranges of topics, which we see as a way of narrowly targeting a postmodern audience. HBO is basically a channel full of movies that is appealing to movie buffs in the same way that there are food channels for food enthusiasts, sports channels for sports fans, and many others. In addition, it is only appropriate to have as many kinds of programs because real life does involve every topic, which is what postmodernism is about.
Despite the changes, Schwaab pointed out that the media, such as the television, have also stopped providing cultural forums. This sprung from the thought that in the past, we have the mass audience where people’s behavior and experiences were being tapped through the media. Unfortunately, we are losing touch of the mass audience today. This is the change in the audience, which Schwaab foresaw (Schwaab 25).
Nonetheless, this is something we disagree about. We both recognize the change in the audience. But it is exactly through this change that media continues to be a cultural gathering. It is at this time that people talk more. Since the audience has become fragmented, people’s interests differ from each such that these differences may create gaps. However, with the sharing of information beingconducted through the media, particularly through the Internet, people learn and respond to each other. With this, the gaps are closed and the culture lives on.
In conclusion, the history of media that paved the way for postmodernism has allowed the media’s influence to expand and transform continuously. The roots of postmodernism can be traced back to previous eras. This also features the changes in the audience. The first era was referred to as the Mass Society Theory. The Limited-effects theory follows this. The third era highlighted the neo-Marxism influence. It is just recently that we entered the fourth era of meaning-making.
As the era progresses along with technology in the media, the audience has changed as well from mass to fragmented. This audience, along with the capability of technologies in the media, enabled the distinct attribute of postmodernism, that is, the simulation odf hyper reality. With this, the media contents of postmodernism bank on experiences. Media contents utilize experiences by engaging the five senses. The more sensitivities are triggered, the more real a thing would seem. Furthermore, the ranges of topic that programs come up with reflect the reality of life, which has endless choices and where people have a variety of interests.
It is for this reason that a researcher stated that media in the postmodern world has stopped being a cultural forum. The mass audience before the emergence of postmodernism allowed for media to have a wide influence on people’s behavior and experiences in general. Any media content back then could quickly become a part of everyone’s life. Thus, the media were cultural influencers. With the fragmented audience in the postmodern era it would not seem to happen in the same way. This is not the case, however. We infer that the difference in interests encourage people to consume the media in a way that they are able to share and respond with each other. In this manner, the gaps are closed. In the end, media have become far-reaching in the postmodern era where a new form of culture is practiced.
Baran, Stanley J., and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Durham, Meenakshi Gigi, and Douglas Kellner, Media and Cultural Studies, Keyworks.Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2012. Print.
Ellis, Donald. “Medium Theory.” Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2009. Print.
Harms, John B., and David R. Dickens. “Postmodern Media Studies: Analysis or Symptom?” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 13 (1996): 210-227.
Schwaab, Herbert. “Unreading contemporary television.” After the Break: Television Theory Today. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013. Print.