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Media Influence - An Introduction

An introduction to key terms and concepts for, Outcome 3, Unit 4 in the VCE

Alex Maunder

on 12 August 2014

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Transcript of Media Influence - An Introduction

How much influence does the media have
over audiences?

This is the basic question that is being
posed in this area of study.

This area of study focuses on an analysis of media influence. Students explore the complexity of the relationship between the media, its audiences and the wider community in terms of the nature and extent of the media’s influence. Students examine arguments and evidence arising from a range of historical and contemporary developments that offer a range of perspectives about the nature, characteristics and extent of media influence on individuals and society at large. Theories of media influence and communication models are underpinned by academic approaches, including the political economy model, the effects tradition and the cultural studies model. Over time these theories have become increasingly sophisticated as they seek to explain the complexities in the relationships between the media and its audiences.
From the Study Design:
Audiences are central to the construction and dissemination of media products. They are active in media consumption and increasingly involved in media creation and distribution. Developments in media technologies, forms and texts and the changes that result in terms of the construction, distribution, consumption and regulation of media products have fundamentally changed the relationship between the media and its audiences. Students examine the nature and extent of media influence in the light of these developments.
From the Study Design
The media is subject to regulation including government, industry
and self-regulation on production, distribution, content and reception. Codes of conduct and regulations may define standards, set limitations
or place ethical parameters on the media. Students consider the
rationale for, and arguments about, such controls when discussing
issues of media influence.
From the Study Design
• communication theories and models and their application to media
forms and texts
• theories of audience, their relationship with communication theories
and models, and application to media forms and texts
• arguments and evidence about media influence on audiences and
the broader society
• arguments surrounding the rationale for and regulation of the
• appropriate media language and terminology.
Key Knowledge:
• identify, compare and contrast communication theories and models
• apply communication theories and models to media forms and texts
• substantiate arguments about media influence
• discuss the relationship between audiences and media forms and texts
• analyse the rationale for and arguments about the regulation of the media
• use and apply appropriate media language and terminology.
Key Skills
This Prezi will pick apart each of those dot points to help explain
what each of them mean.

Media Influence can often be quite a complex topic, with a number
of different approaches suggesting a variety of different ideas
about the nature and extent of influence.

Keep an open mind, and be aware that very few ideas within this
topic are proven. It is an ongoing discussion (a discourse if you
will...) and always in a state of change.
What does that all mean though?
To be able to articulate your ideas, arguments and analysis of the nature and extent of media influence, you are going to need to use some specific language. Some of this you already know, other elements are more complex.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Media Forms
- These are types of media. This includes film,
television, print, the Internet, radio, computer games & social
networking sites.

Media Texts
- These are the specific examples that we will use
to discuss the nature and extent of media influence. A text
could include "War of the Worlds", a radio broadcast from
1939. It could also include the computer game "Halo",
or the movie "Scream".
Appropriate media language and terminology
Models of Communication

The Political Economy Model –
The media is simply part of an economic system where power and control resides in political and economic institutions. Under this model the media transmits the message these institutions determine.
The Effects Model –
Media forms and content have strong effects on individuals and society. This model sees the media as a powerful agent of change.
The Cultural Model –
It is the culture, which includes the political economy and the media that explains the individuals’ relationship with the media. The media serves as a communicative space within which cultures and other forces in society can interact.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Communication Theory descriptors:

The following distinctions can be made when
comparing how communication theories attempt
to explain the nature and extent of
media influence.
Appropriate media language and terminology

= the message goes in a straight line, from point
A to B. These are often referred to as sender receiver models
because the relationship is direct, from the sender to the receiver.

Semiotic Constructivist
= which see meaning as arising from the interaction of a text with a reader. As individuals, we don’t interpret
all signs the same way. Our interpretation depends on our social context – what we believe, our prejudices, our morals etc. Semiotic Constructivist models/theories include the concept that there can
be one message but many meanings.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Top Down Theories
= The relationship between the media and
audiences can be seen in a hierarchy, with the media above and
audiences below. If you imagine the relationship in this way then
the idea of top down will make sense. Top Down theories are
concerned with what the media does to people.

