Audiences Key concepts and possible theory/critical approaches
Hypodermic Needle Theory The Hypodermic needle theory, also known as “the magic bullet theory” implies that mass media had a direct, immediate and powerful effect on the audiences. Several factors contributed to this "strong effects" theory of communication, including: - the fast rise and popularization of radio and television - the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as advertising and propaganda - the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the impact of motion pictures on children, and - Hitler's monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the Nazi party
Core assumptions and statements The phrasing "hypodermic needle" is meant to give a mental image of the direct, strategic, and planned infusion of a message into an individual. But as research methodology became more highly developed, it became apparent that the media had selective influences on people. The theory suggests that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger a desired response. The bullet theory graphically suggests that the message is a bullet, fired from the "media gun" into the viewer's "head". With similarly emotive imagery the hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are injected straight into a passive audience which is immediately influenced by the message. The population is seen as a sitting duck. People are seen as passive and are seen as having a lot media material "shot" at them. People end up thinking what they are told because there is no other source of information.
Stuart Hall Reception Theory Stuart Hall is a leading sociological thinker of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, whose writings explore media perspectives. Rather than exploring how texts make meaning, Hall explored the meaning of the text is not necessarily in the text itself. He believed that no amount of analysis can find the text’s one true ‘meaning’; different people who encounter the text will make different interpretations.
Core assumptions and statements Hall has become one of the main theorists of Reception Theory This theory looks at the way individuals receive and interpret a text, and how individual circumstances such as gender, class, age, ethnicity etc affect the reading. This work was based on Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding model of the relationship between text and audience Moment of encoding – The creation of the text, when forms, structures, codes and conventions are used to construct a text with an intended meaning. Moment of the text – the symbolic existence of the text as it is published or broadcast – the focus of semiotics. Moment of decoding – when an individual with a unique set of values, attitudes and experiences encounters the text. Regarded as more the moment of ‘creation’ than the first stage.
Uses and Gratification Theory Uses and gratification, also known as “needs and gratifications” focuses on why people use particular media rather than on content. In contrast to the concern of the 'media effects' tradition with 'what media do to people’ which assumes a homogeneous mass audience and a 'hypodermic' view of media. The theory places more focus on the consumer, or audience, instead of the actual message itself by asking “what people do with media” rather than “what media does to people” (Katz, 1959) . It assumes that members of the audience are not passive but take an active role in interpreting and integrating media into their own lives. The theory also holds that audiences are responsible for choosing media to meet their needs. The approach suggests that people use the media to fulfill specific gratifications. This theory would then imply that the media compete against other information sources for viewers' gratification.
Uses and Gratification Theory The model is broken down into four different needs. Surveillance The surveillance need is based around the idea that people feel better having the feeling that they know what is going on in the world around them. One of the genres this is often applied to is news. By watching or reading about news we learn about what is happening in the world, and as the news is usually bad news, this knowledge leaves us feeling more secure about the safety of our own lives. This idea might seem a bit strange, that the more we know about tragedies the safer we feel, but sociologists argue that ignorance is seen as a source of danger, and so the more knowledge we have the safer we feel. When looking at the news it's easy to spot news items that give us this reaction. The programmes talk far more directly to the viewer, and even try to get the viewer involved in the programme. Because these programmes deal purely with national and local concerns, without such vagaries as world news, the issues ostensibly have the potential to affect the viewer directly. By watching the programme we are finding out about which particular insurance companies are a con, how mobile phone muggings are taking place and the tricks plumbers use to charge us through the roof. This knowledge of life's potential pitfalls gives us the feeling that we are more able to avoid them (though in reality it's hard to see how this actually happens). The surveillance model then is all about awareness. We use the mass media to be more aware of the world, gratifying a desire for knowledge and security.
Uses and Gratification Theory Personal Identity The personal identity need explains how being a subject of the media allows us to reaffirm the identity and positioning of ourselves within society. This can most be seen in soaps, which try to act as a microcosm of society as a whole. The characters in soaps are usually designed to have wildly different characteristics, so that everyone can find someone to represent themselves, someone to aspire to, and someone to despise. For example you might feel close to a character who is always falling victim to other people, and this connection might help you to understand and express your own feelings. You may also really like a character who seems 'cool' and leads a lifestyle you'd like to lead. This relationship could act as a way to channel your own life, helping you to set goals to work to. Finally there may be a character you really can't stand. By picking out their bad characteristics and decisions ('oh, she shouldn't have done that'), it helps you to define your own personal identity by marking out what you're not like... The use of the media for forming personal identity can also be seen outside soaps. Sports personalities and pop stars can often become big role models, inspiring young children everywhere (which is why there's such an outcry when one of them does something wrong). Even the 'seriousness' of news can lend itself to gratifying personal identity, by treating news anchors as personalities, rather than simply figureheads relaying information:
Uses and Gratification Theory Personal Relationships This section comes in two parts. We can form a relationship with the media, and also use the media to form a relationship with others. Relationships with the Media Many people use the television as a form of companionship. This may seem sad, but think about how many times you've watched the TV on your own, or with other people but sitting in silence. The television is often quite an intimate experience, and by watching the same people on a regular basis we can often feel very close to them, as if we even know them. When presenters or characters in a soap die, those who have watched that person a lot often grieve for the character, as if they have lost a friend. Some events can even cause media outcries, such as the imprisonment of Deirdre from the TV soap Coronation Street, which caused many national newspapers to campaign for her release. We also talk to the TV a lot. Not many football fans can sit through a televised match without shouting at the players or the referee, and many people tell characters what to (or not to do) next. Don't go down the stairs in your nightie! No don't open the door! No...!!!The more we watch the same personalities, the more we feel we get to know them. Using the Media Within Relationships Another aspect to the personal relationships model is how we can sometimes use the media as a springboard to form and build upon relationships with real people. TheEastenders strapline 'Everyone's talking about it', despite being a clever marketing tactic, does hold up when looking at social uses of the media. Having a favourite TV programme in common can often be the start of a conversation, and can even make talking to strangers that much easier. There's also some studies that suggest that some families use sitting around watching the television as a stimulus for conversation, talking to each other about the programme or related anecdotes while it is on. This kind of use (as well as some of the others), is heavily satirised in the BBC sit-com The Royle Family.
Uses and Gratification Theory Diversion The diversion need describes what's commonly termed as escapism - watching the television so we can forget about our own lives and problems for a while and think about something else. This can work with positive programs, such as holiday shows or the constant happy endings in the Australian soap neighbors, which help to cheer us up and forget our own problems, and with negative programs, which as Eastenders, they help to put our own problems into perspective. The diversion model also accounts for using the media for entertainment purposes, such as a good spy film, and for relaxation (slumping in front of the telly, don't care what's on). The media can give us emotional release and also sexual arousal, which includes a sexy scene in a film as well as pornography.
Core assumptions and statements Uses and gratification, also known as “needs and gratifications” focuses on why people use particular media rather than on content. In contrast to the concern of the 'media effects' tradition with 'what media do to people’ which assumes a homogeneous mass audience and a 'hypodermic' view of media. The theory places more focus on the consumer, or audience, instead of the actual message itself by asking “what people do with media” rather than “what media does to people” (Katz, 1959) . It assumes that members of the audience are not passive but take an active role in interpreting and integrating media into their own lives. The theory also holds that audiences are responsible for choosing media to meet their needs. The approach suggests that people use the media to fulfill specific gratifications. This theory would then imply that the media compete against other information sources for viewers' gratification