Presentation on theme: "MCM 733 – Communication Theory"— Presentation transcript:
1 MCM 733 – Communication Theory Chapters 1 & 2Understanding and Evaluating MC TheoryFour Eras of MC Theory
2 Understanding & Evaluating… OverviewInformed citizens?Satire…Fox NewsIs there a science of the behaviour? Cognition? Sociality?Why is the link between the above and communication so complicated?
3 Understanding & Evaluating… Defining & Redefining Mass CommVery divergent theoretical perspectivesCognitive science … social theory… humanismGrand theories (TOE’s) vs. specific onesMass Comm: “when an organization employs a technology as a medium to communication with a large audience.”Does this fit with Web 2.0: Facebook? Google? iPhone? Lulu.com? Youtube? Reddit? Dig.com? Etc.?
4 Understanding & Evaluating… Mediated communication: a continuum from interpersonal comm (eg. iPhone) to mass comm (eg. CBC).Hotness/coolness determines placement on this continuum (McLuhan)New Information & Communication Techs (ICTs) enable audiences to be active and engaged. (eg. myspace, flikr)“Knowledge Flow” is the new “Knowledge Capital”
5 Understanding & Evaluating… Science & Human BehaviourPhysical scientists capture “positive” truths: they uncover the laws of nature.Social and cognitive scientists construct “representational models” or “snapshots” of the social world.Social neuroscience may prove to be an exception to this.
6 Understanding & Evaluating… Why does the public not trust socsci the same as phys sci?We don’t like the thought that we are predictableWe like to think of ourselves as mysteriousWe don’t like accepting that there are causal relationships in the social.We prefer to think of things relativistically.Relativism may feel empowering, but it is a false friend.
7 Understanding & Evaluating… Why do scientists have trouble accepting “social science” as scientific?It is difficult to establish:Strong causal relationshipsReplicability of findingsFalsificationCumulative nature of findingsPeople don’t grow up in controlled environmentsThe “social” and the “cultural” are moving targets
8 Understanding & Evaluating… Four Reasons for the Desert of the Real:Most of the significant and interesting forms of human behaviour are quite difficult to measureHuman behaviour is exceedingly complexHumans have goals and are self-reflexiveThe simple notion of causality is sometimes troubling when it is applied to ourselves
9 Understanding & Evaluating… Defining Theory“Any organized set of concepts, explanations and principles of some aspect of human experience.” (Littlejohn/Foss, 2008)Comm theories are tricky:Many of themVariably testableSituationally basedSeem contradictory and chaotic
10 Understanding & Evaluating… Four major categories of comm theory:Postpositivism, Hermeneutics, Critical theory, Normative theoryThey differ in their view of :GoalsOntology: the nature of reality, of what is knowableEpistemology: how knowledge is created and expandedAxiology: how values figure in research and theory building
11 Understanding & Evaluating… AxiologyValues have a variable place in mass comm theory.Postpositivists attempt to eliminate themthey cherish epistemic values: high values in R/DThey also confront non-epistemic values (emotion, morals, ethics)Interpretivists wrestle with the proper application of values through understanding of self and society. Sometimes they “bracket” their values.Normativists and critical theorists embrace values but have to be careful to not allow values to turn into bias or beliefs. They need the “sanity check” of strong epistemic values.
12 Understanding & Evaluating… Postpositivist theoryPositivism: knowledge can only be gained through empirical, observable, measurable phenomena examined through the scientific methodPost-positivism: all of the above + the fact that humans are not deterministic and constant in the same way gravity (Dennet)
13 Understanding & Evaluating… Hermeneutic TheoryNo wish to explain, predict, control social behaviourWish to understand how and why that behaviour occurs in the social worldHermeneutics: the study of understanding, especially through the systematic interpretation of texts and actions.Social hermeneutics: how those in an observed social situation interpret their own lot in that situation“Texts” are writ large: any product of social interactionRelies on “subjective epistemology” the researcher as “interacting with the community” (cognitivism – Pinker)
14 Understanding & Evaluating… Critical TheoryKnow the social world so that you can change itOpenly political: challenges existing way sof organizing social world and the people and institutions that exert power within itBy reorganizing society we can give priority to the “most important” social values“are concerned with how power, oppression, privielge are the products of certain forms of communication throughout society” (Littlejohn/Foss, 2008)
15 Understanding & Evaluating… Critical Theory (cont.) …Knowledge is only useful when it is used to free the oppressedThe “real” the “knowable” are the product of the interaction between structure (political and social organization of the world) and agency (how humans behave and interact in the world).Reality is simply the product of the dialectic (struggle) between the two. Control the struggle and you control reality.Emancipated people have taken control of the struggle
16 Understanding & Evaluating… Normative TheoryPostpositivism and hermeneutics are representational.Critical theory is non-representational it focuses on struggle.Normative media theory is neither: it sets an ideal standard against which the operation of a given media system should operate to conform/realize an ideal set of social valuesOntology: the real is situationalEpistemology: comparativistAxiology: Value-laden
17 Understanding & Evaluating… Evaluating Theory: PostpositivismHow well does it explain the event, behaviour or relationship?How well does it predict future events, behaviours, relationships?How testable is it?How parsimonious is it?How practical or useful is it?
18 Understanding & Evaluating… Evaluating Theory: HermeneuticsHow much new insight into the event, behaviour or relationship does it offer?How does it clarify the values inherent in the interpretation, not only embedded in the object, but of the researcher?How much support does it generate among other researchers?How much aesthetic apeal does it have?
