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Perspectives on Mass Communication

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1 Perspectives on Mass Communication
Chapter 2 Perspectives on Mass Communication

2 Key terms Paradigm: a model or pattern that a person uses to analyze something; a model guiding how we think. Why use a paradigm? It provides us with a consistent perspective from which to examine mass communication It generates concepts that are helpful in understanding media behavior It helps us identify what is or is not important in the process

3 Paradigms to study mass comm
Functional approach: Emphasizes the way that audiences use mass communication and the benefits that people receive from media consumption. Critical/cultural approach: Examines the underlying power relationships in media exposure and stresses the many meanings and interpretations that the audience members find in media content. Empirical approach: Uses the techniques of the social sciences, such as experiments and surveys, to investigate the cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effects of mass communication.

4 Example: The Apprentice
The functional approach would ask: Why people watch this show. What about the show appeals to men, or women? Does the audience learn anything? Do people like to play along? Do they talk about the show with their friends? The critical/cultural approach would investigate: The role editing and casting plays in creating a reality experience, How does the show portray capitalism? Does it suggest wealth is an important value? Does it glorify competition over cooperation?

5 Functional analysis Asks, “why?” Why do you watch TV?
Why do you go to the movies? Why do you use Facebook?

6 The Role of Mass Comm in Society
Mass media is pervasive Various media provide different primary functions Different people use different media for different purposes Society requires communication Function/dysfunction (=harmful or negative consequences) Two types of analyses: Macroanalysis: take the perspective of a sociologist and look through a wide-angle lens to consider the functions performed by the mass media for the entire society. how media functions for the society as a whole Microanalysis: look through a close-up lens at the individual receivers of the content, the audience, and ask them to report on how they use mass media. how media functions for the individual

7 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
Societal level (Macroanalysis) Society requires certain communication needs be met. Some are handled by the mass media. We must consider the consequences of performing these functions by media. Dysfunctions: negative consequences Media functions are not mutually exclusive

8 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
Surveillance Role: The news and information role of the media*. The media as sentinels and lookouts. On any given day, about 60 million Americans are exposed to mass- communicated news Warning (beware-of-threats) surveillance: when the news/information media warn the public about impending dangers such as storms, economic declines, military threats, etc.; also used to warn of long-term dangers such as diseases, pollution, population growth, etc. Instrumental surveillance: information that is useful and helpful in everyday life such as movie schedules, stock quotes, sports scores, fads, new products, how-to pieces, etc. *Not all types of surveillance come from the traditional news media. For example, HBO’s Sex and the City performed a surveillance function for fashions and designer footwear.

9 Consequences of relying on the media surveillance function
With electronic media, news travels FAST. News (accurate accounts as well as mistakes) travels further and faster than ever before. It took months for the news of the end of the War of 1812 to travel across the Atlantic. In contrast, more than 90% of the U. S. population knew about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, within 2 hours of the events. Sometimes speed leads to inaccuracy. In 2011, NPR erroneously reported that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had died following a shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona. News of events comes to us second-hand and is usually not personally verifiable; as such, we’ve come to place our trust in media credibility. The media shows us more than we can personally verify Credibility is what makes news believable, reliable. According to the news, the Mars rover is collecting data. Can you personally verify this?

10 Dysfunctions of the media
Media can cause panic and anxiety In 2004, many reports concluded bird flu would kill 150 million people worldwide (this never happened) The media decides what/who “matters” Being featured by the mass media may give individuals or issues status conferral, a belief by the audience—justified or not—that simply being featured is a sign of importance. status conferral: media attention raises prominence.

11 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
2. Interpretation (Viewpoint) Role The mass media do not supply just facts and data, they also provide information on the ultimate meaning and significance of events Media gatekeepers decide what makes it into the newscast/newspaper/magazine and what doesn’t Editorials, TV news specials, cable news roundtable shows, reviews, political cartoons Express viewpoints and analysis Consequences: many opinions are presented (wide range of contrasting viewpoints), there is no guarantee that opinions by experts are accurate and valid, people might let the media do their thinking for them (people become overly dependent on media for interpretation)

