Examine the following news story to see what beliefs it has about the influence of the mass media on individual action.

Mass Media Effects.
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Conducting Media Research.
MEDIA RESEARCH ON EFFECTS:  The mass media are assumed to have significant effects on individuals and society. These effects are caused by the amount of media we all consume over time and it’s use as the main source of  information beyond our personal experiences.  Once we understand what media does to us then we can better determine how to use it for our advantage. However, the first stage of this process is to know that we have accurate, reliable proof of media effects. Today we will cover the process of media research, the influence of bias, and the history of what has been found in effects to date.

  1. Mass media research is defined by its focus and its use of scientific measures.

 

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  1. The specific use of the research has a major influence on it’s funding and influence.
  2. The medium itself is the first area of research.  This sort of research is often by marketers looking to understand how to design products and related services. This industry-funded research is continuous.
  3. How did a specific new media product change audience actions. The iPod, for example, was researched in how it changed the way people use music. it develop.
  4. How does a new media product spread through the audience? Knowing how effective is advertising is important for launching new products. The Apple watch, for example, relies on early adopters to spread information on its use.
  5. What product design is needed for the greatest success with the audience? Research into E-readers, for example, finds that people still prefer print books. Successful e-readers then are made to offer more, such as games and audio in order to attract audience.

 

  1. Uses of the medium. This type of research is another one highly used by industry who want to know how people use their products. This is important for marketing and fine-tuning services.
  2. Who are the customers for cds, how do they use them? The music industry is highly interested in traditional buyers of music. Research into this has found that older audiences are most likely to buy cds and desire less innovative music. From these findings we have Walmart music as the largest seller of cds and the continuing popularity of music groups for multi-decade careers.
  3. How much can iTunes charge per song? Convenience and customer loyalty are more important than price, research showed, and so iTunes can charge up to $1.29 per song.
  4. How do people choose between 800 cable channels? Findings shows that most people stabilize at less than 12 different channels. This lead to “tier pricing” with ESPN in the 2nd tier which gets most customers to pay more for cable services.
  5. Who goes to movie theaters to watch films? Findings have led to the focus on youth with action films as a primary film category.

 

  1. Effects of the medium. This type of research is a more general type without a specific industry focus. Since it usually originates from academic or government interest it is less funded and promoted.
  2. Narrow questions are used for a very specific focus, such as does the playing of violent video games cause violent behavior in young children.
  3. Wider questions are used to examine broad social influence of media, such as does tv viewing lead to lower body image.

 

  1. How to make the medium more meaningful. This research is usually conducted by private interest groups. It tends to be smaller and the results less publicized than the previous 3 types.
  2. How can television be made better for children? This research into positive uses of television led to specific changes in tv programs aimed at young children.
  3. Broadcasters must offer 4 hours per week of “quality” children’s programming that encourages learning and cooperation over conflict.
  4. Children’s program hosts, and children’s programs, should clearly separate selling toys and products from the program itself to prevent undue influence on children to buy products.
  5. How can television be made more honest and with better subject matter. This led to the 1968 Public Broadcasting System with some government funding, like the BBC, to serve as an example of ‘good’ programming not beholden to advertisers.

 

  1. How the medium can be improved. This is probably the least common, and lowest funded, research which seeks how technology can best be used for the good of society.
  2. How can telephone systems be made the most useful for a society.
  3. Countries with low income find basic phone service is most important. Systems are then made for easy operation, often not even digital.
  4. Can interactive cable television make voters more involved in the political process.
  5. Can cable television work on an “alacarte” basis, where customers pay only per channel, rather than by a tier system.

