Media Theories

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COMM 130

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Mass media as a product of modernity
B. The development of communication and media as an academic discipline C. DEFINING THEORY
Theory – system of law-like propositions
THEORY – helps make sense of phenomena
THEORY – helps in guiding action
THEORY – helps predict consequence/behavior of reality
THEORY – propositions to understand reality

KINDS OF MEDIA THEORY
* Social Scientific
* based on systematic and objective observation of media and other relevant factors * quantitative
* the dominant theory
* Normative
* concerned with prescribing how media ought to operate if certain social values are to be observed or attained * they don’t describe, they prescribe
* Operational
* the practical ideas applied by media practitioners for their own media work * e.g. to producers, what genre sells the most
* Common Sense
* the knowledge we all have from our own experience with the media * e.g. news as true events, soap operas as somebody else’s mind’s creation

2 PERSPECTIVES OF THEORY AND THEIR CONTRASTING ASSUMPTIONS

| OBJECTIVE PERSPECTIVE| INTERPRETIVE PERSPECTIVE|
Ways of knowing| Discovering Truth| Creating multiple realities| Human nature| Determinism – we plan our moves; predictability of human behavior| Free will| What is valued most?| Objectivity| Emancipation; find truth that will set us free| Purpose of theory| Universal laws (if we keep proving theories, we get closer to the Truth)| Rules for interpretation| Research methods| Experiments, surveys| Textual analysis, ethnography| What makes a theory good?| Explains data| New understanding of people| | Predicts future| Clarifies values|

| Relative simplicity| Aesthetic appeal (e.g. justice)|
| Testable hypothesis| Agreed by many|
| Practical utility| Societal reform|

7 TRADITIONS OF COMMUNICATION THEORY

Tradition| Communication is…|
Socio-psychological| * Interpersonal|
Cybernetic| * Information processing * Affected by development of technology * A system of interrelations| Rhetorical| * An artful public address * A persuasive factor| Semiotic| * The process of sharing meaning through signs * A system of signs that a group of people share and understand| Socio-cultural| * A creation and enactment of social reality| Critical| * A reflective change of unjust discourse * Unjustly distributed * Unfairly controlled| Phenomenological| * Experience of self and others through discourse|

WHY SCIENTIFIC METHOD IS DIFFICULT FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH
1. Significant forms of social behavior are difficult to measure. 2. Human behavior is complex.
3. Human beings are self-reflexive.
4. Notion of casualty is troubling when it is applied to us.

II. MASS SOCIETY AND MASS CULTURE THEORIES

D. MASS SOCIETY THEORIES (19TH – 20th CEN.)
CONCEPTS OF SOCIETY
* Collective Organism
* by August Comte
* society has structure like an oganism
* society has specialized parts that functioned together
* the whole was something more than the sum of its parts
* Organic Analogy
* by Herbert Spencer
* discussed social order in terms of growth, structure, functions, etc. * division of labor was the basic unifying factor of society * evolution is the most fundamental process of nature
* interfering with natural development will result to disastrous effects * Theory of Social Bonds (Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft) * by Ferdinand Tönnies
Gemeinschaft – people are bound together through tradition, kinship, friendship or some other socially cohesive factor Gesellschaft – a contract keeps society together
* contract – rationally agreed upon voluntary social relationship in w/c two parties promise to fulfill specific obligations to each other (e.g. industrialization)...
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