Chapter 2: Perspectives on Mass Communication


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Chapter 2: Perspectives on Mass Communication

  1. 1. Chapter 2Perspectives on Mass Communication
  2. 2. Key termsParadigm: a model or pattern that a person uses to analyzesomething 1. Functional approach: emphasizes the way that audiences use mass communication and the benefits that people receive from media consumption 2. 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 3. 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**the empirical approach is covered later on in the semester. We will only be discussing the functional and critical/cultural approach in this chapter
  3. 3. Why use a paradigm?1. It provides us with a consistent perspective from which to examine mass communication2. It generates concepts that are helpful in understanding media behavior3. It helps us identify what is or is not important in the process
  4. 4. Example: The ApprenticeThe functional approach would ask whypeople watch this show. What about theshow appeals to men, or women? Doesthe audience learn anything? Do peoplelike to play along? Do they talk aboutthe show with their friends?The critical/cultural approach wouldinvestigate the role editing and castingplays in creating a reality experience,how does the show portray capitalism?Does it suggest wealth is an importantvalue? Does it glorify competition overcooperation?
  5. 5. Functional analysisAsks, “why?”•Why do you watch TV?•Why do you go to the movies?•Why do you use Facebook?
  6. 6. Mass communication in society• Mass media is pervasive• Different people use different media for different purposes• Society requires communication• Function/dysfunctionTwo types of analyses:1. 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 society2. 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
  7. 7. Functions of Mass Communication for Society• Surveillance: 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• Beware surveillance: when the news/information media warn the public about something. i.e. weather alerts, terrorism warnings, global warming• Instrumental surveillance: information that is useful in an everyday manner. e.g. stock prices, movie listings, “lifestyle” articles*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.
  8. 8. Consequences of relying on the media surveillance function• With electronic media, news travels FAST 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.• 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?
  9. 9. 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” status conferral: media attention raises prominence
  10. 10. Interpretation• 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 Consequences: many opinions are presented, there is no guarantee that opinions by experts are accurate and valid, people might let the media do their thinking for them
  11. 11. Linkage• 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
  12. 12. Transmission of Values• 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• Consequences: • Media stereotypes What do you think some of those are?How does the media portray the American family over the years?
  13. 13. Mass media & social valuesSometimes, the mediaconsciously tries to instillvalues and behavior in theaudience, and/or enforcesocial norms • newspapers reporting whether or not a car accident victim was wearing a seatbelt • smoking on TV • anti-drug ads • Jonas Brothers purity pledge
  14. 14. Entertainment• 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
  15. 15. Consequences of the entertainment functionConsequences: entertainment that is carriedby the mass media must appeal to a massaudience. As a result, media content isdesigned to appeal to the lowest commondenominator of taste. More programs thatresemble Survivor and Jerry Springer will findtheir way to TV than will opera performances.•We are more apt to see sequels such as StarTrek VIII than we are to see Much Ado AboutNothing II and More King Lear.•Rock radio stations outnumber classicalstations 20 to 1.•Critics have charged that the mass media willturn Americans into a nation of watchers andlisteners instead of doers.
  16. 16. How people use the mass media (microanalysis)Functional approach is a uses-and-gratificationsmodel, that states audiences have needs and desiresthat are satisfied by media and non-media sources. Six category system: 1.Cognition 2.Diversion 3.Social Utility 4.Affiliation 5.Expression 6.Withdrawal
  17. 17. 1. CognitionThe act of coming to KNOWsomething•Using the media to learnsomething•Example: current events,news•People use the media in acognitive way when theywant to understand theworld
  18. 18. 2. DiversionUsing the media to take our attentionelsewhere. Three major forms of diversion:1.Stimulation: seeking relief from boredom orthe routine activities of everyday life (I watchTV because I am bored, this special on theHistory Channel interests me)2.Relaxation escape from the pressures andproblems of day- to- day existence (Had areally stressful day at school, I relax bywatching Honey Boo Boo or reading TMZ) Thecontent is not the defining factor, sincevirtually any media material might be usedfor relaxation by some audience members.3.Emotional release: Media consumption ascatharsis - a release of pent-up emotion orenergy. (horror movies, tearjerkers)
  19. 19. 3. Social UtilitySocial Utility describes the human needto strengthen contact with familymembers, friends, our entire socialgroup•Conversational currency: using media ascommon ground for connecting withothers Did you see The Avengers? What did you think of the Superbowl commercials?•Parasocial relationship: thephenomenon where people develop(one-sided) relationships with mediacharacters. Example: fans of fictional characters, fans of a band, people who have favorite American Idol contestants, etc.
  20. 20. 4. AffiliationAffiliation refers to a person’sdesire to feel a sense ofbelonging or involvementwithin a social group•The Internet is the primarymedium that fulfills thisfunction for many people. • Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin • Others include: online gaming, instant messaging, dating and matchmaking Web sites, and text messaging
  21. 21. 5. ExpressionSelf-expression refers to individuals’ need toexpress their inner thoughts, feelings, andopinions.•The first examples of the need for self-expression are the cave drawings done by earlyhuman beings•Since that time, the need for self-expression hasbeen fulfilled primarily by creative and artisticactivities 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 individualityExpression is an important function for theindividual
  22. 22. 6. WithdrawalWithdrawal describes using the media to createa barrier between themselves and other people•“I’ll do that after I’m done watching myshow.” 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 bufferzone 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 ”).
  23. 23. Critical/cultural studiesThe critical/cultural approach examines such concepts as ideology,culture, politics, social structure, and hegemony as they relate to therole of media in society•Rooted in Marxism: the best way to understand how a societyworked was to examine who controlled the means of productionthat met the basic needs of the population for food and shelter•They noted that, just as big firms controlled the production ofeconomic goods, other big companies controlled the production ofcultural goods•The Marxist perspective caused many to analyze the impact of themedia industries on the political and economic life of society and touse interdisciplinary theories and methods in their investigations
  24. 24. Critical/cultural approachGreat Britain (late 1950s and early 1960s) Scholars at the Centre forContemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University noted thatmembers of the British working class used the products of massculture 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 theFrankfurt School argued; instead, the relationship was morecomplicated.•Audience members took the products of mass culture, redefinedtheir meaning, and created new definitions of their self- image.•This emphasis on meaning was reinforced by studies of film andtelevision.
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. 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)
  27. 27. 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?
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. Key conceptsCulture: is a complex concept that refers to the common values,beliefs, social practices, rules, and assumptions that bind a groupof people togetherText: 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 intothe traditional category, such as shopping malls, T-shirts, dolls,video games, and beaches.Meaning: the interpretations that audience members take awaywith them from the text. In fact, texts have many meanings; theyare polysemic. Different members of the audience will havedifferent interpretations of the same text.
  30. 30. Key conceptsIdeology: a specific set of ideas orbeliefs, particularly regardingsocial and political subjects. Masscommunication messages andother objects of popular culturehave ideology embedded inthem.Hegemony: has to do with powerrelationships and dominance. Inthe United States, for example,those who own the channels ofmass communication possesscultural hegemony over the restof us. Maintains the “status quo.” How are gym teachers represented in our cultural products?