19 Understanding & Evaluating… Evaluating Theory: Critical TheoryAll of the hermeneutic questions plus these :How useful is the critique of the status quo?How effective is it in providing a critique of elite power?Does the theory enable individuals to oppose elite definitions of the social world?
20 Understanding & Evaluating… Evaluating Theory: Normative TheoryHow stable and definitive are the ideal standards of operation against which the media system under study will be measured?What and how powerful are the economic, social, cultural and political realities surrounding the actual operation of a system that must be considered in evaluating its performance?How much support do other researchers lend it?
21 Understanding & Evaluating… Mass comm theory is really:…Mass comm theories
22 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Convergence is a buzzword (Googlezon)However, convergence also entails “reorganization” and “profound change” in society, culture, economics, politics and even cognition.Technology evolves in a continuumNew media and AI have expanded our consumer choices, but also reshaped our social and cognitive landscape
23 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory We will take a “historical” look at the evolution of mass comm theorySocial, cognitive and even physical/mathematical theories are the product of the metaphors we live by (George Lakoff).New theories respond to old ones, the change is jerky, and chronologically unstableSocial theories are the product of people and they are dynamic. They flow through collective consciousness like water, filling gaps and eroding the banks of society and cognition. (epigenetics)
24 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory We will survey the following four eras:Era of Mass Society & Mass CultureEra of Limited EffectsCultural Perspectives Challenge Limited EffectsMeaning-Making Perspectives on Media
25 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Era of Mass Society & Mass CultureMove to urban environments, growth of print media that produced cheap, accessible newspapersSome theorists were optimists: more info, better citizensMost were pessimists: industrialization was a disruptive force, detaching people from the land to objectify them as workers in factories, mines or bureaucracies.
26 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Era of Mass Society & Mass Culture (Cont.)Mass Society theory is based on nostalgiaFor a rural timeA golden ageEvery generation has a version of the Mass Society theory when it feels threatenedPolitically, Mass Society theory is embraced by both Left and RightTheories held interest of social elites (Left or Right) who felt threatened by change (eg. penny press and yellow journalism)
27 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Science leads to “limited effects” theoryPaul Lazarsfeld began to empirically study communication and society (eg. surveys and field experiments to understand and solve social problems).He argued that while empiricism was primordial, it was important to not fall into pure modeling or descriptivismImportant finding: rather than being shaped by media, researchers found that people developed ways to resist media influence (eg. religion, family, friends)
28 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Science leads to “limited effects” theory (cont)Limited Effects: Media tend to reinforce social trends and strengthen rather than threaten the status quo. So existing trends are amplified through the media.This gave media a very limited role in the lives of individualsThese theories tend to be labeled “Administrative theories” (i.e. help improve organizations) and their research “Administrative Research.”
29 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Science leads to “limited effects” theory (cont)Elite pluralism: blended limited effects notions with social and political theoryDemocratic society is made up of interlocking pluralistic groups led by opinion leaders who rely on media for info about the worldLeaders are active and engaged, but followers are apatheticBy the mid-60s communication scientists stopped looking for media effects. The problem was they were looking in the WRONG PLACE (i.e. the rise of cognitive neuroscience)
30 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Cultural Theory Challenge Limited-EffectsEuropeans had to find a way of processing the WW II.Euros skeptical about scientific approaches: accused them of reductionism. This trend was linked to anti-AmericanismRise of the Neo-MarxistsMedia enable dominant social elites to creat and maintain their powerMass media is a battleground where elites attempt to convince the oppressed to accept being dominated
31 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Cultural Theory Challenge Limited-Effects …British Cultural Studies (based on Neo-Marxism)Discovered that people resisted hegemonic ideas in media and propagated alternative interpretations of the social worldHegemony: manufacturing consent without coercionCultural theory began as a deterministic model (i.e. media have direct big effects) but eventually established itself as a non-scientific competitor to limited effects model
32 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Meaning-Making Perspectives on MediaLimited effects models have changed considerablyInfluenced by cultural theories but also by new ICTsFraming theory: expectations of the social world to make sense of the social world).Media Literacy: the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate media messagesActive audiences use media content to create meaningful experiences
33 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Meaning Making Perspectives on MediaMedia effects are now acknowledged to be long termLevels of Analysis: where the researcher focuses will influence the scope of the impact of the researchMacroscopic: sociocultural effectsMicroscopic: individual effects
34 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory Meaning-Making Perspectives on MediaLimited effects denied that advertising could have sociocultural effectsThis enables advertisers, politicians and gov’ts to claim innocence “we are just tapping into existing social trends”, “we are just giving the audience what it wants”.Critical and cognitive effects should constrain advertising, if these effects are real (eg. we don’t eat things that are poisonous).
35 Four Eras of Mass Comm Theory New Frontiers:The Mind/Brain: the future of communication theory is not socio-cultural. It is cognitive and neuroscientific.A whole new world of AI-inspired technologies are changing EVERYTHING in our lives.Knowledge is being transferred to machinesWe are beginning to understand the interplay between experience and the biology of our brains
36 Five?!? Eras of Mass Comm Theory A Fifth Era: Cognitive Science of Media & InformationCognitive science and neuroscience will completely reshape the field.Why: the new ICTs are mostly the result of findings from cognitive science (eg. Bots, neural networks, intelligent search, catered advertising, neurofocus).Media is being modeled on the human mind/emotions/perceptions/senses.
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