What is communication?
Systems, processes and outcomes of everyday interactions with the
world around us.
Can be aural, visual, written or gestural.
Transmission of meaningful message.
Product of marketing.
Part of film and TV culture.
Representation of ideal types.
Negotiates and moderated the relationship between
different discourses of communication.
What is mass communications?
What are the main characteristics of mass communications.
The process of producing and disseminating media.
The construction of the media message.
The reception and appropriation of media messages.
The media that transmit a message to a large number of people.
Mass communication not generally face-to-face and involves the
mediation of technology.
Messages in MC produced for an audience.
Individuals who comprise the audience are not physically
present at the place of production and transmission/diffusion of
Involves an instituted break between production and reception.
E.g. a DE student, content is shaped by the technology used.
Use of technology places communicators at a distance.
Use of TV, phone or CD generally takes place in the absence of
the sender of the message,
Limited feedback in MC, especially in broadcast media (TV and
Mass communication messages can reach more people at once.
Due to high cost, messages have a different commercial value to face-
Market controlled, packaged and market driven.
E.g. popular music involves the packaging of the song with attractive
musicians, expensive video clips and a particular style.
Mass communication and society:
Shapes society and the values that are said to bind us together.
E.g. printing press brought with it significant cultural changes –
it allowed masses of people to become better informed and also
increased the rates of literacy.
Radio, TV and internet make possible the media event or
spectacle e.g. distress and mass hysteria when MJ died was an
affect of media produced celebrity.
Don‟t generally use the word society – use social relations or
social relationships. Society too homogeneous and assumes that society is
Society is a multiplicity of competing and intersecting
bodies of people.
Social relations – better term – suggests that what gets called
society is made up of many relationships, tensions,
Why is it important that we study it?
Every discipline is a study of communication to some degree:
Computer programming – communication between
hardware and machines.
Engineering – communication between parts of a process
i.e. assembly line.
English Lit – communication within high art, aesthetics.
Maths – common language of measurement and the
communication of quantifiable relationships.
Crucial terms used throughout the entire unit.
Implies the media of the masses (more popular and can change
the way we think) or those media that are mass-produced.
Term mass denotes a group that is large, coherent but
Physical means of transmitting a message.
E.g. Printed page, human voice, broadcasting.
What is transmitted by the medium.
o The human voice may enunciate a sentence.
o The TV may transmit a program.
o The printed page may include an article or image.
The process model of communications [SMR]:
Generally designed for information systems where the
effectiveness of the communication is paramount (more
important than anything else).
Used to describe processes of MC because of the one-way
relationship between the producer (information source) and the
receiver in broadcast media.
Assumes that the message is something that can be sent and
received and in this tense, it privileges a physical conception of
o Source – one who constructs the message e.g. human,
computer. o Transmitter – mechanism that sends the message e.g.
o Signal – physical transmission e.g. sound wave, written
o Message – form of the information e.g. sentence, byte.
o Encode – convert message into a signal.
o Noise source – something that disrupts the transmission.
o Receiver – mechanism that receives and decodes the
o Destination – one for whom the message is intended.
o Signal received – the signal that finally reaches the
o Message received – the actual message received rather
than the intended message.
o Decode – converts the signal into a message.
Criticisms of the process model:
Fails to take into account the context of communication,
o Context includes your capacity to understand the
o Understanding a joke requires a degree of cultural
Communication is not simply the transmission of information –
but the contexts surrounding the communication effect what
gets communicated and understood.
o Communication does not simply reflect an already given
reality but that it shapes reality.
Assumes meaning of the message is straightforward, but not the
Meaning is always negotiated, open to different interpretations.
Sender and receiver are different; so don‟t share identical
understanding of the message.
Messages are texts, and texts are complex.
Concepts of context and cultural literacy (i.e. cultural model
o Cultural Literacy: Understanding different culture's
languages and behaviours. E.g. Australian slang.
Message isn't intended for the context it is in.
Shared knowledge/experience. TOPIC 2
Different ways of understanding audiences.
o Large, inert (not moving), homogeneous.
Or socially differentiated?
o Audience composed of specific individuals situated in definite
o Vulnerable, cultural dupes.
Or (inter) active?
o Actively make sense of the media text, interact with it.
Used/affected by the text:
o Manipulated by media messages to accept a certain ideology,
consume a certain product, even take on certain behaviours.
Using the text?
o Seeking out media texts for own purposes of amusement,
information, relaxation, etc.
The receivers of a media message (process model).