12 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
3. Linkage (Connective) Role Bring together various elements of society Mass media are able to join different elements of society that are not directly connected Advertising links the needs of buyers with the products of sellers When geographically separated groups share a common interest and are linked by the media. Example: Social Networking sites, eBay, Craigslist Consequences: In 2011 it was estimated that there were more than 1,000 “hate” terrorist-related sites on the Internet; children bullying each other via social networks; pro-ana “thinspo” websites

13 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
4. Transmission of Values (Socialization) Role People adopt behaviors or values of a group Also called the socialization function: the ways an individual comes to adopt the behavior and values of a group By watching the media, we learn how people are supposed to act and what values are important Individuals exposed to media portrayals of certain behavior and value systems are likely to grow up and accept them as their own, and thus pass along these values from one generation to another. Consequences: Stabilize society by creating bonds Encourages the status quo Media can help enforce social norms TV and socialization: TV has the greatest potential for establishing common social values; TV serves as a knowledge source (accurately or not) about occupations and role models Violent or stereotypical content

14 Mass media & social values
Sometimes, the media consciously tries to instill values and behavior in the audience, and/or enforce social norms newspapers reporting whether or not a car accident victim was wearing a seatbelt smoking on TV anti-drug ads Jonas Brothers purity pledge

15 Functions of Mass Comm. for Society
5. Entertainment Role By 2011 more than 50 million people in the United States had seen Avatar at a theater. About 110 million people watched the 2011 Super Bowl on the Fox Network. The video game Call of Duty: Black Ops sold more than 5 million copies the first day it was on sale. The emergence of mobile media and the internet have increased the entertainment function of the mass media

16 Consequences of the entertainment function
Entertainment that is carried by the mass media must appeal to a mass audience. As a result, media content is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of taste. More programs that resemble Survivor and Jerry Springer will find their way to TV than will opera performances. We are more apt to see sequels such as Star Trek VIII than we are to see Much Ado About Nothing II and More King Lear. Rock radio stations outnumber classical stations 20 to 1. Will mass media turn us into a nation of watchers instead of a nation of doers?

17 How people use the mass media
Uses-and-gratifications: how people use the media Individual level (microanalysis) People have certain needs or desires Needs satisfied by media and non-media sources Six category system: Cognition Diversion Social Utility Affiliation Expression Withdrawal

18 1. Cognition The act of coming to KNOW something
Using the media to learn something Example: current events, news People use the media in a cognitive way when they want to understand the world

19 2. Diversion Using the media to take our attention elsewhere. Three major forms of diversion: Stimulation: seeking relief from boredom or the routine activities of everyday life (I watch TV because I am bored, this special on the History Channel interests me) Relaxation escape from the pressures and problems of day- to- day existence (Had a really stressful day at school, I relax by watching Honey Boo Boo or reading TMZ) The content is not the defining factor, since virtually any media material might be used for relaxation by some audience members. Emotional release: Media consumption as catharsis - a release of pent-up emotion or energy. (horror movies, tearjerkers)

20 3. Social Utility Social Utility describes the human need to strengthen contact with family members, friends, our entire social group Conversational currency: using media as common ground for connecting with others Did you see The Avengers? What did you think of the Superbowl commercials? Parasocial relationship: the phenomenon where people develop (one-sided) relationships with media characters. Example: fans of fictional characters, fans of a band, people who have favorite American Idol contestants, etc.

21 4. Affiliation Affiliation refers to a person’s desire to feel a sense of belonging or involvement within a social group The Internet is the primary medium that fulfills this function for many people. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin Others include: online gaming, instant messaging, dating and matchmaking Web sites, and text messaging

22 5. Expression Self-expression refers to individuals’ need to express their inner thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The first examples of the need for self-expression are the cave drawings done by early human beings Since that time, the need for self-expression has been fulfilled primarily by creative and artistic activities such as music, painting, writing, dance, and sculpture The Internet has opened up new vistas for self-expression Blogs, commenting on articles YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud Facebook pages can be personalized to express a person’s individuality Expression is an important function for the individual

23 6. Withdrawal Withdrawal describes using the media to create a barrier between themselves and other people “I’ll do that after I’m done watching my show.” Here, attending to mass media content is defined as a socially appropriate behavior that should not be interrupted. People also use the media to create a buffer zone between themselves and others. When you are riding a bus or sitting in a public place and do not want to be disturbed, you bury your head in a book, magazine, or newspaper. If you are on an airplane, you might pop in your iPod ear buds and tune everybody out. Television can perform this same function at home by isolating adults from children (“ Don’t disturb Daddy; he’s watching the game”) or children from adults (“ Don’t bother me now; go into the other room and watch Sesame Street ”).

