NMNRGENCE OF CRITICAL AIID CT]LTTJRAL TIIEORIES OF MASS COMMUMCATION

During the 1950s and 1960s, interest in cultural theories of mass communication began to develop and take hold - frmt in Europe, the Canada" and finally in United States. Limited !ffects theory has some serious assumptions and as well as limitationp. The theory focuses on whether media content can have an immediate and direct effect on specific thoughts and actions of individuals. Researchers typically seek evidence for these effects in experiments and surveys. But it is possible to approach the study of mass media by focusing on changes in culture. Culture is the learned behavior of members of a given social group. Meaia affect society culhre is created, shared, learned, and applied. Cultural theories offer a broad ftmge of interesting ideas about how media can affect culture and provide InanJ different views concerning the long-terur consequences of the culhrral changes affected by media.
because they affect how

Media have become a primary means by which many of us experience or learn about many aspects of the world around us. Even when we don't learn about t}ose things directly from medi4 we learn aobut them from other people those who get their ideas of the world from media. With the advent of Mass mediq many forms of folk culture fell into sharp decline. Everyday communication was fundanrentaily altered. Storytelling and music ceased to be important for extended faurilies, instead nuclSar families eathered in front of an eothralling. electronic s0oryteller. lnformed social groups dedicated to cultural enrictrment disapoeared - along with vaudeville and band concerts. It is no coincidence fugfcubrre-gresfuect fcr clds r€tlrle snC the $fudc;n ihey hold has falleil iii *le age sfmedia.

Critical theory suggests that it isn't sage to do so quite yet. As Hanno Hardt explained, the paradigm shift away &om limited effects and toward theories postulating important media influence was "the result of complex sgcial political. qnd cultural-developments that (.enablqil ideas to rise and take hold of the imagination of individuals in theitown strueele against a dominant professional ideologv."

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CULTTJRE TT}RN IN MEDIA RESEARCH

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.3. CulhUal studies: Focus on use of media to create fomrs of culture that stmcture everyday life .f. Hegemonic culture: Culture imposed from above or outside that serves the
interests of those in dominant social positions Political Economy theories: Focus on social elites' use exploit media institutions

of economic power to

MACROSCOPIC VERSUS ]\{ICROSCOPIC TIMORIES

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Cul studies theories are less conceined with the long-term consequences of media for the social order affect normal theories thai we have seen are cal bedause they deemphasize larger issues about the social order in favour of questions involving everyday life of average people. P.otiticA e"onomv C$tural which are less concemed with developing detailed explanations individuals are how order as a affected.

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CRITICAL TIIEORY -

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Some of the culhral sfudies and political economy theories are refered to as critical theories because axiology openly espouses specific values and uses them to evaluate and criticize the status quo. Those who develop critical theories seek social change that will implement their values. Political economy theories are inherently critical, but some cultural theories are not. A critical theory raises questions and provides alternate ways of interpreting the social role of mass media. Critical theory often analyzes specific social institutions, probing for extent to which valued objectives are sought and achieved. Mass Vedia *d -ass culture they promote have become a focus for critical theory. Mass nlctlia and mass culture have been linked to a variety of social problerns. Even s,hen mass rneciia are not seen as the source of specific problems, they are criticized fro aggravating or preventing problems from being identified or addressed and solved. Strensths: 1. It is politically base4 action-oriented 2. Uses theory and research to plan change in the real world. 3. asks big important questions about media control and ownership Weaknesses: L is too political; call to action is too subjective 2. Typically lacks scientific verifications: based on subjective observation 3. When luU3ectea to scientific verification often employs innovative but controversial research methods. Critical research applies qualitative. research methods. Not surprisingly, researchers who adop u -oti traditiodil social science perspective frna "Ututat theories hard to accept.

