Information (Innovation) Diffusion Theory

In 1962, Everett Rogers information/ innovation diffusion theory Theory that explains how innovations are introduced and adopted by various communities

Meta Analysis Identifies important consistencies in previous research findings on a specific issue and systematically integrate them into a fuller understanding

Early Adopters In information/ innovation diffusion theory, people who adopt an innovation early, even before receiving significant amounts of information

Change agents In information/ innovation diffusion theory, those who directly influence early adopters and opinion leaders

Strengths Weakness
1. Integrates large amount of empirical findings into useful theory

2. Provides practical guide for information campaigns in United States and abroad

1. Is linear and source-dominated

2. Underestimates power of media, especially  contemporary media

3. Stimulates adoption by groups that don’t understand or want the innovation

Social Marketing Theory

Social Marketing Theory Collection of middle-range theories concerning the promotion of socially valuable information

Targeting Identifying specific audience segments and reaching them through the most efficient available channel

Hierarchy of effects model Practical theory calling for the differentiation of persuasion effects relative to the time and effort necessary for their accomplishment

Strengths Weakness
1. Provides practical guide for information campaigns in United States and abroad

2. Can be applied to serve good ends

3. Builds on attitude change and diffusion theories

4. Is gaining acceptance among media campaign planners and researchers

1. Is source-dominated

2. Doesn’t consider ends of campaigns

3. Underestimates intellect of average people

4. Ignores constraints to reciprocal flow of information

5. Can be costly to implement

6. Has difficult assessing cultural barriers to influence

Digital divide The lack of access to communication technology among people of color, the poor, the disabled, and those in rural communities

Media System Dependency Theory

Media system dependency theory Idea that the more a person depends on having needs gratified by media use, the more important the media’s role will be in the person’s life and, therefore, the more influence those media will have.

Strengths Weakness
1. Is elegant and descriptive

2. Allows for systems orientation

3. Integrates microscopic and macroscopic theory

4. Explains role of media during crisis and social change

1. Is difficult to verify empirically

2. Meaning and power of dependency are unclear

3. Lacks power in explaining long-term effects


The Knowledge Gap

Knowledge gap Systematic differences in knowledge between better-informed and less-informed segments of a population

It is not only variable access to media technologies, however, that produce knowledge gaps. Individual differences such as information-processing ability and level of cognitive complexity (McLeod and Perse, 1994) and perceived value of being informed (Ettema and Kline, 1997) also widen gaps, as does the quality of the information presented by news organizations. In a comparative study of knowledge gaps in four nations—the United States, Britain, Denmark, and Finland— James Curran, Shanto Iyengar, Brink Lund, and Inka Salovaara-Moring discovered a significant knowledge gap between American television news viewers and viewers of news in those other lands. They attributed the gap to the public service orientation of television news in those latter three countries, which “devotes more attention to public affairs and international news … gives greater prominence to news [broadcasting news several times an evening in what Americans would call primetime] … and encourages higher levels of news consumption” (2009, p. 5). These factors were strong enough to minimize the knowledge gap in those countries between the well educated and less educated and between those who were financially well off and those who weren’t.

Digital literacy corps Digital ambassadors in local communities helping people get online

Strengths Weakness
1. Identifies potentially troublesome gaps between groups

2. Provides ideas for overcoming gaps

3. Presumes reciprocity and audience activity in communication

4. Is grounded in systems theory

1. Assumes gaps are always dysfunctional; not all researchers agree 2. Limits focus to gaps involving news and social conflicts 3. Can’t address fundamental reasons for gaps (e.g., poor schools or limited access to information sources)

Agenda Setting

Agenda Setting The idea that media don’t tell people what to think, but what to think about

Walter Lippmann, in Public Opinion (1922), argued that the people do not deal directly with their environments as much as they respond to “pictures” in their heads. “For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations.

Priming In agenda-setting, the idea that media draw attention to some aspects of political life at the expense of others

Agenda Building A collective process in which media, government, and the citizenry reciprocally influence one another in areas of public policy

Framing theory Idea that people use sets of expectations to make sense of their social world and media contribute to those expectations

Second-order agenda-setting The idea that media set the public’s agenda at a second level or order—the attribute level (“how to think about it”), where the first order was the object level (“what to think about”)

Frames In framing theory, a specific set of expectations used to make sense of some aspect of the social world in a specific situation and time


Strengths Weakness
1. Focuses attention on audience interaction with media

2. Empirically demonstrates links between media exposure, audience motivation to seek orientation, and audience perception of public issues

3. Integrates a number of similar ideas, including priming, story positioning, and story vividness

1. Has roots in mass society theory

2. Is too situationally specific to news and political campaigns

3. Direction of agenda-setting effect is questioned by some


The Spiral of Silence

Spiral of Silence Idea that people holding views contrary to those dominant in the media are moved to keep those views to themselves for fear of rejection

The way news is collected and disseminated, she continued, effectively restricts the breadth and depth of selection available to citizens. She identified three characteristics of the news media that produce this scarcity of perspective:

  1. Ubiquity: The media are virtually everywhere as sources of information.
  2. Cumulation: The various news media tend to repeat stories and perspectives across their different individual programs or editions, across the different media themselves, and across time.
  3. Consonance: The congruence, or similarity, of values held by news people influences the content they produce.
Strengths Weakness
1. Has macro-and micro-level explanatory power

2. Is dynamic

3. Accounts for shifts in public opinion, especially during campaigns

4. Raises important questions concerning the role and responsibility of news media

1. Has overly pessimistic view of media influence and average people

2. Ignores other, simpler explanations of silencing

3. Ignores possible demographic and cultural differences in the silencing effect

4. Discounts power of community to counteract the silencing effect


News Production Research

News production research The study of how the institutional routines of news production inevitably produce distorted or biased content

  1. Lance Bennett (1988, 2005a) surveyed news production research literature and summarized four ways in which current news production practices distort or bias news content:
  2. Personalized news: 2. Dramatized news: 3. Fragmented news: 4. Normalized news:

Objectivity Rituals In news production research, the term for professional practices designed to ensure objectivity that are implicitly biased toward support of the status quo

Strengths Weakness
1. Provides recommendations for potentially useful changes in news production practices

2. Raises important questions about routine news production practices

3. Can be used to study production of many different types of news

1. Focuses on news production practices but has not empirically demonstrated their effect

2. Has pessimistic view of journalists and their social role

3. Has been ignored and rejected as impractical by practicing journalists

Media Intrusion Theory

Media intrusion theory Idea that media have intruded into and taken over politics to the degree that politics have become subverted

Social capital The influence potential leaders develop as a result of membership and participation in social groups

Strengths Weakness
1. Provides basis for social change

2. Raises important questions about operation of news media organizations

1. Focuses on operation of news media but has not empirically demonstrated its effect

2. Has overly pessimistic view of news media and their social role

3. Focuses too much on intrusion into politics

4. Is based on elite pluralism assumptions


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