- Communications model
- Standard theoretical model for all
acts of communication. Consists of
- Source of message
- Feedback loop
- Selective perception
- As information receivers we often
concentrate on some information over others. This filtering
often depends upon our interests, our values, our beliefs.
Example: proofreading miscues, a debater who only hears the
part of his opponent's argument that matters to him.
- Exposing yourself only to information
that accords with your interests, goals, values, beliefs.
Example: only watching conservative commentators; ignoring
- Selective retention
- Every parent's complaint: dealing
with someone who only remembers what he or she wants to
- Consistency Theory
- Festinger's equilibrium model for
describing attitudinal change (or the lack thereof). He argues
that we are motivated by a desire to reduce cognitive tension
and preserve equilibrium. When we hear information that rubs
against our beliefs, values, etc., we experience some
dissonance and wish to return
to cognitive balance. The response to this dissonance may come
in several forms:
- we can challenge the legitimacy of
the source (sometimes resorting to illogical ad hominem
- we can fail to understand the
source's position (selective perception?)
- we can decide that the
disagreement is minor
- we can seek social support for our
- we can attempt to convince the
source that s/he is in error
- we can modify our attitudes
- Maslov's hierarchy of
- Maslov explained motivation in a
different manner, emphasizing not that we are driven primarily
to achieve equilibrium, but that we are motivated by growth
through the satisfaction of our needs. Once one level of needs
is satisfied we move to "higher" levels.
- Physiological needs: for food,
sex, rest, physical comfort
- Safety needs: for freedom from
- Social needs: for affection,
- Ego needs: for respect and social
- Self-actualization needs: for
opportunities to develop one's talents and
- Aristotle's Rhetoric
- A compilation of the classic Greek
philosopher's lectures on the art of persuasion.
- One of the three modes of persuasion
outlined by Aristotle in his Rhetoric ,
logos refers the logical force of an argument. We persuade by
marshaling relevant and substantial evidence in support of some
claim; we make certain our arguments are valid and contain no
inconsistencies or contradictions.
- Any unstated but implied premise or
conclusion in an argument. Advertisers rely upon these in part
because they are able to draw the reader/viewer into
construction of the argument (we fill in the implied premise).
Enthymemes can be perfectly reasonable. Sometimes, though, they
lead to the drawing of questionable inferences. For example,
imagine a television ad with Brad Pitt amidst a bevy of
starlets. The voice-over intones, "He's cool. He's sexy. He's
just landed the top role in the biggest movie of this year. He
uses Bantam Ace Cologne." The enthymeme: the implied premise
that the cologne bears a relationship to his success and that
the cologne will work similar wonders for you.
- Aristotle's second mode of
persuasion: appealing to the emotions of the audience.
- Aristotle's third mode of persuasion
(one that, by the way, he claimed was the most influential):
convincing someone on the basis of the speaker's credibility.
Aristotle listed three traits of credibility. Modern thinkers
have added two more:
- Traits of credibility:
- Good will toward the audience
- Good character (the speaker has a
reputation for being honest, brave, etc.)
- The general study of signs:
linguistic, visual, acoustic, etc.
- Any system of signs. Within this code
signs take on meaning, as with a stop sign in the code of
highway signs. We make sense of our world (including the world
of media representations) by "reading" the signs belonging to
these codes. We might, for example, identify a Rolex watch as a
sign belonging to a code of wealth. We might be expected to
identify thinness as a necessary sign in a code of beauty for
young women, etc.
- An unquestioned set of values and
beliefs held by a social group. Americans, for example, view
individualism as a positive value; many oriental cultures
prefer more communal values and decry what they see as our
rampant individualism. The ideology of a marginalized group may
entail open contrast to the values of the dominant
- Marshall McLuhan
- The leading theorist of mass
communications in the 20th century. Called attention to ways in
which media of various sorts condition our thinking.
- "The medium is the
- According to McLuhan the medium
conditions the manner in which a message is received. Print
privileges rational, analytical thought and reflection.
Television directs our attention to the image and appeals more
frequently to our emotions. Smoke signals are limited in what
they can express, etc.
- "The global village"
- Another famous McLuhan phrase, it
suggests that mass communications will bring us all together in
terms of shared information and values.
