CMN 2160 Theories of Media
Midterm Study Guide
CH 1 - What is Media Theory
What are media? Medium an intervening substance or agency. The term medium refers to something
or someone situated between an object and a subject. Media are not objects but means of
communication. Six senses of what media are: historical, technical, capitalist, social, cultural, and
What is theory? Theory is a way of thinking that is more systematic and sophisticated than thinking in
an everyday sense.
What is media theory? A systematic way of thinking about means of communication.
CH 2 - Behaviorism and Media Effects
The first way of thinking about media as they developed in each of their successive forms has
been to try and gauge their effect on human behaviour and well-being. Effects studies tend to have
one of two main objectives: (1) a genuine social, moral, and political objective to measure the power of
media technologies to affect how individuals think, feel and act; (2) Attempts to measure the
effectiveness of media as vehicles for advertising and media campaigns.
Laswells chain of communication and propaganda technique
Who Says what In which channel To whom With what effect?
Under ideal conditions, any message that is communicated by a sender will reach its intended
receiver(s) along an unbroken chain and free from interference or misinterpretation.
Propaganda has to tap into latent public opinion within the society it aims to influence.
Propaganda plays a vital function when its correspondence with different parts of a society is able to
affect human behaviour and action, stirring patriotism in people.
We can see the weakness in Laswells chain of communication because it assumes that
communication is one directional with identifiable effects.
Wertham: Seduction of the Innocent
Wertham focuses on crime comics and television, he worries about the direct effect that these
mass media have on children. Wertham identifies five psychological problems in relation to media
(1) Passivity television and comics encourage passivity because of their low order of literacy
(2) Misconceptions television and comics teach children unhealthy values that they associate with
the real world
(3) Imitation children constantly copy what they learn from these media
(4) Identification a process of subconscious identification occurs when children come into contact
with these media
(5) Desensitization such is the high volume of violent and pornographic images portrayed by
childrens media that they are now commonplace and taken for granted.
Cantril: The Invasion from Mars
Cantrils ideas support the idea of indirect media effects. Cantril assessed radio during the
1930s. Cantril had the opportunity to assess the effects of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds that aired on
the radio October 30 1938. Why did people believe that this broadcast was real? Cantril gives five
(1) Radio was, and still is, an accepted medium for important announcements
(2) The named speakers during the broadcast had prestige
(3) All the speakers were baffled about the events, despite their experience
(4) Specific incidents were reported in specific places(5) The total experience of listening to the broadcast added to the tension caused by the content of
Cantrils investigations found seven characteristics of susceptibility to the effects of radio and other
(1) Social insecurity
(3) Amount of worry
(4) Lack of self-confidence
(5) Fatalism (belief in mysterious powers that predetermine ones destiny)
(7) Frequency of church attendance
According to Cantril, panic is created by a perceived threat to an individuals Ego. Cantril improves
Werthams direct effects approach by analyzing how media have only indirect, mediating effects
that merely reinforce rather than create seriously social problems.
George Gerbner sought to measure the long-term effects of televisions contributions to
conceptions of social reality. Cultivation theory suggests that television (and other media) is an
important source of information and entertainment that viewers cannot escape its gradual
encroachment into their everyday lives. Cultivation theory involves three types of analysis:
(1) Institutional process analysis, which is concern with all major powers, roles and relationships
that have a systematic and generalized influence on how messages will be selected, formulated,
(2) Message system analysis, which is basically extensive content analysis of media productions
(3) Cultivation analysis, which involves longitudinal surveys of peoples opinions on certain subjects
with the key variables being levels of media reception.
Example: Crime TV heavy exposure to the crime-ridden world of t