Communication Research By National Open University of Nigeria

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Communication Research By National Open University of Nigeria in pdf format

www.nou.edu.ng

Module 1 Introduction
Unit 1 The Meaning of Research and the Scientific Method
Unit 2 Application of the Scientific Principles to Social Research
Unit 3 Characteristics of and the Development of Mass Media
Research
Unit 4 Classification of Research
Module 2 The Elements of Research
Unit 1 Concepts, Constructs, Hypotheses/Research Questions and
Instrumentation.
Unit 2 Variables
Unit 3 Measurement, Scales and Indexes
Module 3 Major Communication Research Methods
Unit 1 Experimental Research
Unit 2 Survey Research
Unit 3 Content Analysis
Unit 4 Case study
Unit 5 Observational Research
Module 4 Sampling
Unit 1 Meaning and Types of Sampling
Unit 2 Population and Sample
Unit 3 Sample Size and Sampling Error
Module 5 The Research Procedure
Unit 1 The Research Proposal
Unit 2 Data Analysis in Communication Research
Unit 3 Documentation in Communication Research
Module 6 Areas of Mass Communication Research
Unit 1 Print Media Research
Unit 2 Electronic Media Research
Unit 3 Public Relations Research
Unit 4 Advertising Research
Unit 5 Media Effects Research

 

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Ethics in Advertising Media & Self, Government and Media Regulations

Ethics in Advertising

Lack of acceptable code of ethics in advertising is a worldwide phenomenon. Morality in advertising varies from country to country. An advertisement may be morally acceptable in one part of the world, whereas, it may be against the code of morality in another part of the world. Ethics in advertising is a complex issue to define. Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. For example, sex before marriage in Pakistan is largely considered as immoral, while it is conceded as desirable in the west. Demonstration of birth control method in advertising is undesirable for the religious society in Pakistan whereas the same is mandatory in China. Thus morality in advertising is a complex phenomena. Determination of ethical conduct is subjective and vague and is varying among different cultures and different environmental conditions.

Ethics in Advertising

The primary objective of advertising in any society is to influence the independent thinking of the people and change their behaviour. Nevertheless, advertising has also some social responsibilities to inform people of the various choices available and educate them about the superiority of a given product by explaining its characteristics. Thus the consumers can freely decide for themselves as to which product to buy and which product to avoid. There are some areas of concern where advertisers need to be more responsible to community needs. These areas are:

Advertising is considered to be an environmental pollutant: Most advertising is opposed by people because it is difficult to absorb. It is too pervasive and too intrusive in peoples’ personal lives. In this context it is considered a pollutant for mental environment. This is specially true about TV advertising. Television advertising is intrusive as the TV medium reaches a heterogeneous audience of all ages, all educational levels, all religions, all regional and ethnic groups etc. It is often impossible for a commercial to speak openly and constructively to a major section of a TV programme’s audience without seeming inappropriate, boring or even offensive to another segment of the same programme’s audience.

The issues of morals and tastes in advertising: Since advertising is unavoidable, some forms of it may become a burden on the consumer. There are advertisements which may be offensive, misleading or simply annoying. For example, some people who do not drink may consider all liquor’s-advertising as morally offensive. Similarly, in some countries prostitution is legal, but advertisement of prostitutes .is morally offensive. On the other hand, the product itself may not be morally offensive, but its presentation may be in bad taste. Too noisy commercials, overly repetitive commercials and commercials that disregard consumer’s intelligence are considered to be in bad taste. Even though some critics of advertising argue that the advertising is directed towards the audience which is the average mass of people and not the chosen elite. Hence the advertisers advertise what they believe the audience wants to see and hear and they are willing to absorb the

dissatisfaction of a few who may find some advertising below their expected standards of decency. According to Telser, “The critics of advertising deplore the vulgarity and the selfish appeals in advertising. The content of advertising is a reflection of the audience to which it is directed. If we were all philosophers or poets, the content of advertising would change accordingly”. However, inspite of the difference in cultural and educational level of the recipients of such advertisements, it still remains the responsibility and civic duty of the advertiser to truthfully and sincerely inform the consumer of the characteristics and qualities of a product and let the consumer make the decision about buying. So far as advertising and marketing are concerned, the concept of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust, is reflected either by organisational policies or by society reactions to a given advertisement as a marketing strategy. Archie B. Carroll considers this issue in the following way:

a) Suppose a firm is advertising for vegetable soup on television. Is it ethical to put small marbles at the bottom of the bowl of soup so that the soup will look thicker.

