Living in Detroit, I am constantly hit with some form of media every day. Whether it be sonically through the radio, or visually through print and television, I am connected to some form of media every day unless I’m asleep all day in my room. America has a lot of rural areas, but in 2017 there aren’t many of them that are completely disconnected – even if there are farms for miles, cellular and radio coverage is good enough to keep you connected to the rest of the world. I thought all of Ireland would be the same, but boy was I wrong.
While on the Shamrocker Tour, we drove along the Irish countryside and stayed in the towns of Balintoy and Donegal. There were beautiful vistas and exciting climbing trails, but these towns were basically in the middle of nowhere. Although both towns had Wi-Fi, there was no cellular connection in either and while in Balintoy our group didn’t stay close enough to the Wi-Fi router so we spent that night without any real connection to the outside world. As a millennial, the sheer thought of those nights still gives me a chill. How can people possibly live outside of the world of media and consumerism? Fairly happily, believe it or not. With only one restaurant, one shop, one pub, and no cellular connection, the small town of 165 people was full of happy citizens who our group had a great time with at the pub. Even though it’s a liveable and adaptable lifestyle, I don’t know if I could personally do it. There’s just so much else going on in the world.
In the larger towns of Belfast and Dublin, I felt much more at home as we were connected and surrounded by many shops and restaurants. Some were familiar, but most weren’t. Something that was peculiar to me was the fact that there weren’t that many billboards. Back at home billboards are found everywhere, some advertising businesses that were near, while others promote products and business that aren’t necessarily close to where the advert is displayed. This is a lot different in Ireland though. The only billboards that I really saw either promoted movies or were literally connected to the store it was advertising, such as the store Topshop which displayed photos of models right on the building.
One form of media prominently found in the larger Irish cities is street art. Graffiti is likened to street art but they are different. As graffiti is more destructive and focused on advertising the tagger, street art is more constructive and focuses on delivering a message. Driving around my hometown of Detroit, I see graffiti everywhere, and they almost always reflect nothing more than the identity of the artist who tagged the piece. While exploring the streets of Belfast and Dublin I saw countless street murals that rather than promote an artist a product or a business, promoted an artistic message. The meaning of most of the murals, especially in Belfast, are left to be interpreted by the viewer. Some murals found in Dublin however, have their own plaques that explain a message represented by the art found on the walls. These creative street murals are a very interesting form of Mass Media, because there weren’t any products trying to be sold, just ideas.
My week living in Ireland opened my eyes to several cultural differences between my home and a country over three thousand miles away. From driving on the left side of the road to displaying wholesome art in place of graffiti tags, Ireland has exposed me to a new world, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the United Kingdom has to offer.