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Mass Media and Audiences.docx

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McMaster University
David Young

Mass Media and Audiences Social Scientific Approaches to Studying Audiences A) Effects Research  First major approach to studying audiences  Dominant from the 1940s - 1960s  Primarily used by American social psychologists  Social psychologists decided to look at the impact TV had on audience members 1) Key Aspect a) Early Effects Research  Early effects research assumed that TV had strong, direct, and specific effects on the behavior of audience members  Violence – if people were exposed to violence, individuals would become more violent  Voting: decisions on who to vote for would be based on TV  Researchers could only find weak effects  TV did not affect violent behaviour or voting behavior  Researchers started looking for longer term, indirect, and diffuse effects on audience members b) Later Research i) Agenda-Setting  Approach that focuses on how media content influences the issues or topics that audience members or members of the public think about  Media content sets the agenda for discussion  Ex: MPs draw upon media content which have set the agenda for discussion ii) Cultivation analysis  Focuses on how media content encourages positive or negative attitudes among audience members with regard to a particular topic  Media content cultivates certain attitudes  Term coined by George Gerbner, also developed the notion of “the mean world syndrome”  Interested in how TV violence could have an impact on attitudes about violence in society  The “mean world syndrome” suggests that people who watch a lot of TV and are exposed to more TV violence perceive society to be more violent & dangerous than those who watch less TV and are exposed to less TV violence 2) Evaluation  Usefully draws our attention to the social psychological effects from exposure to media content  2 significant disadvantages: 1 - there was a lack of attention to social structure – this research only examined social psychological factors at the micro level and could not address the macro level  We can’t see how audiences fit into the larger society, and the conflicts within that larger society  2 - There’s no room for human agency – this research saw audience members as being acted on rather than acting  Media content has determining effects  More useful to see audience as active agents who have the ability to manipulate media content B) Uses and Gratifications Research 1) Key Aspects  A reaction against effects research  Popular in the 1960s & 1970s  Adopted by American sociologists  Central question: what do audience members do with media content?  2 parts: how to audience members utilize the content & what, if any satisfaction, do they derive from using the media content 2) Evaluation  This research usefully gave us a more sociological point of view – focusing on social psychological effects, this research addressed social action with regard to media in micro level contexts such as the home  There was room for human agency because audience members were seen as active agents who make choices regarding media content  Disadvantage: although it was more sociological than effects research, uses and gratifications research did not pay attention to social structure – this research could not address the macro level C) British Cultural Studies 1) Key Aspects  A reaction against the other types of research  Began in the 1950s, continuing in the present  British sociologists who were influenced by 2 people: Karl Marx & Antonio Gramsci  Looks at the issue of class, gender, race & ethnicity  Based at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham  British sociologist Stuart Hall assumed leadership of the Centre in the 1960s  Work they did in the 1970s laid the foundation for cultural studies today  Different form of dominant ideology embedded in media texts 2) Evaluation  Advantages in relation to effects research or uses & gratifications research  It addresses social structure – being rooted in neo-Marxism, British cultural studies sees both media and audiences in the larger context of capitalist society  Addresses human agency – audience members are seen as active agents who interpret media content ‘ The Encoding-Decoding Model A) Encoding  Refers to how messages are constructed by media organizations through a complicated production process  Stuart Hall argued that this production process is affected by ideology  Hall wrote that the production process will be affected by various “meanings and ideas”  Hall indicated that some of these “meanings and ideas” will come from the media organizations themselves, and this includes “knowledge-in-use concerning the routines of production”  Journalists go to powerful people to get stories – reflect dominant ideology which gets encoded into the text  Hall also indicated that some of these “meanings and ideas” will come from “the wider socio-cultural and political structure”  Dominant ideologies influence their work simply because the ideology is internalized  As a result of encoding, Hall argued that the dominant ideology is inscribed as the domi
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