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Communications and Race: A Summary of Chapters 1,2, & 6 of “Communications and Race; A structural Perspective” by Oscar H. Gandy, Jr.
Aitza M. Haddad, J.D., LL.M. Howard University October 2, 2012
DISCUSSION OUTLINEI. IntroductionII. Communications & RaceIII. Theoretical Perspectives of Communication and Race A. Critical Theory, Cultural Studies & Political Action B. Contemporary Thories i. Culture and Cognition ii. Class as an Aspect of Structure iii. Social Structure & Determination iv. Race, Social Status & Communication v. Market StructureIV. The Social Construction of RaceV. Discussion QuestionsVI. A Critical Research Agenda
I. INTRODUCTION “WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES…”• 1789 – The Founding Fathers originally meant white men with land. It was not intended to include nobody else.• 2012 - Today “We the people” means that every person that is within the territory of the United States is protected, in some way or another, by the Constitution. – A shift from a narrow meaning to a more broad definition. • Is this a random or a premeditated incident?
II. COMMUNICATION & RACE• Book’s Goal – To understand the ways in which the relations between communications and race can be transformed in ways that are enabling, rather than limiting. – Role of communication process in racial structuration.• Book’s Perspective – Conceptual orientation that emphasizes the theoretical value of notions and structure. – The book avoids making claims about the underlying reality and instead talks about the ways in which we might usefully think about social reality in structural terms.• Method – Many of the insights discussed in the book were adapted from social research not explicitly concerned with race, and from studies of race relations not generally focused on communications. – The book focuses on scholarship that critically engages media systems and audiences in on order to understand the ways in which the consequences of media consumption reflect the structures of power. that surround it.
• One of the purposes of the book is to illuminate the place of race as an aspect of social structure by examining the ways in which communicative acts are involved in the creation and maintenance of the allegiances, bonds, options, and ligatures that define social location.• It focuses on matters of race, racial identity, and racism, and the complex social practices that ensure the continued existence of race as a critical determinant of the distribution of life chances.• The author rejects the label of cultural studies for the book because it has come to associate the label too closely with the anti-intellectual strain of radical postmodernist thinking that opposes the pursuit of theoretical knowledge, denies the possibility as well as the utility of generalization, and characterizes political action as meaningless.
III. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES OF COMMUNICATION AND RACE• There are distinctions to be made between the various approaches to the study of communication and race. – Critical and Administrative Research – ideological orientation of the researcher ,which provides a basis to determine both problems and methods, and for therefore distinguishing between approaches.• Competing and complementary theoretical models have affected the ways in which we have understood and understand communications and race. – Relation between races – defined in terms of status and class linked to skin color, employment, wealth, status, and authority. – Shift in the definition of race toward the social and away from its biological basis. • Biological Orientation – genetically determined capacity, specifically capacity of reasoning or intelligence and how to measure it. – Focus on capacity was generally towards one end of the scale; focus in deficit.
A. CRITICAL THEORY, CULTURAL STUDIES & POLITICAL ACTION• Critical theory requires an understanding of the ways in which changes in the material reality of social life and social theory tend to interact and influence each other. – The attempt to understand how social theory affects our commonsense understanding of reality is best understood as a problem in the sociology of knowledge. • Two interacting sources of influence: – Actual changes in phenomena » Ready identifiable changes » Changes that are not so readily observed – Changes in the theoretical system – Critical scholars of communications - power and influence. • The way we think about power and the things that power affects may get in the way of our efforts to control its abuse.• There is fear that concerns with power and politics, which had supplied the initial motivation behind the critical project, might be lost in the move toward formalization and institutionalization.
• Cultural Studies – from its earliest moments in Great Britain, was concerned with the redistribution of cultural capital, power, and politics. – Because many people had different theoretical positions, the intellectual movement experienced uncertainty in choosing an appropriate path. – Scholars working under it had shift from its original concerns to matters of race and gender. – The critical timing is often playful and is directed toward generating a pleasurable experience for readers to enjoy and learn from creative and expressive deconstruction of mainstream media products.• Cultural studies perspectives that prefer to emphasize resistance over domination were influence by the idea that texts are polysemic or capable of multiple interpretations. – Emphasis within cultural studies was on the ways in which individuals could create new meaning out of symbolic raw material provided by an increasingly international global media market. – Critical readings serve at least two primary purposes within cultural studies: • Criticism of representations that distort, ignore, or displace the reproduction of important aspects of the lives of subordinate groups. • The reproduction of critical reading skills and an informed political sense within the subordinate population.
