If you look at how far global society has come, it is clear that much has changed.
The impact left by various movements and events in human history has brought to numerous issues to light- leading to relevant (and deeply necessary) changes in culture, institutions, and societal functions. This is known as social change.
Movements for social change such as the Feminist movement and the Civil Rights Movement are now considered significant historical events- and their impact continues to echo through and evolve to suit the needs of society today. To add to this, much of today's social change efforts are aided by modern devices- namely popular culture and new media.
Let us look into how these devices play a part in social change today.
1. Popular culture reflects real-life social issues.
Some of the things which come to mind when “pop culture” is mentioned include areas such as film, music, television, and video games. Other categories include sports, news, politics, fashion, technology, and slang.
Pop culture, especially in the arts and entertainment, is used to reflect on or raise relevant social issues. A good example is the Academy Award winning film, The Pianist. A biographical war drama, The Pianist tells the story of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish pianist of Jewish descent who survived the Holocaust. The film spells out a chilling tale of what government empowered racial discrimination can lead to.
More recent examples of popular culture reflecting social issues can be found in popular songs. “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas highlights issues such as discrimination, terrorism, and media abuse, while “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks highlights mental health issues, specifically depression.
2. New media propagates these messages and facilitates the course of social change.
Before we discuss new media we need to understand what exactly media is. Media, the plural form of ‘medium’, describes the channels (mediums) in which information is propagated and distributed. Prior to the development of new media, "traditional" channels of mainstream media consisted of channels such as radio, television, and newspaper.
Then came the rise of new media such as internet web pages, social media, instant messaging apps, video streaming services, music streaming services, and more. Aside from the ability to spread information at rapid pace, new media also has the ability to allow users to have two-way or multi-way communication – a feature which traditional media lacks.
This provides an opportunity for like-minded individuals to facilitate relevant courses of action which could bring about social change. For example, hosting a fundraising page or an online watch party event.
3. Both popular culture and the use of new media leads to heightened social awareness and prompts discussions.
Social awareness is at an all-time high, especially information made easily accessible to the masses, no matter the topic. The dissemination of popular entertainment and news through new media channels (i.e.social media) also facilitates public discussion, with knowledge and opinions on specific issues easily shared and exchanged.
This contributes the public's ability to respond and act, according to what they have learnt, and what they. They are also able to make informed decisions quickly thanks to advancements in technology and media.
In a nutshell, social change remains a constant and integral part of global society. The presence of modern popular culture and the use of new media further highlight various social issues- both in raising awareness and in fighting for positive social change. However, misusing these channels could boomerang and result in an equally negative consequences, such as the spread misinformation or even worse, cyberterrorism.
Nevertheless, this only proves how powerful modern pop culture and new media is. With its influence on and its role in shaping society, it is clear that the field of communications has made its mark on us- and will continue to do so in the coming future.