Who are you?
We all have the capacity to see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears. We have rational minds to help us understand the world. We are always able to question.
At the same time, we live among other people in a world full of diverse ways of doing, seeing, hearing and being. Over the ages, humans have joined together with others who do, see, hear and live in ways similar to themselves. We are used to the idea that we derive our identities in part from the people around us and think of ourselves as the sum of information like race, place, gender, history. By choosing what we identify with, we also exclude other possibilities.
The media circulate information about how things are perceived & represented. Positioned between us and the world, they mediate reality, giving frameworks for interpretation and shaping perception. We usually don’t notice the way mediated information is represented.
Groups and individuals with economic and political power are the ones most likely to have ownership of the media in the United States today, especially since the mergers that began in the 1980s. Their voices dominate the way phenomena in society are represented: They determine who are the good guys and the bad guys, what are the best ways to live your life, what are the proper values. These notions appear over and over again in the stories that circulate, as well as in who gets to tell the stories and the way they are told. The ideas and beliefs that keep these groups and individuals in power — their ideology — becomes replicated in their stories. The dominant media voices in the U.S. tell stories that contain the values of those on top, those with the most money and power, who are interested in keeping things the way they are. In other words, they try to avoid including stories that would be critical of their values.
When you define yourself in terms that come from somewhere and someone else and in ways you may not particularly like — often from mediated messages that are designed to sell products that will change you to conform with a dominant way of seeing the world — then you feel the weight of the culture.
Power is always negotiated. By accepting the mediated views and messages that try to tell you who you are, you’re giving up the power to define your own self. Not only can you talk back to the media, you can consciously become aware that you’re an active participant of culture creation.
Note: Throughout this Blog you will see some “culture jamming” work — talking back to media — of students in the Department of Communication and Cinema at McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland. You will also see photos of early experiments with car radios during the 1920s involving my grandfather and his friends at Grebe Radio Company in New York.
Who Am I?
Deborah Clark Vance, Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication from the Department of Communication and Culture, Howard University. Bachelors Degree in Radio, TV and Film from the Department of Communication, Northwestern University. I’m currently Associate Professor in and Chair of the Department of Communication and Cinema at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Before becoming an academic, I wrote freelance for print; researched, wrote and announced for radio; worked for a TV station –along with raising a family, etc.