• French critical theorists influenced the history of cultural studies by drawing attention to the fields, sites or spaces in which social practices and discursive forms come to reflect their origins in social structure. – It became important for claims about the social practice of media consumption to be derived from direct observation of those practices in their natural and usual settings. – The focus on resistance, which had already shifted toward creativity, shifted again towards the celebration of the uniqueness of cultural fields and social identities – The celebration of difference. • Shift from the debate of power and politics to the debate of culture and difference.• Besides the polarity of theoretical positions and the shift from its original concerns, other challenges to the critical mission of cultural studies include: – Its growth outside Great Britain – U.S. cultural studies as the most notable. – Professionalization of the cultural studies ↔ Depoliticization of critical scholarship – avoidance of political topics. – It can no longer rely upon a single analytical approach. – The politics of identity are incapable of making use of the insights and presumed power of postmodernist theory because political struggle is organized within the category of identity. – A move toward a new postmodern citizenship because of the forged link between the critical academia and the state.
B. CONTEMPORARY THEORIES• Differences between political economy, effects research, literary criticism, and cultural studies can be understood in terms of differences in the underlying theory of society and the underlying theory of science.• Different theoretical systems or paradigms have their own means of evaluating truth claims made within; therefore, at some point of intersection they would be incompatible with each other. – Political economy and effects research tend toward the pole of objectivity. – Cultural studies and literary criticism tend toward the pole of subjectivity. • An analytical goal and methodological stance characteristic of cultural studies is the search for generalizable, rather than universal, claims. – The work tends to deny that it is making claims about generality and focuses on single cases producing a tendency toward particularism. • Important to understand the relation between concrete social experience and cognitive structure and the affective and cognitive dimensions of our beliefs systems. – A shift within the field to ethnographic observation shows the shift towards rarely using multiple informants as a way to increase confidence in the typicality of the case studies provided. – They are on similar poles with regard to ontology, or theories of existence. – Both have historically tended to emphasize conflict rather than consensus.
• Shift from behavioral science to cultural studies emergence of an information-processing paradigm. – Shift within the behavioral sciences on two levels: • Dependent variables – from attitudes to cognitions. • Independent variables – from purposive communications, aimed at persuasion, to more subtle processes involving cognition and meaning. – Rejection of simple outcomes and favors more complex transformations of cognitive structure. – Opened a way for the study of stability or resistance to change in cognitions. – Shift away from the goals and intentions of the communicator or source toward the receiver as active processor of information. • Helped to define the contours of this new paradigm.• Radical tradition of media studies – assumes that there is a link between media ownership and content and that this link serves an ideological function on behalf of dominant groups rather than societal interests. – Forced retreat – shift in focus away from media ownership to consideration of journalist practice with an emphasis on structural complexity and contestation. • These shifts in critical media theory have tended to be discussed as examples of intellectual progress.
• Structuration theory – Structure is both the product and the source of social or cultural activity. – Both social change and social reproduction are the products or regularized interactions between individuals and representatives of organizations. – Routine interaction – expose people to the influence of others – Social influence. • Provides the cumulative instantiation that produces everyday racism.• The individual is seen as a knowledgeable actor who engages in goal-directed activities that involve continuous assessment and adjustment of those activities on the basis of available information.• One challenge is to understand the nature of change within complex social system.
