Trel B

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

media theories


Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): The medium is the message.

McLuhan’s most basic hypothesis is that people adapt to their environment through a certain balance or ratio of the senses and that the primary medium of the age brings out a particular sense ratio.

Whatever media predominate in society will influence human beings by affecting the way they perceive the world. What really makes a difference in people’s lives is the predominant media, not the content of the period.

McLuhan is also well known for his division of media into hot and cool categories. Hot media are low in audience participation due to their high resolution or definition. Cool media are high in audience participation due to their low definition (the receiver must fill in the missing information).

New perspective in the 1970s: Media resonate with or reflect the perceptual categories of individuals. Media forms do not cause but bring out modes of thought that are already present in the individual.

"We shape our tools and they in turn shape us." (Marshall McLuhan)

Semiotics: Messages have meaning.

Semiotics is the study of signification or the ways in which signs are used in the interpretation of events. Semiotics looks at the way in which messages are structured, the kinds of signs used, and the ways in which those structures are intended and understood by producers and consumers. Semiotics is a tool for analyzing what the content of media messages mean.

Content matters a great deal and that it depends upon the reading given to it by the audience member. Semiotics focuses on the ways in which producers create signs and the ways in which audiences understand those signs.

Denotation and Connotation
“Texts are made meaningful through the process of audience signification.”
“Textual meaning is constituted by the interaction between textual and extra-textual factors.”
Overcoding and Ideological overcoding


Critical theories: Media perpetuate power struggles.

Communication practices are an outcome of the tension between individual creativity in framing messages and the social constraints on that creativity. Only when individuals are truly free to express themselves with clarity and reason will liberation occur, and that condition cannot come about until a classless society arises.

Politics of textuality: This has to do with the ways in which media producers encode messages, the ways in which audiences decode those messages, and the power domination apparent in these processes.

Problem of culture studies: This examines more closely the relation among media, other institutions in society, and the ideology of culture. Cultural theorists are interested in how the dominant ideology of culture subverts other ideologies through social institutions such as schools, churches, and the media.
Both of these traditions are centrally concerned with the evils of class society and struggles that occur among the different social forces.

British cultural studies: Media are instruments of power.

The media have a special role in affecting popular culture through the dissemination of information. The media are extremely important because they directly present a way of viewing reality. The media portray ideology explicitly and directly. This does not mean that opposing forces are silenced. Indeed, opposing voices will always be present as part of the dialectic struggle among forces in a society.

But the media are dominated by the prevailing ideology and they therefore treat opposing views from within the frame of the dominant ideology. The irony of media, especially television, is that they present the illusion of diversity and objectivity, when in fact they are clear instruments of the dominant order.

“Events do not signify. To be intelligible, events must be put into symbolic form. The communicator has a choice of codes or set of symbols. The one chosen affects the meaning of the events for receivers. Since every language – every symbol – coincides with an ideology, the choice of a set of symbols is, whether conscious or not, the choice of an ideology.” (Samuel Becker)


Two-step flow theory: Opinion leaders are extensions of mass media.

Information flows from mass media to certain opinion leaders in the community, who facilitate communication through discussions with peers. Opinion leaders are distributed in all groups: occupational, social, community, and others. The opinion leader typically is hard to distinguish from other group members because opinion leadership is not a trait. Instead, it is conceived as a role taken within the process of IPC. Interest in a particular issue is certainly an important determinant of opinion leadership, but leaders can be influential only when interest is shared by all members of the group.

Diffusion of innovations: Media extend to an open process of interaction.

The diffusion of an innovation occurs when an idea spreads from a point of origin to surrounding geographical areas or from person to person within a single area. The broadest and most communication-oriented theory of this line of research is that of Everett Rogers and his colleagues.

Rogers began his theory by relating it to the process of social change. Social change consists of invention, diffusion (or communication), and consequences. Such change can occur internally from within a group or externally through contact with outside change agents. In the latter case, contact may occur spontaneously or accidentally or it may result from planning on the part of outside agencies.

The diffusion of innovations depends on four broad elements: (1) the innovation, which refers to any new idea in a social system, (2) the communication, (3) the channels, (4) the time.

Although mass communication channels may play significant roles in diffusion, interpersonal networks are most important. Interaction is important, for diffusion appears to be a product of give and take rather than the simple sending and receiving of information. Communication is a convergence of meaning achieved by symbolic interaction. The adoption, rejection, modification, or creation of an innovation is a product of this convergence process. In the give and take of everyday conversation, people exchange information, question it, argue about it, and come to a shared understanding.

Spiral of silence: Media silence unpopular opinion.

The spiral of silence occurs when individuals who perceive that their opinion is popular express it, while those who do not think their opinion is popular remain quiet. This process occurs in a spiral, so that one side of an issue ends up with much public expression, and the other side with little.

