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The mass media by Mind Map: The mass media
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The mass media

Experiments - used to study the media is influenced by the methodology of the natural sciences e.g. natural scientists conduct experiments in a lab in order for controlled variables and to measure effects. Sociologists tend to favour field experiments - in a more natural social surrounding where researchers hope to observe behaviour that is less explicitly affected by the research process. Some may choose to manipulate the environment depending on their theoretical perspective and the topic of study e.g. collaborators to take on particular roles in a situation. Field experiments - effects where variables might be manipulated to examine their influence.

Problems: relies greatly on the researcher's interpretations. Presents an analysis of the researcher's reading but doesn't refer how the message is received by the audience. Lacks reliability. Some e.g. Glasgow University Media Group, combine both content analysis and semiology to produce data that measures content and seek to uncover meanings and as such can be seen as reliable and valid.

Semiology - involves analysing the meaning of signs and codes within their cultural context. Signs - in written text and visual representation, task of this is to uncover conveyed messages. Some use semiotic analysis to uncover ideological messages i.e. models (size). Feminist use semiology to analyse messages related to gender role ideology. Semiology - rests on interpretations, it lies more with qualitative data.


Sociologists are interested in the ways in which the media exercise control over our lives by shaping identity.

McQuail - sees it as of great significance in relation to culture and contends that it provide the image of 'social reality' and that it expresses their 'shared identity'. Mass media is the main 'leisure time interest' and provides people with more of a 'shared environment'.

New technologies recognises audience's voice.

Mass media

1920s and 1930s used straightforward definitions that referred to communicating to large audiences e.g. cinema.

Has now become complex as the range, role and scope of media products develop and change i.e. satellite TV, WAP mobile phones, internet.

McLuhan - 'global village'. New technology has allows information to circulate around the world almost immediately.

Determinism (heavily relates to popular culture)

Some commentators see the media as a beneficial institution that educates, informs and entertains and gives the audience diversity and range from which to exercise choice. E.g. 'Sesame street' entertains and educates both adults and children. The news-informs and educates (corruptions of the government etc.)

Some are concerned that it has a negative and controlling effect - founded on the view that audience uncritically receives. E.g. TV shows showing people cheating in exams.

- is based on the concept of determinism: sees human behaviour as a fixed consequence of particular events/experiences and denies/minimises free choice. - may shape identities to more a positive/negative direction (Jeremy Kyle)

'Media determinism', McLuhan - new media technologies have a determining influence on social change and has a fundamental effect on life experience, society and the world. E.g. 'The real hussle' advises of how to protect ourselves, keeping the society safe.


Refers to ways of regulating and controlling the media that involve preventing/removing material or restricting the audience being reached. E.g. games-children can easily be polluted with ideas which can links to gang crime therefore there are age restrictions.

Can be used by the government and regulatory bodies and can be brought about by the decisions and judgements of media professionals - self censorship.

Governmental censorship - Official Secrets Act and DA Notices: prevents reporting of certain events on the grounds that could damage national security. E.g. Rights of the military to embed and control the source of information going into the media. Can also prevent distress from audience of the risks of relatives that are put through of being in the military (not all people can absorb the information).

Regulatory bodies - 'watchdogs', like the Press Complaints Commission and the British Board of Film Classification, aim to keep a check on media content.

Media owners - also seen as exercising censorship.

Forms of censorship: watershed, to restrict content broadcast. Formal censorship - government. Informal - exercised by media professionals based on mutual agreements and informal discussions.

Unnecessary as the medias effect remains unproven? Others argue free choice should be protected unless harm can be proven. Supportive - means of protecting vulnerable members of society and believe that the media can have a significant effect on audience and society.

Methods of researching the mass media

Content analysis - used to analysis the content of media products e.g. magazines. Often used to quantify a particular aspect of media content by counting/measuring it. e.g. Lobban and Best used it to examine gender representations in children's reading schemes by counting numbers appearing in particular categories - heroes, heroines. (Quantitative).

Problems: associated with using secondary data (bias/error on the part of the original researcher). The meaning of the content to the audience not explored. e.g. doesn't tell us how the audience was affected. Intentions of the producer of the message are not addressed. Therefore issues of validity.

Problems: ethical issues about possible effects on the participants and issues of informed consent. Artificial environment means that the validity of results can be questioned. Researcher effect may be an issue in influencing behaviour or participants where they're aware of their involvement - Hawthorne Effect.