 

  1. The proper use of scientific procedures is necessary to get data that is reliable and useful.
  2. The scientific method requires a few essential elements to ensure accurate research.
  3. Replicable experiments and data.
  4. Accounting for variances in data.
  5. Accurate measures across researchers and places.
  6. A willingness to accept a level of uncertainty. Research rarely can fully account for all variables in complex studies. Therefore results are listed as probabilities.
  7. Children with more than 30 hours per week of media use are likely to have poorer vocabularies and math skills.
  8. Violent media is most likely to have a negative influence on socially-isolated individuals.
  9. Seeking statistically-accurate information. Sample sizes must be sufficiently large and random to replicate the real-world and avoid researcher bias.
  10. The entire US can be accurately measured with only 400 subjects if each US member has an exactly equal chance of being selected.
  11. Research instruments must be neutral to prevent bias. This prevents “push polling” such as “Do you think that an older female candidate can do as well as a younger, more innovative male candidate?”

Mass Media Effects.
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Research Bias.

III.   Media research is strongly influenced by it’s starting assumptions. Even subtle assumptions that researches carry can affect how they conduct their studies and evaluate their findings. Most research has these, but knowing them helps you to interpret findings and see what validity they may have.

  1. Biases are best visualized by McQuail’s chart of the dimensions of media theory. Your position on this chart influences what type of media effects you expect.

 

  1. Media-centric is the belief that media are owned by large corporations and individuals who seek to promote their own ideas to the population.
  2. This assumption causes a high focus on cases where individuals do promote their own views through their media, such as Rupert Murdock in Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.
  3. These are “push” theories of media effects, where they assume that the uses of media absorb and follow the ideas of the media. This idea of “strong” media is also seen in the use of propaganda by most governments to influence people.

 

  1. Society-centric is the belief that media are servants of the audience, seeking to provide them with whatever they want at the time.
  2. This assumption causes a high focus on new services and sources in how they meet the audience, such as looking at new websites and apps.
  3. These are “pull” theories of media effects, where individuals affect how the media industries operate.

 

  1. Culturalist is the belief that media are independent forces that can influence users.
  2. This assumption causes a high focus on the messages in media being copied in users. Reviewers of TV programs often seem to follow this.
  3. This is a long-standing general belief, as seen in the Moral panics over Youth Reading Too Much.
  4. This can be applied to technology, as in smartphones making relationships worse, or media messages themselves.

 

  1. Materialist is the belief that other forces in society determine how media influence us. It is the societal and material reality that sets the base by which we are influenced.
  2. This assumption causes a high focus on the society itself and how it may reinforce or negate media messages. Gun control messages, for example, are of little effect when surrounded by so many TV and film shooting scenes.
  3. This can also be applied to our use of technology itself, such as smartphones, or the media messages themselves.

 

  1. Theories of mass media effects follow the interactions of these 4 biases. The progress of mass media research has been an evolution through these assumptions.
  2. Square One, the Media-Culturalist frame, finds that media are created with specific messages that have strong effects on users.
  3. Media are owned for the capitalist class to promote their viewpoints to the populace.
  4. It works Hegemonically, disseminating the views of the ruling class and negating any alternative ideas.

 

  1. Square two, the Media-Materialist frame, finds that media are influential, but audiences select them to help survive their positions in society.
  2. Media manipulate how we see the world, but we choose from media to find those that mirror our lives, or help us maintain then. Most people see themselves as struggling middle class, therefore select programs with struggling middle class to view.
  3. Relaxation and entertainment allow us to use media to survive our lives, providing an escape from the pressures of daily existence.

 

  1. Square three, the Socio-culturalist frame, finds that people have much more control over what messages they select, but the messages then have a strong influence upon the user.
  2. Media serve a broad range of audience interests, providing a selection for almost everyone to meet their interests.
  3. Once chosen, the media, both in technology and messages, strongly influence the user. Barbies make girls focused on looks, toy guns make boys focused on violence as conflict solutions.

 

  1. Square four, the Socio-materialist frame, finds that people have complete control over their media selection and also in how it influences them.
  2. Individuals control what they use, how they use it and what effects it may have. There is no independent external affect.
  3. There is an increasing variety of media to serve the needs and interests of changing audiences.

 

  • Examine the following news story to see what beliefs it has about the influence of the mass media on individual action.

From this answer the following questions:

  1. Which square of our theory chart is most likely to be used to support this news message?
  2. State what is the process, used with these theory assumptions, that explains how media messages cause violence.

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