Marty Pelletier

Channels of Identification

When we see stories on the news of children murdering each other, what
must we think in terms of responsibility and which influences
contributed to the decisions which left four children and a teacher
dead? Who is responsible? How do we as individuals make decisions?

What in our culture influences our behavior and impacts our value
systems? More specifically, what exactly does it mean to be
influenced? I have chosen television as my focus because I feel it is
the most successful media in terms of sculpting social values and,
therefore, social relations. The examination of the television
industry, with an emphasis on communication (through perception and
subsequent identification), yields answers to these questions that are
so essential to understanding core sociological themes. I will first
discuss how the process of acculturation produces the human need to
create a personal identity every second, and the inherent implications
of the role of communication toward this goal of self-identification. I
will examine why television fits this human need so perfectly, as it
presents an incredibly safe place to identify without being judged in

Television is notorious for its ability to create and alter our concept
of reality, but how did it become such a powerful influence? Which
human cultural need produced such a demand for a medium that can be
passively consulted for clues to our personal identities? What is the
nature of the interaction that people have with television? The act of
watching television highlights a number of phenomena that explain the
culture of television. The key players are the programs on TV and the
viewers, the latter creating a need for the former. After all,
television would have no place in a world with no viewers. Television
is a profound clue in to the inter-workings of the larger culture, as
well as to the nature of human behavior, in that it reflects our
weaknesses and goals, and the extremely exploitive nature of power.
^”Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced,
maintained, repaired, and transformed^‘. This process is enabled by the
fact that communication is necessary for human survival. The very
nature of humans as a social animal accounts for such a need to
communicate. The media^“s ability to influence the individual and serve
as a cultural resource is the result of the individual^“s incessant
search for identity, which established a permanent niche for television
in society. In other words, it was our need to be influenced, to have a
resource of clues as to our identity, which made television an authority
in values and ideas about reality. TV is important because we as humans
need to identify ourselves everyday and it is an easy and safe way to
reinforce what you want to see. It is a basis for interpreting and
defining our environment, about which we are constantly having to learn
and adjust. I will argue that inherent to human social relations is the
need to identify oneself in the moment in order to know how to respond.

All living organisms have a fundamental need to interpret their
environment in order to survive, and to do so as efficiently as
possible. This raises the issue of why humans have such a need to find
identity in sources outside of the self. The answer lies in the fact
that humans do not have instincts, meaning that we do not have the
luxury of having access to predetermined responses to stimuli within the
environment. As such, we have to scan and consult our environment
(culture) to learn a system of responses that appeals to us
individually. Orchestrated by the ^”self^‘, our perceptual data from our
five senses is filtered and interpreted based on how we need to see the
world. Every second we are efficiently interpreting only the necessary
stimuli that must be responded to according to our self-created
investments. This is the reason you have not felt your feet in your
shoes until just now, there was no reason to. In a very real sense, we
are controlled by our investments in that it is in our investments that
we make or break our identities. Where we look then, what we listen to
is almost chosen for us (and yet somehow by us) as we are driven to
create an identity every moment based on the brain^“s incredible need to
efficiently respond to its perceptions. We take clues from family,
educators, role models, peers, and the media, among others. Television
was designed in such a way that it is easy for us to consult it for
quick answers about who we want to be, what appropriate