Audiences in the Media
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Audiences in the Media Introduction * It would be unusual for any of us living in a contemporary western society to go throughout a day without encountering some form of mass media. * This is not surprising. The media is directed at us, we are its audience. * There seem to be 3 important questions: o Does the media affect our behaviour or beliefs? o If it does produce an effect how can this be explained and measured? o To what extent do we ignore or subvert media messages? * In general there seem to be two main approaches to the study of audiences. * One approach views the audience as very much the passive recipient of media messages - the media produces effects in an audience. * The second approach considers the audience as much more actively involved in media interpretation - the reception analysis model. * Or more simply: o What does the media do to us? (The passive audience) o What do we do to the media? (The active audience) * This division reflects the more general argument within social sciences as to the extent to which our behaviours are determined by the wider society, or the result of freely exercised choice.
Active audience mjodels * These models are based on a simple idea - that no text has one meaning. * The meaning has to be extracted (decoded) by the receiver. * In other words, the transmission model of communication is rejected and is replaced with the idea that reality is socially constructed. * As receivers we are constantly trying to make sense of information we receive - the media message does not have a monopoly on meaning. * Texts are viewed as polysemic (have multiple meanings). * A text may have a preferred reading - the meaning intended by the person producing it, but that meaning can be undermined when decoded by the audience. * The earliest attempt to try and account for an active audience is uses and gratifications theory. Uses and Gratifications * This theory emphasises the different ways in which people use media products. * In other words we use the media to achieve some personal purpose. * Even the same piece of media product can be used by different people to obtain different satisfactions. McQuail (1972) suggests four broad types of use: * Diversion: an entertainment, something to do, a relaxation. * Personal relationships: We can become involved in the social lives of the people presented in media texts.
* This the media themes model recognises that audiences are active, but that their likely responses are conditioned by the media representation of them. * This is the approach fostered by the Glasgow University Media Group, and in particular Greg Philo. Cultural Effects * It has been proved remarkable difficult to establish any casual relationship between media texts and peoples behaviour. * One approach has been to argue that effects, if any, will be more subtle and long term. * Instead of the direct effect of the hypodermic model, there is in some cases the "drip drip" effect of constant exposure to certain messages, in others the audience will accept media rather uncritically and in other cases resist media texts. * Clearly this suggests not only different types of media text, but also the idea of different audiences. Conclusion * We need to be aware of the broad shift from a perception of mass audience to one which recognises that, whatever the size of audience, it is made up of individuals. * Along with this altered view is a shift in emphasis from what the media do to the audience to an acceptance that audiences bring many different approaches to the media with which they engage. "It's not just what the media do to us, but what we do to the media that counts". Discuss this assertion with reference to developments in audience studies.
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