b) A Firm is anxious to sell an electrical appliance. Is it ethical for the firm to offer a bribe to the purchasing agent as an inducement to buy. Suppose that instead of bribe, it gives some money as his commission, does it make the transaction unethical?

A. J. Ayer points out that if a person feels good about an act, then in his view, it is a moral act. For example, using loopholes to cheat on income tax may be immoral from social point of view, but the person who is filing the income tax returns sees nothing wrong with it. Similarly, not joining the army in time of war may be unethical and unpatriotic from the society and the country’s point of view, but the person concerned may consider war as immoral in itself. However this approach has the least significance, since a completely individualised approach cannot be consistently applied in judging all moral or immoral actions. According to the accepted ethical concept, any advertising that violates that truthfulness or uses questionable means could be considered unethical. According to Lacznaiak, an action is relatively ethical if it is based upon either the theory of justice which means protecting the interest of all involved or on a theory of utilitarianism which provides the greatest possible balance of values for all persons involved. The fact still remains that whether it is the “theory of justice” or the “theory of utilitarianism” it is not possible to satisfy all people. If the objective of advertising was simply to inform the people about the qualities of a product and give the people complete freedom of choice, then certain ethical standards in advertising could be maintained. But if the objective of advertising is to “persuade” people to buy the product and change their buying behaviour, then it might need some manipulative tactics to achieve such objectives. In that case emphasis on psychological benefits, slightly exaggerated claims or even puffery might be accepted by our society as ethically acceptable. That is why products advertised as best or most often used or most often recommended by doctors or long lasting etc. may be morally

acceptable. But claims that are designed purposely to mislead and deceive the customer would be considered unethical. Some of these unethical practices are controlled by law in terms of “truth in advertising”. Undocumented false claims are prohibited by law. For example a skin cream cannot be advertised in the form of “your skin will look 10 years younger if you use our cream” unless such claims can be medically proven. To get around it, the advertisers might create a message such as, “this cream will help your skin look younger”. This is a kind of promise rather than a claim even though this promise could also be considered as manipulative advertising.

Because advertising is such an integral part of modern life and its persuasive abilities have great impact on society, the business of advertising messages are scrutinized by many government agencies. Many people feel that the advertising industry should demonstrate more social responsibility. Abuses in advertising can, obviously, have unfortunate effects on consumers, ranging from mis-spent money on an item that did not live up to the expectations, developed in the advertising to hazardous accidents resulting from the misrepresentation of faulty goods. Three major groups exist to protect consumer against misleading or fraudulent advertising.

1. Self Regulations

2. Government Regulations

3. Regulation by the Media.

Details of these groups and regulations are given below:

 

1. Self Regulations

There are advertising agencies/advertising associations in almost all countries of the world which have framed some self policing regulatory activities. For example the American advertising federation has brought out the following code of ethics: (Since there exists no clear ethical code of advertising in Pakistan, therefore, codes of Advertising of the American Federation are explained for the purpose.)

1. All advertising shall tell the truth about the qualities of the product and all significant facts about the goods or services shall be revealed.

2. All claims made should be substantiated.

3. The advertisements should not be offensive to good taste and public decency.

4. Competitors will not be attacked unfairly about their products or services or their method of doing business.

5. Advertisers shall offer only such merchandise or services which are readily

available for purchase at the advertised price. They shall not indulge in the practice

of “bait advertising” where an inexpensive advertised product is used simply to induce the customers to come to the store and then persuade them to buy the higher priced products.

