Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

Media Studies Mass Media

Category Mass Media
Essay type Research
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hAbstract: This essay explores what the media, mass media and mass communication is. As well as a major focus on the hypodermic needle theory also known as the magic bullet theory on the reception analysis, the passive audience and the encoding and decoding model with reference to relevant theorists and statements and examples from Africa and other countries. In conclusion this essay states that the reception analysis and the hypodermic needle theory both are important and complex in understanding the media and the active and passive audience.

The hypodermic needle theory and the reception analysis is a complicated theory in the media world. These two theories explore how the media affects its audiences, both active and passive. This essay will explore through relevant examples and ideas from theorists, the hypodermic needle theory and the reception analysis, what they are and what role it plays in the media world and how the media affects the passive audience. The media is “a diverse collection of industries and practices, each with their methods of communication, specific business interests, constraints and audiences” (Briggs and Cobley, 2001 ;1).

And mass media according to TheFreeDictionary is, “A means of public communication reaching a large audience. ” The media is almost everywhere in societies today and people view or listen to so much types of media every single day. As a result the media that is taken in affects its viewers and listeners subconsciously and are not aware of the impact that the media has on them. Mass communication thus, is the “process of transforming a message created by a person in a group to large audiences or market through a transforming device which is the medium” (J. Baran, Introduction to Mass Communication).

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As Connell (1984 :88) says that it is common that media’s message is distorted and misunderstood by society. Thus it effects the society subconsciously buy the way they act. The audience plays a vital role in the media world, because if the audience did not exist neither would the media. (Hanes) The media sends out information to the audience and the audience is there to receive it. “Audiences are not blank sheets of paper on which media messages can be written; members of an audience will have prior attitudes and beliefs which will determine how effective media messages are. (Abercrombie 1996, 140). Hence, the message received by the audience and how they interpret that message will depend on the background of the audience members, such as their values and beliefs, their attitudes and their circumstances. Furthermore, there are two types of audiences that are seen to take in media, the active audience and the passive audience. The active audience interacts with the media given to them, and they have the knowledge to challenge the messages that the media gives to them.

The uses and gratifications model that was first expressed in the United states in the 1940s (Moores 1993) believed that audiences were active and that they had a choice as to the texts they received, and that they were able to choose the one that would satisfy their needs. The passive audience, as seen by the hypodermic needle theory just accept all the information given to them. “Passive audience an audience that does not interact with the media and... it has no control of the medias influence on them... ” (Unknown. www. aber. c. uk. ). The hypodermic needle theory assumes that “the audience is passive in receiving and interpretation of media texts. ” (Hanes, 2000). The media is seen to directly affect the passive audience and that it will have the power to directly influence the audience, because the audiences just take in and accept what the media gives to them. Children are often seen as a passive audience because they do not fully understand what they are viewing, thus are affected subconsciously and often act out what they have seen on TV.

Teenagers often try to copy their celebrity role models and lose sight of what is real and what is fantasy (Manali Oak) The hypodermic needle theory which was explored by the Frankfurt School also known as the magic bullet theory is a famous theory that states that the media is a needle or magic gun and that it “injects the message into the audiences mind and it causes changes in the audience’s behaviour... towards the message. ”(Unknown. poundedmonk. wordpress. com ). The audience is passive and as a result the message is injected into their mind without their knowledge.

Harold Lasswell was a well known theorist of the hypodermic needle theory stated that “the new mass media could directly influence and sway public influence. ” Meaning that when the audience (which is passive) views something on the television or hears something on the radio, it affects the audience directly and unconsciously, and could possibly change the way the audience views a certain subject. For example, in 1930 Orson Wells created a fake news bulletin about an alien invasion in an American city called Grover’s Mill.

He broadcasted this message on a Radio Station program called “The War of the Worlds”, and it reached about twelve million American people. Due to this broadcast the whole country was in chaos. (Taken from :communicationtheory. org) Additionally the Hypodermic needle theory’s supporters believed that because the audience is passive in that they receive and accept the messages given to them by the media texts that, they put a great emphasis on the text itself and the power that it has on the audience.

However because that information about the texts are so readily available and very easy to access, that the Hypodermic needle theory is generally disregarded by many other theorists when they consider the audiences response to the media . (Idea taken from: Phillip J Hanes) an example of this is when apartheid came into action in South Africa, the white government controlled the media and showed the black people as weak and inferior to the white people and that they are the dominant race and should be in charge.

Most of the white viewers believed and accepted this information and as a result treated the black people like they are inferior to the white people, and thus some of the black people began to believe that they are inferior to the whites. (International Afro Mass Media) However the hypodermic needle theory “was not based on empirical findings... rather it employed assumptions... about human nature. ” and that “People were assumed to be... controlled by their biological instincts... ” (Lowerg and Delfleur, 1995 . p. 400).

As a result the Hypodermic effects model is “considered to be an inadequate representation of the communication between media and the public, as it does not take into account the audience as individuals with their own beliefs, opinions, ideas and attitudes. ” (Unknown: www. aber. ac. uk). Hence the quote above shows the complications that were aroused by other theorists when it came to the hypodermic needle theory of how information was just accepted by the passive audience. In addition the reception analysis plays a major role in the media.

