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Lecture 3: Desperately Seeking the Audience

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Carleton University
Communication Studies
COMM 1101
Chris Russill

Lecture 3: Desperately Seeking the Audience How Does the Meaning Get Into the Image?  Producer of image, codes and conventions that structure the image (technological, aesthetic, social, etc.), and the context that the image is viewed in The Audience  What’s the point of media if there is no audience? o What makes media meaningful is its audience  “Audience” has gone under a great transformation  Homogeneous mass taking similar meaning from message being sent out  Author of reading says that the audience is active; as viewers of a media text, we have agency o The idea that we can actually do something, we’re not passive o We make meaning of the media text and images we see o We’re intelligent, autonomous viewers o Not only media producers, but viewers can use media messages in diverse ways Active Audiences 1. Interpretation: Our own interpretation of the meaning of the message 2. Social Context of Interpretation: Where or how or why a view of a media text changes how we might interpret it (age, gender, occupation, marital status, parental status, race/ethnicity, neighbourhood, education, etc.) 3. Collective Action: How people have come together to actively change media texts or media policies, e.g. public protests, films. Audiences are never passive, but always active. Effects of the Media 1. Hypodermic Needle Model (1920s-1940s) o Media drugs us into seeing what we see or hear o “Magic bullet theory” – media shoots its effects into unsuspecting victims (audience) o Context: Made by people who fled Germany and Nazism and fled to the USA, seeing Hitler using propaganda and feared the effects of propaganda on people. They saw people doing things seemingly affected by the propaganda. o Payne Fund Studies (30s) – Herbert Blumer in University of Chicago o Wanted to find effects of media, especially on children; fear was that children needed to be saved from these influences because they were getting injections of bad media o Eleven reports made o Moralistic undertone to the studies o Suggested movies taught people how to kiss, steal cars, etc. o Censorship: not all media should be viewed by all people, only by some people o This theory has been completely debunked, but legacy continues, i.e. censoring rap music, violent video games, etc. 2. Limited Effects Model o Hadley Cantril: studied book War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells o Context: 1938 eve of WW2, British allowed Nazis to take another part of Europe (possibility of war) o People heard the reading of the book and believed it was real; audience told multiple times that it was fiction, but didn’t listen o First reaction academics had was to say this is the hypodermic model, that media has direct effects on audience o Most people reacted by talking to one another, not from the initial broadcast o Not everyone was immediately affected; not everyone panicked; undifferentiated mass that are affected differently by media o People tend to expose themselves to media they’re familiar with and contain messages that reflect attitudes they already have o Media didn’t induce people to do anything particular; limited effects of media o “For some children, under some conditions, some television is harmful. For other children under the same conditions, or for
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