MARXIST

TIIEORY

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Definition: Theory argulng ttrat the hierarchical class system is at the root of all social problems and must be ended by arevolution ofthe proletariat. This theory is based on the writings of Karl Mam. Mamist ideas formed a foundation or touchstone for much post-world war II European social theory. Karl Marx developed his theory in the latter part of the l9s century during one of the most volatile periods of social change in Europe. The assumption is that the

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workers would rise against capitalists and demand an end to exploitation. They would band together to create an egalitarian democratic social ordir. Base of societv: Mam argued that the hierarchical class system was at the root of all problems and must be ended by a revolution of the workers, or -social proletariat. He believed that elites dominated society primarily through iheir direct control over the meaqs of production (that is ialor, factorieg un'A t*ay which he referred to as the base of the society. Superstructure: Society's culture - Elites maintained themselves in power through their culture or the superstructure of society. Karl Mam saw culture as somethiig
act against their own interests. He used the tenn ideolosy to refer to ttt"r" formt of culture. Ideoloqy: Mam believed an ideology operated much like a drug. Those who are under its influence fail to see how they are being exploited. tn ttre worst cases, they are so deceived that they actually underrnine their own interests and do things that increase the power of elites while making their own lives even worse.

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reforms in the superstructure would lead to social revolution.

Mam concluded that the only hope for social change was a revolution in which the masses seized conhol of the base - the means if production. Control over the superstructure - over ideology - would natunlly follow. He saw no possibility that

CULTURAL STUDEIS TIIEORY
Sfensths: i. Prolides frrcus on iiow individuais duveiop their undersianding of the social world 2. Asks big important questions about the role of media 3.
Respects content consumption abilities of audience members. Weaknesses: l. Has little explanatory power at the macroscopic level. 2. Focuses

too narrowly on individual compared with societal effects. 3. Typically lacks scientific verification: based on subjective observation 4. When subjected to scientific verification, often employs non-traditional (controversial) research
methods.

IIEO.MARXISM

r The thenrir that deviate from classic Marxist theories

theor.v in at least one important

rather than the base. The importance that neo-marxists auach to the superstructure has created a firndamental division withio Mamism.

British Cultural Studies: Studies that trace historic domination over culture, criticize that domination, and demonstrate how it continues. High-culture: Set of cultural artifacts including music, art, literature, and poetry
that humanists judged to have the highest vale.

TIM FRANKFURT SCHOOL
Group of Neo-Marxist scholars who worked together in the 1930s aL the tlniversiw of Frankfint was called Frankfurt School Horkheimer and Adomo were skeptical that high culture could or should be communicatd through mass media Adorno argued that radio broadcasts or records couldn't begrn to adequately re.produce the sound of a live symphony orchestra. He ridiculed the reproduction of great art in magazines or the reprinting of great novels in condensed serialized form. He claimed that mass media reproductions of high culture were inferior and diverted people from seeking out the real thing. @o we help the artists if we copy their discs or cassettes? Don't the
artists lose money?) The Frankfurt school has been criticized along with other forms of traditional humanism for being too elitist and paternalistic. The Frankftrt school eventually had a direct impact on American social research because the rise of the Nazis forced its Jewish members into exile. Horkheimer took up residency at the New School for Social Research in New York City. They said that Nazism was grounded on a phony, artificially constructed folk culture that had been cynically created and manipulated by Hitler and his propagandists. Nazism did appeal to people humiliated by war and deeply troubled by a devastating economic depression. Pluralistic Public Fonrm: In critical theory, the idea that media may provide a place where the power of dominant elites can be challenged.

THE DEBATE BETWEEN CT'LTURAL STUDIES AI\{D
ECONGhfff- THEORI$TS

POLITICAL

Cultural studies theorists and plilical qgonomy theorists are the two major schools of cultural theorists. Cultural studies theorists tend to ignore the larger social and political context in uihich media operate. These theorists focus instead on how popular culture content is consumed by individuals and group-s. Their rasearch has led them to beome increasingly skeptical about the power of elites to promote hegemonic forms ofculture. Political economy theorists accuse some cultural studies researchers -of abando-nine the historical mission of critical theory in favor of an uncritical celebration of popular culttue. Political tronomy theorists have remained centrally with the larger social order and elites' ownership of media These theories have criticized the growing privatization of European media, tbe decline of public service mdia institutions in Europe, and the increasing centralization of media ownership around the world. These theoriss forrred social movements and serve as leaders within other movemenus.l CULTURAL STT]DIES: TRANSMISSIONAL VS RITUAL PERSPECTTVES

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Transmissional perspective: View of mass communication as merely the process of transmitting messages from a distance for the pu{pose of control

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Ritual Perspectrye: View of mass communication as the representation of shared belief where reality is prodqfjed, maintaine4 repaired, and transformed.

