Therefore it is essential you refer to theories that explore the relationship between the audience, media texts and producers:
Hypodermic needle or effects theory
Two step flow theory Uses and Gratifications
Semiotics and audience readings
NB! Audience theories are an essential part of all 3 units in the second year.
HYPODERMIC SYRINGE CULTIVATION THEORY VERY HIGH TWO STEP FLOW THEORY SEMIOTICS USES AND GRATIFICATION MARXIST HEGEMONIC MAXISTS PLURALISTS HEGEMONIC MARXISTS Model Level of Influence How Does It Work? Theory of Media it mainly relates to? c PLURALISTS RECEPTION ANALYSIS VERY LOW POST MODERNISTS
Vance Packard (1957) the hidden persuaders
Media can directly inject message
passive – weak & inactive
like blank pages
CULTURAL EFFECTS MODEL two step flow
The audience is diverse & more complex
Diversity in the way we identify & recognise – due to different backgrounds and experiences
Preferred (or dominant) reading
Ruling classes bombard audience
It becomes difficult to ignore and retain a critical viewpoint
This is not a direct process but has a ‘drip-drip-drip’ process
INTERPRETIVE (SELECTIVE FILTER)
Active audience approach
Some media messages get through others are ignored or rejected (filtered out)
Klapper (1960) for a media message to have any effect must pass through three filters
USES & GRATIFICATIONS
Blumler & McQuail (1968) suggest that people get what they want from the media
Young people may watch MTV for the ‘music’ - middle age men for the semi-naked pop stars
They are active interpreters and choice makers
Marxists argue this ignores possibility of socially created needs created by capitalism to detract from class inequalities
People interpret media texts differently according to class, ethnicity, age, etc.
Morley (1980) – messages often have many meanings ( polysemy )
Audience has three responses
Postmodernism & ‘Active Audience’ Approaches
Audience are too diverse
Media is diverse and complex
Generalisations are impossible
Reception analysis at an audience level is meaningless
What is the point then of studying audience effects?
Hypodermic syringe or effects theory
This theory was popular in the 1950s. Academics viewed the mass media in a negative way in terms of its effect on a mass audience.
This theory asks who owns and controls the media and what messages are inscribed into media texts.
The media is seen as a syringe which injects ideas attitudes and beliefs into the audience who are seen as passive sponge like junkies who are powerless to resist.
Proposes a simple cause and effect relationship between the producers of texts and the audience. In other words if you watch something violent you may act violently.
On a ideological level dominant political ideas and values are injected into the public by powerful media moguls or groups. If you constantly see women washing up on TV you will come to accept this as a ‘natural’ role for a woman.
Because of the difficulty of proving the effects of individual texts on their audience a more refined version of the effects theory was needed.
Rather than the crude injection metaphor this theory sees the audience as being more like a patient on a slow drip feed.
According to cultivation theory whilst any one text does not have too much effect, years and years of watching violence will make you less sensitive to violence.
Recent research suggests that whereas playing Grand Theft Auto occasionally might not make you want to run over old ladies overuse of PS2 can have adverse effects on the brain development of young children.
There are many criticisms of effects theories but the models do raise interesting and important questions regarding the influence of the media in several Unit 4 and 5 topic areas:
Can cartoons create violence in young children? Does the music industry construct teen identities and sub-cultures as consumer groups? Does the sports media present male sport and personalities as more important
The two step flow theory
Based on the premise that whereas the media might not have a direct effect (one step/first hand) they do have an indirect effect via selected others (two step/second hand).
This theory is based on the idea that whatever our experience of the media we will be likely to discuss it with others and if we respect their opinion (or not sometimes we all gossip or pass on unsubstantiated stories) we are more likely to be influenced by it.
In terms of media personalities or respected journalists or opinion formers we all have our own particular favourites. These people can be newsreaders, critics, writers, photographers, sports stars, soap stars, or certain lifestyle magazines, chatshow hosts etc.
Are your opinions about TV, films or groups ever influenced by other people?
Uses and gratifications
Dissatisfaction with effects theories led to the development of theories that give the audience a more active role. U & G sees the media in a more positive light and gives the audience an active role in making meaning.
Rather than asking”what does the media do to people?” it focuses on the audience and asks “what do people do with the media?”
We all have different needs (leisure, entertainment, information etc) and some of these can be provided by the media. Therefore we make choices over what media we want to use in order to gratify these needs.
This links to a pluralist/liberal theory of media and society in which we as consumers largely control the media. We get the kind of media we want and deserve via market forces.
Any ideological messages inscribed in the text are mediated by the audience who are not passive sponges.
This extends the U & G approach. Once you accept that people use the media in different ways then the next step is to actually study how this happens.
This theory is based on the idea that no text has only one simple meaning. Rather the audience themselves help create the meaning of the text.
Each one of us is constructed in many different ways through family, education, peers etc and it is these differences that enable us to encounter the world including the media in different ways.
Reception analysis looks at the differences in the ways people read texts and the reasons for this.
Asks questions such as “Why do soaps mean different things to men and women?”
Semiotics and audience readings
Semiotics as you all should know means the study of signs and focuses on the way meanings are encoded into a media text and how an audience may decode these meanings.
Although mainstream texts usually reflect dominant ideologies and audiences are positioned to accept this message they still have choices in how they read/respond to a text. The process by which dominant ideology is maintained is called hegemony. These different responses have been categorised as:
Dominant or preferred response – the dominant or commonsense values of society are accepted by the audience
Subordinate or negotiated response – the audience accepts most of the dominant values but may be critical of some aspects.
Radical or oppositional responses – the audience totally rejects the dominant values inscribed in the text.
Semiotics therefore recognises both the power of the text but also the ability of the audience on some occasions to deny it.