Lukov Val. A.: Youth and mass madia: interaction, trust and expectations

 

YOUTH AND MASS MEDIA:

INTERACTION, TRUST AND EXPECTATIONS

 

A fragment of a monograph: Lukov Val. A. (ed.) Social and Cultural Value Orientations of Russian Youth: The Theoretical and Empirical Researches: Monograph / Val. A. Lukov, Vl. A. Lukov, N. V. Zakharov,  V. A. Gnevasheva,  O. O. Namlinskaia; Translation by B. N. Gaydin, Translation Editing by N. V. Zakharov; Institute of Humanitarian Researches; International academy of science. - Moscow; Innsbruck: Moscow University for the Humanities, 2007.

 

The human being of the 21st century lives in the media space, which is his new habitat, the reality of the modern culture. Mass communication media has penetrated into the all spheres of life. Media has become the main mean of modern culture production and not only a transmissive mechanism. Media has begun to determine many parameters of society, industry, policy. The globalization of the information technologies' net has occurred. The Russian communication systems are gradually involving in it being assimilated.

The information boom, which has become reality of life of the Russian society, has led, on the one hand, to the inclusion of Russia in the global information space, which is one of the most major components of modern civilization, and on the other, it has become in many respects a defining factor in formation of young man personal characteristics among which system of value orientations plays the essential role.

Especially it is necessary to designate the importance of media for formation of social values of contemporary youth. Today mass media has become one of the social institutes, which influence the basic processes of society forming. It can be quite easily explained by means of thesaurus approach to socialization[1].

According to this approach thesaurus is a peculiar organization of information of an individual, which is closely connected with his/her position in society both in macro and micro social spaces. Arising during socialization process a combination of elements (models of behaviour, aims, values, information, etc.) is built from fragments of thesauruses of significant others. These fragments bear traces of earlier thesaurus formations also apprehended from significant others of another generation. The general part of thesaurus fragments, from which individual thesauruses are actually being formed, is called thesaurus constructions. They can be compared with roots of words, which get exact meaning in a combination with other blocks (with prefixes, affixes, etc.)[2]. Concatenation of thesaurus constructions into thesauruses is caused by aims of orientation in socio-cultural space-time.

From the very first years of life human being falls into an information field created by a network of mass communications. Mass media includes all kinds of means of mass transfer of information streams functioning in globalized cultural space, in the information field, which is created with the use of new technologies. This information field unites socio-cultural meanings of its diverse elements. Because of that there is a problem of interference of information environment and system of values of a young man as a social agent.

 

 

3.1 The Importance of Video Culture in Socialization of Youth

 

The most significant part of information environment today is video culture. Various spheres of vital activity of youth - school and system of vocational training, youth centers, work and sphere of leisure - are included into the field of its influence. It becomes the most important agent of socialization and a powerful factor of value system formation.

The analysis of TV as a mean of reflection of the external world in the context of the modern theory is based on the thesis about conditionality of representation: all our attempts to represent the reality are determined by language, culture and ideology. If we agree that we perceive the world through systems of representations then the very raising of the problem of TV objectivity or subjectivity will change and instead of the question - "Do we learn the truth about the world watching TV?" - there will be the question: "How does it represent the world?"

The expansion of video culture sphere leads to the change of leisure structure of teenagers and youth. If in the recent past the culture institutions played a greater role both in socialization and training in creative activity and spiritually-aesthetic qualities of young generation then from the mid 1980s more opportunities for satisfaction of many cultural needs in house conditions began to appear. By the second half of the 1980s the changed living conditions have given basically recreational character to spare time. The mass media rushed powerfully into the sphere of leisure of youth, becoming its basic and structuring component.

In the study "Features of Labour Socialization of Teenagers" conducted by the Institute of Humanitarian Researches and the faculty of sociology of Moscow University for the Humanities[3], the teenagers' answer distribution concerning spending of their spare time shows that the TV occupies one of the priority places.

The list of actions in the spare time is quite traditional for modern teenagers: 41.2% watch TV and video, 37.4% meet friends at home or at their apartment. Approximately equal parts (not much more than the third of the interrogated) spend leisure time in book reading, exercises and trainings in gyms, going to the cinema: 27% attend parties, discos, student clubs. Shopping and playing computers are activities of 25% of teenagers. Approximately a quarter of them "has their sleep out" at their spare time, and about 16% surf the Internet, "hang around" the streets. Almost the same number of them is engaged in self-education, go to the theatre, museum, library, 10.7% play on musical instruments. Lessons in theatrical circles, art and dancing studios, driving, motorcycling, bicycling; visiting sick relatives - these activities fill leisure time of less than 10% of teenagers.

