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Week 2 Four Eras of Comm Theory

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Ian Kivelin Davis

on 9 October 2018

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Transcript of Week 2 Four Eras of Comm Theory

Four Eras of Comm Theory
Theories are socially constructed.
What does this mean?
All theories come from the concerns of human researchers (socially constructed) and those concerns are shaped by history
Theories are the product of specific histories in which they are born.
Four Eras Overview
Has society always been the same?
Mass Society
Perspective on Western, industrial society that attributes an influential but often negative role to media
Media criticism often based on elites claiming the loss of former innocence or excellence (nostalgia fallacy)
Limited Effects (scientific perspective)
Disagrees with mass society theory's assumptions about powerful media hurting society
Cultural Perspectives
The reassertion of effects: "surely media have some effects!"
The science of limited effects missed a lot
neo-Marxism, feminist critiques of advertising, British Cultural Studies, cultural criticism
these types of research had a common assumption:
media play a role in dominance of one group over others
Meaning-making perspective
a shift toward finding better means of measuring media's influence
fundamental insight: people use media to "create meaningful experience"
audience has agency (not robots being programmed; media influence with human agency)
macroscopic vs. microscopic
1. Identify a social problem or social phenomenon (Americans are getting fatter, violent children, mass shootings, etc.)
Review: Postpositivist social science methods and mass media, an example
New media such as the Internet or smart phones are often referred to as being revolutionary --- why?
Compared to older or legacy media, new media:
Reach individual members of audiences at different points in time (asynchronous)
Messages originate from a greater variety of sources including audience members
Messages often don’t originate from large, centralized media organizations
Messages are more diverse and serve a broader range of purposes
Are sometimes closely integrated with face to face communication (social networking media)
Allow users to interact to select and obtain media content that is tailored to their needs or interests
Most of the theories in the course were developed to try to explain mass communication phenomena – especially television and newspapers

You need to read theories critically to decide which ideas about media are most relevant either for you personally or to understand the role of media in society

Question: Is new media mass media or interpersonal (recall range from self-comm to mass comm)?
NY Times website?
A FB post?
Your blog on "best cat stretching postures"?
On this continuum, email and SMS are close to Interpersonal Comm while WWW is close to legacy media

Revolutions in Media
The invention of the printing press in 1440s
The first mass newspapers, magazines and books in the 1800s
The rise of broadcast media and movies early in the last century
The rise of personal computers and new media in the 1980s and 1990s
In each of these eras, different notions about media became popular among media scholars
New forms of media made elites concerned:
Late 1800s: popularity of mass newspapers, magazines
During WWI: innovative propaganda troubled elites
1920s and 1930s: radio and movies reached millions
1800-1930s: Urbanization; Industrialization . . . a new social order: Mass Society
The power of media began to be seriously studied using new social science research methods
Postpositivist Test of Mass Society media fears
Limited effects theories leave unanswered questions about the possible power of media

Why are billions spent on advertising if it doesn’t have effects?
Why is there such widespread interest in sports and celebrities?

Critical cultural theories offer ways of answering such questions
We could be entering a new era in media theory
Critical cultural theories of media began to slowly enter the US during the late 1960s and 1970s
The most important source of critical cultural theory was the British Cultural Studies School
Another important source was Marshall McLuhan in Canada
Critical cultural theories have gained prominence alongside limited effects theories
Most new media scholars are being trained in both Postpositivism (Quantitative) and Hermeneutic (Qualitative) Research Methods
There is growing interest in meaning-making theories that focus on the power of communication to construct and maintain our understanding of the social world
Media research can be done at different levels of analysis
Macroscopic level involves research done on media impact on cultures, societies or nations
Microscopic level involves research done on media impact on organizations or individuals
Limited effects research often microscopic (easier to observe individuals)
Critical cultural research often macroscopic (since the focus is on how media affect culture)
. . . or having much effect at all
but scientific methods used also obscured larger social impact
Further thinking about new media
Mass society
Scientific, Limited Effects
Cultural Perspectives
Meaning-making perspective
2. Identify a media aspect of this social phenomenon (computer office work, video games, fame of mass shooters)
3. Devise a research method to best isolate the media as a variable (so we can blame or praise it, often). Create hypothesis and means of measuring media effects.
The development of e-comm with the telegraph
Media theory in popular discourse
Tinder and the dating apocalypse!
What media theory can we see in Sales's criticism of Tinder?
Technological determinism
the belief that new technology fundamentally changes the social world
Media's influence over the social world
Media shape society
Society shape media
Church 1500: Bible and printing press
Playboy and accessible pornography
Google, attention span and the shallowing of knowledge
Media panics
stakeholders in the social world either lament or celebrate new communication tech.
Moral panics over the loss of "what was"
the nostalgia fallacy
Web 2.0
user generated content
labor in media industries
our labor; their advertising $$
Remaining Students on 112 Waitlist
come up and take a form
"hypodermic needle" model
By 1930 the power of media to fuel societal disruption and totalitarianism was widely feared
By 1950 experiments and survey research indicated that media effects were limited by a number of factors
During WWII the power of propaganda was systematically studied
Is Google making us shallow?
Better question: how is a new media environment shaping the way humans think and/or interact?
Technological Determinism question:
How to study this question? What methods?
British five-year research program
scholars examined the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites
one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information.
found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited.
Full transcript