I. CULTURE AND COGNITION• Cognition and constraint – Structure of attitudes and opinions product of social experience. – P. Bourdieu concept habitus – set of objectives conditions that are incorporated into a logically structured set of principles and ideals. • One difficulty lies in specifying the underlying process through to which the cognitive connections are established, reinforced, and changed through experience. – E. Durkheim – introduced the notion of the collective mind, which was subject to change as a product of social conditions. • Sociology became psychologized by the acceptance of the view that everything social consists of images or is the product of images. – Soviet Psychology and Vygotsky – established a dialectical focus on psychic activities. • The joint outcome of inner biological and outer sociocultural conditions. – Cognitive Schemas – Thematic structures of memories. • Produced by the links between images and impressions that are developed and reinforced over time through a process of social learning.• Attitudes and opinions – Structural nature of social perceptions occupying a conceptual space defined by evaluations of: – Evaluative – Potency All have an Emotive dimension – Activity
II. CLASS AS AN ASPECT OF STRUCTURE• Legitimizing myths – any coherent set of socially acceptable attitudes, beliefs, values, and opinions that provide moral and intellectual legitimacy to the unequal distribution of social value.• Social class and the relations between antagonistic classes are more than the hierarchical order of upper to lower class but are also based on the ownership and control of capital. – Class is a structure that translates inequality and power into different life-chances opportunities. • Life chances may vary with social position and some are more influenced by race than others are. • The notion of life chances does not describe a definable set that could be represented as points on a surface. They are: – Probabilistic, or uncertain, relationships between any particular location with a social structure, and particular outcomes. – Accumulations of advantage and disadvantage that accrue to people who occupy different positions within the social structure. – The proposed use of caste as a structural feature emphasizes the social behavioral, rather than the economic, relationships.
III. SOCIAL STRUCTURE & DETERMINATION• Social structure has a material force that produces what is implicated in determining observable patterns in a variety of social phenomena.• Important to understand the nature of relations between elements of the structure defined by class, as well as in structures based on other organizing principles such as race and gender. – Class position – Class identity – Class consciousness• Relationships within the service or information sectors might also influence racial group consciousness. – Ex. Routine efforts to survive economically by satisfying the demands of the clients.
IV. RACE, SOCIAL STATUS & COMMUNICATION• All members of racially identified groups participate to some degree in the process of status production.• Social status is conceptual and its links to self-esteem are relational. – Self-concept – formed in relation to the reference groups and subcultures one identifies and is identified with, and with the individual sense of self-worth based on the shared features that we use to characterize people according to race, ethnicity, class, and gender and reflected in terms of the characteristics of one’s social life. • Status and self-esteem are socially produced notions. – Interactions involving esteem might be thought of as a zero-sum event in which increases in status for one group necessarily mean a decrease in status of another.• Ideology of consumption – transformation in capitalism where consumption becomes the basis for individual and group identity.• Commercial mass media – becomes an instrument of social control because of the ways in which help to construct indicators of social status. – Mainstream media is often criticized because for failing to reflect the diversity within minority populations.
V. MARKET STRUCTURE• Structural influence is an aspect of the social environment that may limit or constrain the ability of the corporate controllers to always have things as they wish.• Capitalism – social formation determined by the domination of social interaction by a process of material production. – Competitive status of the market refers to the level of competition that indicates the presence or absence of power within those markets. – Consumer demand can be examined in relation to the specific attributes of the communication market.• Racial group membership and structural inequality represent different structural features that are predictive of media orientation and use. – Racial composition of markets – become an important structural feature to understand the relations between supply and demand. • The pursuit of greater precision in the characterization of audience segments produced the inclusion of racial identification to the traditional demographic categories of age and gender.
IV. THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE• Classification is a form of knowledge creation – Race ≠ Ethnicity – Race – is an unstable, unreliable, basis of classification • Racial classification ≠ Racial Identity – Externally observable characteristics. – Ethnic classification – even less reliable. Depends on a greater degree of active choice that is influenced by society and cultural identity. • Ethnicity and culture are historically and socially emergent. – Ethnogenesis – process of ethnic identification that is developed in the service of commercial interest with the support of government action.• There is contemporary uncertainty about the meaning of racial categories, the distinctions implied by racial classifications, and a powerful impression that social relations and the distribution of life chances are greatly influenced by such classifications. – A complex of inequalities has resulted from the inability of racial and ethnic minorities to voice their opinions in ways that can overcome the constraints inherent in a structure of race and class based privilege.
