MASS COMMUNICATION CONTEXT

Mass Communication Defined
Mass communication occurs when a small number of people send messages to a large anonymous and usually heterogeneous audience through the use of specialized communication media.
The units of analysis for mass communication are the messages, the mediums, and the audience.
Mass Communication represents the creation and sending of a homogeneous message to a large heterogeneous audience through the media. Mass communication studies the uses and effects of the media by many as opposed to the study of human interaction as in other communication contexts.

Theories
Agenda-Setting theory
Cultivation theory
Cultural Imperialism theory
Diffusion theory
Functional Approach to Mass Communication
Human Action Approach theory
Media Dependency
Media Equation
Rules-Based theory
Spiral of Silence theory
Technological Determinism theory
Uses and Gratifications theory

Agenda Setting Theory
Explanation of Theory:
The Agenda-Setting Theory says the media (mainly the news media) aren’t always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about.

Theorist: Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw
Date: 1972/1973
Individual Interpretation:
This theory is good at explaining why people with similar media exposure place importance on the same issues. Although different people may feel differently about the issue at hand, most people feel the same issues are important.
Critique:
The Agenda-Setting Theory comes from a scientific perspective, because it predicts that if people are exposed to the same media, they will place importance on the same issues. According to Chaffee & Berger’s 1997 criteria for scientific theories, Agenda-Setting is a good theory.
• It has explanitory power because it explains why most people prioritize the same issues as important.
• It has predictive power because it predicts that if people are exposed to the same media, they will feel the same issues are important.
• It is parsimonious because it isn’t complex, and it is easy to understand.
• It can be proven false. If people aren’t exposed to the same media, they won’t feel the same issues are important.
• It’s meta-theoretical assumptions are balanced on the scientific side
• It is a springboard for further research
• It has organizing power because it helps organize existing knowledge of media effects.
Example:
Actions surrounding the O.J. case and the Clinton Scandal are both excellent examples of Agenda-Setting in action. During these historic events, the media was ever-present. The placement of full page, color articles and top stories on news programming made it clear that Americans should place these events as important issues. Some people believed O.J. was guilty, and others believed he was innocent. Some believed Clinton should have been impeached, and others thought otherwise. Therefore, the media wasn’t extremely successful in telling us what to think on these issues, but most Americans did believe these were both important issues for a long period of time.
Cultivation Theory
Explanation of Theory:
Gerbner’s cultivation theory says that television has become the main source of storytelling in today’s society. Those who watch four or more hours a day are labeled heavy television viewers and those who view less then four hours per day, according to Gerbner are light viewers. Heavy viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are effected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse then it actually is. According to Gerbner, the overuse of television is creating a homogeneous and fearful populace.
Theorists: George Gerbner
Date:1976
Primary Article:
Gerbner, G. & Gross, L. (1976). Living with television: The violenceprofile. Journal of Communication, 26, 76.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
determanistic—X—————-free will
Epistemological Assumptions:
Truth—X——————————-truths
Axiological Assumptions:
value neutral———X————value laden

Individual Interpretations and Critique: The cultivation theory is a scientific theory. Epistimologically speaking, Gerbner believes in one truth. The theory does not believe television viewers have a choice in whether they are effected by media violence or not. Lastly, Gerbner allows some of his own values to enter into the theory by deciding what to consider violence and by assigning a numerical value to heavy television viewing. Gerber’s idea of the effects heavy television viewing is intriguing. There is definitely support to show that those who watch great amounts of television do experience the mean world syndrome, the definition of ‘heavy’ needs to be reexamined. Gerbner defines heavy television viewing as watching four or more hours a day. The idea of setting a numerical value to try to equate heavy influence to a mass populace is suspect. While the theory does contain some holes it adequately opens the discussion dealing with effects of the media upon viewers.
Ideas and Implications: The effects of Gerbner’s mean world syndrome can easily be seen in nursing homes. Many occupants of nursing homes watch many hours of television per day without leaving their rooms to actually see what the real world is like. Having only the media to guide their interpretation of the ‘real world’, nursing home residents believe that the world is a corrupt and violent place.