There is an interrelation between belonging to an educational institution and a way of leisure spending. As a matter of fact, belonging to a type of an educational institution, as well as a kind of leisure, to some extent is the evidence of amount of teenagers' family income and value orientations, which are customary in them. Computer games as a form of leisure are more widespread among lyceum students (29.8%) and students of institutes of higher education (27.6%), then among pupils of colleges and schools. As to pupils of technical training institutions only 12.5% of them devote spare time to computer games, 6.9% of pupils of technical training colleges and 27.7% of lyceum students surf on the Internet.

Mass media are filling personal space of people in society more and more swiftly. Orientations to the opinions generated in mass media are spreading and the trust for its information and estimations is growing. To a greater extent young generation is subject to it. The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center[4] surveys show that as a whole the Russian mass media are estimated positively by the majority of the Russians (53%). At the same time the level of approval of mass media work is higher than of many state and public institutes (such as, for instance, the Government, the State Duma, the Council of Federation, political parties, law enforcement bodies). The interest in information and information-analytical broadcasting is keen enough. The third of the interrogated people (31%) watch TV news and information-analytical programmes on political themes daily. Approximately the same number of people (32%) watches them a few times a week. However there are not few of those (35%) who either watch these programmes occasionally or do not do it at all. As one would expect, these programmes arouse essentially deeper interest among respondents of the senior age groups and more passing among young people.

Nowadays one type of human being is finishing to exist and develop. The conditions for the formation of the type with another kind of mentality, spirituality and system of aesthetic values are appearing. Now they speak of "the second Copernican Revolution", which is connected with the penetration of "new technologies" into all spheres of social life. Under these conditions the purposes of upbringing of youth are directly related to the context of formation of a human being of the approaching culture and civilization. New forms of life, new experience in contacts in many respects are connected both with mass communication media development, which play a huge, even a leading role in the formation of value priorities and personal qualities of young generation.

 

 

3.2 Influence of Periodicals on Young Generation

 

Among all mass media of nowadays market of information services periodicals are the least popular among youth. Every tenth student approves that he/she does not take newspapers in his/her hands (except for a TV schedule); among schoolboys and schoolgirls this share is considerably larger. According to the sociological data 70-80% of young people look into newspaper articles casually, looking through the newspapers, which they have got accidentally. Probably their parents have subscribed to them or they find free copies in a café or in the underground waiting for a friend.

The reason of such a low popularity of periodicals lies in the nature of information channels and also in opportunities of information processing with the purpose to transfer a maximum of content, which may interest a listener, in the shortest possible time and also, it is desirable, with the use of proper means of attraction of consumers to the information flow. It is more convenient to gather social and political information from the TV screen. Glossy magazines tell more thoroughly and colourfully about cultural life and "high life parties". By separate estimates youth more likely will read "yellow press" than a serious political edition. As a bearer of operative information newspaper cannot compete with electronic mass media, besides (it is important for modern "running" youth) it is inconvenient for reading "on the move». As a rule magazine reading is superficial. They do not really read articles and interviews, but mainly scan them. Only a few can name the authors they are fond of. For the overwhelming majority of young readers journalism is nameless.

The ideal model of an edition for youth should contain the following basic thematic directions: social and political analytics; articles about job placement, dwelling, health (social block); information on clubs, cinema, concerts and books with brief summaries; cognitive materials (about countries, celebrities, events of the past); interviews with different heroes; crossword puzzles, humour; narrations, documentaries, artistic and imaginary literature (sentimental melodrama is in popular demand); criminal; sports; special advices to girls and young housewives; computer and automobile page; and, at last, something pathetic, "about eternal", "about meaning of life".

It is significant that female magazines are in the lead, 3/4 of girls read them, and schoolgirls are noticeably more active than female students. According to girls, young men are not averse to concern themselves with this sort of periodical press, but they hesitate to confess that they do. As a rule young men demonstrate indicative reading of computer and automobile magazines.

