Week 2 Lecture
Intro to Mass Comm
Philip Gan Chee Keat, School of Communication
FIC 0114 July 2013 Semester
What we are covering today…
• Perspectives on Mass Communication
• Blog/Vlog Assignment
• Individual Assignment
Let’s talk about…
1. Based on your current knowledge of mass communication, why
should people study this field?
2. Why do you think people would want to go to the cinema to watch
3. Why would anyone want to read a novel?
4. What do you think are the Top 10 Reasons for people to want to
listen to music?
5. Why should we tune in to news channels? Put yourselves in the
shoes of a CEO, a tourist, and a parent of a teenaged girl.
6. Explain the need for paradigms. What other paradigms are there
besides the ones mentioned in the notes?
F0114 IMC L2
PERSPECTIVES ON MASS
(Theories: Functional & Critical/cultural)
by Philip Gan Chee Keat
School of Communication, Taylor’s University
•Understand differences between functional/critical approach
to studying mass communications
•Describe the functions mass media perform for society
•Explain uses-and-gratifications analysis
•Understand critical/cultural concepts: meaning, hegemony,
WHY Do We Study Mass Communication?
• People do it for different reasons:
– Scholars want to comprehend the process and develop theories to
explain and predict how the media operate.
– Critics want to know about media’s influences and to suggest
improvements to media content.
– Media consumers want to evaluate the information presented by the
media in order to be used in their daily lives.
• In order to study the field, we need to use a paradigm.
Paradigms are models or thought patterns
(approaches for analysing something) guiding us
how to think about the mass communication
Two relevant paradigms to mass communication
– Functional Approaches
– Critical/Cultural Approaches
Paradigms are useful because they:
– Provide a perspective to examine mass
– Generate concepts to understand media
– Help identify important elements in the process
How different schools analyse the
How individuals use the media
oWhy this movie? Like it?
oIdentify with Jake Sully?
oWhat have you learnt that is
oYounger vs older audience? How
do they “use” the show?
ffice $2.7 b
How we interpret the content
oWhite supremacist domination in
oAnti-war, anti-capitalism & pro8
Why do you use
• Functional approach: Something is best understood by
examining how it is used.
– For mass media, this means examining how audiences
interact with media and how they use media
THE ROLE OF MASS COMMUNICATION
• Different media provide different primary uses (roles).
Eg. Newspapers=information; CDs=music
• Macroanalysis: how media functions for the society as a
• Microanalysis: how media functions for the individual
Usage of mass media for each person is subjective
FUNCTIONS OF MASS COMMUNICATION FOR
Societal level (Macroanalysis)
• Society requires certain communication needs be met: to
warn, entertain, tell etc.
• Sometimes the consequences of performing these
functions by the media could be positive or negative for
the welfare of the society.
• Dysfunctions: negative consequences.
Eg. Sensational gun violence media coverage causes
Media are sentinels-they take the news & information role.
a. Warning, or beware of impending danger
Economic depression, war, food crisis.
b. Instrumental, useful/ helpful info for daily
function (entertainment media)
Fashion, new products, weather.
–Speed spreads news fast but also distortions & inaccuracies.
–Our trust plummets & media credibility suffers.
–Our conception of reality is the editors’/journalists’
–Sensational & inaccurate news create anxiety/ moral panic.
– Provide meaning & prominence to events.
– Media organisations set the agenda.
– Editorial columns, reviews, cartoons, readers’ opinion
– Wide range of contrasting viewpoints
– Greater depth of expertise available
– No guarantee interpretations are accurate
– People become overly dependent on media
– Weigh all sides before making decision
– Bring together various elements of society that are not
– Reducing geographical separation
– Advertising-“linking” buyers and sellers,
Partisan Newspapers –linking people of similar views/
– Blogs/ Facebook-linking people to causes & benefits
– Build new groups or communities
– Hate groups or terrorist groups use of Internet
– Forging cross-border/international ties between people &
4. Transmission of Values (Socialization)
– People adopt behaviors or values of a group
– Media portrays society as how it is supposed to
be in a perfect/utopian world
– Thus, we learn how to act & adopt
values/mindsets/attitudes from the media.
– Media reinforce social values (eg. gender roles,
racial profiling) from generation to generation.
– E.g. Media mommies, white Westerners saves
the day in Hollywood blockbusters
5. Mass media & socialization
– Media consciously instill values & behaviour in the audience that are
generally accepted by the majority.
– Stabilise society by creating common bonds
– Encourage the status quo (how society functions) by providing selective
cultural information – conforming to stereotypes
– Enforce social norms (M’sia govt urged to punish male actors for portraying
feminine/pondan/effeminate characters on film and TV)
– Eg. No smoking, drugs nor drinking; be good to your neighbours, men are
macho heroes, females are weak & needs rescuing, women are homemakers
TV and socialization dysfunction
– TV has the greatest potential for socialisation but…sometimes not.
• Violence as a legitimate way to solve problems
• Fearful of general safety in our neighbourhood
• Stereotyping races spread fear and hatred.
– Importance of this function has grown as we have had more leisure
– Books, motion pictures and sound recordings.
– Emergence of mobile technology & internet amplified entertainment.