- George Gerbner
- A prominent media effects researcher,
he is famed for his
- Cultivation theory
- A theory that explores the ways in
which media messages, particularly from the world of
television, cultivate specific values and ideas in its viewers.
Gerbner found, for example, that heavy viewers of television
were more frightened by the world around them than moderate or
light viewers. See "mean world syndrome" below.
- A theory that describes the work of
ideology in society. It suggests that media help construct
certain views about society by spreading out the sources of
information across a wide spectrum.
- Example: societal construction
about gender roles is reinforced through television, radio,
magazines, books, movies, news stories, etc. The more we get
the same message from a variety of sources the more we
believe that such views are "natural"
- Complementary copy
- This is editorial copy (features,
articles, etc) that exist to complement advertising copy. You
might see a recipe next to a General Foods ad, an article on
how to please your man next to a perfume ad, etc.
- Ideology that favors males over
females. Such an ideology confers power to males and dependency
to females. Patriarchy helps construct representations of
- Social Construction Theory
- The theory that argues the
preeminence of social environment in determining
- Ideological analysis and
"deconstruction" forms a part of this theory.
- A common method in disclosing
ideological forces: take two opposed terms (rich/poor,
male/female . . .) . Consider whether society teaches that
one side of the term is valued higher than the other. Then
reverse these valuations and imagine what the world, or (for
our purposes) media representations of this world, would
- For example, if the poor in a
society were deemed of higher value than the rich, how
would representations of poor people change?
- If peacefulness and
non-violence were given a higher value than violence
(happy or otherwise), how would media representation
- Federal Communications Commission
- A governmental agency given
regulatory power (1934) over wireless (e.g. radio, television)
and wired communications. Regulation concerns content and
ownership. The FCC controls broadcast licenses, ownership
rules, regulation of some kinds of content.
- 1996 Telecommunications
- Major revision of telecommunications
law. Removed barriers prohibiting cable and telephone companies
from competing against each other, removed prohibitions against
the number of tv or radio stations a company may own (raising
from 25% to 35% the total of U.S. households a single media
company may reach), tried (unsuccessfully) to provide criminal
charges against those who provide sexually explicit images
across the Internet. In general the law has led to the creation
of ever larger media conglomerates. Some critics fear that this
will lead to homogenization of content.
- The Fairness Doctrine
- A series of FCC initiated rules that
took place in 1949 requiring stations to air and engage in
controversial issues impacting local communities. It also
required that stations provide competing points of view. This
ruling contributed to the disappearance of smoking ads on
television in 1971. (Tobacco companies did not want to compete
with anti-smoking spots compelled by the Doctrine)
- Mean world syndrome
- George Gerbner's phrase for a
condition felt by heavy tv watchers: they tend to see the world
as a dangerous place; they are victimized by their own fears
about the world.
- Happy violence
- Gerbner's description of media
violence which is there for entertainment value. The painful
and wide-reaching consequences of violence are ignored.
- Information/action ratio
- The ratio of the information you are
given to the amount of action you can practically take in
response to it. When we are given large doses of information
that we can do nothing about, we tend to feel helpless. This
increases apathy. Neil Postman argues that too often our news
broadcasts increase apathy because the ratio of information to
action is so high.
- Subliminal advertising
- Advertising that attempts to
influence people at a point below the threshold of
consciousness. The mind processes images (sometimes sexual) in
a peripheral, non-conscious way.
- Product placement ads
- Refers to product images embedded in
movies, television. Companies pay substantial funds to have
their products become part of a scene. Critics complain that
the practice is offensive when the product takes away from the
narrative emphasis of a film, or when the product is one that
gives a favorable representation to products that entail a
health risk (cigarette product placements) Advocates argue that
a product like Coke or Tylenol or Marlboro is part of our world
anyway; why shouldn't a producer help defray the high cost of
film making with these product placements?
- Vertical Integration
- Refers to the process by which one
owner acquires all aspects of production and distribution of
single type of media product. Vertical integration for movie
companies was outlawed in the late 1940's in order to increase
competition. Until recently prohibitions against vertical
integration in the television industry meant that a network
like ABC could broadcast but not own their own shows (the
so-called "fin-syn" rule).
