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MAC 111

INTRODUCTION TO MASS COMMUNICATION

10.The media compete with other sources of need satisfaction. The needs served by mass communication constitute but a segment of the wider range of human needs, and the degree to which they can be adequately met through mass media consumption certainly varies.

11.Methodologically speaking, many of the goals of mass media use can be derived from data supplied by individual audience members themselves- i.e., people are sufficiently self-aware to be able to report their interests and motives in particular cases, or at least to recognize them when confronted with them in an intelligible and familiar verbal formulation.

12.Value judgments about the cultural significance of mass communication should be suspended while audience orientations are explored on their own terms. (p. 15-17).

3.4.3 Arguments against Uses and Gratifications Research

The theory has been severally criticized both on its theory and methodology. McQuail (1994) commented that the approach has not provided much successful prediction or causal explanation of media choice and use. Since it is true that much media use is circumstantial and weakly motivated, the approach seems to work best in examining specific types of media where motivation might be presented (McQuail, 1994).

Ien Ang, another researcher also criticized uses and gratifications approach in three aspects:

9.It is highly individualistic, taking into account only the individual psychological gratification derived from individual media use. The social context of the media use tends to be ignored. This overlooks the fact that some media use may have nothing to do with the pursuit of gratification - it may be forced upon us for example.

10.There is relatively little attention paid to media content, researchers attending to why people use the media, but less to what meanings they actually get out of their media use.

11.The approach starts from the view that the media are always functional to people and may thus implicitly offer a justification for the way the media are currently organized (cited by CCMS-Infobase, 2003).

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 4

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Uses and gratifications theory takes a more humanistic approach to looking at media use. Give your understanding of this statement.

Cultural effects

Succinctly, the cultural effects theory has the following submission as enumerated by Baran (2004:228):

1.Provides focus on how individuals develop their understanding of the social world

2.Asks big, important questions about the role of media.

3.Respects content consumption ability of audience members

The term 'cultural effects' is used here as shorthand for the investigation of social, political and cultural effects. Broadly speaking, those analysts who are concerned with cultural effects fall into two camps:

7.Somewhat élitist literary critics who are distressed by the spread of popular culture, which they see as diluting and undermining the values enshrined in high culture

8.Marxist critics whose 'critical' perspective derives from the work of Karl Marx and from the Frankfurt School. Their main concern is with the way that the mass media are used to spread and legitimate the dominant ideology.

Professor Halloran who himself works within the 'empiricist' tradition expresses the difference between his approach and the 'cultural effects' approach this way:

The debate has been carried on by the moralizing literati, social philosophers, moralists, artists, and educators, who, judging from their comments, often feel that the social scientists are so preoccupied with research techniques and methodological devices that their works lack immediate social relevance and that they suffer further because they are unrelated to the general intellectual discussion of mass culture on the one hand and its historical development on the other. The social scientists reply to this by questioning the whole nature of the evidence produced by these writers and by criticizing the undisciplined nature of the generalizations, interpretations and speculations which abound in this field ( Halloran 1964).

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In other words, according to Halloran, there are social scientists who are concerned with empirical studies of mass media effects. These social scientists are criticized by those who want to get on with discussing the impact of mass culture. As Halloran sees it, such people simply do not provide the empirical evidence to support the generalizations they make about mass culture.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 5

What do you think are the shortcomings of the cultural theory?

3.6Other Kinds of Media Effects Theories

The University of Oregon summarized other kinds of media effects theories and their basic description below: (as retrieved on Friday 17th October 2007 from http://oregonstate.edu/ instruct/comm321/ gwalker/ effectsmedia.htm)

1. Cultivation Theory

1.Developed by George Gerbner

2.Central Claim: Persistent long term exposure to TV content has small but measurable effects on the perceptual worlds of audience members.

3.Heavy TV viewing creates an exaggerated belief in a “mean and scary world.” (Gerbner)

Cultivation Effects

Why do cultivation effects differ among subgroups? Two explanations are possible:

Mainstreaming: Heavy viewers from different groups develop a similar outlook.

Resonance: TV content “resonates” with real life experiences to amplify the cultivation effect in certain groups.

What about TV Violence?

1.According to Gerbner, violence is TV’s principal message.

2.Although other media have violent content, television violence is the most significant.

3.In the 1970s, 2/3rds of prime-time programs contained violence or the threat of violence (Gerbner, 1980).

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4.According to Gerbner, elderly, children, Latinos, African-Americans, women, and the less educated are most often the victims of TV violence.

5.TV places marginalized people in symbolic double jeopardy by simultaneously under-representing and over-victimizing them.

6.What about today?

2.Social Action Theory

1.Developed by Anderson and Meyer

2.”For most of the history of research in mass communication, content has been seen as a silver bullet shot from a media gun to penetrate a hapless audience" (Anderson & Meyer, p. 48).

3.Audiences are not hapless nor passive.

4.Media audiences participate actively in mediated communication; they construct meanings from the content they perceive.

5.Social action theory sees communication interaction in terms of actors’ intent, receivers' interpretations, and message content.

6.Meaning is not delivered in the communication process, rather it is constructed within it.

7.Each communication act generates at least three separate and potentially different sites of this construction.

Meanings arise in

1.The intentions of the producer.

2.The conventions of the content.

3.The interpretations of the receiver.

3.Agenda-Setting Theory

The Agenda: Not what to think, but what to think about. The Theorists: Maxwell McCombs & Donald Shaw.

About the theory

1.It contrasts with the selective exposure hypothesis of cognitive dissonance, reaffirming the power of the press while maintaining individual freedom.

2.It aligns well with social judgment theory.

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3.It contrasts with the selective exposure hypothesis of cognitive dissonance, reaffirming the power of the press while maintaining individual freedom.

4.It is consistent with a “use and gratification” approach to television viewers’ motives (and dependency theory).

5.It represents a back-to-basics approach to mass communication research, with a focus on election campaigns.

6.In political media, who sets the agenda?

Agenda Setting: Who are the People most affected by the Media Agenda?

1.Those susceptible have a high need for orientation or index of curiosity.

2.Need for orientation arises from high relevance and uncertainty.

Agenda Setting: Which issues are boosted by Media Attention?

1.The media seem particularly effective in creating public interest in political candidates and campaign strategy.

2.Agenda-setting researchers now realize that the campaign itself is the primary issue.

Agenda Setting: Do Priming and Framing Dictate what People Think?

1.Priming is “a psychological process whereby media emphasis on particular issues not only increases the salience of those issues, but also activates in people’s memories previously acquired information about those issues.”

2.Framing calls “attention to some aspects of reality while obscuring other

elements, which might lead audiences to have different reactions” (McCombs & Shaw)

4. Media Dependency Theory

1.Developed by Ball-Rokeach and De Fleur

2.Key Idea: Audiences depend on media information to meet needs and reach goals.

3.Key Idea: Social institutions and media systems interact with

audiences to create needs, interests, and motives in the person.

The Degree of Dependence is influenced by

1.The number and centrality of information functions. Media functions include:

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