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Audience Consumption Theories - Sarah Holmes

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Use this to help you revise key audience theories for your exam work.

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Audience Consumption Theories - Sarah Holmes

  1. 1. AUDIENCE CONSUMPTION THEORIES Thinking on the relationship between media products and the audience that
  2. 2. Module Objectives  By the end of this subject module you should be able to:  Identify the difference between passive and active spectatorship  Explain the key features of the hypodermic needle and uses and gratifications models  Explain what pleasures an audience may gain from consuming media texts
  3. 3. Audience Consumption Theories  When considering the effect that media can have on an audience we need to consider how it is consumed.  Theories have been developed about an audiences relationship with the media and they fall into two distinct categories.  Those that believe the audience is passive  Those that believe that the audience plays an active role in the process
  4. 4. Passive or Active Consumption / Spectatorship Passive Consumers - An audience who are fed media content and accept it at face value without question. They absorb information and entertainment content, but also any other messages (promotional, political, persuasive) that it may concern Active Consumers - An audience who consume media selectively and question what is provided to them. They may choose what to consume and then use it for a number of different purposes, being influenced mildly by messages within the content.
  5. 5. Passive Audience Theories  These theories are based on the notion that audiences consume media and are directly effected by the content  They are often backed up by examples of how media products have been seen to influence human behaviour  They originated from liberal Marxist theories (left- wing perspectives) in the 1930’s who were concerned about the influence and power of media products  More recently associated with a more conservative perspective and favoured by those who wish to see
  6. 6. Hypodermic Needle Theory The Audience Media Content The idea is that the content produced by the media is forced into the minds of the audience In this model the audience is seen as passive = those following this theory believe the audience accepts, unquestioning what is given to them
  7. 7. Hypodermic Needle Theory  Also known as the ‘Magic Bullet’ Theory  Based on the notion that the media holds great power and influence over its audience  The idea is based on the notion that media content is ‘injected’ as if from a syringe into the mind of the audience  Assumes an audience is passive  Theory puts forward therefore that the bias or opinion contained within the content will also be absorbed and taken on board by the audience.
  8. 8. War of the Worlds (1938)  October 30, 1938 - Orson Welles and the newly formed Mercury Theater group broadcasted their radio edition of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."  Included a fake ‘news bulletin’ interrupting the programme warning of a martian invasion  The "Panic Broadcast” - 1 million of those who heard it actually believed that a serious alien invasion was underway.  Mass hysteria - people fled their city homes, raided grocery stores and began to ration food. The nation was in a state of chaos.
  9. 9. War of the Worlds (1938)  Demonstrated Hypodermic Needle Theory = by injecting the message directly into the "bloodstream" of the public, attempting to create a uniform thinking.  It suggested that the media could manipulate a passive and gullible public  Lead theorists to believe this was one of the primary ways media authors shaped audience perception.
  10. 10. Hypodermic Needle Theory  How would supporters of the Hypodermic Needle Theory react to the notion that watching violent content on television makes children themselves aggressive?
  11. 11. Moral Panics  Moral Panic = an intense feeling expressed in a population about and issue that appears to threaten our accepted social beliefs or practices.  We’ve looked at a range of different case studies about moral panics  Passive Audience Theorists would cite such cases as the ‘copycat’ crimes associated with A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971) as evidence of an audience being influenced by media texts.
  12. 12. The Two-Step Flow  Hypodermic Needle model seen as quite clumsy  Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet (1941) analysed results from the 1940 presidential election and how information was absorbed by voters  They suggested a two-step process where information doesn’t flow straight into an audience’s mind but is filtered through ‘opinion leaders’ who communicate it to those they have influence over.  Opinion leaders = specialists, celebrities, community leaders, respected figures in a community, those in management or leadership positions
  13. 13. The Two-Step Flow Model Media Content Messages and Meanings Wider Audience Opinion Leaders Opportunity for influence / interpretation / prejudice RESULT Social factors are also important in the way that audiences interpret texts
  14. 14. Passive Audience Theory - Criticism  Assumes that an audience has no control  Ignoring control to avoid or choose  Treats the audience as one mass of people rather than considering them as individuals  Dismissive and makes a value judgement about the intellect and ability of an audience  Why don’t they affect ALL of an audience if true?
  15. 15. Passive Audience Theory - Criticism  It doesn’t take into account the idea of different readings of media texts by different people  CASE STUDY:  Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer reported that before every one of his murders he watched a clip from his favourite film in order to work up his excitement. This might be seen to prove the hypodermic needle theory, but the film he watched was Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) and the on-screen content had no direct link to the violent acts he went on to perpetrate.  Dahmer clearly ‘read’ meaning in this text very differently to how others may.
  16. 16. Active Audience Theories  Thinks of the audience as individual people  Based on the premise that people utilise and select media content and its messages  The individual has the power
  17. 17. Uses and Gratifications  Places more focus on the consumer, or audience, instead of the media content itself  It asks “what do people do with media” rather than “what does media does to people”  Suggested a range of ways that people USE the media and get GRATIFICATION (or satisfaction) within their lives
  18. 18. Uses and Gratifications Media Content Made colourful and tempting The Audience Selecting and choosing what to consume and how to consume and use it An active, selective audience
