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Critical and Cultural Theories of Mass Communication
Transcript of Critical and Cultural Theories of Mass Communication
from "transmission" to culture
Assessing the Role of Media
The Media Effects (Postpositivist) Research Strategy
Identify independent & dependent variables
The Critical Cultural Research Strategy
Focus on audience uses and experiences
Differences in Doing Research
Come up with two Effects research questions
What are you testing for? What variables?
Come up with two Culture-based research questions
Critical Theory versus Cultural Theory
Critical Theory is more likely to combine normative theory with empirical observation
Media should be used to achieve valued goals
Cultural Theory usually focuses on media content and experience of content
It can be based on simple curiosity about why certain content is popular
We should criticize problematic uses and actively work to improve media use so that valued goals are achieved
We should assess current media use to see if goals are being achieved
It usually isn’t based on a normative theory so it isn’t concerned about the value of different uses and experiences
It often is concerned about why different social groups experience content differently
Classic Critical Theory
Grounded in ideal values = egalitarianism, mass democracy
Change is only possible with a revolution that takes media away from elites and gives them to the masses
Elites use media to indoctrinate masses with ideologies that are inconsistent with their interests
It is possible to challenge and overcome elite efforts to indoctrinate masses
Elite misuse of media can be exposed and criticized
Media literacy can teach masses to criticize elite misuse of media
Elite ideology can be countered with populist (communist) ideology
Frankfurt School Theory of Media
Earliest version of NeoMarxist theory
Challenged by the rise of Nazism in Germany and seeks to explain why
Media technology itself is problematic since it badly misrepresents the social world
Symphony music versus records
Nazis use media to replace civilized high culture with pseudo-folk culture
popular culture is "factory-produced and standardized — films, radio, magazines . . . used to manipulate mass society into
Find empirical evidence of causal power of media
Assess linear causal relationships
Develop theories about changes in experience and consequences of these changes
Look for changes in quality of experience that take place over time
1980s Critical Cultural Studies Theories
British Cultural Studies
Cultural Studies Theory
Political Economy Theory
how individuals and social groups use media to create culture that structure everyday life
how media institutions are structured within capitalist economies and promote
culture (dominance of elites)
less interested in individual/group experiences of media
less interested in long-term social consequences of media
Reading Romance Novels
General Electric owns NBC News
40%-60% of local news stories are placed by advertisers
Two types of critical theory
critical theories raise questions about the way things are and alternative ways of interpreting the social role of media
roots in literary criticism
roots in Marxism
neo-Marxism + literary criticism techniques
How does a "text" promote elite domination over culture and subordinate minorities and subcultures?
People of Wal-Mart as a media "text"
Does our laughter affirm our superiority over the less fortunate subculture? Does it promote hierarchy?
Promotion of Opera over Heavy Metal concerts:
imposition of (alien) dominant culture on subculture?
Sought a normative ideal: media should provide a pluralistic public forum in which subordinate groups can challenge elite ideology
Ideology: images, concepts and assumptions which are frameworks through which we understand social existence
Image/concept: Welfare Queen
neo-Marxist + economics of mass media
elite control of economic institutions leads to power over media to maintain that control
content is produced but only content that supports existing power
VNR example: newsroom economics
These two camps often fight over how best to combat elite power.
base or superstructure?
means of production?
control over culture
people can resist in their use of facebook
people are not resisting by using facebook
American Cultural Studies
James Carey - Transmission versus Ritual Perspectives on studying media
Transmission: communication is transmitting info at a distance for the purpose of control
Ritual: mass communication maintains society through time (traditions, beliefs); a symbolic process through which our reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed
He critiqued limited effects as mere "transmission"
Canadian Cultural Studies
Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis
Focus on media technology not on the content delivered by media
Center and periphery
Traces media history: oral, written, print, broadcast
Key Concept = Bias of Communication
Compare Cultural Studies Theory and Political Economy Theory. Which theory believes people can resist domination through unique interpretation of media?