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Theories of Media and Society

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1 Theories of Media and Society
Chapter Fifteen Theories of Media and Society

2 Agenda Setting Function
Authors: McCombs & Shaw: Presidential election Main (original) idea: Media influence what we think about—not what we think! Not persuasion—but importance of issues

3 Agenda Setting Theory: The Core Proposition
Agenda setting is the “process whereby the news media lead the public in assigning importance to various public issues” by giving more space and time to an issue.

4 Agenda Setting Theory (1970’s)
Types of agendas: Media agenda (topics covered by media) Public agenda (topics public believes to be important) Policy agenda (issues that decision makers believe are important) Agenda Setting Theory in the comm. discipline has concentrated on the relationship between the media agenda and the public agenda

5 Figure 15.1 Media Agenda Public Agenda Policy Agenda
Personal exper. & comm. among elites and other individuals Gatekeepers, influential media, spectacular news events Media Agenda Public Agenda Policy Agenda Real world indicators of the importance of an agenda issue or event

6 Agenda Setting Theory The researchers first conducted a content analysis of newspaper and television coverage of the campaign The researchers then interviewed undecided voters about what issues were important (time- lag study) These two agendas (media and public) were virtually identical, with media focus preceding public focus

7 Example ASF study: time-lag study

8 Agenda Setting Theory: Establishing Causality
The correlation found between the media agenda and the public agenda could be interpreted two ways Does the media agenda cause the public agenda, or vice versa? Further research suggests that the major causal direction is from media to public (though there is some “mutual” influence)

9 Agenda Setting Theory: Theoretical Developments
Contingency factors Audience need for orientation high interest in issue and high uncertainty Also education level and political interest Issue Obtrusiveness more obtrusive if audience has experience with issue and less obtrusive (unobtrusive) if not media effects greater for unobtrusive issues

10 Agenda Setting Theory: Theoretical Developments
Contingency factors How do types of Media influence public agenda? newspaper vs. television Broadcast quicker influence; print longer lasting But very complex issue

11 Agenda Setting Theory: Theoretical Developments
Second-Level Agenda Setting First-level agenda setting--the issues (objects) in the media Second-level agenda setting tells audience what to think about these issues Framing--process through which media emphasize some aspects of reality and downplay others creating interpretive schema (e.g., by subtopics, placement, tone, narrative form, details, etc.)

12 Agenda Setting Theory: Theoretical Developments
Psychological mechanism Priming effects of previous context on retrieval and interpretation of subsequent information particularly when it is ambiguous

13 Spiral of Silence Theory
Spiral of Silence Theory (SOS) was developed by Noelle-Neumann as an “all-encompassing” theory of public opinion (began with her affiliation to Nazi party in the 1930s and 1940s—Americans’ view of Germans) SOS relates several levels of analysis: psychological processes, interpersonal communication, and mass media

14 Spiral of Silence Theory: Key Concepts (Tenants Tenets of Theory)
People have a fear of isolation Individuals also assess the nature of public opinion through a quasi-statistical sense which is influenced (biased) by media’s constant presence. When individuals believe public opinion is against them, they will thus be unwilling to speak out The Train Test

15 Friends, Family Media View of Public Attitude Fear of Isolation Silence regarding “public opinion”

16 Spiral of Silence 4 aspects of media: Ubiquity (pervasiveness)
Consonance (coherence) Cumulative Accessible

17 Spiral of Silence Theory: The Spiral Process
As these three factors work together, public opinion will spiral down and reflect dominant perceptions The spiral of silence will be mitigated by several factors: The spiral only applies to moral issues “Hard core” advocates will always speak The educated and affluent will more often speak


19 Spiral of Silence Theory: Evidence and Extensions
Evidence for SOS has been relatively weak; thus extensions have been proposed First, some suggest that the spiral of silence will work only with regard to valued reference groups Second, some have looked at other factors that will predict an individual’s willingness to “speak out”—e.g., self-efficacy Has been critiqued for assumptions that media are liberal and people are powerless

20 Media & World View Cultivation Theory (or Analysis)
Author: George Gerbner: Background: National Commission on the Causes & Prevention of Violence (1967) Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior (1972) Cultural Indicators Project/Cultural Environment Movement Main Point: Media creates (cultivates) in audience a way of seeing the world

21 Cultivation Theory (Gerbner—advent of television)
CT concentrates on one medium: Television CT considers the ways in which television influences our socially constructed views of reality (not just topics or issues) What about video games?

