How television brings us together as a nation

During class on October 1, 2013, we discussed Bociurkiw’s (2011) interest in analyzing the role of television in cultivating feelings of nationalism. She sought to examine this relationship through Affect Theory and we sought to relate this to our personal experiences.

Bociurkiw identified the ability of television to help create and share strong emotional ties between citizens of a particular nation. These emotional ties then affect the connection each citizen feels with one another, as well as with their country. We found examples of this in our own lives and discussed how new media has further enhanced the emotional ties necessary for developing feelings of nationalism.

While discussing this particular theory, several of us (all Canadian) were able to identify specific events or notions that made us feel proud to be Canadian and the role of media in sharing and amplifying them. Historical events, like Canada’s role in the liberation of Holland during WWII, help establish parts of our identity. Artists, like Classified, promote undeniably Canadian ideas which, true or not, are a part of our identity. The coverage of sports events, such as that during the year Canada hosted the Olympics, brings a new level of involvement for non-participants through social media. These are only a few of the ways that Canadians develop and sustain their cultural identity and various forms of media have helped citizens all over the country experience and share these events and feelings.

Events, both positive and negative, have the ability to leave an emotional memory and various forms of media, from photos and music to television and the firsthand accounts available via social media, help a larger number of people experience those events. We all remembered where we were when we heard of the planes that hit the twin towers because that moment left an emotional scar. We all experienced that event as a direct result of the media and especially through televised imagery. Photos distributed showing the human rights violations in Abu Ghraib elicit strong emotional reactions because through that medium we experience the events even though we weren’t present at the exact moment.

As media continues to evolve, so too does our ability and desire to experience important cultural events. We join together with our friends to watch Olympics events in which we aren’t necessarily interested, because we want to experience them along with millions of other Canadians. We read tweets by the athletes involved so that we can experience the sports through their perspectives and read blogs by fans who attend each event in real time so that we can experience them virtually. All of these things are made possible by the various forms of media and it was noted that it is impossible for these experiences not to be further enhanced by emerging forms of new media.

Not only do media help to form and promote feelings of nationality for Canadians, but they also act as a way for citizens of other nations to experience our country and our culture. People from all over the world are able to identify with Canadians; they experience our events (our failures and our accomplishments) as we do. A great example of this is my personal experience of flying into Australia during the 2010 Olympics. While checking my bags and asking probing questions about their contents, the customs officer began to excitedly talk to me about our hockey team and their victory just a few minutes before. When our men’s hockey team won the gold medal it was a proud moment for Canadians but it also became a way for citizens of other nations to relate to us. These events bring us together as a nation because they elicit pride; in this case, even for those of us who are not huge hockey fans. I remember being particularly proud because the player who scored the winning goal, Sidney Crosby, was born and raised in my home province.

Our cultural identity, while not solely dependent on media, is certainly reinforced by various forms of media. By using today’s media to tell and record our stories, we are able to reach an unprecedented number of people across nations as well as globally- helping them to experience and observe important elements of various cultures. One thing is for certain: all forms of media help to foster these feelings of belonging and if television amplifies them, social media has brought them to a whole new level!

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2 Responses to How television brings us together as a nation

  1. allangates1 says:

    Great post Lindsay. The role of communication in creating a sense of nationalism is certainly important. And while something like Expo 67 or the Vancouver Olympics allowed us to share in a national experience, it is equally true that new communication methods are changing the nature of community and nationalism.

    We increasingly see transnational “communities of interest” among groups around the world – from pre-teens screaming for One Direction to fashionistas obsessing over the new spring Burberry collection. McLuhan presciently argued that we are creating a global village, something that has only become accelerated in the digital era. Perhaps we are truly becoming global citizens, and our own sense of national identity will be diluted.

    Will the idea of Canada as a beacon of tolerance, equality and social justice be as resonant with future generations raised with (and perhaps defined by) selected, self-curated snippets of a global culture? The idea of the nation-state is relatively new in human history. Perhaps its moment is passing, ushered out by the power of networked digital communication…

    • lindsayfalt says:

      That WILL be interesting to see. I wonder how Canada’s global identity will change and how/if future generations will identify as Canadians. Great thought!


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