Media Influence. ‘One should be cautious in adopting a new kind of poetry or music, for this endangers the whole system…… lawlessness creep in there unawares’. – Plato, The Republic. What is Media Influence?. What song takes you back to that special occasion with that special person?
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‘One should be cautious in adopting a new kind of poetry or music, for this endangers the whole system…… lawlessness creep in there unawares’. – Plato, The Republic
What is Media Influence? What song takes you back to that special occasion with that special person? Which movie seems to give voice to your very soul? Which television show MUST you watch? As we go in search of the role that mass media plays in our culture, we will also be on an individual mission because all of us have spent so many hours, so many years interacting with the mass media. In fact, we would not be the person we are if not for the media. The media has done more than just entertain us during those countless hours of driving with the radio turned on, or listening to CDs, or watching a movie or watching television. We have also been persuaded. The media has given us thousands, probably millions of memory bytes; however, these are not stored in computers but in our brains. We recall them, as needed, to interpret the perceptions we are receiving at a given moment. Simply put, our brains are a library of songs, books, movies, television shows, and advertisements provided by the mass media, as well as by memories of church, parents, personal experiences, and friends. Considering the importance of the mass media on us individually and on our culture, you would think media theorists would have a clear understanding of what happens when we watch television. We would know how to advertise to be successful or how to guarantee success at the movie box office. In truth, we only have clues.
Fortunately, human responses generally have similarities with groups of other humans, permitting those of us who study mass media to have an educated clue as to what is going on when people consume media. Before you think that this clue is really precise and insightful, you should be aware that not everyone who studies mass media comes up with the same answers. Different answers and conclusions are reached partly because scholars ask different questions, and partly because they do not agree theoretically on how media works on either individuals or on society.
The benefit created by this scholarly disagreement is that we can look at media impacts from many different perspectives. The drawback is that each perspective only turns on a narrow beam of light seeking to illuminate a very big room. There will be no point where we turn on the switch and everything becomes clear. To understand Media influence we will be studying Communication Models and Theories. We can best understand these if we can "deconstruct the text,“ as in the media texts which “best” demonstrate that theory. And then see how it related or considered the “best” example to that Communication theory and the research behind it. Once we have a working knowledge of the communicative processes involved with mass media, we can shift gears and focus on the audience. For this, we will be looking from a theorist point of view at consumer behaviour, advertising, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and educational psychology. Each of these areas will provide insight into how audience groups respond to the mass messages.
From these theoretical beginnings, we will be able to bring media and cultural issues into focus by looking and finding the answers to the questions being raised. We will no longer have to settle for "Media affects some of the people some of the time." We can isolate factors that will influence media impacts. We will use the theory to come to terms with media issues that are shaping our culture because we will have a way of discussing media impact on society and on groups. Continuing this line of thought brings us to the focus of the book: mass media is persuasion. Usually when media and persuasion are used together, people are referring to either subliminal persuasion or propaganda. Neither accurately describes the persuasive impact of the media because both are built on the premise that what the viewer sees the viewer accepts. If this were true, McDonald's could not make enough cheeseburgers or Coca-Cola bottle enough Coke because the audience would be responding to every advertisement by eating another burger and drinking another Coke. Instead, people cognitively process the information tossed at them by the media.
Now consider how much television you have watched, how many movies you have seen, how much radio you have listened to, how many printed pages you have read. You have spent seven to ten hours a day since you were born taking media information into your brain and storing it for interpretation of future events. Now THAT is persuasion Everything you think about, everything that you do, every decision you make for the rest of your life will be influenced by the subtle methods of the media
SENDER RECEIVER MESSAGE QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT What Affects the Sender? What Affects the Message? Is anyone really listening? (The filter buster) What Affects the Receiver? The key factors in this process are: (A.) What is the point of the communication? (B.) People think in either words or pictures. (C.) Once the receiver clearly conceives of what needs to be said and how that thought should be expressed in signs or symbols, these thoughts have to be adapted to the intended or targeted audience. What is the point of the communication? If the point is not clear to the sender, then the receiver is unlikely to stumble upon the meaning the sender was unable to express. Therefore, the first step for the sender is to organize thinking, developing a concept that sums up the sender's purpose for the communication. Before deciding on a product ad campaign, advertisers may need to take into account the marketing mix and business objectives of the company, of which advertising is just a part. Just like the person going on a first date, the question may be what image does the sender want to project? Both represent an attempt to figure out the concept, the over all impression that the sender is trying to create.