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM
Explanation of Theory:
Cultural Imperialism Theory states that Western nations dominate the media around the world which in return has a powerful effect on Third World Cultures by imposing n them Western views and therefore destroying their native cultures.
Theorists: Herb Schiller
Date: 1973
Primary Article:
Schiller, H. J. (1973). Communication and Cultural Domination. White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press.
Individual Interpretations:
Western Civilization produces the majority of the media (film, news, comics, etc.) because they have the money to do so. The rest of the world purchases those productions because it is cheaper for them to do so rather than produce their own. Therefore, Third World countries are watching media filled with the Western world’s way of living, believing, and thinking. The third world cultures then start to want and do the same things in their countries and destroy their own culture.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
This theory says that humans do not have the free will to chose how they feel, act, think, and live. They react to what they see on television because there is nothing else to compare it to besides their own lives, usually portrayed as less than what it should be.
Epistemological Assumptions:
This theory explains that there is one truth and no matter what that truth never going to change. As long as Third World countries continue to air Western Civilization’s programs then the third world countries will always believe they should act, feel, think, and live as Western Civilizations act, feel, think, and live.
Axiological Assumptions:
This theory is value-neutral and objective. It does not matter what beliefs the people of Third World may already hold the television programs from the Western World will communicate the same message and effect them in the same way.
Critique: Scientific Theory
Explanatory Power: It explains what happens when one group of people with their own ideas sends messages through the media to a different group of people.
Predictive Power: It predicts that Third World countries’ culture will be destroyed and the people will identify with Western views.
Parsimony: We can see a direct linear path from sender to receiver through the media channels and then watch the effects.
Falsifiability: The theory could be proved false should the Third World countries not be effected by Western media nd they do not lose their culture.
Internal Consistency: There is a logical flow of events and consequences within the theory.
Heuristic Provocativeness: This theory could lead to new hypotheses such as which cultures are effected more than others (if any) or whether low context differ in the reception of messages compared top high context cultures?
Organizing Power: This fits with what we already know about differences between Western civilization and Third World countries.

Example:
Several people have seen the episode of Southpark where one of the students is swapped for a “starving Ethiopian.” Should someone in Ethiopia watch this cartoon, the Western stereotype of Ethiopians all starving to death will tell that person that all they are are tiny black people who cannot help themselves. If the person is not effected this way the theory is proved false but the relations between American and Ethiopian individuals will still be hurt because of those stereotypes.
DIFFUSION OF INNOVATION THEORY

Explanation of Theory:
In the Diffusion Innovation theory, communicators in society with a message influence/encourage people that have strong opinions through the media to influence the masses.
Theorists: P. Lazarsfeld, B. Berelson, and H. Gaudet
Date: 1944
Primary Article:
Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., Gaudet, H. (1944) “The People’s Choice.” New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumption:
There does not seem to be free will in this case, it is fated as to what information is received to the masses, they have no choice to what they are exposed to.
Epistemological Assumption:
In this sense, the theory is scientific. There is one truth, dependent on the messages sent and received by the media and the opinion leaders.
Axiological Assumption:
I feel that Diffusion of Innovations is scientific in the values sense as well. Research being done is value neutral and not biased because what is stated is pretty much how the news is run. The masses are fed what information is important.
Critique:
I think the Diffusion of Innovations does a good job of explaining how ideas are spread and is accurate in its conclusions.
Ideas and Implications:
The Diffusion of Innovations is useful to apply in situations when trying to explain how ideas are spread through our society from the media.
Example:
An applicable example to help illustrate Diffusion of Innovations involves Christmas time specials on TV programming. These programs on harmful/popular toys influence either the opinion of and/or the decision of whether to purchase a specific toy to many shoppers.
FUNCTIONAL APPROACH TO MASS COMMUNICATION THEORY