– It has become easier to sit back and let others entertain us.
– Low brow copycat programmes mushroomed.
– Will mass media turn us into a nation of watchers instead of a nation
HOW PEOPLE USE MASS MEDIA
• Uses-and-gratifications: how people use the
– Individual level (microanalysis)
• People have certain needs or desires
• Needs satisfied by media and non-media sources
• Media-related satisfaction of needs=media gratification
– Six categories of media uses, reflecting needs.
– Emotional Release (catharsis)
• Social Utility
– Conversational Currency
– Parasocial Relationships
• To know about something (surveillance).
• Stimulation (relief from boredom & daily activities)
– Simply to pass time
• Relaxation (escape from pressures)
– Seek relief from sensory overload
• Emotional release
– Catharsis (release of pent up emotions/ energy)
– Positive effects: identify with the challenges of a movie character;
comforted by a tv character with similar problems…felt relieved.
• Media used for strengthening ties with family, friends &
others. E.g. – Petronas TV commercials celebrating festivals &
• Conversational currency-media provide common ground for
– What did you download from Piratebay?
– What movie did you watch?
• Parasocial relationship-viewers develop feelings of kinship &
relationship with media characters.
– My teenage daughter was devastated that Finn Hudson died!
– I can’t believe what happened at the Red Wedding! Utterly shocking!
– Bob Marley, John Lennon, Che Guevara, Leslie Cheung, Bruce Lee – they
remained icons long after their death
– We cheer our heroes on, we cry at their pain, we celebrate their
triumphs – in TV, in films, in books, even in real life
• A sense of belonging & involvement within a social
• Social network sites & online gaming.
• Expressing inner thoughts, feelings & opinion.
• To create barrier (buffer zones) between ourselves &
other people/ activities.
Content & context (of using media)
– Content (of the media) and context (of people) both
affect media use:
• Why do you go to the movies? For the movie? Dating?
• Why do you like to watch McDreamy?
– Assumptions of functional approach:
• Audiences are actively interacting with the media to satisfy
• Mass media competes with other sources of satisfaction.
• People are aware of their needs and they rationally choose
to consume the media (gauged through surveys).
• Very different from the functional approach:
– More qualitative; humanistic
• Examines different concepts:
– Ideology, culture, politics, social structure
• as related to the role of media in society
• 1930s-1940s: The Frankfurt School & Marxism
Who controls the means of production?
Capitalists (the haves) control the mass (have-nots)
Conform to status quo (capitalism –as a way of life)
Those in control will maintain control
– Examined and found media industry that exploited the masses:
• Glorifies capitalism.
• Production in media were standardized; Hollywood focused on
banal ideologies: from-rags- to-riches or dream-come-true
phenomena (eg. The Social Network movie supports capitalistic
ideals of success), instead of movies on the current economic
crisis to uncover the greed of capitalists.
• This reinforces the status quo (capitalism works).
• Frankfurt School criticized for undermining power of the audience
(they’re deemed passive).
• 1950s-1960s: British cultural studies
– Mass media audience are not manipulated by the media.
– Audience redefine the products of mass culture, and create new
definitions for their own purpose.
Eg. Oppa KL Style
– Audience were free to resist dominant ideologies/ values embedded
in media texts and come-up with their interpretation.
• 1970s-1980s: Varied approaches
– Feminist scholars
• Patriarchy: Gender-based inequalities of wealth and power;
• Eg. Gender inequality in the media
– Communication as ritual
• Group viewing participation that maintains social
• Eg. Men gathering at Mamak stalls to watch soccer.
– Cultural myths embodied in mass communication
• Society’s common themes, heroes and origins.
Various media throughout the years has portrayed
gender inequality in vastly different ways.
Culture: common values, beliefs, rules, social practices and assumptions binding
Text: object of analysis, broadly defined-traditional & non-traditional media
– Meaning: interpretations of texts.
– Polysemic: a text has different meanings to different audiences.
Ideology: deeply imbedded beliefs/ ideas, especially regarding political and
Hegemony: power relationships & dominance
– Control by the dominant is accepted as natural and normal by the
dominated. The status quo unquestioned.
– How media is used to support power structures. (Utusan/UMNO, The
– Eg. patriarchy dominance –preference of pretty female newscasters and
How many different type of meanings
can you come up with for this image?
• Functional and cultural/critical approaches are different
– Difference has led to tension among scholars.
– Both approaches are valuable.
– As mass communication professionals, you have to have
the ability to recognise the purpose of content in mass
media from both approaches, based on context.
Assignment 1 Launch!
Please refer to the Assignment 1 Brief
posted on Edmodo/TIMeS
Blog Assignment Brief
Entry No. 1: for both Tutorial 1 & 2
The mass media is a cultural storyteller. Examine one of
your favourite television programmes (can be any genre)
and discuss the cultural beliefs or values that shapes the
ways we think, feel and act. (300words)
1. Explain what do you understand by "the media is a
cultural storyteller". (50 words)
2. Discuss at least three beliefs or values from the TV
programme that influence the ways people think, feel and
act. (200 words)
3. Conclusion: what can we learn about mass media's
influence as a cultural storyteller (50 words)
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