Refers to an increasingly diverse and complex reality.
A word without a referent?
Differences between the live audience and the mass
Less a description of reality than an accentuation of features
typical of conditions of mass production and distribution of
news and entertainment.
When used by early commentators, the term generally had a
pejorative connotation, reflecting Western values of
individualism and a pessimistic view of modern industrial
society, by contrast with an image of a more communal and
satisfying way of life.
Calling an audience a mass reflected fears of
depersonalisation, irrationality, manipulation, and of general
decline in cultural and moral standards.
As later critics have pointed out, the real problem was not
the existence of „the masses‟, but the tendency to treat
people as if they were masses.
Traditional audience of a live event:
o Localised in time and place.
o Could respond directly to the performance and interact.
o Shared a collective experience.
Criticisms of the mass audience.
New media changing the characteristics of the audience:
o More choice and flexibility in how and when we use media.
o Audiences more fragmented in response to different patterns of
media provision. o Distinction between producer and receiver of the media text is
o Arguably, without a mass medium there is no single, collective
How audiences can be defined.
5 ways audiences can be defined:
o By place.
o By demographics.
o By medium or channel.
o By content.
o By time.
How audiences are researched.
Types of audience research: Industry research:
Counts the audience, interested mainly in size.
Use of ratings – a method of surveying the audience to see who‟s
Institutional purpose is to sell broadcast airtime (= audiences) to
Not really interested in knowing the audience in any depth.
Types of audience research: Academic research:
Interested in how audience members make sense of media texts.
Tradition of studying audience to try to determine if media has
Often concerned with media‟s influence on audience‟s ideological
outlook or moral values.
However recent academic research stresses possibilities for multiple
readings of media texts.
Difference between audience as market and audience as public.
Audience as a market versus public:
Media production has an institutional context.
Produces different approaches to the audience.
2 institutional contexts in television:
o Commercial TV.
o Public service broadcasting. TOPIC 3
Relationship between and social context:
Space versus place.
What is place?
o Circumscribed boundaries.
o Fences, doors.
o The physical place where you live, work.
o A place where social interaction occurs.
o A football game, lecture theatre, etc.
o Does the social situation define the place?
E.g. the family dinner.
Can you enjoy a football match outside the stadium?
At what point do we stop wearing our bathers?
Prior to the development of electronic communication, social
relations largely took place in a specific place and time.
o Communication usually involved the time of travel in the
carrying of the message.
o The constitution of the audience in a specific place.
o Buyers and sellers had to meet and bargain in the marketplace.
o Priests and believers performed rituals at special times in
specific sacred sites set apart from mundane (dull) space.
o Storytellers and performers address physical audiences.
o Traveling involves the experience of different social and physical
o Communication used to be synonymous with travel.
o To move information required physical movement by the road,
o Multiple languages, accents, customs.
Electronic communication liberates us from place (and
The speed of interaction changes the nature of interaction
and ends up redefining social space.
From telegraph onwards, complex messages could move faster than
the physical movement of a human or animal.
o A message could be sent electronically rather than despatched.
o Orders can be made for goods without direct contact.
o A communicative rather than physical presence.
o The time linking the two places is reduced.
o The speed of interaction changes the nature of interaction and
ends up redefining social space.
o New sense of speed and connectivity to social life. o Enables a new private world, a virtual community – everything
becomes virtual until the individuals; the places and the
movements are brought together.
o An attempt to locate and contextualise a displaced voice and
also a recognition that mobile users operate in a dislocated
History of telecommunication – shows how context also
affects social and cultural uses of the telephone.
Issues of mediation:
Electronic communications „invade‟ places yet do not occupy
them as other media such as books do.
o With electronic media the specialness of place is destroyed in 2
They render the idea of place irrelevant – they ignore
physical boundaries which define space.
The private world of the child and mobile phones.
Physical not informational isolation.
E.g. the man who died on Everest after calling his
They decontextualise the cultural meanings of place:
Local community celebrates global events.
TV and the dinner table.
Phones in lectures.
Emails in the office environment.
Music is no longer confined to a listening
New forms of social interaction.
New possibilities for sociality/antisociality:
o Extension of intimacy:
Phone contact at a distance (developing relationships).
The use of the phone as a confirmation of intimacy.
o New forms of sociability:
Friends gather around the TV to watch a favourite show,
sporting event, or some other ritual.
Create new social spaces for disaffected groups (e.g. nerd
Pub TV nights.
Mobile phone text dating at pubs.
