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Chapter 4: Media and Communication

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1 Chapter 4: Media and Communication

2 Mass Media Mass media: An umbrella term referring to the variety of technical devices and processes through which mass communication takes place. These devices and processes are used to transmit messages to reach a large number of people. After the “cultural turn” in sociology it became clear that the media are what most often act as the bridge between the troubles experienced in people’s private lives and public issues of social and cultural change.

3 The Importance of Mass Media
Culture industry: Organizations with an interest (economic or otherwise) in having their products reach the widest possible market, an aim they achieve through use of the mass media. Cultural products: Information and knowledge that are produced and communicated by the mass media (e.g. through news articles, television shows, books, and advertising).

4 Coverage of 9/11 Terrible and exceptional events do sometimes serve sociologists in much the same way that extreme events in the natural world provide experimental data that natural scientists can use to reveal the inner workings of nature’s phenomena. What does the coverage of 9/11 tell us about the media and their construction of social reality? And what does this analysis, in turn, tell us about the dynamics of both media production and consumption?

5 Coverage of 9/11 Normal television programming was suspended and TV channels that usually competed with one another found it necessary to share their news footage in order to provide live coverage of such an important event in the real world. The small number of large conglomerate organizations, which own much of the media, were able to use their resources and outlets to reach mass audiences.

6 Coverage of 9/11 Television v. Newspapers: Television serves more functions in times of crisis and can provide immediate, minimally edited images of what is happening. Such images are usually edited (or censored) to avoid giving offense. TV can provide “natural” comfort in a way that print media can not. Because viewing is usually embedded in the private sphere of the home, instead of on the move as often is the case with a newspaper, TV offers reassuring familiarity.

7 Figure 4.1 News Platforms Americans Use on a Typical Day

8 Figure 4.2 Number of News Platforms Americans Use on a Typical Day

9 Figure 4.3 News on Cell Phones

10 Figure 4.4 The Unevenly Wired Globe

11 Political-Economy v. Cultural-Sociological Approach to the Production of Mass Media
The political-economy approach emphasizes the structures and processes involved in the production of culture: the ownership of media organizations, the drive to make profits, the pressure to gain and keep a mass audience, the opposition of private owners to government regulation or to radical change that might threaten profits. The approach privileges production.

12 Political-Economy v. Cultural-Sociological Approach to the Production of Mass Media
A cultural-sociological approach reveals symbolic and normative constraints on the media and production and media consumption, such as professional values of journalists, the types of narrative structure in media contents, and differences between audiences in terms of the ways they consume media products. This approach privileges consumption.

13 Consumption Consumption: A term referring to the ways in which an audience takes in and interacts with a cultural product. For a long time, consumption was viewed as secondary to production, such that audiences were considered merely passive recipients of what the media projected. Cultural sociology, however, sees media audiences as active interpreters of the meanings of media messages.

14 Production Production: A term referring to the ways in which cultural products are created and transmitted. When considering the production of a cultural product, we have to look at not only the product itself (such as a television show or news story) but also structural factors, such as the ownership of media organizations, pressure to gain and keep an audience, and the opposition of private owners to government regulation.

15 The Creation of Cultural Products
Cultural Imperialism: A term that refers to the ways in which societies throughout the world have become swamped with aspects of American culture, such as Hollywood films, television shows, and popular music. In the United States, radio and television are dependent on advertising, and some types of programming have been developed specifically for the purpose of targeting groups of consumers (e.g., soap operas).

16 The Creation of Cultural Products
Gatekeeper Studies: Studies performed during the 1950s in which researchers considered the factors that determine which stories get produced in the mass media. David Manning White studied a wire editor at a small American newspaper for a week to determine the factors that influenced how the editor made his selections.

17 The Creation of Cultural Products
In the 1970s scholars began to look seriously at mass media as cultural texts produced by real people in real organizations under real constrains. Cultural texts: Any cultural product (e.g., a photograph, musical selection, or television program) that can be read and analyzed as one would analyze a written text—that is, in terms of the language or patterns of meaning that make up its cultural structure or code.

18 The Reception of Cultural Products
Reception: The way in which mass-media content is received or used by audiences, including such factors as what the audiences selectively choose to attend to and the purposes for which the media are consumed. For example, the media are a source of serious information for some and a source of sheer entertainment for others. Sometimes audiences think carefully about what they are receiving; at other times media content is just background noise.

19 The Creation of Cultural Products
Mindfulness: A theoretical concept introduced by Ron Lembo describing the amount of attention individuals paid to television as part of their everyday activities. The “Continuum of mindfulness”: Habitual Escapist Playful Reflective

20 Ron Lembo’s “Continuum of mindfulness”
Habitual, the least mindful way of approaching activities, whereby people orient themselves to media in an unthinking way. Escapist, a slightly more mindful approach, whereby people have some awareness of a desire to be freed—mentally, emotionally, physically, or socially—from their situation.

21 Ron Lembo’s “Continuum of mindfulness”
Playful, whereby people are not only getting away from what they were previously doing or feeling but also turning toward something else in a creative frame or mind. Reflective, the most mindful state, whereby people monitor and evaluate their thoughts and feelings, trying to anticipate what difference it would make if they chose another activity, and generally trying to be conscious of how media viewing might fit into the context of their free-time activities.

22 Multitasking Lembo recognized that many people do other things while simultaneously viewing television—indicating an emerging trend in which people could disengage from the powerful discourses of television. Television may be less powerful than has been sometimes argued. Simultaneous TV viewing may support a tendency toward “disengaged sociality.”

23 Postmodernity and the “Talk Show”
“The term ‘talk show’ combines two communicative paradigms, and like the terms itself, the ‘talk show’ fuses and seems to reconcile two different, even contradictory, rhetorics. It links conversation, the interpersonal—the premodern oral tradition—with the mass-mediated spectacle born of modernity. It becomes…a recuperative practice reconciling technology and commodification with community, mass culture with the individual and the local, production with consumption….the mythic American past of the participatory town meeting and the interpersonal ‘handshake’ politics of speech and presence meet the imagined ‘present’ of technological simulation, reproduction, and commodification. The talk show’s rampant inclusions make it a postmodern phenomenon.” —Wayne Munson, All Talk: The Talkshow in Media Culture (Temple University Press, 1993)

24 Postmodernity and the Internet
Network society: The idea that, in a postmodern culture, a new kind of system has emerged that has neither national borders nor centers. New media, such as the Internet, enable this social system to function by providing widespread access and immediate communication.

25 Study Questions What did the media coverage of the September 11 disaster reveal about the normal organization of television media? How do television and newspapers differ in terms of their function, production, and reception? How did coverage of the September 11 disaster transform television’s function? Explain the difference between the terms mass media and culture industry.

26 Study Questions If you were to study the production of mass media from a political-economy approach, what kind of questions or concerns would guide your research? Does this approach emphasize production or consumption of mass media? From a cultural-sociological perspective, how would you study media production and media consumption? How does the textual analysis of newspaper stories challenge the ideal of the media as reflecting an undistorted picture of reality?

27 Study Questions Briefly describe the four points along Lembo’s “continuum of mindfulness.” What does Lembo believe are the possible implications of the growing trend toward watching television while simultaneously engaging in other activities? Why are talk shows—especially talk-service shows—considered to exemplify postmodern culture? What elements of premodern, modern, and postmodern society do they combine?

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