Impacts of Technology on American Popular Culture in the 20th Century

Impacts of Technology on American Popular Culture in the 20th Century

There is always a link between culture and technology. Technology has had the ability to influence human culture just in the same way that culture has helped technology to advance. This can be observed from the point where people used stone tools, and now development has been realized, and there is increased use of Personal Digital Assistants. It can be viewed as a complex form of relationship that tends to shape figurative circles of influence (Frost 9). In the 20th century, the most prominent technologies constituted radios and TVs. Both have had a similar revolutionary effect on the popular culture at the different times in which they came into existence. The radio was auditory while TV was visual and this made the TV more prominent in the confrontation of the inter-racial nature of the popular culture.

The emergence of radio in the 20th century changed the American culture in terms of sourcing information. People used to get information on various aspects of their culture from people that they knew. Radio presented people with the opportunity of learning about their culture from strangers. These were people that they did not know even how they looked like but recognized them only through their voice. Listening to radio also resulted in deviation from the segregated cultures. This is because there was the ability to learn about other people, something which would not have been possible without the emergence of this technology.

TV on the other hand, came along to strengthen family relationships. Having a television set at home meant that the members of the family would come together while watching their preferred programs. This was viewed as a more cost-effective mechanism compared to the aspect of purchasing tickets with the objective of attending shows and other live events. While watching TV as a family, people would take advantage and discuss family issues in the process. After the World War 2, TV was used as a way of helping people move on. It gave people the opportunity of returning to the illusion of a perfect world (Frost 67). This is based on the programs and shows that were being aired on TV. They had all the aspects of a perfect family and country.

TV also shaped the direction of gender in the American popular culture in the 20th century. This is more on how people thought about the aspect. Several programs and shows demonstrated women as individuals that can undertake various duties in the society. Women grew in confidence of their capabilities based on how they were being portrayed and the opportunities that other women were having on TV. It eliminated the notion that they are only meant to be home makers and nothing beyond that (Frost 73). Some women sought inspiration from these occurrences and set the path towards their career dreams.

The visual nature of TV also changed the consumption culture of Americans. This became more prevalent with the emergence of commercial television. The commercials and programs involved were the major factors that resulted to increased American materialism. Here, people place more emphasis on acquisition of material possessions compared to other things that might bring development.

During the 20th century, there was also a vivid interplay between race and technology. The visual nature of television made it more prominent in this area compared to radio.  When it comes to ethnicity, very few minorities had the opportunity of appearing on TV compared to White Americans. However, this was a positive sign that racism proponents were being uprooted gradually. TV shows like ‘I Love Lucy’ included some minorities in the cast. Bill Cosby also featured in the series ‘I SPY’, and won three Emmy Awards based on his role(Hillstrom 121). The portrayal of minority characters in a positive way on Television helped in increasing the self-esteem of minority viewers, promulgate understanding and refine race relations in America.

However, viewing the situation from another perspective shows that technology played a significant role in showcasing racial inferiority. Before the 1970s, White Americans had dominated television programs to a great extent. Being white was brought out as being normal in various segments including sports, advertisements, sports and news (Hillstrom 117). Most of the minorities that appeared were normally presented as stereotypes. They normally played roles that involved household servants, while White Americans appeared as warriors. This portrayal was like an emphasis that minorities were still inferior in the presence of White Americans.

In conclusion, technology impacted the American popular culture in a variety of ways. This was either negatively or positively. The radio and TV were among the most popular technologies during this period. Television seemed to have more appeal and impact due to its visual nature compared to the radio.


Works Cited

Frost, Gary. Early FM Radio: Incremental Technology in Twentieth-Century America.       Baltimore: JHU, 2010. Print.

Hillstrom, Laurie Collier. Television in American Society. Detroit: UXL, 2007. Print.


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