Media Influence has A LOT of information to remember. Here is the break down: The Communication Models/Theories- Who created the Models & Theories and “evidence” of each The Audience – (the nature and extent of which the audience is influenced) The Research – What type of research was used to measure the influence and how good the research is/was The Positive and Negatives of Media Influence- Looking at case studies. We focus on TAC/Smoking Campaigns; but also look into Bobo Doll and Violent video games. The Regulation – How do we control the media and it’s influence. ** This covers stuff you did in year 11
Knowledge and Skills YOU need to show in your MI SAC & Exam Main points: • Need to understand media language! • Evidence/research/case studies/expert opinions/ audiences/regulation of media content • Strengths and weaknesses of theories, evidence and case studies. Issues with • Assessing and evaluating media influence and audience. • Ability to talk about a RANGE OF TEXTS. Knowledge and skills: • A range of media texts • Communication theories • Theories of audience • Understanding and evaluation of arguments and evidence - positive and negative. • Arguments and evidence surrounding the proposition of the media text. • Arguments and evidence surrounding the regulation of media content. • A range of media texts Forms we’ll be looking at: • TV, film, radio, internet, computer games etc.
Cultural Effects and Reception theories(from Media 2 pg 69) Communication theories are ideas that have been devised to help us understand the possible effects of the media on audiences. It is important to remember that not one model or theory is perceived as ‘correct’. The purpose of studying communication theories is to use these theories as a ‘lens’ through which to study the impact and influence of the media on specific audiences.
What is the difference between Communication Models & Theories So often these terms are used interchangeably but for the record: • A theory is a set of related generalisations suggesting new observations for experimental testing. • A model is a theoretical and simplified representation, it is often useful to illustrate a theory.
Communication Models So we must understand that communication theories, modes and research come out of one of three different models that describe the relationship between the media and society. • The Political Economy Model holds that the media are simply part of an economic system where power and control is held in political and economic institutions. Under this model the media transmits the message these institutions determine. • The Effects Model holds that media forms and content have strong effects on individuals and society. This model sees the media as a powerful agent of change. • The Cultural Model holds that it is culture which includes the political economy and the media that explains the individuals’ relationship with the media. The media serves as the communicative space within which cultures and other forces in society can interact.
Modes of communication(By the audience to media) Active Passive (Can turn off) (Zombie like)
Communications Theories Some Media experts claim that communication theories fall into two categories. Cultural Effects Theories suggest that the media as a whole is a powerful agent and that audiences are passive. These theories ask us to question what the media do to people. Reception Theories are concerned with what people do with the media. They suggest the audience are more active and the media is as a whole is to be used by the audiences. However it is good to note BOTH theories do believe that media texts are open to individual interpretation and that audience are able to distinguish between the media and reality.
Cultural effects theories include: • Hypodermic/Bullet Theory • Agenda Setting Function Theory Reception theories include: • Uses and Gratification Theory • Reinforcement Theory • Audience Reception Theory • Semiotic Constructivism Theory The Post Modern Theory belongs to neither.
A break down of modes of communication by the theories. Media is Media has PowerfulNeutral NO power Reinforcement Theory Hypodermic/ Bullet Theory Agenda Setting Function Theory Uses and Gratification Theory Post Modern Theory
Cause and effect on audiences by the media – the two extremes of the Communication theories. Hypodermic Bullet Theory Cause Effect Uses and Gratification Theory Cause No Effect
Hypodermic/ Bullet Theory Sometimes called the silver bullet theory or linear, this simplistic explanation of the communication process holds that the audiences are passive and are directly affected by the media messages they consume. Being one of the earliest communication models, this theory is easy to understand and this very simplicity makes it appealing to those who seek an explanation for what may be inexplicable. This theory suggests that media texts are closed, meaning no other interpretation other than the original undiluted message can be made. But some obvious questions to ask when looking at what this theory suggests is: • Do children really jump off the roof thinking they can fly? • Will teenagers copy what they see in the movies? Hypodermic theory was not tested but was based on anecdotal observations and speculation.
Examples of Hypodermic/Bullet Theory Examples of how the bullet theory is supposed to work perhaps is the most famous example is Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre company production of the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. In his radio adaption Welles chose to set the play as a news broadcast in which Martians had invaded New Jersey. It was later estimated that “about 20 percent of those listening to all or part of the broadcast exhibited hysterical panic reactions”. “About 25 percent of the listeners who had become frightened quickly concluded that they were listening to a radio drama because of the time distortion and other internal inconsistencies of the broadcast”. ‘Propaganda is the art of persuasion’ • Lein Reifenstein’s Nazi Film ‘Triumph of the Will’.
Bullet Theory (Hypodermic Needle)Developed 1920’s-1940’sFrankfurt School • Frankfurt school left Germany and went to USA and witnessed War of the Worlds broadcast by Orson Welles. (1938) • No real testing of this theory, based on observation and speculation. • Theory is now dead - completely disproved.However, still used in popular media by who?