• It is suggested that the social construction of race evolved through four stages that reflect the influence of the political and economic concerns of the day: – Racial typology – approach that sought to characterize races on the basis of clusters of physical attributes supporting the view that each race was biologically different and permanently distinct. • In the 19th Century and early 20th Century to be anti-racist was the regarded as being anti- scientific, unpatriotic and opposed to progress. • Although is not commonly used today, it has not yet been swept away. – Social Darwinism – Evolutionary hypothesis to explain the apparent variation in racial characteristics and their relationships in clusters understood as an adaptation to environmental conditions. • Privileged biology over society – Proto-sociology – Classification from a social system perspective. • Focus was on race relations and not on race itself. • An intent to replace race by caste because of the ways in which caste emphasized the relational aspects of the problem. – Black Power – Marked as an emergent nationalism and an active struggle to for self- definition. • Race was used as evidence that social practice had generated and reproduced inferior socioeconomic status. • Racial group identity expanded to include the notion of community. – Multiculturalism – Suggested as the fifth stage. Political movement that extends the aspect of choice involved in constructing what it means to be part of any group in cultural terms that entail far more biology, and indeed, emphasizes social origins.
• Identity is socially constructed, not limited to an individual or personal frame of reference. Is enacted through communicative behaviors and routine interactions that analysis and characterization of the process of identity formation. – Types of identity: • Sociological identities (religion, social class, gender, etc.) • Occupational identities • Geobasic identities (rather than Racial) Asian, African, Latin, American, etc.) • National identities • Ethnic identities • Political identities (emerging)• Racial ideology – system of beliefs that is incorporated into a range of discourses in ways that reinforce and reproduce beliefs and assumptions about individuals because of their identification with a particular racial group. – Recognition that race is a social construct has done little to suppress a common belief that it is necessary and important for governments and courts to recognize this construction and use it as a basis for legislative and judicial action. • Prerequisite for illegal racial classification – The rules for racial classification reflect rules for social relations, which ultimately reflect the distribution of power. • Considered to be a hopeless task because the category schemes are inconsistent and vague: Africans, Europeans, Asians, Hispanics, and American Aboriginals. – An emergent political correctness created a need to develop alternative measures of racism.
• Racial discrimination and prejudice – component of racial ideology that emerged as a product of differential social status and the orientation of actions taken within the legal system toward the mitigation of social problems. – Is a process that in general does not vary along class lines. – Became an aspect of race relations around which experts argue and debate. • Theoretical conversations about race have shifted in response to particular social and historical circumstances from merely irrational and unjustified, to the achieved status of a more rational response to individual interests. – It have been shaped rather than discouraged by the rule of law by reflecting the influence of the particular social and political concerns that dominate the social agendas and by changing the importance of racial identity and the quality of life chances that people enjoy. – Racial discrimination is the primary form through which the exercise of power transforms prejudice or ethnocentrism into the experience of racism. • Determination of group membership is an exercise of power that is not always tempered by concerns about justice.• Racial Stereotypes – aid to automatic and biased social perception that is reinforced, enhanced, and then integrated into broader systems of meaning by our own experiences and their different forms of communication. – Are the result of a complex motivational social process and are developed and used as a product of social interaction with a context-dependent functionality role. Useful in routine information- processing tasks. – Mass Media, which is to a great extent influenced by the logic of capitalist markets, makes profit a dominant role in the reproduction of racial stereotypes.
• Racism – its definition changes with the shifts in the meaning of race and its framing as a social problem. – Racist behavior is the stigmatization of difference in order to justify advantage or abuse of power. – Is a system of structural inequalities and a historical process created and recreated through routine practices.• It is suggested that racism is both structure and process. – Structure – forms of domination, which implies an exercise of power, exist and are reproduced through the formulation and application of rules, laws, and regulations and through access to and allocation of resources. – Process – Structures exist only through the everyday practices through which they are created and confirmed. • Everyday racism – integration of racism into everyday situations through cognitive and behavioral practices that activate underlying power relations. It has meaning only in relation to the whole complex or relations and practices.• Institutionalized racism and widespread discrimination contributes to self-esteem and self concept and ensures very few opportunities to success. – Development of cognitive maps and cognitive structures is dependent upon the amount and quality of information one processes in a day-to-day routine basis. • Media dependency – produces and reproduces a distorted or biased image of the out-group and of role models that we use for self-evaluation. – Information is likely to be mediated by other individuals or by the mass media and is therefore structured by the interests that motivate or govern those sources.