6. All guarantees and Warranties shall be explicit and easily understandable.

7. False and misleading price claims and savings claims shall be avoided.

8. Advertising shall avoid the use of exaggerated or unprovable claims.

9. Advertising containing testimonials shall

2. Government Regulations

Different newspapers, magazines, TV and radio organizations apply various criteria for self policing. For example, majority of the magazines usually consider the following factors:

a) The desire to protect readers of the magazine and potential customers from exploitative or dishonest advertisers. For example, the American magazines maintain a panel of technicians to test products before advertising them in the magazines and giving them the “seal of approval”.

b) Many magazines do not accept advertisements that do not confirm to the taste of their audience. Sexy advertisements may be gratified for “cosmopolitan’ magazine but not for “Readers digest”.

c) Most magazines respect the standards of advertising that they have set for themselves. Similar to magazines, all TV and radio networks maintain departments that judge and censor commercials for levels of acceptability.

The American direct Mail Advertising Association maintains a “standards of Practices Committee” to ensure that no objectionable materials are mailed by members. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America sets standards for billboards and poster advertising.

3. Regulation by the Media.

There are certain regulations which are exercised by state governments in a number of countries. The regulations that are involved in controlling various forms of advertising and other malpractices are:

a) Food and Drug Administration: It controls marketing of goods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices or any other potentially hazardous consumer products.

Mosi governments regulate advertising indirectly by utilising the power to grant and withdraw broadcasting licences.

c) Postal service: It regulates material that goes through the mail, primarily in the areas of obscenity, lottery and mail fraud.

d) Di fferent countries have established different departments that regulate registration of trade marks, control the protection ot copyrights, regulate deceptive advertising of liquor and tobacco and there are departments which enforce all Federal Laws through prosecuting all such cases that are referred by other government agencies.

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Guidelines of precis writing

It was not so in Greece, where philosophers professed less, and undertook more. Parmenides pondered nebulously over the mystery of knowledge; but the pre-Socratics kept their eyes with fair consistency upon the firm earth, and sought to ferret out its secrets by observation and experience, rather than to create it by exuding dialectic; there were not many introverts among the Greeks. Picture Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher; would he not be perilous company for the desiccated scholastics who have made the disputes about the reality of the external world take the place of medieval discourses on the number of angles that could sit on the point of a pin? Picture Thales, who met the challenge that philosophers were numskulls by “cornering the market” and making a fortune in a year. Picture Anaxagoras, who did the work of Darwin for the Greeks and turned Pericles form a wire-pulling politician into a thinker and a statesman, Picture old Socrates, unafraid of the sun or the stars, gaily corrupting young men and overturning governments; what would he have done to these bespectacled seedless philosophizers who now litter the court of the once great Queen? To Plato, as to these virile predecessors, epistemology was but the vestibule of philosophy, akin to the preliminaries of love; it was pleasant enough for a while, but it was far from the creative consummation that drew wisdom’s lover on. Here and there in the shorter dialogues, the master dallied amorously with the problems of perception, thought, and knowledge; but in his more spacious moments he spread his vision over larger fields, built himself ideas states and brooded over the nature and destiny of man. And finally in Aristotle philosophy was honoured in all her boundless scope and majesty; all her mansions were explored and made beautiful with order; here every problem found a place and every science brought its toll to wisdom. These men knew that the function of philosophy was not to bury herself in the obscure retreats of epistemology, but to come forth bravely into every realm of inquiry, and gather up all knowledge for the coordination and illumination of human character and human life.

Précis

A précis is a brief summary. Writing a précis is valuable training in composition. Since the writing requires you to be clear and concise, you must choose your words carefully and arrange them skillfully so you get the maximum amount of meaning into the minimum space.

In addition to its value as a writing exercise, précis work is excellent reading practice. In order to summarize another’s ideas in your own words, you must understand the idea thoroughly.