Online gaming (sociality).
o New forms of separation:
The privatisation of experience (e.g. iPod).
The withdrawal from all social interaction except
Caller ID and screening. In para-social interaction people form strong emotional
relationships with people they have never met in the flesh.
People form strong emotional relationships with people they have
New mass media:
o Offers the illusion of face-to-face interaction with performers
and political figures.
It is an intersection of two notions of place:
o Intimate social place and mediated place.
Depends on the production of celebrity:
o E.g. public mourning.
The phenomenon of celebrity stalking.
The development of television that focuses on liveness and the
o Personalisation of news anchors.
News reports focus on the present experience and how you (viewer)
are part of an ongoing process. TOPIC 4
Differences between oral and print based cultures.
Written communication Oral communication
Unresponsive – doesn‟t talk back Responsive – talks back.
Decontextualised – written in Contextualised – sender and
absence of reader and read in receiver both present.
absence of sender.
Replaces the human memory. Cultural continuity is based on oral
Loosens ties between the learned Storyteller is important figure.
teacher and the ordinary
Refers to itself i.e. written textbook Transmission of knowledge and
will refer to other texts. learning is based on face-to-face
Language is concrete and there is a
small gap between word and thing.
Development of print culture in Europe and the Islamic
Effects of print on oral culture in Europe:
Development of printing – 15 thcentury.
Widespread literacy among ordinary people – 19 century.
o Reading and writing was previously the provision of an educated
elite e.g. church.
o Ordinary people depended on their parish priest for news of the
Development of popular culture based on mass production of cheap
printed material for entertainment read out loud by literate villagers –
Advent of print co-existed with oral culture.
Development of print culture in the Islamic world:
Publishing industry was central to Islamic culture – 8 -15 thcentury.
o An institution built around paper, bookshops, libraries and
o Religious elite became concerned about this open dissemination
o Notion of ilm (knowledge of Islam) was reduced.
o Delayed the introduction of the printing press into Muslim
countries for almost 300 years.
Invention of paper and the development of a written culture – 700AD.
Through the transcription of oral knowledge into books by scribes,
Muslim culture became a culture devoted to knowledge and learning. The impact of print culture on social relations.
The privatisation of social life – loosening of social ties.
o Movement from oral culture in which the transmission of
knowledge was through oral recitation to others to reading of
written texts aloud to others to silent scanning of the printed
o A reading public is more dispersed, privatised and individualised
than a hearing one e.g. reading the newspaper at home rather
than attending a sermon to hear news.
o Sharper division between private and public affairs.
o Print helped to initiate habits that were more conducive to
privatisation and individualism (made more likely/possible).
The creation of national communities – newspapers provided
the condition for nationhood („imagined communities‟).
o As print communities developed, there was less reliance on ties
to the local community, and a new adherence to external ties.
o E.g. shift from attending town meetings to reading newspapers
that cover local, national and global events.
o Print based communication initiated ties to larger more distant
o Novel and newspaper tells us stories about people we will never
meet but feel a connection to – and also feel a connection with
the other readers of these print texts – “imagined communities”.
Benedict Anderson – argues that the newspaper was a
necessary precondition in the formation of a national
Globalisation – importance of the telegraph as the first
electronic technology, rise of news as a global commodity.
o Print culture enabled spread of all forms of knowledge, including
o Convergence of print with the technology of the telegraph
enabled the commercialisation and globalisation of news in the
o As a saleable commodity newspapers needed speed and
originality, “one day bestseller” (Benedict Anderson).
o Telegraph enabled news from distant places to be provided
much faster than previously – brought remote places closer
Electronic writing: Internet, hypertext and non-linear forms of
Convergence – the dissolving of the boundary between 2 mediums.
Electronic writing has changed the way we produce and engage with
print. o Engages the process of writing – handwriting an essay vs typing
o Changes the way we read – reading a hard copy vs kindle/ipad.
Hypertext – refers to an electronic „document‟ that is organised in a
fundamentally different way to printed matter (hard copy).
o E.g. browsing a webpage – multiple pathways, reader chooses
their own path through the text, reader can become a user and
o Said to bring about the death of linear narrative.
o The database becomes the model for the organisation of
knowledge, rather than the narrative (the medium is the
computer, not the book).
o E.g. online education, digital storytelling.
o Impact on local/global politics:
o Internet is an assemblage of print, images and sounds.
o While hypertext has changed the nature of print, the
visual and aural properties of the internet are moving it
back towards oral culture.
o The growth of social networks and the internet as a while
– stems largely from an outpouring of expression that
feels more like talking than writing.
o Communication is no longer purely local (as with oral
communication) but global.
o Internet functions as a database of information and a
o Can be problematic e.g. uses of web to organise terrorist
Can be used in politically empowering ways e.g. getting information
out for protesters for causes.