• Ethnic humor – a type of humor in which fun is made of the perceived behavior, customs, personality, or any other traits of a group or its members by virtue of their specific sociocultural identity. – Relies upon readily available stereotypes reinforcing the symbolic structures in which they exist and do their cultural work, and represent another critical site for the nature of structuration and the reproduction of racism. – Subjective assessment – A joke’s power to amuse depends on the context and the way it is delivered; whether one gets the joke or not depends on the nature of one’s experiences accumulated over time. • Symbolic function - The influence of group identity is substantial and the salience of identity is socially determined.• Propaganda – a strategic resource that involves a careful and predetermined plan of prefabricated symbol manipulation to communicate to an audience in order to fulfill an objective, which requires the audience to reinforce or modify attitudes and/or behaviors. – It is not directed towards the goal of understanding but toward the manipulation of consciousness and the subsequent control of behavior. – Important to distinguish between the consequences of intentional and unintentional or unanticipated acts and understand their interaction to better comprehend the reproduction of racism.
V. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS LET’S TALK…• What is the role of the communications media in helping to shape the process through which social shared perspectives are formed?• How changes in technology, media ownership and finance, market demographics, and audience preferences influence representations of groups? – How the audience incorporates these representations into its cognitive structure?• Is status determined by production or in terms of consumption?• How communications about race influences the distribution of power? – What would be better for society, to banish the concept of power from the discourse of communications or to rethink this concept?
VI. A CRITICAL RESEARCH AGENDA• The reason of understanding the world is to change it. However we cannot change everything at once.• According to the author, there is a need: – For a community of professionals that understands, and helps others to understand, that race need not be a determinant of the evaluative structures that organize the distribution of life chances. • We need scholarship that is directed toward finding patterns and not focused so much at the level of individuals. – The elite opinion and intellectual leadership is what enables the reproduction of dominant ideological structures that make it likely that people will understand inequality as the product of individual rather than structural inadequacies. – To push forward the problems of specification and measurement, and for a higher level of precision and agreement about the meanings we assign to important concepts that are the raw materials of theories. – To find a way to pool our resources and work collectively to develop archives of media content analysis that would allow for assessment of the relations between dominant frames in different media and shifts in public opinion over time.
• Resentment has been identified as the dominant feature of contemporary racial feeling. – Neo-conservatism – color-blindness or desire to deny the existence of racial difference through an emphasis on ethnicity or culture. – New-liberalism – similar with regard to its position on color-blind policy making but are more willing to invite government action on the basis of other classifications. Fails in considering privilege. • Color-blindness as an ideological process that it is attractive because of its inherently egalitarian and democratic tilt. • New abolitionists – actively engaged in a process that, if successful, might dissolve the links between racial identity and status and other material advantages by beginning changes at the top of the hierarchy where the benefits are.• Problems with understanding media effects: – Insufficient data due to social desirability and unwillingness of people to reveal their views on racial issues because they do not want to be thought as racist or narrow-minded. – While technology reduces the costs of processing information, the costs of accessing public attitudes and opinions on political issues may rise dramatically.
• Critical research directed to social goals is struggling because it is harder for sponsors to see its profit and because those who would benefit the most from it cannot afford to pay for it. – An operational definition of racial identity should engage the distinctions between forms of identity with an emphasis on common experience in consumption (Weberian) rather than on a common experience of oppression (Marxian).• Although there are a variety of somewhat reliable and predictive measures to assess the influence of different forms or aspects of identity, there is not much progress in the utility of different measures of racial identity. – Standardized measures of ideological self-identification should be developed and implemented in large-scale studies designed to understand shifts and patterns in public opinion and social behavior.
• The book aims to: – Underscore the importance of understanding the ways in which differences in social position are associated with attachment to particular views and the ways in which people characterize each other. – Help us clarify some of the confusion about whether racism has declined or merely been transformed and asses the impact of progressive interventions. – To clarify, understand and asses the influence of different groups in the articulation of an ideology of color-blindness in opposition to affirmative action and other race-based public policies and of an ideological identity that produces racial class. – To find out whether increasing group participation is a good thing over all, or whether particular kinds of participation should be privileged and targeted. – To understand how the tension between a capitalist logic and racialized social responsibility is being implemented in different countries and different media markets.
I. Introduction QUESTIONSII. Communications & RaceIII. Theoretical Perspectives of Communication and Race A. Critical Theory, Cultural Studies & Political Action B. Contemporary Thories i. Culture and Cognition ii. Class as an Aspect of Structure iii. Social Structure & Determination iv. Race, Social Status & Communication v. Market StructureIV. The Social Construction of RaceV. Discussion QuestionsVI. A Critical Research Agenda
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