Explanation of Theory:
There are five functional approaches the media serves users: surveillance, correlation, transmission, entertainment, and mobilization
Theorists: Harold Laswell and Charles Wright
Date: 1948, 1960
Primary Articles:
Laswell, H (1948). The structure and function of communication and society: The communication of ideas. New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies, 203-243.
Wright, W. R. (1960). Functional analysis and mass communication. Public Opinion Quarterly,(24), 610-613.
Individual Interpretations:
The mass media serves many functions for our society. The five elements the theorists put together describe the audience’s use for the media. Surveillance means that the media provides news and information. Correlation means that the media presents the information to us after they select, interpret, and criticize it. The cultural transmission function means that the media reflects our own beliefs, values, and norms. Media also entertains us in our free time and provides an escape from everyday life. Mobilization refers to the media function of promoting society’s interest especially in times of crisis.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
This theory assumes that humans have a certain amount of free will. They can use mass communication for any variety of functions but they have to use it for something. Humans can make a choice in what to watch for any variety of reasons even if it is just for noise.
Epistemological Assumptions:
The knowledge is universal and it is one truth that mass communication functions as a part of our society. It is a main source of surveillance, entertainment, correlation, transmission, and mobilization.
Axiological Assumptions:
This theory is objective and value-neutral. It does not matter what person is going to watch the television because everyone watches it for a reason.
Critique: Scientific Theory
Explanatory Power: It explains our society’s use for media and mass communication.
Predictive Power: It predicts that people will use the media for specific functions.
Parsimony: It is simple because the audience has a need and the media fulfills that need.
Falsifiability: The theory could be proved false should the media become dysfunctional or nonfunctional.
Internal Consistency: The theory makes sense in that there are several functions of the media and they are not in conflict with one another. Some people can use the media for more than one function at different times.
Heuristic Provocativeness: Is there a way that the media is dysfunctional? Does the media serve the same functions now as it did 30 years ago?
Organizing Power: We know that human beings have needs so we look for ways to fill those needs. This theory organizes how the media fits in to this equation.
Example:
You have had a really long day at school and at work. You have ten things to do this week before you go home to see your parents who are convinced that you just pretend to be busy. You can not find any one to work for you and your teachers want everything perfect and now. You turn on the television to your favorite show and for half an hour you are entertained and you have no worries. The media functioned to entertain you and relieve you of your worries (temporarily).
HUMAN ACTION APPROACH
Explanation of Theory:
Human behavior can be predicted because people make choices with a purpose about their actions. Behavior is chosen by individuals to reach certain goals.
Theorist: P. Winch
Date: 1958
Primary Article:
Winch, P. (1958). “The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy,” Atlantic HIghlands, NJ. Humanities Press.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumption:
There is some fate concerning this theory, although free will does rule behavior which can be predicted when goals are observed.
Epistemological Assumption:
Since there can be many different goals assessed for a person’s behavior, there are many truths that could be possible for this humanistic theory.
Axiological Assumption:
Values definitely play a part in this humanistic theory- which ones are more important to an individual are the ones that goals will be modeled after and could be used to track behavior.
Critique:
This theory is used as a measure to provide better understanding of behavior that has already occurred, it says nothing about future behavior.
Ideas and Implications:
The Human Action Approach is useful to apply in situations when trying to explain behavior that has already occurred. Studying historical events or known past experiences could use the Human Action Approach.
Example:
An applicable example to help illustrate the Human Action Approach is a group of people listening to a persuasive speech about smoking and lung cancer. Fear appeals had nothing to do with changing people’s minds. They were presented with new information- that stopping smoking increases life expectancy even for former smokers- that was what led the audience members to quit. There was a change in behavior because the audience saw living longer as a goal.
Media Dependency Theory
Explanation of Theory:
This theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having his or her needs fulfilled, the more important the media will be to that person.
Theorist: Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur
Date: 1976
Primary Article:
Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & DeFleur, M.L. (1976). A dependency model of mass media effects. Communication Research, 3, 3-21.

Individual Interpretation:
This theory is based on the Uses and Gratifications Theory and ties into the Agenda Setting Theory. Uses and Grats identifies how people use and become dependent upon the media. People use the media for many reasons. Information, entertainment, and parasocial relationships are just a few of them. The Dependency Theory says the more a person becomes dependent on the media to fulfill these needs, the media will become more important to that individual. The media will also have much more influence and power over that individual. If someone is so dependent on the media for information, and the media is that person’s only source for information, then it is easy to set the agenda. The individual falls victim to Agenda Setting. As you can see, these three theories intertwine quite a bit.

Critique:
Media Dependency Theory is Relatively Scientific in nature. It predicts a correlation between media dependence and importance and influence of the media, but each person uses the media in different ways. Also, the media affects each person in different ways. According to Chaffee & Berger ‘s 1997 criteria for scientific theories, this theory is a pretty good one.

