Week 8 Lecture Notes – Starting Points Ch. 14

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I burned my right hand on a soldering iron today. D’:
So uh, today is not my best note-taking day.
These are about as much as I can get down typing with my left hand.

Lecture 8

Mass Media and the Social Construction of Reality

“hello.” -teppy

We got a test next week. Check BlackBoard.

You should also vote for the UTSU election.
Don’t vote for renew they are corrupted. Vote for the independent candidate.

sociologists are interested in people construct fantasy worlds.
so yeah media.

“It’s rare for students to read newspaper anymore.” -Teppy

“I prefer the Globe and Mail; the writing is less idiotic.” -Teppy

“[Pointing at the newspaper] This is a fantasy world.” -Teppy

We are in constructed realities. We do this through social interaction. Reality, as we experience it, is always up for debate. Different newspapers present different viewpoints of what is important (and worthy of the front page).

Reality is constantly being constructed. Since social construction isn’t real, it needs to be reaffirmed.

How do you influence change in a society where majority of social institutions want to keep the status quo?

Sociological view of media:
they construct reality. they have biases.
“We live in a world surrounded by lies.” -Teppy

What can we do in this ocean of lies?
Mainstream media convey simple, stereotypical images of reality.
e.g. women portrayed as sexual objects

Tracing a causal link between image and reality is almost impossible.
If we live like Hollywood, we’d either be shooting or screwing all the time.

Some say media encourage violence by modelling violence.

40% of american parents believe that media contributes “a lot” to violence in children.

The percentage of top grossing US films were 90% violent in the past decade, compared with 40% in the 1940s.

Video-games may also influence behaviour:
playing violent games may increase aggressive behaviour.

“Cultivation” is the possible link:
*Cultivation theory*: heavy TV viewing -> mean world syndrome

But cause and effects are still muddled! People who have violent inclinations may consume more media.

Also some data don’t support the hypothesis at all.
An increase in video game consumption has occurred alongside a decrease in juvenile crimes.

Media are “agenda-setting.” e.g. We don’t normally think about Africa until the media reminds us.
Media are also capable of creating “manias”.

Media filter content and promote mistrust of other viewpoints.
They use the same techniques to sell news as products.
Selling these news/products are based on panic and shame.
Extremely powerful sociopsychological factors.

Media creates moral panics and folk devils.
e.g. Child predator: child molest is the moral panic, child predators (e.g. LG/LB hunters) are folk devils.
Moral panics are short-lived but do have consequences such as hurt feelings and mistrust.

Media and Politics
“News” as presented by mainstream media is a carefully designed commercial good.

It matters who owns the media
Media seeks to appease its owners.
It matters if media is publicly owned rather than privately owned.
Public media have less bias maybe.

Concern: most of mass media are privately owned.

Some public media are owned as a Crown Corporation; owned by the government but operates independently from it.

Since 1983, the number of corporations that control the majority of US media companies has (roughly) reduced from 50 to 5.

Editors and reporters make choices about who and what to cover.

-powerful friends
-influence on public policy in their own interest

Media tend to promote the dominant ideology of society.
Tends to be friendly towards the most powerful members of society.
Less powerful have less money so why portray them?

Are we really defenceless?
Fortunately we are intelligent people who can think for ourselves

Katz and Lazarsfeld
*Personal Influence: the part played by people in the flow of mass communications*
Studies how influence flows from the media to the audience.
Researched for Coca-Cola on condition that they get to keep the data.
Came out of survey for private interest.
High quality information!
Central Query: how to change people’s minds?

Two-step flow of communications
-Earlier theories assumed a direct flow, but no!
-people listen and emulate people they respect (opinion leaders)
-ergo, goal of advertising: change the minds of opinion leaders
(reminds us of the “small-world” theory)

Where are we now?
A short history of media 1400-2100AD
-In medieval Europe, monks copied manuscripts believed to be the word of God
-The printing press spread literacy.
-It mass produced information that people could interpret themselves.
-Protestantism: interpret Bible for themselves!
-Everyone could be a knowledge consumer.

How do you consume knowledge?
-go to school
-buy “how-to” books
-consume the media
People have been more informed of the world than ever before.

It’s easier and easier to be knowledge producers.
Today, ANYONE can be both a knowledge producer and a knowledge consumer.

Today, the internet is the first place we now go to to seek information.
Increasingly, we trust the information we get in this way.

As of 2009:
60% of teens go on internet any given day
80% reported being active on Facebook.

New reciprocal links between producers and consumers
-we don’t need to rely on the mainstream media anymore!

The Internet is a Form of Alternative Mass Communication
More than half of internet users contribute.

Existence of virtual communities does not replace face-to-face relations

Internet censorship issues
Internet is somewhat anarchic
Voluntary controls doesn’t seem to work.


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