In today’s societies, the media occupy a prominent place in our way of seeing the world. They influence our opinions sometimes modify our way of seeing things. Moreover, it also alters our lifestyles.
But what is the media?
The term media refers to all means of information dissemination and communication. For instance, the press, radio, television, posters, the Internet, books, and magazines, etc.
Today we are stunned with information by these media. We can’t escape them. Media keep you informed of the latest news, but they are also a way to cultivate and soak up the world.
This influence can still be criticized since if the media allow us to open up to the world. We must not forget that they’ve a hold on our way of design the world. So, it is necessary to maintain a certain distance between the information we perceive and what we do with it.
The main challenge is, therefore, to define the concept of influence in the media context. But as it has a great impact on public opinion.
1- In your opinion, do the media influence our society?
The media influences our society… And our society influences the media!
For several years, studies on the influence of the media have broken away from a “linear” model of media. In the last century, it was imagined that the influence of the mass media was direct and immediate. Today, the picture is more nuanced.
Very concretely, we realize that the media are born and evolve in a context that pre-exists them. They are “imbued” with ideas, ways of working, “worldviews”. Journalists are ordinary citizens, with their values, their opinions, etc.
Finally, the audiences that we interpret and reclaim the information, all this is not neutral. Viewers play a massive role in the circulation of news. Already upstream, the press titles are trying to anticipate the reactions of the public, and downstream. The audiences can select and understand a little what they want from an article.
Many studies show how people tend to reclaim information with their own filters (which can also inherit from a socio-cultural context).
2- How long has the media had a significant influence on society?
The printing press have an important effect in influencing society, for example. Thinkers like Jack Goody and Pierre Lévy show how much a society evolves with its “intelligence technologies”. Our technologies emerge from a social context and then come with symbols and languages, content, and practices.
One book that was massively edited in the early days of printing was the Bible! It could, therefore, be said that the printing press “influenced” society by promoting the popularization of Christianity in Europe. At the same time, it is not for nothing that it is the Bible that has been massively edited. The context was somewhat favorable for this book to be published and distributed in mass!
In short, all this to say that yes. The media occupy an essential place in society and contribute to the circulation of ideas, practices, values, beliefs…! And this, since the existence of these mass media, l printing being the first to allow such wide distribution. And at the same time, they’re the “links” of a much more complex system.
3- Is there neutrality in the media? If so, to what extent is it significant?
If this neutrality is more consistent with a form of pluralism effort as “neutrality” on Wikipedia, then it is possible. However, this does not mean presenting all opinions on the same level.
This is an extremely complex issue that stirs a set of philosophical assumptions:
- Realistic constructivism (our performances are the result of construction, which does not mean that these may represent more or less correctly the real),
- Perspectivism (these constructions link to particular perspectives),
- Non-relativistic pluralism (knowledge enriched by taking various particular perspectives), etc.
4- What are the most prominent methods used by the media to influence public opinion?
I imagine you’re referring to a conscious will to influence opinion, a form of propaganda in a way. Contemporary forms of propaganda are found in communication (especially politics), marketing, advertising, censorship, or “putting on the agenda” in particular.
For example, when one out of every two news stories on public service talks about Islamist terrorism, one might wonder about the choice of news. I would qualify it by saying that I am not sure that this is always the result of an intentional calculation. Sometimes, as I wrote above, the media is only the reflection of a society that surrounds them…!
5- What is the interest of the media to adapt the source information in their way?
What do you call “source information”?
The information, to be “captured” by the media, by a citizen (and perceptual/cognitive system) or a technical device is always – I repeat: always – built.
There’s not necessarily a “hidden interest” to it, it’s just like that. When you observe the world, you are forced to select data, to focus on specific elements, to obscure other things from your field of vision. We cannot see everything or show everything at the same time.
Now, that does not prevent that there are multitudes of interests and conflicts of interest to “organize” and “shape” information in a certain way: ideological and political interests, economic interests, etc. This is to refine in individual cases.