altFoluke Ogunleye, Professor of Theatre and Media Arts, in the Department of Dramatic Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, has called on media professionals to use the persuasive power of the media for the development of positive popular cultures in the society.

Professor Ogunleye, who made the call at the 9th edition of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) organized Quarterly National Media Workshop for Arts Writers and Editors, held recently at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, with the theme, “Culture as a Panacea in the Peaceful Coexistence of a Multi-ethnic Nation: Functions of the Mass Media,” was presenting a paper, titled, “Nigeria’s Season of Anomie: Fashioning a Cultural Media Tool-Kit.”

She defined culture as the beliefs, values, or other frameworks of reference by which we make sense of our experiences, saying, “We are to a large extent dependent on regular contact with the mass media for information, entertainment, ideas, opinion and many other things all of which are connected to our attempts to ‘make sense’ of who and what we are and the mass media have become ‘facts of life’ and we have all become socially and culturally more dependent on them;” adding that, “this dependence on the mass media also concerns how we communicate our beliefs, values and ideas, therefore the mass media are centrally involved in the production of a modern culture.”

altThe university don said, since the mid-19th century, people have come to live not only in a situated culture, where the surroundings, family, friends, school, work, neighbourhood and so on, shape individual and cultural identities through small-scale communications and interactions on a day-to-day basis with the place people live in and those around; but in a culture of mediation, where the press, film, cinema, television, radio and more recently, the Internet, have developed to supply larger scale means of public communication.

According to her, our situated culture exists within a much wider mediated world, noting that, “the introduction of the term ‘global village’ in the 1960s illustrates how much our world has changed and the change is due almost entirely to the development of mass communications.”

The theatre scholar, quoting Takis Fotopoulos, who said, “Culture is the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behaviour,” posits that this definition, which is broad enough to include all major aspects of culture: language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, and so on, help us to cultivate reliable guidelines for daily living, contribute to the health and well-being of our culture, act as prescriptions for correct and moral behaviours, lend meaning and coherence to life, and provide a means to achieve a sense of integrity, safety and belonging.

Speaking further, she said, lack of these norms leads to anomie, which is the absence of social norms, otherwise known as, normlessness, a situation that describes the breakdown of social bonds between individuals and their communities, under unruly scenarios possibly resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values, as popularized by French sociologist, Émile Durkheim. 

altProfessor Ogunleye highlighted three basic ways through which the mass media could possibly proffer solutions to the above scenario, arguing that film and television can influence our positive norms, firstly, by reinforcing our existing positive norms, which are gradually being eroded due to the influence of foreign norms; secondly, by creating new convictions on issues that the public may not be familiar with; and thirdly, by helping to destroy obsolete norms.

Concluding, she maintained that, if the media would observe the six stages of development in intercultural sensitivity as prescribed by Bennett, in the practice of their responsibility profession to society, stages that include, avoiding ‘Denial,’ which does not recognize cultural differences; ‘Defence,’ which recognizes some differences but sees them as negative; and ‘Minimization,’ which is unaware of projections of own cultural values but sees own values as superior; informing that the media should imbibe the other stages that include, ‘Acceptance,’ which shifts perspectives to understand that the same ordinary behaviour in one’s culture can have different meanings in different cultures, ‘Adaptation,’ which can evaluate other’s behaviour from their frame of reference and can adapt behaviour to fit the norms of a different culture; and ‘Integration,’ which can shift frame of reference and also deal with resulting identity issues.

Jonathan N. Nicodemus Corporate Affairs