The media are an important part of the spiral of silence. The media publicize public opinion, making evident which opinions predominate. Individuals express their opinions or not, depending upon the predominant points of view; and the media, in turn attend to the expressed opinion, and the spiral continues.


Laswell: Research is necessary for mass communication effects / functions.


§ “surveillance of the environment” (knowing what is going on)
§ “correlation of the parts of society in responding to the environment” (having options or solutions in dealing with societal problems)
§ “transmission of the social heritage of one generation to the next” (socialization and education)

Wright: Mass communication functions and dysfunctions society.

What are the
Manifest (intended)
Latent (unintended)
of mass-communicated
Cultural transmission
for the
Cultural systems?

Functions / Dysfunctions
Specific subgroup
Warning (calamity, war)

Instrumental (economy)

Warning, instrumental

Adds prestige, status conferral
Instrumental to power, status conferral

Manages public opinion
Aids cultural contact and growth

Threatens stability, fosters panic
Anxiety, apathy
Threatens power
Permits cultural invasion
Aids mobilization
Provides efficient assimilation of news
Helps preserve power
Maintains cultural consensus

Increases social conformism
Increases passivity
Increases responsibility
Impedes cultural growth
Cultural transmission
Continues socialization
Exposure to common norms
Extends power
Standardizes cultural consensus

Augments “mass” society”
Depersonalizes acts of socialization
- none -
Reduces variety of subcultures
Respite for masses
Personal respite
Extends power
- none -

Diverts public
Permits escapism, lowers “tastes”
- none -
Weakens aesthetics: “popular culture”

Cultivation theory: Media are homogenizing agents in culture.

This theory deals with an important effect of television, which George Gerbner and his colleagues call cultivation. Because TV is a great common experience of everyone, it has the effect of providing a shared way of viewing the world.

Cultivation theory is concerned with the totality of the pattern communicated by TV rather than any particular content or specific effect. It is not concerned with what any particular strategy or campaign can do, but the total impact of numerous strategies and campaigns over time. Indeed, subcultures may retain their separate values, but general overriding images depicted on TV will cut across individual social groups and subcultures, affecting them all.

Agenda-setting function: Media set the agenda for cognitive change.

Agenda setting occurs because the press must be selective in reporting the news. The news outlets, as gatekeepers of information, make choices about what to report and how to report it. Therefore, what the public knows about the state of affairs at any given time is largely a product of media gate keeping.

“The most important effect of mass communication is its ability to mentally order and organize our world for us. The mass media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about.” (Donald Shaw and Maxwell McCombs)


The effects theories

§ Magic bullet theory: Individuals are believed to be directly and heavily influenced by media messages. Media are extremely powerful in shaping public opinion.

§ Reinforcement approach / Limited-effects theory: Mass communication is a contributing agent, but not the sole cause, in the process of reinforcing existing conditions. It functions among and through a complexity of mediating factors and influences. (Joseph Klapper)

Audience members are selective in their exposure to information. People in most circumstances will select information consistent with their attitudes and other frames of reference. (Raymond Bauer)

§ Powerful effects: Media is indeed influential and controlling. (Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann)

Uses and gratifications approach: People access media for their personal needs and wants.

People orient themselves to the world according to their expectancies (beliefs) and evaluations. Gratifications sought is defined in terms of one’s beliefs about what a medium can provide and one’s evaluation of the medium’s content. Positive evaluation results to continued access of the medium, while negative evaluation results to avoidance. As one gains experience consuming a particular medium, the perceived gratifications obtained will feed back to one’s beliefs about that medium for future consideration.

Belies are affected by: (a) one’s culture and social institutions, including the media themselves
(b) social circumstances such as the availability of the media
(c) certain psychological variables

Dependency theory: Society, media, and audience have reciprocal relationships.
Societal systems
(degree of structural stability)
Media system
(number and centrality of information functions)
(degree of dependency on media information)
Cognitive effects:
-ambiguity resolution
-attitude formation
-agenda setting
-expansion of the belief system
-value clarification
Behavior effects:
Affective effects

When social change and conflict are high, established institutions, beliefs, and practices are challenged, forcing people to make re-evaluations and choices. At such times, reliance on the media for information increases. Consequently, a group’s dependence on information from a medium increases as that medium supplies information that is more central to the group. Messages affect people only to the degree that persons depend on media information.

Littlejohn, S. (1989). “Theories of Human Communication (Third Edition)”. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc.



  • hi..maamm..thank u 4 being such a nice and lovely teacher..the time u enjoy with us wasting was not wasted..godbless.godbless..chuy kay bayyyy.....

    By Blogger Robert, at 9:14 PM  

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