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Media Theories

By McGradey Feb 25, 2014 1043 Words
Media Theories Essay

This essay will identify and analyze two key media theories and discuss their changing importance with the rise of new media and across different mediums. It will state how these theories were largely based on traditional media such as newspapers and television networks and question whether they are still applicable in the same way to new media such as social network sites and online TV. Media Theories

The fist media theory identified is Functionalism; a theory that represents a middle ground between cultural and technological determinism and debates whether the culture in which we are raised determines who we are or that the media causes changes in society and culture, and therefore us. Functionalism states that society cannot function without media, and the purpose of media is to help serve the needs of our society and culture. Such social needs are; Surveillance, specialized media that provide information to audiences with the surveillance of their environment, interpretation, when the information we get is processed and correlated with what we already know, values transmission, the cultural transmission from one generation to another, and entertainment. Conventional media, such as television, radio and newspapers, allowed the media to be more direct over the information we receive and therefore, the message we interpret. Networks such as BBC would provide information and topics that they choose, newspapers edited for the style and substance required by the messenger, not the audience. This provided a very narrow range of ideas and information with limited topics that were specifically chosen and written. Previously, this narrow information was all that was available to the audience and therefore, was the information they relied on to determine their opinions, they needed it. This type of social need does not apply to new media as well as it does to conventional media. New media does not need specialized media outlets to provide information for the people and it is instantaneous, people can seek what interests them. They can interpret and comment as much as they like through new platforms such as blogs and social media. This differs from old media, rather than letting editors or anyone else interpret headlines and social trends, people can now express their own interpretations. The kinds of values and cultural information that are included in mass media content were selected by media organizations that may select values and behaviors that encourage the status quo. However, due to the rise in new and social media, many more values and opinions are available and the audience can be more selective about the information they choose to obtain and how they interpret it. “New media technologies impact our culture by offering new lifestyles, creating new jobs and eliminating others, shifting media empires, demanding new regulations, and presenting unique new social issues”. ( Straubhaar, J. 2013. P4). This does suggest that media has a great effect on changes in society or culture, especially with newer media like the internet and mobile tablets, changing the way we access our information and obtain our entertainment. This is known as technological determinism. With so much information available now and many ways to access it, it can be argued that functionalism is more applicable today and to newer media as there is obvious changes to culture but it is ultimately the audience who choose what they access, how they interpret it and therefore, society changing the media through its demands. The narrower traditional media may have been more useful in determining what information the audience receive and how that will effect society, so may be more relevant to the functionalism theory. New media technologies have also effected the roles and jobs of people and organizations within the media and has completely changed that of Media Gatekeepers; media people who’s job it is to influence messages en route to the public. “The gatekeeping theory, emphasizes the crucial role of the so called gatekeepers, the media managers and editors who can either open or close the gate on a story or shape how it is presented”. ( Straubhaar, J. 2013. P47). These gatekeepers were prevalent in traditional media and could control the release of information on television and newspapers, therefore, control what information the public receive. However, the internet is full of conflicting information and almost impossible to control. “In part the problem is that the heart of the technology for the internet is decentralized. There are no central sources that can be regulated—no newsroom, no production centers, no presses. In some ways it’s a free-for-all”. (Vivian, J. 2012. P8). There is such a thing as aggregation sites; news sites that regurgitate news compiled from elsewhere or that offer pass-through links to other sources, which allow control and the desired message to be delivered but today Custom News Portals are more common. The aggregation concept has been taken to another level with news alerts triggered by search engines like Google. With internet access, anyone can ask a search engine to provide news updates or alerts to their own required information, that which they find desirable. Social-networking sites perform a similar function. People can send friends information and their opinions on it and regularly blog about news or entertainment to which they are interested.

Both media theories mentioned are relevant to how people access information and use the media but are arguably more suited to that of traditional media. New media technologies have advanced so far that these concepts, although still applicable in a sense, may be considered outdated because new media allows faster, more accessible and far more information than anything before. Gone are the days when media managers or organizations controlled the access to such information. “Digital technology and the internet have eroded those boundaries, accelerated the flow of information beyond the capacity of any institution to contain it for long, and dramatically increased its accessibility”. (Flew, 2011). Reference List

Flew, Terry, and Bonnie Rui Liu. Who’s a Global Citizen? Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and the Australian Media Reaction. Proc. of Communication on the Edge: Shifting Boundaries and Identities, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Web. Straubhaar, Joseph D., Robert LaRose, and Lucinda Davenport. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013. Print. Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communication. N.p.: Boston, 2012. Print.

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