Published on April 26, 2014
Theories of mass communication
Media Dependency Theory • This theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having his or her needs fulfilled, the more important the media will be to that person. • Theorist: Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur • Individual Interpretation: • This theory is based on the Uses and Gratifications Theory and ties into the Agenda Setting Theory. Uses and Grats identifies how people use and become dependent upon the media. People use the media for many reasons. Information, entertainment, and parasocial relationships are just a few of them. The Dependency Theory says the more a person becomes dependent on the media to fulfill these needs, the media will become more important to that individual. The media will also have much more influence and power over that individual. If someone is so dependent on the media for information, and the media is that person’s only source for information, then it is easy to set the agenda. The individual falls victim to Agenda Setting. As you can see, these three theories intertwine quite a bit.
McCombs & Shaw’s Agenda Setting Theory • importance of the issue presented. Agenda Setting Theory: The term was coined by Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw (1972) in the context of election campaign where politicians seek to convince the voters about the party’s most important issues. • An agenda is selection of items arranged to give some items more importance than others. Agenda theory says that the news media present the public not with the picture of the world as it is but with an agenda of their own –a selection of reports about what is happening in the world. Agenda theorists try to describe and explain (a) how stories are selected, packaged and presented-a process -known as gatekeeping, (b) the resulting agenda, and (C) how this agenda affects what people think about the relative
McCombs & Shaw’s Agenda Setting Theory • The theory also ‘predicts’ that if a particular news item is presented prominently and frequently by the press, the public will come to believe that it is important. Thus, the press does not necessarily tell us what to think, but it does tell us what to think about. A host of research studies of newspapers, television and other news sources has confirmed that are personal agendas are indeed set in this manner. • Newspapers receive an abundance news in their offices and only a few of them are selected. This process is called gatekeeping. It results in some stories being in the news and some not, in some being given some strong emphasis and others being buried. Thus, gatekeeping results in a news agenda presented by the media to the public.
McCombs & Shaw’s Agenda Setting Theory • There are numerous factors which affect gatekeeping at various stages, including the ethics of individual journalists, the policies of editors or publishers, a desire to get ahead, to protect one’s job, or to avoid conflict; time and space limitations, dependence on handouts from government or from public relations offices as the source of news. • Shaw, and McCombs and their associates found substantial correlation between the agendas set by the media and the public’s beliefs about the importance of the issues. It was found that audience had different sets of beliefs depending on their social categories. That is, young people’s perceptions of the important issues differed from other people’s and men’s patterns were different from women’s. Differences in attention to issues and evaluations of their importance also varied among people with different income levels and different political preferences. But the authors did find strong support for the Agenda Setting Theory.
McCombs & Shaw’s Agenda Setting Theory • Among their additional conclusions were these: There is a progressive increase in the use of mass communication during a presidential campaign . The influence of the media’s agenda on an individual’s concern with issues is directly related to how much he or she is exposed to mass communication. Those individuals most frequently exposed to mass communication show higher levels of agreement between personal agendas and mass media agendas. • Generally, then, agenda-setting appears to be one indirect way in which the media can change society over a long period of time.
Uses and Gratification • Explanation of Theory: • Blumler and Katz’s uses and gratification theory suggests that media users play an active role in choosing and using the media. Users take an active part in the communication process and are goal oriented in their media use. The theorist say that a media user seeks out a media source that best fulfills the needs of the user. Uses and gratifications assume that the user has alternate choices to satisfy their need.
Individual Interpretations and Critique: • Uses and gratifications theory takes a more humanistic approach to looking at media use. Blumler and Katz believe that there is not merely one way that the populace uses media. Instead, they believe there are as many reasons for using the media, as there are media users. According to the theory, media consumers have a free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will effect them. Blumler and Katz values are clearly seen by the fact that they believe that media consumers can choose the influence media has on them as well as the idea that users choose media alternatives merely as a means to an end. Uses and gratification is the optimist’s view of the media. The theory takes out the possibility that the media can have an unconscience influence over our lives and how we view the world. The idea that we simply use the media to satisfy a given need does not seem to fully recognize the power of the media in today’s society.
Ideas and Implications • Uses and gratification theory can be seen in cases such as personal music selection. We select music not only to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or other socially conscience motives. There are many different types of music and we choose from them to fulfill a particular need.
DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS • DOI theory sees innovations as being communicated through certain channels over time and within a particular social system (Rogers, 1995). Individuals are seen as possessing different degrees of willingness to adopt innovations and thus it is generally observed that the portion of the population adopting an innovation is approximately normally distributed over time (Rogers, 1995). Breaking this normal distribution into segments leads to the segregation of individuals into the following five categories of individual innovativeness (from earliest to latest adopters): innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards (Rogers, 1995).
Members of each category typically possess certain distinguishing characteristics as shown below: • * innovators - venturesome, educated, multiple info sources • * early adopters - social leaders, popular, educated • * early majority - deliberate, many informal social contacts • * late majority - skeptical, traditional, lower socio- economic status • * laggards - neighbours and friends are main info sources, fear of debt
Cont… • When the adoption curve is converted to a cumulative percent curve a characteristic S curve is generated that represents the rate of adoption of the innovation within the population (Rogers, 1995). The rate of adoption of innovations is impacted by five factors: relative advantage, compatibility, trialability, observability, and complexity (Rogers, 1995). The first four factors are generally positively correlated with rate of adoption while the last factor, complexity, is generally negatively correlated with rate of adoption (Rogers, 1995). The actual rate of adoption is governed by both the rate at which an innovation takes off and the rate of later growth. Low cost innovations may have a rapid take-off while innovations whose value increases with widespread adoption (network effects) may have faster late stage growth. Innovation adoption rates can, however, be impacted by other phenomena. For instance, the adaptation of technology to individual needs can change the nature of the innovation over time. In addition, a new innovation can impact the adoption rate of an existing innovation and path dependence may lock potentially inferior technologies in place.
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