social determinism

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1. (*cultural determinism, social shaping) In theories of the relationship between society and technology or media, a stance which asserts the primacy of social (and political) factors rather than the autonomous influence of the medium (whether this is language or a technology). Social determinists reject the causal priority given to language by linguistic determinists and to technology by technological determinists. Those who emphasize social determination focus on such issues as the circumstances of production, modes of use, values, purposes, skill, style, choice, control, and access rather than on the structure of the text or code or the technical features of the medium. Like any strong determinism, extreme social determinism is a form of reductionism. An extreme social determinist position relating to the decoding of texts (more specifically, audience determinism) would reduce individual decodings to a direct consequence of social class position. A more moderate stance would stress that access to different codes is influenced by social position. Structuralist semiotics tends to be allied with textual determinism and is criticized for ignoring social determination. Compare sociologism.

2. (environmental determinism) In the nature vs nurture debate, the stance that the social and physical environment, or nurture, is the stronger factor. Compare biological determinism.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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