• It has explanatory power, but more of predictive power because it predicts how dependency on the media correlates with importance of the media to a certain person.
• It is relatively simple to understand, so it is parsimonious.
• It can be proven false. If a person is not dependent on the media, media will not be of great importance to that individual.
• It is internally consistent, with meta-theoretical assumptions on the same side of the continuum.
• It is a springboard to further research, especially so, since it came from other theories.
• It helps to organize and relate other media effect theories.
Example:
Let me introduce you to Sunny, a friend of mine from Los Angeles who now resides in Lexington, KY. When Sunny lived in L.A., he would ask his mother what the weather was going to be for the day. It was usually sunny. Now that he lives in Lexington, where the weather is sporadic, Sunny uses the media for information about the weather. Every morning, he gets up and turns on the weather channel on the television, reads the paper, and checks the internet, all for the local forecast for the day. He has become very dependent on the media. One month, Sunny forgot to pay the electric bill, and his service was disconnected. He didn’t know what to do. He had no idea what to put on for the day, because he relied so heavily upon the media for information. Sunny could have easily looked outside or called a friend, but he was depending on the media to provide him with the information he needed.
Media Equation
Explanation of Theory:
This theory predicts why people respond unconsciously and automatically to communication media as if it were human.

Theorist: Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass
Date: 1996
Primary Article:
Reeves, B., & Nass, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Individual Interpretation:
This theory looks at interpersonal communication between an individual and the media. We talk back to our computers, and we use the same personal spacing techniques with media as we would if that particular medium were a real person. We unconsciously act as if the media are people. There’s something unique about this theory. It is relatively new, and considers new forms of interpersonal communication

Critique:
This theory is scientific in nature, and according to Chaffee & Berger’s 1997 criteria for scientific theories, it is an okay one.

• It predicts that people will treat the media (according to interpersonal theory) as they would treat a real person.
• It explains ways the audience is active.
• It is relatively simple to understand.
• It is internally consistent on the scientific side (one truth, determinism, value nuetral).
• It helps organize knowledge about the action of the audience.

Example:
When the television you are watching is real small, you tend to sit closer, and when it is large, you tend to sit further away from it. Ask a friend to randomly watch you when you are watching someone you like, admire, or think is attractive on television. You can do the same for them as well. I notice that I tend to sit closer to the television, smile, and keep eye contact when I am watching someone I like on television. However, I walk away, make ugly faces, or ignore people I don’t like when I am watching television.
Rules Based Theory
Explanation of Theory: Lull’s rules-based theory describes three rule-governed behaviors during family television viewing. Habitual rules are non-negotiable with negative consequences for violation. Parametric rules are somewhat more negotiable and are understood boundaries (not always verbalized). Lull’s last rule is tactical, which are set by the culture in general.
Theorists: J. Lull
Date: 1980
Primary Article: Lull, J. (1980). Family communication patterns and the social uses of television. Communication Research, 7 319-34.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
determanistic——–X———–free will
Epistemological Assumptions:
Truth—————–X—————–truths
Axiological Assumptions:
value neutral-X——————–value laden

Individual Interpretations and Critique: Lull’s rules-based theory is rests in the middle between scientific and humanistic. Epistemologically, the rules-based theory believes that although families all have television viewing rules they all do it in different ways. The theory is value neutral. Lastly, the theory rests in the middle between free will and deterministic. Lull’s rules-based theory does not do much more then describe an everyday, common sense action. Lull does put names to things most people are familiar with; however, the theory does little more.
Ideas and Implications: It is easy to see the rules-based theory in work anytime a parent tells a child that they can not watch television after ten o’clock or not to change the channel without asking.