  19. 19. Uses and Gratifications • Suggests that humans use media as a tool in their lives to help with the following:  Cognitive needs — Acquiring information, knowledge and understanding.  Affective needs — Providing stimulus of emotion, pleasure, feelings  Personal integrative needs — Providing a way to assess their credibility and status within society  Social integrative needs — Relating to their family and friends.  Tension release needs —Escape and diversion from problems, the catharsis of the discussion of problems
  20. 20. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs • Maslow (1943) identified key needs that all humans need to have met in order to be happy, healthy, productive individuals. • How can media products can help meet these needs?
  21. 21. Uses and Gratifications – Audience Needs  The Uses and Gratifications model identifies there are key needs that an audience has that media products can fulfil:  Cognitive needs — Acquiring information, knowledge and understanding.  Affective needs — Providing stimulus of emotion, pleasure, feelings  Personal integrative needs — Providing a way to assess their credibility and status within society  Social integrative needs — Relating to their family and friends.  Tension release needs —Escape and diversion from problems, the catharsis of the discussion of problems
  22. 22. ‘Water-cooler Television’  ‘Event’ television or things people are keen to talk about the next day  Water-Cooler – common place for people to gossip or chat at work  Soap Opera plots  Big event quiz shows  One-off dramas
  23. 23. Water Cooler Television Activity  A soap opera has recently aired a storyline that involved key characters going through the process of adopting a child.  How might those discussing this around the water cooler the next day find this is useful to the following needs identified by the Uses and Gratifications theory?  Cognitive needs — Acquiring information, knowledge and understanding.  Affective needs — Providing stimulus of emotion, pleasure, feelings  Social integrative needs — Relating to their family and friends.  Tension release needs — Escape and diversion from problems, the catharsis of the discussion of problems
  24. 24. Uses and Gratifications  How does the concept of Water-Cooler television relate to the Uses and Gratifications theory? Soap Opera Plot about Adoption Discussion at Water CoolerCognitive - Information about adoption process, how to access help, how others experience this Social Integration - Understand own family make-up and any adoption in own experience Affective - Experiencing the emotional reactions of actors, evoking own emotional response in empathy Tension Release - diversion from own problems and release from own issues, cathartic process of opening debate within social group / processing issues through watching the actions of others
  25. 25. Uses and Gratifications What Uses and Gratifications might a family get from viewing Saturday night television? Think about the following needs: Cognitive Affective Personal integrative Social integrative Tension release
  26. 26. Audience Pleasure  How do audiences find pleasure in media texts such as TV programmes or films?  Complete the table on the next slide for yourself, identifying how you use different media texts in your everyday life  Think about what you consider when choosing something to watch  Consider when and why you consume TV or Film products – your mood, who you are with, boredom, to learn something new etc.
  27. 27. Audience Pleasure Task Product How often do I consume this? Why do I consume this? Does anyone else I know consume this? Which of the audience ‘needs’ we have discussed are being met by this? Online news Serial TV Drama Television Advert Magazine Quiz Show Fiction Film
  28. 28. Uses and Gratifications Criticism  Media influence is well proven – not just in the War of The Worlds Case but in cases such as the James Bulger murder  People may select what they consume to a degree but mass consumerism is still prevalent suggesting that people are swayed
  29. 29. Case Study Presentations  In your group, look at the case study you have been given and discuss the questions at the bottom of the sheet  Be prepared to feedback to the group on what the case study demonstrated and your thoughts on the questions posed.
  30. 30. Audience Readings of Texts  Focus on how an audience interprets or ‘reads’ a media text and embraces the idea that this may be different within an audience group  Every audience member’s own personal context will impact on the meaning we find in a text
  31. 31. Audience Readings  David Morley (1980) studied audience responses to a programme called Nationwide. He found they fell into some distinct groups, based on their readings of this text  He looked carefully at how audiences ‘read’ or take meaning from media texts and concluded that there were three main ways that audiences did this  Preferred / Dominant Reading  Oppositional Reading  Negotiated Reading
  32. 32. Preferred / Dominant Reading  The preferred reading is the reading that the media producers hope an audience will take from the text  The preferred reading of a McDonald’s advert, for example, makes an audience member hungry and crave the advertised foods  This group would be expected to have a reaction to the content provided eg. salivating or recalling taste memories when seeing a burger advertised  If the majority of the audience act this way
  33. 33. Oppositional Reading  Audience members from outside the target audience or may have their own experiences or opinions that mean they reject the preferred reading, receiving their own alternative message in an oppositional reading.  A vegan, for example, may react to the McDonald’s advert with frustration and annoyance.  This group would be expected to have a reaction to the content provided that opposes the expectations of the text’s creators.
  34. 34. Negotiated Reading  In a negotiated reading, the audience acknowledges the preferred reading, but modifies it to suit their own values and opinions.  In the case of a McDonald’s advert, the negotiated reading may lead to an awareness of the products on sale but also an acceptance that they would only buy a burger once in a while as a treat.  This group would be expected to have a reaction to the content provided but be able to
  35. 35. Applying Theories  You should always consider how people who may follow different theories would interpret and analyse media content.  By doing this we gain greater understanding of the ways in which we can interpret media content and messages  We can apply theories to media products and deduce how those theories can be applied.

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