No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

8

New Group Identities

The Merging of Group Experiences

As discussed in Part I, group identity is based on "shared but special" information-systems. The greater the number of distinct social information-systems, the greater the number of distinct "groups"; the smaller the number of distinct information-systems, the smaller the number of distinct group identities. The merging of many formerly distinct situations through electronic media, therefore, should have an homogenizing effect on group identities.

As a result of the widespread use of television, for example, the social information available to the ghetto family now more closely resembles the information available to the middle class family. Information available to women now more closely resembles information available to men. Formerly distinct groups not only share very similar information about society in general, they also share more information about each other—information that once distinguished "insiders" from "outsiders." As a consequence, traditional group bonds are weakened and traditional distinctions among groups become partially blurred.

The change in the information characteristics of traditional groups leads to two complementary phenomena: the decreasing importance of traditional group ties and the increasing importance of other types of association.

The homogenized information networks fostered by electronic media offer individuals a comparatively holistic view of society and a wider field within which to measure their relative lot. To use George Herbert Mead's term, electronic media alter one's "generalized other"—the general sense of how other people think and evaluate one's actions. The "mediated generalized other" includes standards, values, and beliefs from outside tra

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