Criticisms of the Bullet Theory. Clearly a theory as simple as the bullet or hypodermic theory is as appealing in its simplicity as it is illogical in practice. Not everyone receives and understands messages in exactly the same way it was sent to them. For this model, this means that the text is closed and that no meaning other than the original intended meaning can be made. • Whilst it does not stand to modern scrutiny, we all revert to using such thinking from time to time, usually to explain or prevent an unpleasant event. For example: • The motivation for mass murder is almost impossible for most people to comprehend. Was the killer mad or bad? What triggered the event? ‘The media made him do it!’ is a convenient and logical explanation for the inexplicable. • It was clear in the 1930’s as it is today that most people do not copy everything they see in the media or believe every media message. The public is smarter than that, their belief in the authenticity of media messages was clearly influenced by other factors.
Agenda Setting Function Theory The agenda setting function theory holds that the function of the media is not to tell audiences what to think but what to think about and how to think about it. This theory was developed at a time when media researchers were questioning the limited effects models such as Uses and Gratifications and were dissatisfied with the extent of the power it attributed to audiences. This theory has two levels: • The media tells audiences which issues are important • The media then suggests to audiences how they might think about an issue and which aspects of it are more important than others. Although not as inflexible as the Hypodermic/Bullet theory, the Agenda Setting Function Theory suggests that audiences are still passive and that media texts are closed. • Few scholars such as Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams proposed that although the media is not able to dictate to audiences ‘what to think’, it can dictate ‘what to think about’.
Examples of Agenda Setting Function Theory Examples of ASFT can be seen in times of war and conflict, when news reporting is usually aligned with one side and presents that view point in a positive light. An example of this is the documentary “Outfoxed” – which sheds light on the Fox network (in the US) reporting during coverage of Sept 11 and the Iraq War. This approach is known as ‘gatekeeping’. According to the ASFT, gatekeeping sets the agenda for our political support.
Agenda Setting FunctionDeveloped 1970’sBirmingham School - Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall 4 Levels of reading dependant on both text and audience: • 1st - Dominant Preferred - audience receive intended message • 2nd - Oppositional - audiences views stop or block intended message • 3rd - Negotiated - audience see both sides (intended & oppositional) & debate within themselves • 4th - Aberrant - Audience don’t understand - no message received
Criticisms of the Agenda Setting Function Theory Agenda Setting is a strong theory which is easy to understand but the extent of it’s effects are surprisingly difficult to prove. This is because research must correlate media effects research with content research and the research must be conducted over time in order to determine any casual effect. Whilst agenda setting is commonly held to be important in the coverage of matters of public policy and government, is it a useful concept when applied to a popular media that is dominated by commercialism and entertainment? (such as say Channel 10?) For more on ASFT: • www.unc.edu/courses/2000fall/jomc245-001/nickel_critique_1.html • www.cultsock.ndirect.co.uk/MUHome/cshtml/media/agdet.html
Post Modern/Semiotic TheoriesDeveloped 1980’sFrench Post Structuralists- Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes We have already briefly covered Semiotics, a method of text analysis which deals with the relationship between a text and the culture that produces or consumes it. • Revolutionary stance to question the questions • There are multiple answers to any question • There is no truth. Truth varies according to time and place • All texts are open • Audience is active - even a single person’s reading changes over time By studying signs, semiotics examines the nature of meaning the contexts of media form, production, message and consumption. Semiotics holds that media texts are not reflections of the world but constructions of it. In Semiotic Theories the audience is active and the text meanings are somehow inherent (inbuilt) and open. This means that when an audience interprets a text, it understands certain signs or codes in the text depending on the audiences culture and society at the time. The audience understands the meaning of these constructions through a shared ideology (beliefs/philosophy), that is the system of embedded values and beliefs under which most people live.
Example of Post Modern/Semiotic Theories An example would be horror films , depending on the codes in the text, the film will be constructed in a certain way so as to get a particular response from the audience. As said before, we have already talked about Semiotics and thus the semiotic theories for media influence are very similar. The audience must understand the codes and conventions of the text, but obviously people from different backgrounds, race, religion, society, socio economics read these differently. For example the colour ‘white’ is a symbol of purity and is traditionally worn by brides at weddings in Western Culture. However in some Eastern cultures white is a symbol of mourning. Also: The anti-smoking campaign/message in recent years has been very successful in Australia, US, UK and Asia, however all have been shot and packaged very differently to suit the society and culture they are aimed at. BUT! The Anti smoking campaign ITSELF is not an example of SEMIOTIC THEORIES (it comes under Reinforcement theories)
Criticisms of Post Modern/Semiotic Theories In this understanding of the way the media works on active audiences, semiotic codes are used to signify what type of text the audience is watching. The study into the way in which a targeted audience ‘receives’ the text is similar in some ways to the Uses and Gratification theory as it involves qualitative research involving participant observation and interviews which leads to concentrating not so much on the text itself but on the role of the audience.
