Communications Reading Notes (Fall Term)

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Department
Communication Studies
Course Code
COMM 1101
Professor
Melissa Aronczyk

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Communications Reading Notes September 24 , 2012 -there is a crucial difference between this position and one that focuses on the direct effects of media on audiences. Often, the discussion of media effects ignores living, breathing human beings. People exist only as receptacles for media messages, passive individuals whose behaviours and attitudes are the result of a powerful external force: the media. -We prefer to think of audiences as active readers rather than passive recipients. -We see the meaning of media texts as something that these active audiences construct rather than something that is prefabricated by media producers. -There are two good reasons for conceptualizing the audience in this way. First, it fits with our own experiences as media consumers and as members of various audiences. Second, a large body of recent research demonstrates that media audiences are active interpreters of media. -Proponents of the active audience theory argue that media cannot tell people what to think or how to behave in any direct way because people are not nearly as stupid, gullible, or easy to dominate as the media indoctrination perspective would have us believe. -There are three basic ways in which media audiences have been seen as active: through individual interpretation of media products, through collective interpretation of media, and through collective political action. Interpretive: The meanings of media messages are not fixed; they are constructed by audience members. Social Context of Interpretation: Audiences are active in the sense that they interpret media messages socially. That is, audiences do not simply watch, read, or listen to a media text; develop independent interpretations of what it means; and stick to them. Collective Action: audiences sometimes organize collectively to make formal demands on media producers or regulators. Whether they are outraged by the images they see in a popular film, distressed by the exclusion of their points of view from the news, or concerned about the advertising directed at their children, - -audiences can engage in collective action to try to change media texts or media policies. Agency and Polysemy: polysemy: to describe the notion of multiple meanings in media texts. - This view substitutes one oversimplified perspective (meaning is given) with an alternative (meaning is entirely open) that suffers from the same basic flaw. In essence, this latter view is all agencies and no structure. In disputing the notion that media texts have any meaning prior to their interpretation, this view makes the texts themselves irrelevant. And in arguing that interpretations are virtually limitless, this position neglects the social context in which we experience and interpret media, the often familiar conventions that media representations use, and the underlying patterns these interpretations have. Structure and Interpretive Constraint: We are not simply “free” of constraints when we experience media; we do not live in some electronic netherworld. We experience media as part of daily life, not separate from it, and our lives unfold in specific social locations. -As a result, meaning may be actively constructed by audiences, but in most cases, one interpretation is likely to be most common and fit with the underlying values of the culture. Decoding Media and Social Position: media products are often ideological in the sense that they consistently promote certain messages over others. These ideological representations are most powerful when they pervade the realm of “common sense”, such that competing meanings are no longer even entertained. Conclusion: This chapter has examined the ways in which audiences are active interpreters of media messages. The central contribution of much audience research lies in its interest in individual and collective forms of human agency. The active audience tradition has brought real people back into focus in media research by exploring the interaction between people and media texts and locating meaning in those interactions. Although audiences are active, their activity is still subject to a variety of structural constraints. The media messages themselves matter-even if they can have multiple meanings because they make some interpretations more likely than others. The cultural tools that audiences bring to the interpretation of media are not uniform; different people from different social locations will not have the same resources at their command. By ordering the distribution of cultural tools, social structure serves as a constraint on the process of meaning making. Audiences, then, are active, but they are not fully autonomous; sociology of the media needs to be sensitive to both the interpretive agency and the constraints of social structure. In the 1990s, audience research was particularly useful when it clarified the intersection of agency and structure in the analysis of what media messages mean. Research that compares the interpretive work of audiences from different social locations has been particularly helpful in this regard. But what about the different kinds of media? Do the specific properties of a medium affect this interpretive work? October 15 , 2012 Consumers  Big box companies assign customers to a unique guest ID, which they can track everything they buy, and background information about that customer.  They try to convince you that you can buy everything you need at one store, and therefore if you are just going in to get one thing, you may see something else that you need and pick it up too. Eventually, you will end up buying everything at their store.  One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision- making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.  As we turn things into habits, we think less and less about it and in general.  Our brains create habit in three steps. 1. Cue. 2. The Routine. 3. The Reward.  Habits can be ignored, changed, and replaced. th October 29 , 2012 Journalism  Journalism is traditionally seen as the work that professional journalists do for newspapers, television, or other mass media.  “journalism cannot be defined by the technologies used to produce or distribute it, who produces it, or the techniques used to produce it; rather, journalism is defined by the function that news plays in people’s lives”  Journalism is the range of activities that are associated with making the news. It is“the organized and public collection, processing and distribution of news and current affairs
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