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OI' REALITY (Theory that assumes an ongoing
com€spondence of meaning because people share a common sense about its reality)

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It implies an active audience. Audience members don't just passively take in and store bits of information in mental filing cabinets; they actively process this information, reshape, and store only what serves culfirally defrned needs. Active audience members use the media's symbols to define their environments and the things in it, but those definitions have little unless others shme them. For example, how a Rolls-Royce is different from MaruthiS00 and also the treatment
of their drivers when they go for a function (Status the car symbolizes) Phenomenology: Theory developd by European philosophers focusing on individual experience of the physical and social world. One of the most important forrrs of knowledge that we process is Urrifications. Typications enable w to quickly classif objects and actions that we observe and then strucfure our own actions in response. But typications operate to some extent like stereotypes - though they make it easy to interpret our experiences, they also distort and bias these experiences. The concept of typifications is similar to Mead's conception of symbols and the notions of schemes in information-pmcessing theory, It differs ftom these by reminding us of the aegative consequences of typifications. When we rely on typications to routinely stnrcturp our experience, we risk making serious mistakes. 'oox eniitie<i You can test tbe power of tlpitications tbr yourself when rea<iing the "Typifications Shaping Reality? Not mine! In social construction of reality, a syrnbol is an object (in these instances, a collection of letters or drawings on paper) that represents some other object wbat we commonly refer to as knife. (read the discussion on this onPg252) Berger and Luckmann recognized that there is another kind of meaning that we attactt to the 'hings in our environments, ore that is subjective rather than objective. They call these signs, objcts explicitly desigped "io serve as an index olsubjective of symbols.' Thig is analogues to symbolic int€raction's concept of

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symbols.

Social construction of rea$b defines signs and symbols opposite to symbolic interactionism. The small proble,m aside, how do people use these signs and symbols to constnrct a reality that allows a culture to function?

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POPTJLAR CIILTTIRE

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Some of the most popular cuttrne research has been provided by Horace Newcomb in TV, the most populn afiQnq. A second insight well articulated by Newmmb is that audience interpretations of content are likely to be quite diverse. Some people make interpretations at one level of meaning whereas other make their interpretations at other levels.

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Some interpretations will be highly idiosyncratic, and some will be very conventional. Sometimes groups of fans will develop a common interpretation, and sometimes individuals are content to find their own meaning without sharing it. The serious study of popular culture poses a direct challenge to mass society theory, the limited effects paradigm, and notions of high culture for several reasons. In asserting the power of audiences to make meaning, researchers of popular culture grant a respect to average people that is absent from mass society and limited-effects thinking. In treating popular culture as culttually important and worthy of study, theorists challenge high cultue's berJrock assumption of the inherent quality of high culture artifacts like sympbodies and opera. In short, in arguing the crucial cultural role played by the interaction of people and media texts, researchers studying popular culture lend zupport to all the cultural theories.

ACTTVE AI]DIENCES: USES AND GRATIf,.ICAITONS THEORY
The first revival of interest in the uses and gratifications approach can be traced to - one methodological and two theoretical. New survey research methods and data analysis techniques allowed the development of important new strategies for studying and interpreting audience uses and gratifications D'umrg the 1970s some media researchers developed increasing asraleness that people's active use of media might be an important mediating factor that made effects more or less likelySome researchers began expressing growing concern that effects re,search was focusing too much on unintended negative effects of media while intended positive uses of media were being ignoredThe second revival is the product of the relatively recent development and diffirsion of the internet and World Wide Web (WWW) Interactivity *significantly strengthens the core (Uses and Gratifications) notion of active ussr" because interactivity in mass cornnunication'has long been considered "the degree to which participants in the communication process have control over, and can change roles in their mutual discourse." Demassification is '1he ability of tbe media user to select from a wide menu Unlike traditional mass mdi4 new media like the intenret provide selectivity characteristics that allow individuals to tailor message to their needs. Asynchroniety means that mediated messages *may be staggered in time. Senders and receivers of electronic messages can rcad mail ar ditrerent times and still interact at their convenience. It also n€ans the ability of an individual to send, receive, save, or rehieve messages at her or his convenience. In the case of television, Asynchroniety meant the ability of VCR users to record a program for later viewing.
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