Bottom Up Theories
= using the same analogy, bottom up is the
opposite, and is a group of theories concerned with what people
do with the media.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Different types of audiences!

= Sitting ducks. Receive the message directly from the media. Passive audiences are regarded as being highly influenced by media products. A passive audience experience the same, or preferred,
reading of a media text. Examples of Passive Audiences are young
children, mentally unstable, the elderly, and even women have been described as a passive audience (in certain circumstances).
= Active audiences select and interact with media forms. They
are able to question what they see, hear and read. They do not all
receive the same message; rather they interpret the texts in
different ways. Such factors as gender, environment, values, and
experiences impact on their reading of a media message.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Ideas about texts:
Open texts
= Texts that are open to interpretation. More than one ‘reading’ is possible and a message can be conveyed that is not
necessarily the ‘preferred’ meaning. Other possible readings can be described as dominant, oppositional, negotiated or unusual.

Closed texts
= Text that are closed have one preferred meaning.
Everyone receives the same message and the impact of the
message is the same for everyone.
Appropriate media language and terminology
Perceived media influence is often discussed in relation to its nature and extent.
- The
of influence deals with
the audience is affected by the media. By what method have they been supposedly influenced?
- The
of influence deals with how
the audience may be affected by the media. Is this to a large or small degree?

You will often need to discuss these in combination with relation
to communication theories.
The Nature and Extent of media influence
Communication Theories
have come about through media theorists attempting to explain the nature and extent of the influence the
media supposedly has on its audience. Some of these theories were developed in reaction to mass hysteria surrounding the introduction
of a new media form, and others have come about through looking at
case studies where the media is said to have had a negative impact.
There are a large number of communication theories, too many for us
to study all of them, but we will be looking at five different theories
that aim to explain media influence.
Communication Theories
While we are looking at these five theories, you should take
particular note of:

- Theory name
- Time period theory was created or was popular
- Theory created by
- Nature of Audience
- Nature of Text
- Linear or Semiotic Model
- Explanation of theory
Communication Theories
It is important to remember that communication theories are just
that, theories! They are only ideas, and no theory has been proven.
You can apply different theories to the same situation to attempt to explain the nature and extent of influence.

You will need to be flexible in this application, and be aware that you
are analysing the effectiveness of the theories to explain the nature and extent of influence, not proving or disproving the theories that
you personally believe in.

Also be aware that a theory doesn’t always fit all the time.
Communication Theories
Also known as the Hypodermic Needle Theory, it was developed between the 1920’s & 1940’s by the Frankfurt School in Germany (and later the US).

The theory suggests that everyone will get the message of the media. Like being shot with a bullet or injected with a needle.
Communication Theories
The Bullet Theory

- Linear Model (Sender => Message => Receiver)
- Media is very powerful, has a lot of influence
- Audience is passive
- Text is closed - no room for interpretation
- Frankfurt school (Germany) developed this
theory after observing Nazi Propaganda pre-WWII
Bullet Theory
The Bullet Theory came about through observations of Nazi Propaganda in the lead up to World War II, and then was further supported by the case study of the War of the Worlds broadcast.
Bullet Theory
Was developed in the 1960’s by Joseph Klapper.
Theory suggests that the media works to reinforce that which the audience already believes.
It is suggested that other influences shape an individual’s values more than the media:
Family, Peer Group, Religion, Workplace, School, Social Class
Audiences are active - interpreting depending upon their socialising agents (as above)
Texts are open, model is semiotic.
Communication Theories
The Reinforcement Theory

