ESL Video Quiz: TOEFL Quiz 18: Gender and Advertising

Quiz by: Danielle_BIA
Quiz #: 12924
(ESL Category: listening) Listening comprehension
Listening comprehension 12075

I'm going to make an argument today that may seem a little bit
crazy: social media and the end of gender. Let me connect the dots.
I'm going to argue today that the social media applications that we
all know and love, or love to hate, are actually going to help free us
from some of the absurd assumptions that we have as a society
about gender. I think that social media is actually going to help us
dismantle some of the silly and demeaning stereotypes that we see
in media and advertising about gender.

If you hadn't noticed, our media climate generally provides a very
distorted mirror of our lives and of our gender, and I think that's
going to change. Now most media companies -- television, radio,
publishing, games, you name it -- they use very rigid segmentation
methods in order to understand their audiences. It's old-school
demographics. They come up with these very restrictive labels to
define us. Now the crazy thing is that media companies believe that
if you fall within a certain demographic category then you are
predictable in certain ways -- you have certain taste, that you like
certain things. And so the bizarre result of this is that most of our
popular culture is actually based on these presumptions about our

Age demographics: the 18 to 49 demo has had a huge impact on all
mass media programming in this country since the 1960s, when the
baby boomers were still young. Now they've aged out of that
demographic, but it's still the case that powerful ratings companies
like Nielson don't even take into account viewers of television shows
over age 54. In our media environment, it's as if they don't even
exist. Now, if you watch "Mad Men," like I do -- it's a popular TV
show in the States -- Dr. Faye Miller does something called
psychographics, which first came about in the 1960s, where you
create these complex psychological profiles of consumers. But
psychographics really haven't had a huge impact on the media
business. It's really just been basic demographics.

So I'm at the Norman Lear Center at USC, and we've done a lot of
research over the last seven, eight years on demographics and how
they affect media and entertainment in this country and abroad.
And in the last three years, we've been looking specifically at social
media to see what has changed, and we've discovered some very
interesting things. All the people who participate in social media
networks belong to the same old demographic categories that
media companies and advertisers have used in order to understand
them. But those categories mean even less now than they did
before, because with online networking tools, it's much easier for us
to escape some of our demographic boxes. We're able to connect
with people quite freely and to redefine ourselves online. And we
can lie about our age online, too, pretty easily. We can also connect
with people based on our very specific interests. We don't need a
media company to help do this for us.

So the traditional media companies, of course, are paying very close
attention to these online communities. They know this is the mass
audience of the future; they need to figure it out. But they're having
a hard time doing it because they're still trying to use demographics
in order to understand them, because that's how ad rates are still
determined. When they're monitoring your clickstream -- and you
know they are -- they have a really hard time figuring out your age,
your gender and your income. They can make some educated
guesses. But they get a lot more information about what you do
online, what you like, what interests you. That's easier for them to
find out than who you are. And even though that's still sort of
creepy, there is an upside to having your taste monitored. Suddenly
our taste is being respected in a way that it hasn't been before. It
had been presumed before.

So when you look online at the way people aggregate, they don't
aggregate around age, gender and income. They aggregate around
the things they love, the things that they like, and if you think about
it, shared interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator
of human beings than demographic categories. I'd much rather
know whether you like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" rather than how
old you are. That would tell me something more substantial about

Now there's something else that we've discovered about social
media that's actually quite surprising. It turns out that women are
really driving the social media revolution. If you look at the statistics
-- these are worldwide statistics -- in every single age category,
women actually outnumber men in their use of social networking
technologies. And then if you look at the amount of time that they
spend on these sites, they truly dominate the social media space,
which is a space that's having a huge impact on old media. The
question is: what sort of impact is this going to have on our culture,
and what's it going to mean for women? If the case is that social
media is dominating old media and women are dominating social
media, then does that mean that women are going to take over
global media? Are we suddenly going to see a lot more female
characters in cartoons and in games and on TV shows? Will the next
big-budget blockbuster movies actually be chick flicks? Could this
be possible, that suddenly our media landscape will become a
feminist landscape?

Well, I actually don't think that's going to be the case. I think that
media companies are going to hire a lot more women, because they
realize this is important for their business, and I think that women
are also going to continue to dominate the social media sphere. But
I think women are actually going to be -- ironically enough --
responsible for driving a stake through the heart of cheesy genre
categories like the "chick flick" and all these other genre categories
that presume that certain demographic groups like certain things --
that Hispanics like certain things, that young people like certain
things. This is far too simplistic. The future entertainment media
that we're going to see is going to be very data-driven, and it's
going to be based on the information that we ascertain from taste
communities online, where women are really driving the action.

So you may be asking, well why is it important that I know what
entertains people? Why should I know this? Of course, old media
companies and advertisers need to know this. But my argument is
that, if you want to understand the global village, it's probably a
good idea that you figure out what they're passionate about, what
amuses them, what they choose to do in their free time. This is a
very important thing to know about people. I've spent most of my
professional life researching media and entertainment and its
impact on people's lives. And I do it not just because it's fun --
though actually, it is really fun -- but also because our research has
shown over and over again that entertainment and play have a huge
impact on people's lives -- for instance, on their political beliefs
and on their health. And so, if you have any interest in
understanding the world, looking at how people amuse themselves
is a really good way to start.

So imagine a media atmosphere that isn't dominated by lame
stereotypes about gender and other demographic characteristics.
Can you even imagine what that looks like? I can't wait to find out
what it looks like.

Thank you so much.


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