Spiral of Silence Theory
Explanation of Theory:
The Spiral of Silence theory explains why people often feel the need to conceal their opinions/preference/views/etc. when they fall within the minority of a group.
Theorist: Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann
Date: 1984
Primary Article:
Noelle-Neumann, E. (1984). The Spiral of Silence. University of Chicago, Chicago.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumption:
In this sense, the theory is extremely scientific. Spiral of Silence believes that there is fate- opinions are dependent on the majority opinion of the group.
Epistemological Assumption:
The theory is also quite scientific in the relationship between the research being done and the researcher. What is researched is not dependent on the observer, there is one truth; an absolute if you will concerning the Spiral of Silence. People are quiet with their opinions and that is that.
Axiological Assumption:
I feel that Spiral of Silence is scientific in the values sense as well. Research being done is value neutral and unbiased on the researchers’ behalf since they would have no reason or means to skew the findings in any way.
Critique:
The Spiral of Silence theory is a scientific theory that for the most part is quite sound in situations in which opinions are not of great consequence. For example, if my opinion is a strong conviction and I am unwilling to bend in my beliefs then the theory may not apply to me to such an extent. Also, if I am an opinion leader, (from the Diffusionof Innovations theory) that is I am the one voicing my opinion and affecting other people; then I also may not bend in my opinions either.
Ideas and Implications:
The Spiral of Silence is useful to apply in situations when trying to explain why people cover up or change their opinions when in a group setting especially when they think they are alone in their opinions.
Example:
An example to help illustrate the Spiral of Silence theory is a person going out with a new group of people or on a date with someone you do not know very well. When ordering pizza for this theory, I would conform to the mushroom lovers because I feel I am in the minority since I do not like mushrooms and i think everyone else does. Therefore I do not want to be rejected or alone in my opinions.
TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM THEORY
Explanation of Theory:
Technological Determinism state that media technology shapes how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how are society operates as we move from one technological age to another (Tribal- Literate- Print- Electronic).
Theorists: Marshall Mcluhan
Date: 1962
Primary Article:
Mcluhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg Galaxy: The making of Typograhic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Individual Interpretations:
We learn and feel and think the way we do because of the messages we receive through the current technology that is available. The radio required us to only listen and develop our sense of hearing. On the other hand, television engages both our hearing and visual senses. We then transfer those developed senses into our everyday lives and we want to use them again. The medium is then our message.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
Humans do not have much free will at all. Whatever society as a whole is using to communicate, they too will use to communicate. Therefore they will adapt to the medium they are using so that they can send and receive messages like everyone else.
Epistemological Assumptions:
We know that there is one truth by observing what has happened over time. As the medium changes so does society’s way of communicating. People can only use the medium for which it was created (phone for talking over lines or electronic mail for talking via computer). If the medium is impersonal (television) then the message too is impersonal.
Axiological Assumptions:
This theory is objective in that everyone will act and feel the same no matter what the medium they are using provided that they are using the same medium. Values are not involved because evidence is seen strictly through observation.
Critique: Scientific Theory
Explanatory Power: It explains when new systems of technology are developed, the culture or society is immediately changed to reflect the senses needed to use the new technology.
Predictive Power: It predicts that with every new system of media technology, society will change and adapt to that technology.
Parsimony: There is a simple cause and effect analysis between the introduction of new technology and the changes in society’s way of thinking, feeling, acting, or believing.
Falsifiability: The theory could be proved false if a new technology is invented and nothing changes.
Internal Consistency: There is a logical flow of proof evidenced over time.
Heuristic Provocativeness: Would this theory only work in the USA or would it vary culture to culture within or outside the United States? Does it vary in the electronic age between those who can afford the new technology and those who can not?
Organizing Power: We know that we have developed and we know that we have changed. This theory provides a way to see why this has happened.
Example:
With everyone electronically mailing each other today, there is no longer a need to write a joke down to remember it. You can just forward it to a friend. We also do not communicate with distant friends as over the telephone anymore. We have started to only communicate through the impersonal use of the e-mail system.
USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY
Explanation of Theory:
Blumler and Katz’s uses and gratification theory suggests that media users play an active role in choosing and using the media. Users take an active part in the communication process and are goal oriented in their media use. The theorist say that a media user seeks out a media source that best fulfills the needs of the user. Uses and gratifications assume that the user has alternate choices to satisfy their need.
Theorists: Blumler and Katz
Date: 1974
Primary Article:
Blumler J.G. & Katz, E. (1974). The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Ontological Assumptions:
Deterministic—————-X—free will
Epistemological Assumptions:
Truth——————————X—-Multiple Truths
Axiological Assumptions:
value neutral—————–X—-value laden

Individual Interpretations and Critique:
Uses and gratifications theory takes a more humanistic approach to looking at media use. Blumler and Katz believe that there is not merely one way that the populace uses media. Instead, they believe there are as many reasons for using the media, as there are media users. According to the theory, media consumers have a free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will effect them. Blumler and Katz values are clearly seen by the fact that they believe that media consumers can choose the influence media has on them as well as the idea that users choose media alternatives merely as a means to and end. Uses and gratification is the optimist’s view of the media. The theory takes out the possibility that the media can have an unconscience influence over our lives and how we view the world. The idea that we simply use the media to satisfy a given need does not seem to fully recognize the power of the media in today’s society.
Ideas and Implications:
Uses and gratification theory can be seen in cases such as personal music selection. We select music not only to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or other socially conscience motives. There are many different types of music and we choose from them to fulfill a particular need.

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