22 Cultivation Theory Assumptions about the Nature of Viewing
We do not watch particular shows or genres of shows, but we view by the clock TV becomes like a “member of the family,” like a “religion” (heavy v. light viewers, the ‘TV type’) Do you agree with Gerbner et al.’s claim from 1986 that although television has changed since the 1950’s, these assumptions still hold?

23 Cultivation Theory: The Cultivation Effect
Given these assumptions about television and viewing: Cultivation describes the long-term and cumulative impact of television on our views of reality—the nature of the world and people within that world.

24 Cultivation Theory: Methods for Testing
Content Analysis: The “television world” is assessed through content analysis (e.g., ethnic groups, crimes, etc.) Cultural Indicators: Viewers’ perceptions of the world are assessed through survey In comparing light viewers with heavy viewers, researchers find that heavy viewers’ perceptions of reality are most in line with the “television world” view

25 Cultivation Theory Key Terms:
Violence: Any actual or threat of physical harm Violence Index: Analysis of week of violence “Ice-age analogy” (cumulative effect) Mean World Syndrome: Belief that the world is a “mean and scary place”

26 Cultivation Theory Violence in the media
Prime time crime 10x that in real world (1982) 8K murders, 100K acts of violence by end of elementary school 13K deaths by end of High School 2/3 characters involved in violence 1 Day: (1997) Assaults: 389 serious, 73 simple 362 uses of guns 273 punches

27 TV Viewing (Hs/Day) Mean World Syndrome Stereotypes (racial & gender)
Light: < 2 hours/day Heavy: >4 hours/day Mean World Syndrome Stereotypes (racial & gender) Mainstreaming Views of …..

28 “The repetitive pattern of television’s mass-produced messages and images forms the mainstream of the common symbolic environment that cultivates the most widely shared conceptions of reality”

29 Cultivation Theory: Critiques and Extensions
Major critique: The cultivation effect is generally found to be very small (esp. after controlling for demographic variables) Response to critique: First, any effect on views of reality is important. Second, other factors can be added to enhance predictive value of theory: Mainstreaming (homogenization of views for heavy viewers) Resonance (more effect for viewers who have had related experiences)

30 Cultivation Theory: Critiques and Extensions (cont.)
Cultivation Theory has also been criticized with regard to assumptions about television and viewing These critiques are especially relevant in view of changing technology Cable and satellite offerings might mitigate assumption of coherence Video-recording technology might mitigate assumption of viewing by the clock

31 Cultivation Theory: Critiques and Extensions (cont.)
Extension has been proposed to distinguish between first-order and second-order cultivation effects First-order effect: Statistical descriptions of the world Second-order effect: General nature of the world Extension has been proposed to evaluate nature of cultivation relationship ??Why are there no theories of cultivation based on music???

32 Final Paper (1) Summarize the theory (history, key components, fundamental assumptions or propositions, etc. ) —Is it primarily interpretive, critical, post-pos.? (2) Critique the worth of the theory according to Miller’s criteria (accuracy, consistency, scope, parsimonious, heuristic) (3) Identify and integrate a minimum of five to eight research studies motivated by the theory Some studies will test the theory and some will simply apply it

33 Final Paper (4) Analyze current state of the theory based on the research applications (Has the theory been appropriately/sufficiently tested? has it been applied to the appropriate contexts?, etc.) You will refer primarily to the articles you reviewed in the paper; however, you should also mention applications or tests that may have been beyond the parameters you set for your summary section. (5) propose what should be done with the theory in the future (e.g., what direction should future research take? What elements need to be added to the theory? etc.).

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