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Media Expressions. Social Scientific & Cultural Approaches to Media Research Chapter 16. Edward R. Murrow Apr 25, 1908 - Apr 27, 1965 (age 57).

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Media expressions

Media Expressions

Social Scientific & Cultural

Approaches to Media Research

Chapter 16

Edward r murrow apr 25 1908 apr 27 1965 age 57

EdwardR. MurrowApr 25, 1908 - Apr 27, 1965 (age 57)

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it's nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (15 October 1958)

Media expressions

The idea that media have a significant impact on society has fueled the development of two research approaches

Social Scientific Research (quantitative)

Cultural Studies (qualitative)

Explores how people make meaning, understand reality, articulate values, and interpret their experiences through use of cultural symbols in media.

Takes a subjective experiential perspective.

  • Attempts to understand, explain, and predict the impact of mass media on individuals and society.

  • This approach involves formulating a testable hypothesis, collecting data, and drawing conclusions based on the data. P. 278.

Early research methods

Early Research Methods

  • The “social scientific method” evolved out of the study of people acting within a social setting or society at large.

  • Growing fields of sociology, psychology, political science, and anthropology fueled the demand for empirical approaches to theorize about human behavior.

  • Walter Lippman’s 1922 Public Opinion is considered the “founding book in American media studies” p. 479.

Communication research grew from 1930 60 in the following areas

Communication research grew from 1930-60 in the following areas:

Early Research Methods

Propaganda Analysis

Public Opinion Research

Social Psychological Studies

Marketing Research

Early social scientific research

early social scientific research

  • Who says what to whom with what effect?

  • This approach is known as ‘media effects’

  • Three useful theories emerged:

  • Hypodermic Needle (or magic bullet) model.

  • Minimal Effects Theory involving selective exposure and selective retention.

  • Uses and Gratifications Theory

Social scientific research today

social scientific research today

  • Social Learning Theory – Albert Bandura

  • Agenda-setting Theory- McCombs & Shaw

  • The Cultivation Effect – George Gerbner

  • The Spiral of Silence Theory – Elizabeth Noelle-Newman.

  • Third Person Effect Theory – W. Phillips Davison

Who conducts social scientific media research

Who Conducts Social Scientific Media Research?

  • Private (proprietary) research – done by businesses, corporations, and political campaigns.

    • Typically focuses on a narrow agenda.

    • Sell a product, correct a bad image, win a campaign.

  • Public research – done in academic and government settings.

    • Typically tries to clarify, explain, or predict the effects of the media.

Seven steps

Seven Steps

Research involves following the scientific method:

  • Identify the problem to be researched.

  • Review existing research and theories related to the problem.

  • Develop a working hypothesis

  • Determine an appropriate method.

  • Collect information or relevant data.

  • Analyze results to see if they verify the hypo

  • Interpret the implications of the study (so what?)

Three main ways to collect data experiments 1 http www youtube com watch v pr0otcvthbu

Three main ways to collect data:Experiments = 1

Survey Research =2

Content Analysis = 3

Defines terms

Develops a coding scheme.

Conclusions based on number of times a symbol (image, word) appears.

  • Collects & measures information about attitudes, knowledge, or behavior.

  • Uses a random sampling technique.

  • Often used in longitudinal studies.

  • Can only show correlations.

Evaluating social scientific research

Evaluating Social Scientific Research

  • The focus of most government funded research is media effects on youth, i.e. violence, language use, and sexuality.

  • Privately funded research is usually not available for public consumption.

    • Bias may skew the results given a sponsor’s agenda.

Cultural approaches to media research

Cultural Approaches to Media Research

  • “Interprets written and visual ‘texts’ or artifacts as symbols that contain cultural, historical, and political meanings.

  • A cultural approach offers interpretations of the stories, messages, and meanings that circulate throughout society” p. 492

  • Cultural approach theories, like social science theories, have evolved over time.

Early cultural studies approaches

early cultural studies approaches

Literary and cultural critics


Antonio Gramsci theorized about how the disempowered accept their oppression and even buy into it through media exposure.

Other early cultural approaches

Other early cultural approaches

Frankfurt School

  • Max Horkheimer, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal & others

Stuart hall s representation

Stuart Hall’s Representation

Contemporary media studies

Contemporary Media Studies

  • Race, class, and gender are intersections where cultural studies researcher look for subjects to study.

    • A favored topic of inquiry is lost voices or silenced voices.

    • My own work has often taken this line of inquiry.


Contemporary cultural studies 2

Contemporary Cultural Studies -2

  • Textual analysis is a close reading and interpretation of cultural messages, including those found in books, movies, & TV programs, essentially any media that uses symbols to broadcast from one to many.

  • Horace Newcomb’s TV: The Most Popular Art

  • Studied why certain TV programs and formats were popular in the 1960-70s.

Contemporary cultural studies 3

Contemporary cultural studies - 3

  • Political Economy Studies looks at the interconnections among economic interests, political power, and ways in which that power is used.

  • Areas of interest include consolidation of media ownership and implications of a handful of individuals owning the majority of the media outlets.



Evaluating cultural studies research

Evaluating Cultural Studies Research



Requires thorough grounding in theories used to analyze text.

Requires thorough understanding of the subject.

Often ignores audience effects.

  • Inductive reasoning: from one example to many.

  • Specialization in area reveals hidden assumptions about text.

  • Offers a variety of theories to apply to the text.

Research topic

Research topic

B r eaking b ad

Breaking Bad

Social Scientific Approach

Cultural Studies Approach

Research Question: Is morality inflected by gender, race, & class?

Close reading of the text.

Analyze the characters of Walter White, Skyler, Saul Goodman.

Review literature on ethics, gender, race, & social class .

  • Apply 7 steps

  • Hypothesis: Viewers of BB become desensitized to drug-related violence and believe it is common.

  • Survey to collect data.

  • Use cultivation effect theory to analyze data.

  • Draw conclusions.

Converging media case study studying digital narratives ethnography explores the big picture

Converging Media Case Study:Studying digital narratives:Ethnography explores the big picture.

Questions about either approach

Questions about either approach?

  • Activity:

  • With a partner, generate a research question about a medium & product you are interested in learning more about.

  • Identify how you would go about researching the question. Why?

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