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The Uses and gratifications theory

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Xia Zhai

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of The Uses and gratifications theory

Part 1:
Definition of The Theory
The Uses and gratifications theory (UGT) is an approach to understanding why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs.
UGT is an audience-centered approach to understanding mass communication.
Diverging from other media effect theories that question “what do media do to people?”, UGT focuses on “what do people do with media?”
In a word, UGT explains why people choose to watch what they do

The Uses and Gratifications Theory
Which one do you like?
Part 2: Origins of the theory
2.1 Assumptions of the theory
• The audience is active and its media use is goal oriented
• The initiative in linking need gratification to a specific medium choice rests with the audience member
• The media compete with other resources for need satisfaction
• People have enough self-awareness of their media use, interests, and motives to be able to provide researchers with an accurate picture of that use.
• The audience can only assess value judgments of media content.

2.2: Heuristic approach of UGT
In 1974, Elihu Katz, Jay Blumler, and Michael Gurevitch described five elements of the theory:
1. The audience is active and its media use is goal-oriented.
2. The initiative in linking need gratification to a specific media choice rests with the audience member.
3. The media compete with other sources of need satisfaction.
4. People are aware enough of their own media use, interests, and motives to be able to provide researchers with an accurate picture of that use.
5. Value judgments regarding the audience’s linking its needs to specific media or content should be suspended.

During the research, they also found that there were five important uses that the audience wanted:
2. Identify with characters of the situation in the media environment
4. Enhance social interaction
5. Escape from the stresses of daily life
1. Be informed or educated
3. Simple entertainment
Five elements of the theory shows UGT has heuristic effects.
2.3 Seven uses and gratifications
Entertainment/ Time punctuation; Information/ Surveillance; Escapism/ Nostalgia; Companionship/ Conversation Building; Problem solving; Personal enrichment and development; Catharsis/ Tension release
Part 3: The evolution of the theory and key theorists/researchers associated with the theory
3.1 Evolution of the theory
Beginning in the 1940s, researchers began seeing patterns under the perspective of the uses and gratifications theory in radio listeners. Early research was concerned with topics such as children's use of comics and the absence of newspapers during a newspaper strike. An interest in more psychological interpretations emerged during this time period.
UGT was developed from a number of prior communication theories and research conducted by fellow theorists:

Stage 1
• In 1944 Herta Herzog began to look at the earliest forms of uses and gratifications with her work classifying the reasons why people chose specific types of media.
• In 1954 Wilbur Schramm developed the fraction of selection, a formula for determining which form of mass media an individual would select.
• In 1970 Abraham Maslow suggested that uses and gratifications theory was an extension of the Needs and Motivation Theory.

The data behind the theory is hard to extrapolate and at times is not found. How each audience, individual and group perceives a given media outlet is extremely difficult to gauge. A main argument lies in how the media, producers and editors want the material to be interpreted. News reports on a rising restaurant could be seen as a threat to local establishments but was intended as a positive note to how well the community is doing.
For example, Morley said, “Creators of media content have a preferred reading that they would like the audience to take out of the text. However, the audience might reject it, or negotiate some comprise interpretation between what they think and what they text is saying, or contest what the text says with some alternative interpretation.”
The biggest issue for the Uses and Gratifications Theory is it’s being non-theoretical, vague in key concepts, and nothing more than a data-collecting strategy.
For example, Blumler thought the nature of the theory underlying Uses and Gratifications research is not totally clear. This makes the line between gratification and satisfaction blurred, calling into question whether or not we only seek what we desire or actually enjoy it.

2.4 Criticisms
These criticisms show weakness of UGT
1. It relies on functional analysis, which can create a bias toward the status quo
2. It cannot easily address the presence or absence of effects
3. Many of its key concepts are criticized as immeasurable
4. It is too oriented toward the micro-level
Stage 3
• The most recent interest surrounding UGT is the link between the reason why media is used and the achieved gratification.
• UGT researchers are developing the theory to be more predictive and explanatory by connecting the needs, goals, benefits, and consequences of media consumption and use along with individual factors.
• Gratifications sought (GS) vs. Gratification obtained (GO)

3.2 the related theory of the Uses and Gratification theory
Media system dependency theory; social cognitive theory; cultivation theory
Stage 2
• In 1969, Jay Blumlerand and Denis McQuailstudied used the 1964 election in the United Kingdom by examining people's motives for watching certain political programs on television.
• In 1972, Denis McQuail, Jay Blumler and Joseph Brown suggested that the uses of different types of media could be grouped into 4 categories. The four categories were: diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance.
• In 1973-74,McQuail, Blumler and Brown cooperate with Elihu Katz, Michael Gurevitch and Hadassah Haas, the research began to indicate how people saw the mass media.

Part 4: The applications of the theory today
Mobile phone usage
Internet usage
Social media usage
Online gaming
Entertainment media
Full transcript