What Are the Implications of New Media Technologies and Practices for Established Models or Theories of the Audience?

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What are the implications of new media technologies and practices for established models or theories of the audience?

In the current day new media and technological advances have a huge impact on society. Throughout history models and theories have been developed in order to explain audience relations with text and other media forms. These models and theories were established and made to fit with certain technologies and with the rapid emergence of new and superior technologies the question of whether these models are still relevant does apply. To complete this essay the term ‘New Media’ must be defined and as Livingstone points out this is not an easy task. Livingstone poses the question, ‘What’s new about the new media?’ (Livingstone, 1991, pg 64). She points out that while, clearly, there have been evolutionary changes in media types and technology, there must be careful examination to distinguish ‘questions of change from those of progress and questions of technological change from those of social change’ (Livingstone, 1991, pg64). Changes to Audience text relations have allowed an increased ability for media to provide the audience with growing interactivity. Lelia Green defines interactivity as ‘ the capacity of a communication medium to be altered by or have its products altered by the actions of the user or audience’ (Green, 2002). Due to this increase in audience opinion and ability to manipulate and evaluate new media, some earlier models and theories regarding audience relationships with text have been made superfluous. Four theories that have been affected by the emergence of new media both positively and negatively are; the Cultivation Theory, The Effects Model, The Uses and Gratifications Model and the Encoding/decoding Model.

Cultivation Analysis ‘focuses specifically on television’s contributions to viewers conceptions of social reality’ (Gerbner et al, 2002). This model assumes that the audience is passive, not active. The model looks at the effects of long-term exposure to television and focuses on the ways audiences perceive the issues in their world. In the current technological era this model ceases to be relevant because it’s audience has no interactivity with the media form. The emergence of new media and the increasing interactivity the audience has with new media has caused the cultivation theory to be made redundant.

The direct effects model of Media- Audience Relations is the idea that media has a direct influence on audiences. This model, like the Cultivation, assumes that the audiences are passive receivers and the relationship between media and the audience is one-way. However in the current day through the emergence of new media, audiences are anything but passive receivers. With the introduction of public opinion based forums and blogs as well as various social networking sites, people’s views on media are voiced and compared. In the effects model, in terms of interactivity, the audience is said to have limited power. With the emergence of new media such as the internet this is certainly not the case, if anything the audience now has more power because they are able to alter texts as well as voice their opinion on texts through the use of blogs and forums. This interactivity allows the audience to influence what media content and messages are produced. Audience with the aid of new media have become senders as well as receivers, causing the Effects Model to become invalid.

The Uses and Gratifications Model focuses on how one’s interests and desires motivate the types of media they choose to consume (Katz et al, 1974). The model assumes that there is an interactive relationship between mass media and audiences. It acknowledges that audiences actively seek out what media they wish to consume and that a person’s media use reflects their social values as well as the social patterns of society. The Uses and Gratifications Approach shows that the audience is an ‘active participant in...
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