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MAC 111


3.7.5 Linkage Theory

This theory states that children tend to perceive a link between massmediated fantasy and concrete reality. Thus they assume a link between the two, and this tend to guide their behaviour in situations encouraging or stimulating aggressive behaviour.


Do you believe the media is solely responsible for students’ violent behaviours?

3.8Commonsense (Everyday) Theories

These are derived from experiences of media consumers, but lack research backing that would have enabled them to be crystallised into valid generalisation. They emerged out of the knowledge of the media that people possess as media consumers. One of such is Mc Luhan’s statement that “the medium is the message”

These are theories that emerged from experiences of media consumption, and though they are not generalisations from socialscientific inquiry, these views cannot be dismissed as nonsense. And in reality our experiences of media consumption tend to lend some validity to the views expressed.

3.8.1 ‘Reflective-Projective’ Theory

This theory was proposed by Lee Loevinger, a one-time Federal Communication (FCC) Commissioner. Loevinger says that mass media “mirror” society but the mirror they present is an ambiguous one. While the mass media themselves reflect society as an organised group, individual audience members project their own individual reflections into the images presented. This is the audience differential interpretation of the media mirror.

For example, a programme watched on TV may mean different things to different viewers according to their own experiences, attitudes and moods. Moreover, these individual audience members tend to identify with television and movie characters that are closer to their own idealised selves than to the actual selves. Loevinger also says intellectuals tend to be contemptuous of the TV mirror (TV programme offerings), because there are few or no characters or ideals therein for them to identify with.


MAC 111


Loevinger also pointed to the ambiguity of the media mirror. This is presumed to be a reference to the distortion caused by the “slant” peculiar to each media establishment as well as by the distortion at every stage and level of the gate keeping process, beginning with the news selection stage. The ambiguity of the media mirror and the differential perception by the audience are mutually enhancing and reinforcing. The audience differential interpretation of the media mirror looks like a variant of the perception theory, while the ambiguity of the media mirror can be linked with the gatekeeping theory.

3.8.2 Play Theory

William Stephenson, a British Psychologist, proposed this theory. He divides man’s activity into work and play. Work deals with reality and production, while play deals with entertainment, relaxation or selfsatisfaction. Stephenson says that people use mass communication more as play than as work, more for pleasure and entertainment than for information and improvement. For example, newspaper readers give more attention to comics, sports pages, fashion columns, human angle stories etc. than they do to hard news. Have you observed that TV viewers give more time to seeing entertainment programmes like sports, movies, fashion etc?

It is also observed that in societies that use the media mainly for propaganda, a considerable amount of entertainment is injected into the propaganda in order to retain audience attention.

3.8.3 Medium Theory (Channel Theory, or Media Formalism)

The medium theory originated from Marshal McLuhan’s proposition the medium is the message, that is, the medium affects perception. With this claim, he stressed how channels differ, not only in terms of their content, but also in regard to how they awaken and alter thoughts and senses. He distinguished media by the cognitive processes each required. McLuhan popularized the idea that channels are a dominant force that must be understood to know how the media influence society and culture.

Medium theory focuses on the medium characteristics itself (like in media richness theory) rather than on what it conveys or how information is received. In medium theory, a medium is not simply a newspaper, the Internet, a digital camera and so forth. Rather, it is the symbolic environment of any communicative act. Media, apart from whatever content is transmitted, impact individuals and society. McLuhan’s point is that people adapt to their environment through a


MAC 111


certain balance or ratio of the senses, and the primary medium of the age brings out a particular sense ratio, thereby affecting perception.


How unscientific is the common sense theory?


Theories are statements, derived from scientific observation, that explain or interpret some phenomenon. Theories emerge from scientific investigation that provides explanations on the working of mass communication. Theories are arrived at through a process known as the scientific method. When this process is followed, a uniformed theory results.

However, when new facts emerge, our knowledge and understanding increase, and this often leads to a paradigm shift- a fundamental, even radical, rethinking of what we believe to be true. There are three factors that have caused a paradigm shift in mass communication theory. They are; Advances in technology or the introduction of new media; Calls for the control or regulation of the new technologies; and the need to protect democracy and culture pluralism.

Consequently, paradigm shift have produced 5 major eras of mass communication theory. They are: The era of mass society theory; the era of scientific perspective; The era of limited effect theory; The era of cultural theory and; The era of moderate effect perspectives


This unit has explored the theories related to mass communication. It gives a vivid understanding of the concept of theory; Characteristics of theory; Why study theory? And the relationship between theory and research. The unit classified all the needed theories into their families and treated them in appreciable detail. The families are :Normative theories; Mass Society Theories (All-powerful Media Effect); Social Scientific Approach (Limited Effects Theories); The Post StimuliResponse theory; The Two Step Flow Theory; Dissonance theory (the selective process); Theories of Media, Culture and Society; Agenda Setting; Mainstreaming; Knowledge Gap, Spiral of Silence; Media System Dependency;

Active Audience – Uses and Gratification Theory:


Study (Sense Making and Decoding), Framing and Frame Analysis,

Information Processing Theory; Media Violence: Children and Effects,

Catharsis; Aggressive cue; Social Learning,

Linkage theory;


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