Guide line of Précis

Basic steps in writing

1. A précis is a short summary

It is not a paraphrase, which merely says in different and simpler words exactly what the passage being paraphrased has to say. A paraphrase may be as long as the passage itself. A précis rarely is more than one-third the length of the original selection and may be only one-fourth as long.

2. A précis gives only the “heart” of a passage.

It omits repetition and such details as examples, illustrations, and adjectives unless they are of unusual importance.

3. a précis is written entirely in the words of the person writing it, not in the words of the original selection.

Avoid the temptation to lift long phrases and whole sentences from the original.

4. A précis is written from the point of view of the author whose work is being summarized.

Do not begin with such expressions as “This author says” or “The paragraph means.” Begin as though you were summarizing your own writing.

In writing a précis proceed as follows:

1.      Read carefully, sentence by sentence, the passage to be summarized. Try to grasp the writer’s main point. Spotting the topic sentence will help. Look up in the dictionary any words whose meaning is not absolutely clear. As you read, take brief notes to be used in your writing.

2.     When you have finally decided what the author’s main point is, write it out in your own words. Do not use the wording of the original except for certain key words which you may find indispensable. If you cannot translate the idea into language of your own, you do not understand them very well. Be especially careful not to rely too much on the topic sentence. Do not add any opinions or ideas of your own.

3.     Revise your writing until you are sure that you have given an accurate summary.

4.     Usually you will find your précis is too long, if it is more than one-third the length of the original, it is too long, continue your revision until you have reduced the précis to the proper length.

 

Précis of passage

 

Title: Critically evaluate précis 2006

 

Historically eminent thinkers in Greece before Socrates were inclined towards unearthing the mysteries of life through practical media rather than constructing reality through cumbersome theoretical undertakings. Therefore it was an anomalous interlude when philosophical discourses became centered on futile excursions of purely theoretical value. Indisputably, for great figures like Plato, such an approach could be an initial stage in philosophical perfection; but certainly not its end product. The latter included broad themes like political existence of man. In this wholesome perspective, operational aspects of existence, for instance ameliorating human character, was the ultimate goal of philosophy 

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Differences between journalistic and literary writing

Journalistic writing

Joseph Pulitzer, a famous publisher in the 1800s, stressed one of the most important qualities of journalistic writing in his memorable command: “ Accuracy! Accuracy! Accuracy!” Roger Mudd’s quote on the first slide refers to another important quality of journalistic writing: objectivity. In addition, all journalistic writing should be clear, concise and colorful.

  • Nothing is more embarrassing or unprofessional than writing and publishing a story that has factual inaccuracies.
  • As a reporter, we were responsible for the information printed in your story. Review everything carefully.
  • Our reputation, and that of your publication, is at stake.
  • Double-check the spellings of student, faculty, and staff names, as well as grade levels and titles. Refer to official documents listing this information, such as homeroom lists or a school directory.
  • Keep a current phone book and an atlas handy to double-check the names of organizations and places.
  • Double-check dates, using a calendar

 

 

 

Literary writing

The term ‘literary writing’ calls to mind works by writers such as Shakespeare, Milton, or Wordsworth; definitive examples of all that the term implies. We instinctively associate the term with characteristics such as artistic merit, creative genius, and the expression of mankind’s noblest qualities. Literary works are primarily distinguishable from other pieces of writing by their creative, or artistic intent.

A piece of literature differs from a specialized treatises on astronomy, political economy, philosophy, or even history, in part because it appeals, not to a particular class of readers only, but to men and women; and in part because, while the object of the treatise is simply to impart knowledge, one ideal end of the piece of literature, whether it also imparts knowledge or not, is to yield aesthetic satisfaction by the manner of which it handles its theme.

The writer of this passage emphasizes the distinction between writing of didactic purpose and literary writing which has that other, aesthetic, dimension. In fundamental terms literature is ‘an expression of life through the medium of language’ but language used more profoundly than when used simply to convey information.

