home Structuralism Media analysis Social media analysis (fake news and technology) Psychology, logic and syllogism Substructure, superstructure and ideology Fake news and fact checking Is truth possible?

 

This is easier to understand that most people think. Much of it evolved from ideas that have been around for a very long time.


What we do in dreams, we also do when we are awake; we invent and fabricate the people with whom we associate and immediately forget that we have done so. - Nietzsche


We see things not as they are, but as we are. - Kant


The philosopher Vico, in The New Science (1725) argued that:


When man perceives the world, he perceives without knowing it the superimposed shape of his own mind, and entities can only be meaningful (or 'true') in so far as they find a place within that shape.


Structuralism is about structure - the way language is structured and the way it shapes our experience of the world. Put very crudely, we learn a language and that tells us how to make sense of the world. It imposes on our mind a way of seeing things, along with ideas about what is real, virtuous, valuable, frightening etc.¬† We create what we call reality through the structure of our language, and structuralists want to know how, and what this implies. What is really only our point of view or way or looking at things is something we think of as natural or normal. Thus, structuralists tend to look, not at how the world works, but how our language works in telling us what the world ‘really’ is.


Edward Sapir looked at the way different languages worked to shape perception in their users. He concluded that the language we learn controls how we experience or understand the world:  


The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent built up on the language habits of the group. - The Status Of Linguistics As A Science (1929)

Myths and popular stories are interesting in this context. They can be analysed to seek out certain structures and relationships of ideas. Myths help us to make sense of the world (to construct reality). They can therefore be 'decoded' (deconstructed) to see how this process works. Structuralism works like an X-ray. One works from the story to the deep structures of the mind/society which constructs reality through such stories.


Language has an ‘anaesthetic function’. It makes things familiar to us and we stop having to think about them. ¬†Similarly, a naive viewer/reader/listener might assume that our media are a window upon reality, a mere source of information. In fact, of course, they are at best distorting mirrors. We need to consider not just obvious facts, such as the ideology or belief system of the producers, but the effect upon the 'message' of the form it comes in.


It can be argued that different forms will encourage different ways of shaping/interpreting reality. That is not just saying that certain genres have their own conventions. In old fashioned westerns, goodies usually survive and baddies always get shot. The audience can then believe in the reality of justice. The world is obviously a fair place. The good are rewarded, the bad punished, so being good pays. In more modern films, being bad is sometimes more profitable. Our system of reinforcing behaviour is thus weakened.


Now let’s consider the world of news, first with ordinary old-fashioned newspapers, t.v. and radio programmes.

next page - media analysis