 

 

3.3 Mass Media Influence on Public Opinion Formation

 

By separate estimates mass media influence on the formation of "public opinion" is profound enough. E. Dennis assumed that "mass-media ‘forms' our thinking, ‘influences' on our opinions and aims, ‘pushes' us to the certain kinds of behaviour, for example, to voting for a definite candidate"[5].

At the same time not all of researchers are assured of mass media power. The co-author of E. Dennis D. Merrill opposes to him: "Probably mass media possess force to focus our attention on certain things, but it is not that power which makes us act»[6]. Further he comes up with the following quite moderate estimation: "Mass media impact is more likely to point out what society should reflect on and not to tell what it should think of..." In other words, mass media power in many respects consists in determination of a corresponding "agenda" in a specific moment of time.

Mass media is capable of having a special impact on young generation under the formation of public consciousness. Here the main problems of young age - fear of loneliness; associates', parents', teachers', contemporaries' misunderstanding of teenagers; unrequited sympathy; inability to organize leisure time, to find an interesting pastime, activity - are the categories, which contribute to suggestibility. In adolescence there is a desire to create an "idol" and to imitate him/her entirely. Nowadays a young man - whose mentality develops in the information environment, i.e. not only under the influence of norms and values, taught in sphere of interpersonal contacts, but mainly because of various kinds of mass media - often turns out to be unable to get correct guiding lines in the flood of strongly awry information transferred by different channels of mass media. As the ideological vacuum exists an extreme partiality and discrepancy between information streams contributes to the fact that outlook of young men becomes less integral and appears to be more subject to manipulation, impact of propagation of false ideals and life values.

During last decades all over the world the interest in concepts of identification and identity has been more and more increasing. Identity is becoming a kind of prism through which many important features of modern life are examined, estimated and studied[7]. In this case we will discuss the Russian national identity.

According to theoretical notions, ethnic consciousness is a wider concept presented by a wider identification, including actually not only ethnic but also other forms of identification corresponding to relevantly existing objects of an ethnic reality: territorial, cultural, language, religious, ceremonial, racial, anthropological, psychological, etc.[8] Among the parameters of community ethnic development there are race and biological (patrimonial roots), climate and geographical (historical territory), and social and cultural (national history, ethnic symbols of culture and religion, etc.) parameters, which are ethno-identification markers. "What does it mean to be a Russian today?" - such was the theme of the public essay competition among senior pupils, conducted in March-July, 2003 in Russia formulated. (The founders of the contest were the Committee of Culture and Tourism of State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Federal Russian National and Cultural Autonomy of Russia, the League of National Property Protection, the Russian Intellectual Club, the Russian Club of Art and Culture, "Natsional'naia gazeta" (‘National Newspaper'), the Regional Public Fund of Assistance to Russian Culture "Russian Fund". The essays of young authors in amount of 565 letters were sent to the contest. Among the examined questions concerning national identification the questions about distribution and formation of national culture were raised. In youth's opinion, mass media plays one of the key roles. In particular, mass media can be an effective weapon for obtrusion and formation of a general national idea in the attempt to unite a nation as well as it can unleash international dissention and form a negative image of a particular nation and even a country as a whole in the external world.

"It is impossible to allow propagation of radical ideas, which exalt one nation above another [...]" - Anna P. (Republic of Tatarstan) marks in the competitive essay. There are works in which authors think that "being born a Russian it is not only dangerous to walk on the earth [...] of ancestors, but fatally dangerous for Russianness has become the verdict which has been brought in by the forces of Evil [...] They write about that in newspapers and magazines, they talk about it on the radio [...] All these media persistently drum into heads of young people: it is the end of Russians!" (Irina S., Moscow region). Many authors write about the role of mass media and the influence of the West: "It is necessary not to imitate the West and its values completely as the main thing there is money" (Taras L. Shugan village); "[...] together with good patterns we adopt the bad ones in the West"; "TV - continuous violence, drugs, weapon. Children learn advertising slogans" (Anna P., Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan); "the aggressive attack of the blue screen" (Vera J., Birsk). But there and then they notice: "It is a difficult question: do we form the content of articles, reports of mass media or, on the contrary, they impose something on us, forcing us to change [...] Mass media, first of all, is oriented on our national features, at the same time it persistently makes the Russians to pay attention to the European measures and standards" (Darya S., Republic of Adygea, Maikop). By estimations of the Russian youth cultural models, which mass media demonstrates today, are imposed on Russia from outside. These models play a defining role in the formation of national identity of young Russians.