The reception analysis is the way in which the audience receives, accepts and interprets the message given to them in the media (www. museum. tv. com). The way that an audience will receive and interpret a message in the media usually depends on their “socio-economic position, gender, ethnicity and so forth. ” For example if four people from different people from different societies, watch the same programme, each of them will have a different view on what they have just watched, showing that the way they receive a message will be etermined by their own individuality. (Journal of Communication, 1990, vol,40, no1, p. 73) The theory on audience reception has taken into account “the individual members of the audience. It realises there is a preferred meaning in the text, but also places emphasis on the audience in the process of constructing a meaning. ” (Hanes: www. aber. ac. uk/media) meaning that the reception theory does not just look at the audience as whole, but as well as the individuals in an audience and how the medias messages affect the individuals.

In South Africa, research has been done, that shows that they youth in South Africa is very influenced by the media received from North America. Teenagers watch reality shows and believe that in order to be popular and liked by their peers they have to look, act and be a certain way. Hence showing that the youth, depending on their demographic that they are in are heavily influenced and effected by the messages that they receive from the media. (M. Way: Journalism and Mass Communication). Hals encoding and decoding model draws up on Abercrombie’s (1996) “dominant text view and the dominant audience view. The dominant text view states that the text is more important because the audience is passive they will be influenced by the messages given by the media. Whereas the dominant audience view states that the audience is more important because it “is up audience to analyze and interpret the text. ” (Hall; 1980). The advantage of the encoding and decoding model is that “it realises that the meaning made by the audience is affected by various other factors – including socio/economic frameworks and past experiences, but also involving the context in which the media message is consumed. ” (Hanes: www. aber. ac. uk/media).

This statement means that if one person watches television while being distracted by two children will receive a different from another person who is watching the same television programme but is concentrating on what they are watching. The reception analysis views on how the audience receives the message and how the audience interprets the messages received by the media. Thus we can see that because everyone has different ethnicity, gender, socio-economic backgrounds and political views, that they will view the messages that they receive completely differently to any other person, showing that there is individuality in audiences.

For example, a Zulu woman who is a domestic worker who lives in a black township who watches ‘Carte Blanche’ will interpret the message differently to a white business man who lives in a mansion in Northcliff who watches the exact same thing. “Due to different backgrounds and experiences, each person has his or her own way for decoding messages, and people could even form different interpretations toward the same message” (stereotypebyinternet. wordpress. om) Furthermore, because there are so many types of media being given to us as the consumers of the media, we become numb to many of the information given to us that we begin to just accept the information and messages. The messages that are in many of the television programs that are consumed that they begin to affect the viewers subconsciously, and the viewers will eventually act out and behave like the people on the programs that they watch and begin to think that everything that they view on the television is acceptable and that, that is how normal or even popular people should behave. The first effect of reality TV deals with... teenagers. Already with self-esteem and acceptance issues, adolescent youth that frequently watch television shows that are advertise as being 'reality', most likely will have the delusion that their appearance should mirror the people they see on the shows. Like with magazines and tabloids that historically have caused harmful... trends in teenagers, such as anorexia and bulimia, reality TV foster facades that are readily accepted by our youth. ” (D.

Watkins, 2008) In conclusion one can see that the media, mass media, mass communication play an important role and are important to the hypodermic needle theory, the reception analysis, and in the encoding and decoding model. This essay also shows how the audience, passive and active play an important role in the theories mentioned in this essay, and that media consumption is a very complex activity. Bibliography Abercrombie, Nicholas (1996): Television and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press Branston, G and Stafford, R. 1999). The Media Student’s Book. London: Routledge (pp. 410-420). Cruz, J. & Justin Lewis (1994): Viewing, Reading, Listening: Audiences and Cultural Reception. Boulder, CO: Westview Gillespie, M. (2005). Media Audiences. Maidenhead: Open University Press (pp. 26-50) Hanes, Philip J (April 2000) The Advantages and Limitations of a Focus on Audience in Media Studies. Retrieved April 29, 2012 from: http://www. aber. ac. uk/media/Students/pph9701. html Hart, Andrew (1991): Understanding the Media: A Practical Guide.

London: Routledge Koufie-Amartey, I, (2010) Hypodermic Needle Theory. Retrieved April 29, 2012 from: http://amartey1. blogspot. com/2010/04/hypodermic-needle-theory. html Nightingale, Virginia (1996): Studying Audiences: The Shock of the Real. London: Routledge O'Sullivan, Tim, Brian Dutton ; Philip Rayner (1994): Studying the Media. London: Edward Arnold Seiter, Ellen et al. (Eds. ) (1989): Remote Control. London: Routledge Strelitz, L. (2002). Media consumption and identity formation: the case of the ‘homeland’ viewers.

Media, Culture ; Society, 24(4), 459. Taylor, L and Willis, A. (1999). Media Studies. Texts, Institutions and Audiences. Oxford: Blackwell (pp. 168-183). Watkins, D. (2008): The effects of reality TV. Retrieved April 30, 2012 from http://www. helium. com/items/933893-the-effects-of-reality-tv Way, M. Strelitz, Larry. Mixed Reception: South African Youth and their Experience of Global Media. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from: http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_7081/is_1_26/ai_n28420075

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