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MAC 111

INTRODUCTION TO MASS COMMUNICATION

stated media assumptions that violent media messages cause violence. Because it is a matter of such widespread concern, there is a separate section on research into violence.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 3

Do you agree with the tradition that media message make people behave violently? Give reasons for your answer.

3.4Uses and Gratifications Concept

This concept believes that people don’t just expose themselves to media messages, they do that based on certain benefits they would derive. The theory was founded by Blumler and Katz’s. According to the duo, media users play an active role in choosing and using the media. Users take an active part in the communication process and are goal oriented in their media use. The theorists say that a media user seeks out a media source that best fulfills the needs of the user. Uses and gratifications assume that the user has alternate choices to satisfy their need.

Blumler and Katz believe that there is not merely one way that the populace uses media. Instead, they believe there are as many reasons for using the media, as there are media users. According to the theory, media consumers have a free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will affect them. Blumler and Katz values are clearly seen by the fact that they believe that media consumers can choose the influence media has on them as well as the idea that users choose media alternatives merely as a means to and end. Uses and gratification is the optimist’s view of the media. The theory takes out the possibility that the media can have an unconscience influence over our lives and how we view the world. The idea that we simply use the media to satisfy a given need does not seem to fully recognize the power of the media in today’s society.

Uses and gratification theory can be seen in cases such as personal music selection. We select music not only to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or other socially conscious motives. There are many different types of music and we choose from them to fulfill a particular need.

In the fairly early days of effects research, it became apparent that the assumed 'hypodermic' effect was not borne out by detailed investigation. A number of factors appeared to operate to limit the effects of the mass media. Katz and Lazarsfeld, for example, pointed to the influence of group membership (see Two-step flow) and Hovland identified a variety of factors ranging from group membership to the audience's interest in

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the subject of the message As a result of this evidence, attention began to turn from the question of 'what the media do to the audience' to 'what the audience do with the media'. Herta Herzog was one of the earliest researchers in this area. She undertook (as part of Paul Lazarsfeld's massive programme of research) to investigate what gratifications radio listeners derived from daytime serials, quizzes and so on. Katz summarises the starting point of this kind of research quite neatly:

... even the most potent of the mass media content cannot ordinarily influence an individual who has 'no use' for it in the social and psychological context in which he lives. The 'uses' approach assumes that people's values, their interests, their associations, their social rôles, are prepotent, and that people selectively 'fashion' what they see and hear to these interests (Katz (1959) in McQuail (1971))

Researchers on the uses and gratifications vein therefore see the audience as active. It is part of the received wisdom of media studies that audience members do indeed actively make conscious and motivated choices amongst the various media messages available. This is called the active audience concept.

3.4.1 Benefits/Gratifications People Derive From the Media

Katz, Gurevitch and Haas (1973) developed 35 needs taken from the social and psychological functions of the mass media and put them into five categories:

Cognitive needs, including acquiring information, knowledge and understanding;

Affective needs, including emotion, pleasure, feelings;

Personal integrative needs, including credibility, stability, status;

Social integrative needs, including interacting with family and friends; and

Tension release needs, including escape and diversion.

Congruously, McQuail’s (1983) classification of the following common reasons for media use is worth noting:

Information

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5.finding out about relevant events and conditions in immediate surroundings, society and the world

6.seeking advice on practical matters or opinion and decision choices

7.satisfying curiosity and general interest

8.learning; self-education

9.gaining a sense of security through knowledge

Personal Identity

5.finding reinforcement for personal values

6.finding models of behavior

7.identifying with valued others (in the media)

8.gaining insight into oneself

Integration and Social Interaction

4.gaining insight into the circumstances of others; social empathy

5.identifying with others and gaining a sense of belonging

6.finding a basis for conversation and social interaction

7.having a substitute for real-life companionship

8.helping to carry out social roles

9.enabling one to connect with family, friends and society

Entertainment

1.escaping, or being diverted, from problems

2.relaxing

3.getting intrinsic cultural or aesthetic enjoyment

4.filling time

5.emotional release

6.sexual arousal (p. 73)

3.4.2 Basic Assumptions of the Theory

Below are the basic assumptions of the theory as stated in a study of Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch in 1974. They provide a framework for understanding the correlation between media and audiences:

8.The audience is conceived as active, i.e., an important part of mass media use is assumed to be goal oriented … patterns of media use are shaped by more or less definite expectations of what certain kinds of content have to offer the audience member.

9.In the mass communication process much initiative in liking need gratification and media choice lies with the audience member … individual and public opinions have power vis-à-vis the seemingly all-powerful media.

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