Marty Pelletier

Marty Pelletier annon Channels of Identification When we see stories on the news of children murdering each other, what must we think in terms of responsibility and which influences contributed to the decisions which left four children and a teacher dead? Who is responsible? How do we as individuals make decisions? What in our culture influences our behavior and impacts our value systems? More specifically, what exactly does it mean to be influenced? I have chosen television as my focus because I feel it is the most successful media in terms of sculpting social values and, therefore, social relations. The examination of the television industry, with an emphasis on communication (through perception and subsequent identification), yields answers to these questions that are so essential to understanding core sociological themes. I will first discuss how the process of acculturation produces the human need to create a personal identity every second, and the inherent implications of the role of communication toward this goal of self-identification. I will examine why television fits this human need so perfectly, as it presents an incredibly safe place to identify without being judged in return. Television is notorious for its ability to create and alter our concept of reality, but how did it become such a powerful influence? Which human cultural need produced such a demand for a medium that can be passively consulted for clues to our personal identities? What is the nature of the interaction that people have with television? The act of watching television highlights a number of phenomena that explain the culture of television.

The key players are the programs on TV and the viewers, the latter creating a need for the former. After all, television would have no place in a world with no viewers. Television is a profound clue in to the inter-workings of the larger culture, as well as to the nature of human behavior, in that it reflects our weaknesses and goals, and the extremely exploitive nature of power. ^Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed^. This process is enabled by the fact that communication is necessary for human survival. The very nature of humans as a social animal accounts for such a need to communicate. The media^s ability to influence the individual and serve as a cultural resource is the result of the individual^s incessant search for identity, which established a permanent niche for television in society.

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In other words, it was our need to be influenced, to have a resource of clues as to our identity, which made television an authority in values and ideas about reality. TV is important because we as humans need to identify ourselves everyday and it is an easy and safe way to reinforce what you want to see. It is a basis for interpreting and defining our environment, about which we are constantly having to learn and adjust. I will argue that inherent to human social relations is the need to identify oneself in the moment in order to know how to respond. All living organisms have a fundamental need to interpret their environment in order to survive, and to do so as efficiently as possible.

This raises the issue of why humans have such a need to find identity in sources outside of the self. The answer lies in the fact that humans do not have instincts, meaning that we do not have the luxury of having access to predetermined responses to stimuli within the environment. As such, we have to scan and consult our environment (culture) to learn a system of responses that appeals to us individually. Orchestrated by the ^self^, our perceptual data from our five senses is filtered and interpreted based on how we need to see the world. Every second we are efficiently interpreting only the necessary stimuli that must be responded to according to our self-created investments.

This is the reason you have not felt your feet in your shoes until just now, there was no reason to. In a very real sense, we are controlled by our investments in that it is in our investments that we make or break our identities. Where we look then, what we listen to is almost chosen for us (and yet somehow by us) as we are driven to create an identity every moment based on the brain^s incredible need to efficiently respond to its perceptions. We take clues from family, educators, role models, peers, and the media, among others. Television was designed in such a way that it is easy for us to consult it for quick answers about who we want to be, what appropriate behavior is, how we want our society to view us, how we want to spend our time. This is a critical aspect to TV^s ability to impact us.

It takes very little energy for us to turn on the TV, it allows us to forget about the stress in our own life, it does not require that we speak with anyone or have to defend our ideals, it is optimistic in that it convinces us that we can always be prettier, richer, better, and always more accepted by others, only with the help of their products of course. My intention in purposing this thesis of self-identification as the basis of all communication is to show where the relationship between perceiver and perceived truly lies, as this will show where responsibility rests. I will demonstrate why TV is so appealing to our impressionable nature, and why it is so potentially dangerous. I say potentially because I will simultaneously argue that it is the perceiver that ultimately must react to the message, and that although accountable for her reaction, she is not necessarily in control. This idea that humans are accountable for their perceptions while not being in control of them may seem awkward or even conflicting, yet it is evidenced in this theory of self.

This theory is instrumental in illustrating the process of perceiving, and thus the formation of values, because i …