3.4 Youth and Mass Media: Bases of Trust

 

Practically all the conducted sociological researches, the purpose of which is determination of value orientations of the society and modern youth, consider the question of mass media impact on the formation of the system of their vital perception. The group of the most popular among youth topics, demonstrated by the means of mass media, has been empirically determined.

One of the topics is youth fashion. Popularization of shocking epatage fashion with propagation of various subcultures, styles for disco, unisex, tattoos. Further there is the topic of deviation and crime. Deviation is a way to leave the designated way, destruct a taboo and common norms of behaviour. The description of various kinds of crimes, obscene abusive language, etc. relates to it.

The next topic is drugs. It includes propagation of "madness", "extremenesses", extreme kinds of sport. Around a person a mythological cover forms. It promotes full loss of orientation in life. The verge between the real and the imagined becomes vague.

The topic of pop stars and pop music is also important. Advertising of a pop star, information on his/her fees, admirers, description of success, wealth, love affairs, reports about deviant acts. As image of a "star" among young people determines their deeds and lifestyle, it is clear what examples for imitation are imposed on them.

The topic of youth infrastructure and modes of entertainment (advertising of clubs, rock concerts, discos, mass holidays) completes the five popular among youth topics.

The results of interrogations of students[9] show that representatives of the young generation estimate the role of mass media in formation of value system of youth critically. According to the research the share of Moscow students, who consider that publications of mass media cause sense of fear and vulnerability in the society, has grown from 64% up to 70%. From 50% up to 60% of students think that mass media evokes rage and aggression, from 23% up to 45% suppose that it induces to violence. Besides 65% of Moscow students accuse mass media of propagation of criminal slang and foul language, and 64% - of spreading of debauch and prostitution.

One of the hypotheses of the research was the assumption that students put not the equal degree of trust to various kinds of mass media, what can be proved by the data of 58% of the respondents who expressed confidence in mass media. The majority of the respondents could not answer unambiguously the question on trust to the information containing on the Internet (42.7% were at a loss to answer and 39.3% quite confide in the Internet). It can be explained by the fact that news and many other kinds of information published on the Internet pages often duplicate the information of printed press. The central purpose of the research was to find out which values propagandize mass media and on which values, in students' opinion, they direct the modern Russian youth.

To their understanding, mass media directs on the following values, which concern the group of values of common to all mankind character according to the degree of priority: beauty, life values, safety, peace and on the last place - health.

Among human interrelations' values students emphasize first of all value orientation on love, then on professional relations and friendship, as for marriage, in the interrogated people's opinion, mass media almost does not orient the modern youth on it at all. This fact has already been noted in several sociological researches, in which the authors mention that changes of youth views on love and marriage - made by the transformation of social and cultural norms and traditions - have essentially reduced the degree of parents' influence on the formation of their notions about these values while the role of mass media in this matter, on the contrary, is growing.

Among the values of person self-affirmation in society on the first place they note the value of material welfare, on the second - career, further - social prestige and social recognition. Practically nobody understands education as a value on which mass media directs its audience. Thus, by students' estimates, mass media claims that today in society much more often people are estimated not on the basis of the education they have acquired but of a successful career, material welfare, and social recognition. Mass media positions it as socially significant.

Among the values of self-realization of a person the leading one is active life, after it there are: independence, individuality, spare time. Mass media orientates students on creativity to a lesser degree.

As a result of the research the proposed hypothesis that among the value orientations, which are formed by mass media, in the students' opinion, on the first place there are values of self-affirmation and self-realization. Among the most prevalent value orientations in this list there is the value of material welfare: 70.7% of the interrogated students consider it to be a value, on which mass media orientates the Russian youth most of all. On the second place among the all options, which were offered - the value of career (61.3%). It is significant that education in comparison with the value of material welfare and career is the least widespread value. Besides, in the students' opinion, mass media urges students to be active, independent and special.

 

3.5 Priority Directions of National Policy

of Regulation of Mutual Relations between Youth

and Mass Media

 

During the last 10 years in Russia thousands of non-governmental broadcasting companies have appeared, almost in 600 cities there is a local TV station. The influence of private regional radio companies in youth information space has sharply increased. Now there are 652 radio companies registered in Russia (Ministerstvo obrazovaniia Rossiiskoi Federatsii, 2002).

