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Media Effects Theories Media effects are made of theories that try to explain how mass media has been able to influence the attitudes and perceptions of the audience. Media affects houses one of the core ideologies of communication research. Historically, media effects have had a tendency of emphasizing a three- or four-phase model. Each phase is characterized by significance or minimalistic media effects. The boundaries of each phase are fluid but are generally defined by emerging media technologies, the cultural milieu, and the types of methods, perspectives, and ideologies used by each phase’s researchers. This meant that long-term effects of media were once again considered to be significant and explorable. The focus was on cumulative change, and the media effects theory emphasized direct effects models by McQuail (1977).
Noelle-Neumann (1973), who later developed the spiral of silence theory, was one of the phase’s researchers who proposed for a return to powerful mass media. In this phase, the arrival of TV in the 1950s and 1960s did bring forth a return to the concept of powerful mass media. Phase Four: Towards the beginning of the 1990s, a potential fourth phase has emerged. Perse’s model sought to demonstrate a more elaborate understanding about the interplay of media content variables and audience variables regardless of time, period or media. Neuman and Guggenheim (2011) analyzed over 50 years of communications research reaching a conclusion that media effects theory was being characterized not by six theoretical areas. These six theoretical areas included; the persuasion theories, active audience theories, social context theories, societal and media theories, interpretive effects theories, and new media theories.
These theories demonstrate the diverse nature and fractured approaches used by media effects researchers. Concept of Active Audience Definition of the Concept The active audience theory argues that media audiences do not just receive information passively but are also actively involved in making sense of the message within their personal and social contexts. Stuart Hall's studies suggested that there were three kinds of hypothetical decoding positions for an audience. a. ) Dominant reading: Also referred to as hegemonic reading is where the reader fully shares the texts with an audience. The audience is presented with the message that is intended for them and is left to decipher and interpret the messages relayed. b. This notion undermines the idea that every media text has an individual meaning.
If audiences are perceived to be active interpreters of media then different audiences with different backgrounds and social networks and as well as different experiences are more likely to have multiple interpretations of the same media content. This in return complicates any form of analytic view of media texts and the kind of impact it has on the meaning of the media texts being put across. A time has come when it is no longer enough to ask media creators what they had in mind during the preparation a film, writing of books, or during the composition of songs. It is no longer simply enough to rely solely on the skills of the literary critic to disclose hidden meaning from texts.
Who we are has nothing to do with how we interpret media texts. The same applies to our social identities irrelevance. At the same time, media texts do not have singular meanings to be detected by audiences, but neither do they have limitless meanings. Digital media agencies: The realization that the media implicates the general perception of the public gained ground since the 1930s a dark era when emperors and dictators used the media to propagate their personal agendas. Consequently, the media as a concept has evolved with time as the focus has been witnessed to shift from the impact of the message on recipients to the active participation of the audience. Although people may enjoy watching programs, they do not dwell in them for long as sooner or later reality sets in.
As a shift from the Cultivation theory, scholars proposed the Active audience theory which suggested that the audiences do not just fixedly receive and embrace information but are actively responsible for their own understanding of the message. Therefore, information on televisions is interpreted differently depending on the specific values, cultural beliefs, educational backgrounds, and social contexts of the viewers. The Active audience theory thus implies that different people comprehend and relate independently to the information gathered in the media. Lee and Tandoc (2017) elaborates that regardless of the media’s ability to solicit somewhat unison emotions amongst the audience, every individual has the will to discern the data differently. At the time it was perceived that media content was being injected into them and people did not have an option when it came to what they could view.
Researchers at the time sought to clearly define the link between media representations and mass behavior. Most of their research was concerned with ways in which media was harmful to the society. This in return gave urgency for studies supporting strong media effects and sets the measures which would look to see that power of the media was not misused for most research that was performed between the 1940s to the 1960s. It was one of the reasons why media effects studies was popular and gained much importance in the field of media studies at the time. Routledge. Katz, E. Lazarsfeld's map of media effects. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 13(3), pp. Kitzinger, J. When news meets the audience: How audience feedback online affects news production and consumption.
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