Student Number: 089010366
MA in MASS COMMUNICATIONS
Key Issues and Approaches in Media Study
Assignment: Choose any two of the different traditions of media research which have been identified in Module One of the course. Discuss their respective strengths and weaknesses, and critically compare their contributions – actual and potential – to any given media – related topic or issue of contemporary concern.
Word Count: 1499.
A priest, a company, a newspaper, a writer, a journalist, a communications officer, a salesman, a painter, a film director, the government, a politician, in general everyone who wants to sell a product, to provide a service, to inform, to entertain or anything you can imagine has a target group or if you prefer an audience. Within the field of social sciences and especially into media research, understanding the audience is a topic of great concern. Two schools of thought, the Media Effects tradition and the New Audience Research influence audience studies each one in its own, unique way.
The Media Effects tradition is “mainly concerned with persuasion, public opinion, belief, attitude formation, retention of information, short and long term effects, direct and indirect effects, and ultimately behavioral change”(Newbold, 1995, p. 6).1
The disciplines of Psychology and Sociology emerged in the late nineteenth century. At the same time there was a period of industrialization, urbanization that fueled concerns about the status of the family as a unit. Marx, Durkheim and Weber contributed greatly with their works in the understanding of these phenomena. But there was something new that also emerged and united in a sense people in common interests and goals; the mass media. Their messages were believed to influence people who used them as their only source of information for the world. In the turn of the twentieth century the Communism and Fascism used the mass media as “instruments of state control”(Newbold, 1995).2 Within this state of affairs the view that there is a relationship between society, people and the mass media was reinforced. Early effects studies in 1920s regarded that “media influence was …direct and immediate.” (Newbold, 1995, p. 9)3 They looked whether there were direct changes in opinions, attitudes and individual behavior based on the experimental method but this approach was criticized as non-sociological. (Newbold, 1995, p. 10)4 Lasswell in 1927 conducted a study on propaganda, Lundberg in 1926 studied newspapers and political behavior, Lashley and Watson in 1922 studied the effect of film. The Payne studies in the United Studies examined the effect of motion pictures on young people. They used the quantitative experimental method as well as autobiographical work and content analysis as Newbold (1995)5 argues and the results revealed that films effects cannot be seen as anti-social. Radio was also put under investigation in the 1930s by Robinson in 1932 and Cantril and Allport in 1935 which revealed a minor influence. But later on the Yale Studies under the direction of Carl Hovland utilized the experimental method in searching attitude change and persuasion. They found that the individual was “important in terms of their level of educational achievement.” (Newbold, 1995, p.14)6 The discovery of the primary group where the individual is influenced by members of his immediate environment, and later on by research carried out by Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet in the US during the 1940s, which marked the importance of opinion leaders in influencing voters behavior, shifted mass communication from the direct effect model to the two-step flow model, where “the media influence one person who, in turn, selectively passes on information influencing others.” (Newbold, 1995, p.18)7 Within the Media Effects tradition a new approach emerged known as the Uses and Gratifications Approach. It moved from a manipulated audience when Waples in 1940 “suggested that we must ask what...
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