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

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

9

New Ways of Becoming

The Overlapping of Socialization Spheres

Socialization involves controlled access to the information of a group. The greater the number of distinct social information-systems, the greater the possibility for establishing and maintaining clear stages of socialization into groups. The information characteristics of print, for example, allow for carefully structured steps of socialization for children, immigrants, and other "outsiders." As discussed earlier, the complexity of print requires a long learning period simply to grasp the basic access code. The young child, the illiterate, and, to varying degrees, the immigrant, are therefore excluded from most communication that takes place through print. Further, different sets of messages can be directed at people with different degrees of reading competence. Through print, what people learn and the rate at which they learn it are "automatically" controlled.

With electronic media, however, these socialization stages are less marked. Unlike print, the presentational form of television does not allow it to be used to distinguish clearly between the information available to the preschooler, the sixth grader, and the adult. The distinctions on television are relatively vague and ambiguous. Indeed, many of the same programs are watched by all age groups. In 1980, for example, "Dallas," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Love Boat," "M*A*S*H," "The Muppets," and "Happy Days, Again" were among the most popular network and syndicated programs for every age group in America, including ages two to eleven. 1 The significance of this fact for child socialization becomes clear when one considers that even the oldest members of the child group—the eleven-year-olds—are only in the sixth grade in school. Books and lessons aimed at the sixth grader generally present a much more distant and idealized view of adult life than is presented in "Dallas" or "M*A*S*H."

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