A Study of Two Iranian Biweeklies’ Views on the Formation of Environmental Culture



Received: 08/04/2016

Accepted: 20/02/2017

Extended Abstract

Introduction: The environmental erosion is now a global concern. Among other countries the Islamic republic of Iran, because of its geographical location and because of some industrial and developmental project and changes, faces great and very important environmental threats. It seems that to protect environment and its animal and botanical species we have to treat it culturally. To put it differently, the final goal of the issue of environmental protection related to social milieu is enhancing environmental knowledge among the people and reinforcement of environmental culture. On the other hand, one of the main paths to reach the above mentioned goal is probing culture to understand style of life. Our literature review indicates that mass media influence culture in general and style of life in particular. In this regard, popular magazines’ impact on public knowledge about environmental threats is of critical importance.

Theoretical framework: Since decades ago, in particular from 1960, when Raymond Williams was writing on communication and culture, the issue of high culture/low culture has been highly debated. Williams criticized the idea of high culture. He believed that the dichotomy of high culture/low culture divides society. He argued what is much needed is an all inclusive culture called ordinary culture. This orientation toward culture covers both the meaning of culture as whole way of life and ordinary/popular cultural experiences such as watching television and reading weekly magazines. The influence of these latter forms of culture on protection of environment is of special concern in the present paper. Accordingly, we suggest reading popular magazines help ordinary people to know the social importance of environmental protection and to learn how to treat physical environment to avoid or reduces environmental hazards as much as possible.

Methodology: In the present paper we have attempted to address four questions. First, to what extent and how popular magazine pay attention to the environment. Second, what categories from the written and pictorial content of the popular magazines can be derived? Third, are the environmental categories, related to a general culture meaningfully? Fourth, generally how popular magazines view and identify the issue of environment? The methods to gather relevant data and analyzing them are a combination of semiotics and content analysis. We randomly selected a sample of 24 issues of all 48 issues of two popular magazines , khanavadeh sabz (Green Family) and roozhaye zendegi(Life Days), published in 1393(2014). Then we attempted to firstly categorize and secondly analysis 490 written materials and photos that are somehow related to the general issue of behaving environment properly and responsibly.

Findings: Regarding the first question, our findings indicate that both studied magazines paid attention to the environment considerably and pictorial materials override written materials. Referring second question, we found all environmental content of the two studied magazines can be divided into four categories including “healing aspects of environment”, “aesthetic and advertizing value of environment”, “motivating people to grow plants indoors”, and “environmental mysteries”. Among the mentioned categories, the aesthetic value of environment has the highest frequency. With respect to the third question, we can say that the way of environment-oriented life promoted by the popular magazines do not match with urban settling characterized by small apartments. It also does not fit with the purchase capacity of the most people. Finally, addressing the fourth question, the published pictorial and written materials mostly fulfill an instrumental purpose rather than promoting an ordinary culture.

Conclusion: Theoretically, speaking, our data and analysis indicate that the popular magazines studied here have not been able to contribute to the ordinary or common culture properly and adequately. The producers of these magazines mostly use environmental pictorials and written materials instrumentally and decoratively. The small part of the published materials that is related to behaving environment responsibly and friendly cannot be integrated into ordinary culture since most people do not experience that part routinely and habitually.

Keywords: popular magazines, ordinary culture, environmental protection, environmental culture