This poster from the 1930's, promotes the Nazi monthly “New People” from the party's racial office. The text reads: "This genetically ill person will cost our people's community 60,000 marks over his lifetime. Citizens, that is your money. Read Neues Volk, the monthly of the racial policy office of the NSDAP."
The text of this 1940 poster reads: "Youth Serves the Fuhrer. All 10-year-olds into the Hitler Youth." Membership in the Hitler Youth had become mandatory in 1936.
The caption: "The Jew: The inciter of war, the prolonger of war." This poster was released in late 1943 or early 1944. Courtesy of Dr. Robert D. Brooks.
There are several arguments used to not support this theory.
No real testing of this theory, based on observation and speculation.
Theory is almost dead - completely unsupported. However, still used in popular media by who?
Bullet Theory
Linear Model (but message not necessarily received)
Media has no power over audience
Audience is active choosing what and how they watch
Text is open to interpretation
They did research and surveys asking people if they acted due to media pressure. People responded “No”.
Developed 1970’s by McCombs and Shaw
Media does have some power - radical shift from 1960’s
“The Media can’t tell you what to think, only what to think about”
Audience is active
Text is open
Semiotic model - as meaning arises from interaction with
audience and the way they interpret “signs” used by the Media
Communication Theories
Agenda Setting Function Theory

Using Selection and Omission (Gatekeeping) the media controls what is spoken about in the
public forums it controls - eg TV (News & Current Affairs), Newspapers
People learn to read the signs (eg Front page is most important story, smaller article
is less important)
Some issues get lots of coverage, others issues are rarely heard. Media is in control of this
“amount” of coverage as they own the means of distribution - eg?
4 Levels of reading dependant on both text and audience:
1st - Dominant Preferred - audience receive intended message
2nd - Oppositional - audiences views stop or block intended message
3rd - Negotiated - audience see both sides (intended & oppositional) & debate it
4th - Aberrant - Audience don’t understand - no message received
Audiences are active and they determine media content (through ratings - a form of quantitative research)
Media Industry argues “We give people what they want, if it doesn’t rate it gets axed”
Audience use media as entertainment, nothing more. They select their media according to what they like/don’t like.
Still linear, Sender => Receiver, but intended message not necessarily received due to audience exhibiting choice.
Communication Theories
Uses and Gratifications Theory

Originally thought of after Lazarsfeld's Two-Step Flow theory, it was initially developed in the late 1940’s by the Structural Functionalist School. Lazarsfeld's research was further expanded upon by Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch (Katz et al...) in 1974.
Uses & Gratifications Theory
Uses & Gratifications Theory
Media has no influence EXCEPT in special conditions - when discussing a brand new issue.
In this case the media can have some influence
Semiotic model as meaning arises depending on interaction with reader and their particular set of socialising agents
Reinforcement Theory
Agenda Setting Function Theory
Criticisms of the Reinforcement Theory:
- Socialising Agents are often culturally grouped, meaning that they have the same exposure to particular issues, being of the same socio-economic background.
- If we get our opinions from our socialising agents, then where do they get their opinions from?
Reinforcement Theory
Agenda Setting Function Theory
Criticisms of the Agenda Setting Function Theory are:
- The theory focuses on audience opinion, rather than actual behaviours, therefore little evidence that the media can influence behaviour.
- Relies a lot on the audience's ability to read the meaning within their message. If the audience doesn't interact with the message (ignore it or don't understand it), then little influence can occur.
Communication Theories
The Two-Step Flow Theory

Audiences are considered active, as they seek direction from the opinion leaders who themselves are very active in the reading and interpretation of media texts.

See the diagram below: does this suggest that the theory is linear or semiotic in nature?
Two Step Flow Theory
This theory has had a recent resurgence thanks to the invention of Twitter, where opinion leaders can be 'followed' by the audience.
It is also supported through the supposed effects of talk show hosts Ellen and Oprah, who are said to have a great deal of influence over their audiences.
It is said that Oprah was an important part of Barack Obama's successful election campaign in 2008.
Two Stop Flow Theory
The Two-Step Flow theory was created by Paul Lazarsfeld in the late 1940s in the United States after observation of the US presidential election in 1940.

The theory asserts that audiences are more influenced by 'opinion leaders' than the mass media, due to their better understanding of the workings of the media.
Uses & Gratifications Theory
Some weaknesses of the theory are:
The theory doesn't take into consideration the effectiveness of the media to advertise. So much money is spent on the advertising industry, so there must be some effect.
The theory makes the assumption that audiences are mindful when consuming media texts. People are not always aware that they are being influenced.
The theory is too simplistic, and the research conducted not thorough enough to fully support its validity.
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