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Society and media Grand theory/mega-speculation. Grand questions What is the nature of society? How do societies come into existence? How do they evolve?

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Presentation on theme: "Society and media Grand theory/mega-speculation. Grand questions What is the nature of society? How do societies come into existence? How do they evolve?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Society and media Grand theory/mega-speculation

2 Grand questions What is the nature of society? How do societies come into existence? How do they evolve? What brings about change, expansion/success and/or contraction/failure? How does social structure/culture maintain or undermine society? How do the phenomena above affect human experience?

3 Consensus v. conflict Scholars debate over whether society is held together by consensual values, self-interest or exploitation Significant examples include structural- functionalism, exchange theory and Marxism

4 Structural-functionalism Conceives of society as a system that exhibits many of the same features as either an organism or a machine – Lasswell’s presentation likens society to an organism Structures are repetitive behaviors that characterize the system Functions are contributions to the maintenance and survival of the system

5 Equilibrium S-F theorists tend to portray systems as existing in a state of equilibrium, with a number of forces maintaining the system at a satisfactory state – When the system is not performing in a satisfactory manner, internal sensors identify the unacceptable performance and changes in the level/intensity of outputs from structures are brought to bear

6 If we use the analogy of the human body, then our organs/systems maintain the body in a satisfactory state Should the body become sick or an organ fail, internal systems will adjust as feedback systems indicate that the ‘desired’ equilibrium is not being maintained – White blood cells – Increased blood flow – Interferon – Lymph system

7 How is change accounted for? Change occurs as a result of external shock— invasion or attack from outside the system Later versions of the approach also looked at conflicts between systems operating at different levels – What may be functional for a subsystem may be ‘dysfunctional’ at a higher level, etc.

8 What is the role of culture? New members of the society (young, immigrants) are taught to fit within the larger social system. They are ‘socialized’ to accept the norms and mores of the society, which are crucial to the non-violent maintenance of society.

9 What is the role of culture? The beliefs, values and attitudes shared by members of society act as a form of cement that binds together the individual members of society – Socialization – Habits – Role assignment/role expectations – Institutional maintenance – Property distribution

10 What is the role of culture? Provide knowledge/information useful to more effectively produce needed goods/services Lasswell’s functions: – Surveillance of the environment – Correlation of the components of society in making a response to the environment – Transmission of the social inheritance

11 Sources of solidarity Affective bonds – Family Common culture/belief systems – Religion – Acceptance of authority Economic and political self-interest – Specialization of function (efficiency) – Merit-based advancement/power

12 Sources of solidarity Power/force – Police force – Military – Legal/prison system Authority – Inherited – Institutional – Acquired

13 Reflection in democratic theory Liberal-pluralist democratic theory shares much of the structural-functionalist approach to society – When society goes off course, change is initiated through the electoral structure – News media provide information necessary for self- corrective processes to work (functions of communication) – Analysis of media as structures and the quality of their performance (based on supposed functions they are expected to perform)

14 Conflict theory Argues that society is not a projection of the true interests of all (or even most) of its members but is structured in dominance and exploitation – All societies generate a relatively small and privileged group of people who are able to exploit the larger population

15 Visions of society Consensual societySelf-interest societyConflict society Society held together by share affective bonds, beliefs, morals Society held together by efficiency, self-interest Society held together by power of elite and false consciousness Leadership provided by religious and government authority Individual determinism leads to following those who will advance one’s own position Economic elite controls cultural leadership Social change is slow or non-existent, result of change in morality, beliefs Social change is regular and moderate in speed, based on technological change, political decision- making Long periods of stasis followed by periods of rapid revolution as system changes occur— technology driven Community/societyIndividual/social groupEconomic class

16 Visions of society and media Consensual societySelf-interest societyConflict society Shared beliefs and mythsEconomically and politically valuable information Class-inflected ideology Controlled by cultural authorities Controlled by audiences through markets Controlled by economic and politically powerful Support for church and state as carriers of shared values, norms, etc. Support of the public interest, critiquing social groups, institutions Support for powerful social groups, especially economic elites Maintenance of social solidarity arising from normative/cultural consensus Generation of incremental social change Maintenance of social structure through false consciousness, yet with revolutionary potential

17 Which of the three visions has dominated media/comm studies? Self-interest society Note: – Individualist bias – Focus on ‘transmission’ – Information rather than ‘stories’ – Individual reception/behavior rather than community impact, etc. – Politics (with individual self-interest as the defining characteristic) rather than cultural or religious identification

18 Crucial issues within cultural approaches Identity – What is the nature of our ‘self’—our ‘ego’ – Often determined by our ‘identification’ with groups May not be up to us to decide Myths, beliefs, worldview – What is the popular ontology? – What is our view of the nature of humankind?

19 Social epistemology – How do we make sense of our world? Intellectual and social authority How are beliefs passed on to children, etc.? The role of kinship, friendship, etc. The social structure/culture relationship Social control – In the interest of the many or the few?

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