Reinforcement TheoryDeveloped late 1960’s by Joseph Klapper Have you ever yelled at the TV whenever something upsets you? You may have been using the television to reinforce your understanding of how the world should be. • In the first half of the 20th century media research had the two extremes Hypodermic/Bullet and Uses and Gratification Theory. • The Reinforcement Theory was a development of the uses and gratifications approach. This theory holds that the media has very little power to shape or influence public opinion, because audiences are active, texts are open to interpretation and that these media texts actually work to reinforce our existing opinions. He called this theory the Reinforcement theory and argues that the media simply reinforces what the consumer already believes about the world and society. • Joseph Klapper’s reinforcement theory holds that audiences use the media to reinforce their existing beliefs and values. “Mass communication ordinarily does not serve as a necessary and sufficient cause of audience effects, but rather functions among and through a nexus of mediating factors and influences”. “These mediating factors are such that they typically render mass communication a contributory agent, but not the sole cause, in a process of reinforcing the existing conditions” -Joseph Klapper (1960)
Examples of Reinforcement Theory Many advertising campaigns would be considered as a good example of the Reinforcement Theory. While the advertising industry as a whole, is generally seen in a negative light, many campaigns also use this media form positively to reinforce and promote social change such as your Anti-smoking, TAC, Cancer Council and Dove Campaigns. These campaigns, especially in recent years, do use shock tactics and emotional ploys to get their message across. But the theory being these are things the audience already knows about, for example the effects of driving while over the limit but are reinforcing the message to receiver through these means. However it is interesting to note the context and technique in which these campaigns are now trying to get their ‘message’ across. Look at pg 79 of Media 2
Criticisms of the Reinforcement Theory • One problem with reinforcement theory is when audiences experience new information, something that they have never considered or experienced before. • How will audiences react to something they have never experienced or thought about? • How is this reinforcing? • What effects might such new material have on audiences?
Uses & Gratification TheoryPaul Lazerfeld and his associates at the Structural Functionist School 1940.Further research was also done in 1974 by Blumer & Katz. This method of studying the media recognises the multiple functions the media plays in the lives of audiences. The Uses and Gratification theory states that the media actually has no power over the audiences at all. Audiences consist of individuals who can determine the media they wish to consume. This means that the text is regarded as ‘open’ to individual interpretation and that audiences are active in their media usage. Whereas Agenda Setting Function holds the idea of the media ‘gatekeeping’, (selection and omission) Uses and Gratification theory states that it is the audiences who are ‘gatekeeping’ the media. Arising in the latter part of the twentieth century as a reaction to the inadequacies of ignoring audience motivations, which had come to be recognised in earlier theories. This approach focuses on why people use particular media rather than on the content. Unlike Hypodermic/Bullet, U&G is a reception theory. It is concerned with what people do with the media they consume, which allows for a variety of responses and interpretations.
This approach focuses on why people use particular media rather than on the content These needs are frequently understood to include: • Surveillance: we like to keep an eye on what is happening in the world, to find out what is going on, to learn, to satisfy our curiosity, find information and to reassure ourselves about our personal security. • Personal identity: we use the media to find out who we are by comparing ourselves with others, by identifying with someone we value, reinforcing our beliefs and finding models of behaviour. • Personal Relationships: the media helps us to gain insight into the lives of others, to emphathise, to give us something to talk about with our friends and families, the ‘water cooler’ effect. • Diversion: the media can help us to relive stress, to relax, to fill in time, for emotional release or just for fun. A good example of U&G would be daytime soap operas – read pg 78 of Media 2. “people don’t actually read newspapers, they step into them every morning like a hot bath” – Marshall Mc Luhan.
Criticisms of the Uses and Gratification Theory A quantitive approach, surveys and interviews are used to record the views of audiences which opens up a major criticism to this method. • How reliable and insightful can audiences be in understanding their use of the media? • U&G studies see the audience as powerful and active, at the centre of the media and of analysis. • Questions may be asked about this centrality, how can we consider audience needs and gratification in isolation from the limited media possibilities which they choose? • Are audiences autonomous (independent) or are they structured by the very media to which they turn to for gratification? • What about the legitimacy of dealing with the psychological needs of the audience in isolation? • How can we examine the uses to which the media are put without examining the content?
The Researchers: Hypodermic/Bullet Theory: • Developed 1920’s-1940’s by the Payne Fund Studies group (United States) • The Frankfurt School (Germany). Agenda Setting Function: • Developed 1970’s Birmingham School - Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall • Mc Combs & Shaw (1972) Post Modern/Semiotic Theories: • Came out of semiotic studies (a method of text analysis which we touched on in SV). Developed by Roland Barthes (1964) Reinforcement Theory: • Joseph Klapper (1960) Uses & Gratification Theory: • Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch (1974) • Denis Quail (1987 & 1998) All links to the researchers material is on Myclasses. Handout of table to fill in on theories