Changes in the role of readers and writers.
Further globalisation of knowledge/information. TOPIC 5
Communication as a transmission and/or ritual.
The process model describes communication in terms of the
Emphasis on the transmission of messages and goods: “the
transmission of signals or messages over distance for the
purpose of control”.
The message is sent across a physical channel.
o Sender – message – receiver.
Movement of information:
o Information can be compared to the transmission of goods
It is understood as a neutral object that is unaffected by
place (it is carried).
You receive more or less information, etc. depending on
the type of communication depending on the quality of
o This approach has a historical basis in the physical movement of
objects and people:
The message was originally a physical object that had to
be moved across increasing distances e.g. the pony
express, carrier pigeons, the delivery of mail.
Clarity and information management:
o Government information campaigns.
o University email (managing expectation, common message).
o Central point of dissemination/known audience:
If the message is properly sent, it should be
Seeking greatest reach.
Transmission = control of space:
o Underpinning this metaphor of information as an object are
issues of power:
The transmission of signals or messages over distance for
the purpose of control.
o Controlling the production and dissemination of messages is
central to controlling a populace.
Greater distance, greater control.
Transmission (speed and distance):
o Communication was viewed as a process and a technology that
would spread, transmit and disseminate knowledge, ideas and
information farther and faster with the goal of controlling space
o Communication and road networks increase the effectiveness of
the police and military e.g. catching Ned Kelly.
o Common language (spread through common texts) and currency
are a means of controlling a wide range of people e.g. the
telegraph and the news, the use of English/French/Spanish in
colonialism (political control/language of governance).
o This model underpins approaches to communication such as: Military communication (supplies, positions, centralised
Professional communication (PR – common message).
Emphasis is on clarity and the effectiveness of the
delivery of the message (information).
Telecommunications and transmission:
o The telecommunications industry operates under the
transmission model with emphasis on:
Accessibility of information via technology,
o However, there is another aspect to communication where
transmission is linked to community.
A ritual view is directed not towards the extension of messages in
space but the maintenance of society in time. Not the act of
imparting information or influence but the creation, representation,
and celebration of shared even illusionary beliefs.
o Ritual view – temporal (time based) because the emphasis is on
maintenance and continuity.
Ritual as maintenance of shared beliefs and community.
Ritual definition linked to terms such as sharing,
participation, association, fellowship, communion and
Talk, gesture, behaviour which opens the channel of
Routine greetings e.g. how are you.
Codes of politeness.
Communication as the „social glue‟.
Language and the structuring of a worldview.
The transmission concept focuses in expansion – the spreading out
of messages – but the ritual view is temporal because the emphasis
is on maintenance and continuity.
Effects on space/place – new rituals of place:
o The ritual of appointment:
Social meetings are no longer agreed upon before they
occur, but are negotiated as convergence using the
Social space and ritual:
o The meeting space: no longer ritualised (i.e. the same place)
but continually negotiated via phone.
o The meeting time: the idea of “being late” has changed because
of continued contact. o “no-where” spaces and “no-when” times have the potential to
become sites of and moments for communication because of the
technology of the mobile phone e.g. blackberry messaging and
the London riots.
o The home: is re-figured as a public space within which the
teenagers create private space within using the mobile.
Mass communication and ritual:
o Mass communication can have a ritual function e.g. news.
The news changes little and yet is habitually satisfying; it
performs few function and yet is habitually consumed. It
is a presentation of reality that gives life an overall form,
order and tone.
o The ritual presentation and structure of news: news; sport;
weather (part of the everyday).
o Para-social interaction and ritual communication:
The familiar face of the news reader.
Watching together in you home and familiar events.
o If the archetypal (typical) case of communication under a
transmission view is the extension of messages across
geography for the purpose of control; the archetypal case under
a ritual view is the sacred ceremony that draws people together
in fellowship and commonality.
Commercialisation of ritual.
o The ritual and transmission view are not mutually exclusive or
Communication and reality:
o In the ritual view: communication is a symbolic process whereby
reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed
o Raises the issue of the relationship between language and
reality, on which there are 2 main positions:
Language as reality (propositions):
There is a real world that adequately or
inadequately represented in language – language
and reality are independent and the aim of
communication is full transparency/accurate