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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER TWO
Perspectives on Mass Communication This chapter is largely about the functional approach to studying mass communication Functionalism is a useful paradigm, or model (framework, pattern) for studying the mass media. The idea is simple: How do people say they use the mass media to make modern society possible? For comparison, other paradigms include: critical/cultural (study pp. 4247, 10th ed.) empirical (more on this later in the course) The role played by mass communication in systems such as American society can be thought of as an organic analogy. Simply put, society can be envisioned as a system of interrelated parts, much as our bodies are systems of interrelated parts. The mass media are essential parts of society in 2010. Specifically, the mass media contribute to stability in systems as large as American society (macroanalysis) and as small as an individual audience member (microanalysis). Sometimes the intentions of sources who produce massmedia messages do not match the ways individual audience members use the media or process media messages, resulting in unstable or dysfunctional consequences for society or individuals. Five macrolevel functions of mass communication and society
Surveillance describes the news and information role of mass media as extensions of our eyes and ears in a society that extends farther than our own neighborhood. Two types of media surveillance: beware messages warning us of threats to society other types of instrumental (i.e., intended to be useful) messages such as advertising. How much faith we choose to place in massmedia messages depends on the credibility we attach to the sources. Status conferral is a related, and sometimes dysfunctional consequence of mass communication. Interpretation describes the role played by mass media as providers of meaning. Media sources help audiences understand the significance of personalities, ideas, and events. Interpretation is especially important in the political realm, as voters sift information during political campaigns. Because media decisionmakers (gatekeepers) select the people, ideas, and events given air time or publication space, and decide how much prominence those selections are to be given (framed), interpretation by journalists and commentators serves an important function for busy Americans. Interpretation can become dysfunctional when we rely on media sources too much and stop thinking for ourselves. Linkage refers to the massmedia function of joining parts of society that are not directly connected. Principal domains include: economic (buyers and sellers) political (voters and elected officials) cyberspace (people connected via the Internet) Linkage can become dysfunctional when those with antisocial intents coalesce via the mass media. Transmission of society's values across generations, or socialization, refers to the ways an individual comes to adopt the values of a group. The contribution of mass media (especially television) to socialization has been studied extensively since the 1950s. (More on this later in the course.) Entertainment grew in importance as the American work week shortened during the 20th century. Entertainment is a secondary function of advertisingsupported media industries. The proportion of media content devoted to entertainment varies both among media industries, and among media vehicles within industries. Too much focus on entertainment can be dysfunctional. Learning experiences cannot always be entertaining. Easily available entertainment can lead to passivity when we prefer to watch others do something rather than do something ourselves. Four microlevel functions of mass communication and individuals
The functional paradigm applied to individual members of a media audience is known as uses and gratifications. Research in the usesandgratifications tradition focuses on two important questions: Which needs or drives motivate an individual to use mass media? Which needs do the mass media satisfy for audience members? When asked by researchers in polls and surveys, the uses and gratifications that audience members typically identify divide into four categories. Cognition refers to the reasons we expose ourselves to a specific type of media content in order to know something. Major reasons reported by audience members: to keep up with current events, and to satisfy curiosity about things that interest us. Diversion refers to our use of mass media to maintain a comfortable level of intellectual activity or emotional arousal. Major reasons reported by audience members: stimulation (to relieve boredom) relaxation (to relieve sensory overload) emotional release or catharsis (more on this later in the course) Social utility refers to the role played by mass media in our need for affiliation with others. Major reasons reported by audience members include: conversational currency to establish common ground for interpersonal interactions (e.g., movies, sports) parasocial relationships to overcome loneliness (especially important when we're the new kid on the block) Withdrawal occurs when we use the media to separate us from those we wish to avoid (e.g., after a whole week with a new roommate?). Perspective on the social context of an audience member's exposure to massmedia content Audiences are active; each individual has needs that motivate media use. Sometimes the context of exposure provides more satisfaction than the content of the media message itself. Media use is only one of many ways people find intellectual stimulation or relaxation. People sometimes have poor introspection and hence cannot accurately put into words why they do some of the things they do (e.g., watch TV). Critical/cultural studies: Another paradigm
The cultural studies approach is grounded in Marxism. As a political or economic system, Marxism has been overtaken by capitalism. Neomarxism nevertheless remains a philosophical system and analytical tool (worldview) of some scholars. Although Karl Marx focused on the means of production (the "base") and conflict between capitalists and factory workers, Neomarxists have reinterpreted Marx in terms of culture (the "superstructure") and conflict among groups of people within society. A few key terms used by critical/cultural scholars of mass communication culture, things that bind a group together (e.g., Purdue students) text, any object of analysis (e.g., 30 Rock) meaning, focused on individual interpretation ("polysemic") ideology, social and political ideas or beliefs contained in texts (e.g., consumerism) hegemony, power relationships and dominance (e.g., among countries, classes, individuals) Functionalism vs. critical/cultural Functionalism rests on the assumption that dominant systems such as mass communication are natural and logical developments of mature societies. The critical/cultural approach is focused on the process of how systems such as mass communication emerged as a hegemonic process in which coercion is mingled with consent. Next . . .
historical perspective on technology . . . ...
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