Before discussing the article entitled “Media Power and the Dangers of Mass Information” in my class, I gave my students the following questions to be discussed first.
1. How many kinds of media do you know? How many of them do you usually use in your daily life?
2. What are the powers of media?
3. Mention some programs on television that are influential in the viewers’ lives.
4. Mention some programs/facilities in the internet that are influential
For your information, it was a small class, with only five students, one girl, four boys. Two of them are in the third grade of senior high school while three others are graduates of senior high school. They will start going to college in the beginning of September 2007. They are about 16-18 years old.
For the first question, they mentioned two kinds of media, printed media—such as newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and electronic media—such as television. Internet can be categorized into both kinds, printed and electronic.
What are the powers of media?
The students mentioned two kinds: positive and negative. (In fact, everything in this world always have these two contradictory things, don’t they? There are usually positive and negative aspects of everything.)
For the positive side, the students mentioned through media, people could get up-to-date information—via news shows in television, news websites in the internet, news column in newspapers/tabloids; knowledge—via educative programs such as Discovery Channel, National Geography, Learning Foreign Language program in television; entertainment—via cartoons, movies, soap operas, sport shows, etc on television, special websites in the internet, such as www.youtobe.com, www.ganges.com; profits to market their products for producers, while for consumers, they will get information about more various products.
For the negative side, the students mentioned some “conventional” things, such as people are exposed to crimes in crime news, brutal shows (in Indonesia for example “smackdown“ program), and pornography through some “indecent” programs on television or porn sites in the internet.
Some television programs that are influential in the viewers’ lives mentioned:
The students admitted that their life somewhat changed due to these commercials. The attraction of many produces in promoting their products successfully changed their taste. Instead of feeling “cheated” or “abused” they thanked those commercials so that they knew more various products to be used in their daily life. They did not realize that those commercials also have made them become the consumers of some products that they did not really need in the past.
Some soap operas—especially produced by local production houses have changed their way of life, the way they socialize, the way they get dressed, etc. Why local? Because local soap operas seem so “real” with Indonesian actors/actresses so that they do not realize that those seemingly “real” lives oftentimes are just exaggerated by the producers. Many soap operas were just copies of foreign movies/soap operas.
Does it mean that foreign movies/soap operas don’t really influence the viewers’ lives? They do too. One very distinct event in my opinion is the tendency of teenagers now hold prom nights, while in my era, we didn’t know what it was.
Besides, addiction to watch soap operas of course has changed the rhythm of their daily lives.
News do not really change a lot of the viewers’ lives like the two examples above, except crime news. Crime news that are so blatantly shown on television even can give examples how to do some crimes.
Apparently the five students of mine do not really like doing sports. However, they said that sport shows influenced them to gamble, which club would win the game, for example.
Many kinds of “being idols” show on television obviously have changed many teenagers’ way to choose dream profession for their future. During my time, two most prestigious professions were doctor and engineer. Nowadays, the easiness to earn money by being a celebrity after winning one reality show, such as Indonesian Idol, has made teenagers lazy to study. They would prefer to dream of being a celebrity rather than to study hard to be a doctor or an engineer.
Some internet programs that are influential in the users’ lives mentioned:
Playing game has always become one favorite pastime. If in the past people felt enough to play games in the personal computer, nowadays game online are more attractive because people can play games while looking for friends from around the world—with whom they play together.
Sending emails must be more convenient and faster, not to mention cheaper, than sending airmail letters.
Students get more various assignments from school that make them look for more data from this huge library—internet. Unfortunately, I see the tendency of them to only collect data and submit them to their teachers in the printed form without trying to comprehend the data first. It is inevitable for me to suspect that the teachers just need the data for themselves but they don’t have time to look for the data by themselves. If the data is really beneficial for the students’ knowledge, the teachers are supposed to ask the students not only to submit the assignment without checking/assessing them whether they understand the data they submit.
This “new way to look for new friends” has become more and more popular in Indonesia. However, not only new friends they get, sometimes they also can find their old friends who have moved to other cities/countries. Or, via friendster/multiply/hit they can also keep in touch with their friends, not only via emails or phones.
This special website has changed people’s lives because they can watch some foreign programs that are not aired on televisions in Indonesia. Indonesian people living abroad also can watch some television programs—such as “Empat Mata” show—that are promoted in this website.
Chatting facilities provided by the internet really make people easy to communicate with one another although they live poles apart. They can keep in touch with not only their old friends who have moved abroad, let’s say, but also make new friends.
The result of this discussion told me that the students did not realize the more subtle power of media but very influential in shaping their way of thinking in reading and interpreting texts in a form of hegemonic culture infiltrating the one they have got from the elders—such as parents and teachers.
To be continued.
PT56 11.00 020807