Contrasts with functional approach. More qualitative, humanistic Examines different concepts Ideology, culture, politics, social structure as related to the role of media in society

25 History 1930s-1940s: Marx and the Frankfurt School
Who controls the means of production? Media industry exploits the masses Glorifies capitalism, reinforces status quo 1950s-1960s: British cultural studies Mass media audience can redefine the products of mass culture, and create new definitions for their own purpose

26 History 1970s-1980s: Varied approaches Feminist scholars
Patriarchy: Gender-based inequalities of wealth and power Communication as ritual Cultural myths embodied in mass communication

27 Critical/Cultural studies
Rooted in Marxism: the best way to understand how a society worked was to examine who controlled the means of production that met the basic needs of the population for food and shelter They noted that, just as big firms controlled the production of economic goods, other big companies controlled the production of cultural goods. Media industry exploits the masses. Glorifies capitalism, reinforces status quo The Marxist perspective caused many to analyze the impact of the media industries on the political and economic life of society and to use interdisciplinary theories and methods in their investigations.

28 Critical/cultural approach
Great Britain (late 1950s and early 1960s) Scholars at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University noted that members of the British working class used the products of mass culture to define their own identities through the way they dressed, the music they listened to, the hairstyles they favored, and so forth. The audience did not seem to be manipulated by the media, as the Frankfurt School argued; instead, the relationship was more complicated. Audience members took the products of mass culture, redefined their meaning, and created new definitions of their self- image. This emphasis on meaning was reinforced by studies of film and television.

29 Critical/cultural approach
A theory developed by British film critics suggested that cinematic techniques (camera angle, editing, imagery) subtly but effectively impose on the audience the meanings preferred by the filmmaker. However, audience members were free to resist and come up with their own meanings. For example, although the dominant theme in a documentary about efforts to control pollution might be how hard industry is trying to control the problem, some in the audience might see the program as nothing more than an empty marketing gesture by big companies.

30 Critical/cultural approach
Important to the cultural studies group were the values that were represented in the content. Marxists note that the values of the ruling class became the dominant values that were depicted in mass media and other cultural products. The dominant values that were represented were those of white, upper- class, Western males. The media worked to maintain those values by presenting versions of reality on TV and films that represented this situation as normal and natural, as the way things should be (cultural norms)

31 Critical/cultural approach
This approach gained prominence in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, and was adopted by communication researchers and scholars engaged in feminist studies Examined the role of the patriarchy in media and cultural products How were women portrayed in the 1980s on TV and in film? How about now?

32 Critical/cultural approach
The audience is not passive in this approach – they are free to reject or accept cultural norms encoded into cultural products Do you think audiences are passive or active? This approach also includes studying cultural myths embodied in mass communication Example: Star Trek relies on the telling of cultural myths of frontier expansion and exploration

33 Key Concepts Culture: common values holding people together
Text: object of analysis, broadly defined Meaning: interpretations of texts Polysemy: different audiences, different meanings Ideology: deeply imbedded beliefs, especially regarding political and social themes Hegemony: dominance and control accepted as natural and normal

34 Key Concepts Culture: is a complex concept that refers to the common values, beliefs, social practices, rules, and assumptions that bind a group of people together Text: is simply the object of analysis. Texts are broadly defined: They can be traditional media content such as TV programs, films, ads, and books, or they can be things that do not fit into the traditional category, such as shopping malls, T-shirts, dolls, video games, and beaches. Meaning: the interpretations that audience members take away with them from the text. In fact, texts have many meanings; they are polysemic. Different members of the audience will have different interpretations of the same text.

35 How are gym teachers represented in our cultural products?
Key concepts Ideology: a specific set of ideas or beliefs, particularly regarding social and political subjects. Mass communication messages and other objects of popular culture have ideology embedded in them. Hegemony: has to do with power relationships and dominance. In the United States, for example, those who own the channels of mass communication possess cultural hegemony over the rest of us. Maintains the “status quo.” How are gym teachers represented in our cultural products?

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