Under the conditions of expansion of telecasting the radio has not only lost the audience, but has obtained a prospect for its development. Radiocasting has overtaken the TV in terms of programme differentiation intended for young listeners. Information and artistic broadcasting is, as a rule, no more than 15-20% of the general broadcasting time, the rest of the time is reserved mainly for musical and entertaining programmes.

Nowadays the need for legislative acts, which would regulate the correlation of news, entertaining, cultural and educational (domestic and foreign) programmes not only on the radio, but also on the TV, has increased.

The Government of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the RF supported the offers of the television community to allot money for the financing of socially significant programmes of electronic mass media from the federal budget in 2000. In this time the system of grants for support of programmes for teenagers and young people was used for the first time in Russia. Paramount importance is attached to patriotic, juridical and educational programmes devoted to social problems - preventive measures against drug addiction, criminality.

Realization of the functions of youth world outlook formation by the means of mass media presupposes openness and availability of information. In the Russian Federation there are registered more than 350 periodicals for youth. The total circulation of these editions is up to 3 million copies monthly. Thematically the Russian juvenile and youth press has become more diverse, considerably more differentiated taking sex and age of the readers into account during the last decade. Newspapers and magazines for family reading intended for both teenagers and their parents have appeared.

At the same time at the modern Russian market of printed mass media for youth editions for entertainment prevail. Their cumulative monthly circulation is up to 75% of the circulation of all types of the juvenile and youth editions.

Besides in the editions, which are addressed directly to youth, the share of the publications peculiarly mentioning its age and social problems (especially in case of editions for teenagers of 14-15 years) is small. In the whole spectrum of the youth press the editions of training and cognitive content are poorly presented.

The former youth editions on the whole have become editions for all ages. The published materials are intended for readers of different age brackets.

The problem of information vulnerability of minors is acquiring an increasing acuteness. The number of the periodicals, which use materials of sexual content for commercial purposes, is growing impetuously. In several such magazines there is a direct abuse of interests of the youth. Hundred thousands of readers of these editions are involved in the turnover of the printed output of sexual content.

For the last decade the Russian teenage amateur press has been developing. This press exists officially. It is included in the mass media system and competitive. Its polygraphic level is often very good. It gives an opportunity for pupils and students to obtain journalistic skills. The most important thing is that it allows to express their opinion on an event and the present-day life.

 

3.6 Discussion

 

Mass media impact is so overall and all-purpose that, in some researchers' opinion, technological and social progress of a state, its position in the world economy and economical competitiveness, effective realization of a role in the international labour distribution and development of democratic institutes depend on it. Moreover, all these phenomena are accompanied by the formation of a new world outlook and a new world culture. In this sense mass media represents one of the main socializing institutes and is one the most accessible and influential mechanisms of personality formation. Evaluating the global influence on a person and opportunities for promotion of world outlook formation we consider it is possible today to compare the information technologies and mass media, first of all the TV, only with participation of family in socialization of a person. Youth is especially actively involved in this process.

Young men estimate their absorption in mass media as excessive, sometimes harmful. As the results of many sociological researches show the constant mass media reports on deviating from the norms common in the society phenomena and events presented, as a rule, sensationally, generate anxiety and fear of disturbance of a habitual world order, habitual current of life, fear of the place in the society and future, etc. in minds of readers, listeners, spectators. At the same time the facts indicate that the people, who too often resort to mass media services, have more negative aims and purposes concerning the world.

Thus, it is possible to speak about mass media as of an institute, which plays an important role in the system of formation and maintenance of not only numerous life processes and aspects of modern society, but also of its value structure. It is difficult to estimate the global role of information technologies in the personal socialization process and in the formation of value orientations unambiguously. All we can do is to establish the fact that any component, any function of mass media has both a positive and a destructive component. Accordingly mass media can promote both the integration of a society and its disorganization.

 


 


[1]        Lukov 1999.

[2]        Lukov and Lukov 2004.

[3]        Trudovaia sotsializatsiia podrostkov: Po materialam sotsiologicheskogo issledovaniia, (2005).

[4]        Press-vypusk, 2004.

[5]        Dennis 1997, 139.

[6]        Merill 1997, 155.

[7]        Bauman 2002.

[8]        Hotinets, 2000.

[9]        Molodezh' i ee tsennostnye orientatsii (1999).