gre practice test I

Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views.

“The media (books, film, music, television, for example) tend to create rather than reflect the values of a society.”

The media have a large impact on the values in society, but they do no create values. Society is a marketplace of values and the market determines which values will survive and which will not. The media particapate in this marketplace, as do other instruments of culture. For the media are not the only mechanism for which culture and values are transmitted.

However, a case can be made that the media are responsible for creating values in society. This view suggests a top-down view of society were the few have a strong enfluence on the many. The average person in society, like a sponge, soaks up values and has little role in creating them. This seems plausable because there are seemingly so few examples of ordinary people particapating in the creation of culture. For the most part, people in society go to work, raise their families and, generally, are consumers of culture created by other people.

Television is a good example. The content in that medium is created and produced by a few and it is consumed by millions. The show ‘friends’ has, perhaps, a few dozen principles that create it and it has tens of millions of viewers. You have to believe that ‘friends’ has a huge impact on the views and values of its audience. You can get the same analysis when you inspect most other media. Each is owned and controlled by a few and consumed by the masses. The characterization is that the masses have no say in what is produced and they have no mechanism to actually produce anything. The internet seems to be the only exception, but even it, it can be argued, is headed towards consolodation of control and eventually it will follow the same pattern.

This view has two flaws. First, the media are not the only way that values are distributed in society. If it were, the case for top-down control would be more likely as society would have no other options for getting its values. Second, the media industry is very diverse and it is an extremely competitive marketplace and can’t represent a jaguernaut, forcing its values on an unsuspecting society. If a particular book, film, song or television show attempts to force audiences into subscribing to unsavory values, the audience wouldn’t buy that book, film, song or television show.

The media are one of many ways for values to be distributed in society. There are families, schools, interpersonal relationships. Local, state and federal politics, while using the media as an instument of its art, also live separately from the media as a means of values creation. All these alternatives to media are just as important in the creation and dissemenation of values. In this larger view of the way values are created and dissemenated, the media become one actor in a larger play.

With all these options, members of society have many chooses when it comes to consuming values. Even within the media there is a large variety of values. There are lots of choices. The media industry today can only be described as a competitive marketplace and lots of options. A competitive marketplace has many options and there is no person or group telling the particapants in that marketplace what they do and do not have to buy. By choosing one medium over another or by choosing one cultural artifact (i.e. book, film, etc) over another, the simple consumer is a powerful force in that marketplace. They are determining which media and cultural artifacts are successful. ‘Friends’ is popular because the consumers of that show choose it over others. They would not have choosen a show that doesn’t reflect their values and what they care about.

In economic terms, they are determining the demand curve for various values. Assuming a perfectly competitive market, the demand has just as much to do with the final output of the market (i.e. values) as the supply.

In summary, the media do not create values. They are a part of a larger process of values creation, a process that exists in a healthy exchange of ideas in society between suppliers (of which the media are but one of many) and consumers.

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