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Chapter 1

CMN 3104 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Warren Weaver, Harold Lasswell, Erving Goffman

Course Code
CMN 3104
Dina Salha

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Chapter 1
Laying a Foundation for Studying Race, Gender Class, and
the Media
The media provide information, entertainment, escape and relaxation and
even help us make small talk.
The media can help save lives, and – unfortunately – also encourage people
to cause harm to others.
If the world is shrinking, and our “village” is becoming global, its because
the media – especially TV – have brought things even closer to us.
A primary assumption underlying media research is that media do matter
what we see, read, and hear have some type of affect on us.
Different types of scholars approach the matter of media effects differently.
!Social scientists try to model their research on the natural sciences
and strive to maintain objectivity. E.g. experimental or survey
!Critical/cultural researchers, on the other hand, try to reject not
only the desirability of maintaining an objective, value-neutral
position but also the very possibility of accomplishing such a goal.
o!According to them, a subjective interpretation is required to
learn how the media affect the world in which we live.
o!The media help maintain a status quo in which certain groups
in our society routinely have access to power and privilege
while others do not.
o!They prefer qualitative methodologies such as rhetorical or
textual analysis, interviews and ethnographic techniques.
We categorize people on the basis of race/ethnicity, gender, and social class.
Our perceptions of our own and others’ identities colour all our interactions;
they affect our expectations of others, and expectations of ourselves, and
others’ expectations of us.
Sociologist Joseph Healey
!We make snap judgments about people (and things).

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!This is necessary because we live in a complex social world, and we
simply don’t have time to ruminate about all the fine points of
everything and everyone we encounter.
!So we constantly categorize people and groups, often on the basis
of nothing more than their most “obvious” characteristics – markers
of race and points.
!The classifications we make affect our behaviour towards others.
!The markers of race and gender stand out rather than other
attributes because our attention is drawn to the characteristics that
have come to identify the dividing lines between groups.
!The dividing line between groups that were created in the past
condition our perceptions and impressions in the present. Our
‘knowledge’ that skin colour can be used to judge others and our
sensitivity to this characteristic reflects our socialization into a race-
conscious society with a long history of racial stratification.
It’s the same with gender – we’ve been socialized into a gender-conscious
society that is also stratified (divided in a hierarchical fashion with some
social groups having more of the goods/services valued by society than
others) along the lines of gender.
When our generalizations become overly simplistic, when we ignore evidence
that they are incorrect, or when they become exaggerated, they have
become more than mere “generalizations”; they’ve become stereotypes.
!Stereotypes reflect our (erroneous) beliefs that the few traits we
stress are the most imp, and that they apply to all members of the
!They deny the presence and the importance of individual
Stereotypes are an imp component of prejudice: the tendency of an
individual to think about other groups in negative ways and to attach
negative emotions to those groups, and to prejudge individuals on the basis
of their group membership. (Healey)
!Prejudice has a both cognitive and emotional element.
!Stereotypes are at the heart of the cognitive aspect of prejudice.
Prejudice can lead to discrimination, although it doesn’t need to.
Discrimination: when people are treated unequally just because they
belong to a certain group.
Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination reflect racism or sexism,
depending on whether the stereotypes are rooted in race/ethnicity or
Although both race and ethnicity are socially constructed, some people find
it helpful to distinguish between race and ethnicity.

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!Race: physical characteristics e.g. skin colour, hair.
!Ethnicity: cultural characteristics e.g. religious practices, language,
Those who employ this distinction tend to believe that the meanings
attributed to both physical and cultural markers remain socially constructed
– they are no propagating biological theories of race.
Our media system is complex and incorporates a variety of interrelated
The 3 main elements of the system are the producers, the audience, and the
actual media content.
!Production: involves anything having to do with the creation and
distribution of mediated messages.
!Content: emphasizes the mediated messages themselves.
!Audience: addresses the people who engage, consume, or interact
with mediated messages.
The production-content-audience distinction is consistent with commonly
used models of communication focusing on the sources (or sender),
message, channel, and receiver.
These SMCR-type models fit well with the social-scientific approach, and all
have their roots in the 1940s work of Harold Lasswell and Calude Shannon
and Warren Weaver.
The Shannon and Weaver mathematical model of communication has been
most influential in the field.
The production-content-audience distinction is also consistent with how
media studies can be approached within the critical/cultural studies
The 3 realms are usually referred to as production, text, and reception by
critical/cultural scholars and are considered points of intervention.
Goal of critical/cultural scholars: to understand how social structures serve
to oppress and repress certain social groups in order to end that oppression.
Erving Goffman: the framing of an event or activity establishes its meaning.
Framing: the process by which we make sense of events around us.
Frames are like story lines that allow us to interpret new information in the
context of something we already understood.
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