- Horizontal Integration
- Often referred to as synergy, this
refers to the process by which one company buys different kinds
of media, concentrating ownership across differing types of
media. A large media company, for example, might publish a
book, produce a movie based on that book, produce a music CD
that contains music from the book, manufacture toys based on
characters from the movie, and so on. Critics worry that this
may encourage such companies to support those media products
that can cut across the different media and ignore others.
Other critics worry that we will be awash in yet more
- Watchdog vs. "stenographers of power"
- Two opposed views of the role of
media in politics. The traditional view: the media acts as a
watchdog of politics, informing citizens of abuses of power.
Another view: the media is so dependent upon governmental
sources for information that it simply takes dictation from
political figures. Political figures set the agenda.
- Agenda setting
- Since not everything can be covered,
the media must make selective choices in coverage. Very often
there is a remarkable similarity between the media's issue
focus and the issue agenda of voters. Do the media set the
agenda or do the voters?
- Pseudo event:
- Events planned for the purpose of
producing dramatic images that be disseminated as reported.
They aren't typical events in that they exist only to be
publicized: press conferences, televised debates, photo
- Public journalism (also known as
- A response to the growing lack of
respect for current journalistic practice. Newspapers which
practice civic journalism encourage readership to become more
involved in their communities. They query readers about the
issues that matter to them, hold candidates to elective office
accountable for responding to these issues. The American Journalism Review lists the following attributes of public
- "asking readers to help decide
what the paper covers and how it covers it; becoming a more
active player and less an observer; lobbying for change on
the news pages; finding sources whose voices are often
unheard; and, above all, dramatically strengthening the
bonds between newspaper and community. At its heart is the
assumption that a newspaper should act as a catalyst for
- Horse race journalism
- Journalism that is more interested in
"Who's ahead? Who's losing" than in the issues. In part this
practice may derive from a journalist's lack of knowledge about
an issue. It's easier to ask the strategy question ("Will this
move undercut the Democratic Party's position . . . "Will this
move help gain voters for the next election" etc.) than engage
in a real discussion of the issues. Listen to the kinds of
comments or questions a national political reporter/commentator
makes. All too often they are variants of the horse race
- a term for investigative journalists
working in the first part of the 20th century who uncovered
corruption in government or big businesses. Ida Tarbell's
investigation of monopolistic practices of Standard Oil and
Upton Sinclair's investigation of labor abuses in the meat
industry are examples.
- a recent term for those national
journalists who make large fees by doing speaking engagements
or who make large sums of money as news anchors, etc. In the
case of speaking engagements, when the Ted Koppel's agent told
him he had reached the $50,000 per speech level, Koppel told
his agent that he would do no more. Why not? He felt that
taking large sums of money from various groups could compromise
his credibility. Other nationally known reporters (e.g. Steve
and Cokie Robert, George Will) have not joined him. The
problem? A quarter century or so ago journalists did not expect
to earn the kind of money some make now. They aligned
themselves with the working class, and some argue, represented
the interests of working class with more alacrity. Now, some
media critics argue, they identify upwards to a managerial,
- a CIA term for information that
confuses potential spies. To confuse the enemy you provide him
with lots of information, parts of which are inconsistent, or
contradictory, or excessively complex. In a media context
disinformation would apply to information of a similar nature
that has been disseminated to an audience by any source which
wishes to resist social change.
- EPS cycle of media
- a theoretical description of the
evolution of media since ancient times.
- Elite Stage - roughly up to the industrial revolution, though
the introduction of the printing press in the 16th century
meant that more people had access to a work such as the Bible.
In this stage the key audience for media are educated and
moneyed elites. This affects the type of information given
- Popular Stage - with the advent of mass media in the form of
newspapers, magazines, dime novels in the 19th century more
people had access to information. In the 20th century the
arrival of radio and television led to the creation of the
broadcasting industry. A limited number of media sources
commanded a large national audience. Three television networks,
general interest magazines (e.g. Look, Life, Saturday Evening
Post) exemplified some of these mass media sources.
- Specialized Stage - more and more our information comes from
specialized sources seeking to command a niche market. In
virtually every field of mass communications (books, magazines,
newspapers, radio, television, movies, music industry,
advertising, public relations) media sources are reaching out
to capture selected audiences. This has led to
- sending a message to a selected
audience (opposite of broadcasting).