SOC101 NOTES- Mass Media
Mass media: any technologically based means of communicating between large numbers of
people distributed widely over space or time. It forges our identities, sense of selfhood, sense of
class, ethnicity and race, nationality, sexuality.
Media literacy: ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.
Functionalist perspective (Wright): four functions of mass media are surveillance (tells us
what’s happening), interpretation (tells us how we should respond), socialization (transmits
information, values and norms), and entertainment. Media coverage can be selective but shares
images and experiences that allow us to imagine ourselves as part of a nation state (in many
countries, the media have a legislated nation-building mandate).
• Bookman: media allow us to become members of very different types of imagined
• Other functions of media: gives the public a forum to express their views and
perspectives, and status conferral (attention by media giving people high status).
• Dysfunctions of media (Merton): narcotization; situation in which people become so
overwhelmed by the amount of information that they become numb and do not act on
the information. Free flow of news can threaten the status quo and deliberately distort
the news to sway public opinion.
Conflict perspective: argues that media help the dominant class control society by reinforcing
its capitalist ideology and encouraging a mass consumer culture that allows those who own the
means of production to sell us unnecessary products and services.
• Horkheimer and Adorno: culture industry has turned artistic expression into marketable
commodity that keeps people passively entertained and politically apathetic. It destroys
individual creativity and prevents consumers from thinking about their problems and
about their lives under capitalism. It also creates false needs.
• Herman and Chomsky: stories critical of capitalism will not appear in the popular media
(ex: Rogers owns some of the content as well as the means of distributing that content).
Interactionist perspective (Shapiro): individuals continually negotiate their social realities