The following two extracts, for example, both describing one partner’s response to marital problems, are different in both their form and their intent:

Many critics date the crumbling of their marriage back to that unfortunate episode, but David was delighted when he heard that Lynne had produced a daughter from her marriage to an American doctor.

Her writing hand stopped. She sat still for a moment; then she slowly turned in her chair and rested her elbow on its curved back. Her face, disfigured by her emotion, was not a pretty sight as she stared at my legs and said . .

Literature is a vital record of what men have seen in life; what they have experienced of it, what they have thought and felt about those aspects of it which have the most immediate and enduring interest for all of us.

So literary writing, having creative and artistic intent, is more carefully structured and uses words for the rhetorical effect of their flow, their sound, and their emotive and descriptive qualities. Literary writers can also employ tone, rhyme, rhythm, irony, dialogue and its variations such as dialects and slang, and a host of other devices in the construction of a particular prose work, poem, or play.

The many different genres of the novel constitute a particular challenge to the concept of ‘literary writing’. Detective novels, and science fiction novels, for example, are creative, imaginative, depictions of life. We might question their seriousness as literature, or whether they can achieve the high ideals of art, but then we might equally well question the meaning of ‘seriousness’, and ‘the high ideals of art’. Popular novels may not deal with life’s great conflicts, or search for truth and beauty, and they may deal with the seamier side of life, or escape into the fantastic, but can they still be considered ‘literature’? Do they still make an important contribution to our understanding of the world, as ‘real’ literature does?

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Uses and Gratifications Approach

Uses and Gratifications

One influential tradition in media research is referred to as ‘uses and gratifications’ (occasionally ‘needs and gratifications’). This approach focuses on why people use particular media rather than on content. In contrast to the concern of the ‘media effects’ tradition with ‘what media do to people’ (which assumes a homogeneous mass audience and a ‘hypodermic’ view of media), U & G can be seen as part of a broader trend amongst media researchers which is more concerned with ‘what people do with media’, allowing for a variety of responses and interpretations. However, some commentators have argued that gratifications could also be seen as effects: e.g. thrillers are likely to generate very similar responses amongst most viewers. And who could say that they never watch more TV than they had intended to? Watching TV helps to shape audience needs and expectations.

U & G arose originally in the 1940s and underwent a revival in the 1970s amd 1980s. The approach springs from a functionalist paradigm in the social sciences. It presents the use of media in terms of the gratification of social or psychological needs of the individual (Blumler & Katz 1974). The mass media compete with other sources of gratification, but gratifications can be obtained from a medium’s content (e.g. watching a specific programme), from familiarity with a genre within the medium (e.g. watching soap operas), from general exposure to the medium (e.g. watching TV), and from the social context in which it is used (e.g. watching TV with the family). U & G theorists argue that people’s needs influence how they use and respond to a medium. Zillmann (cited by McQuail 1987: 236) has shown the influence of mood on media choice: boredom encourages the choice of exciting content and stress encourages a choice of relaxing content. The same TV programme may gratify different needs for different individuals. Different needs are associated with individual personalities, stages of maturation, backgrounds and social roles. Developmental factors seem to be related to some motives for purposeful viewing: e.g. Judith van Evra argues that young children may be particularly likely to watch TV in search of information and hence more susceptible to influence (Evra 1990: 177, 179).

An empirical study in the U & G tradition might typically involve audience members completing a questionnaire about why they watch a TV programme. Denis McQuail offers (McQuail 1987: 73) the following typology of common reasons for media use:

Information

    • finding out about relevant events and conditions in immediate surroundings, society and the world
    • seeking advice on practical matters or opinion and decision choices
    • satisfying curiosity and general interest
    • learning; self-education
    • gaining a sense of security through knowledge

Personal Identity

    • finding reinforcement for personal values
    • finding models of behaviour
    • identifying with valued other (in the media)
    • gaining insight into one’s self

Integration and Social Interaction

    • gaining insight into circumstances of others; social empathy
    • identifying with others and gaining a sense of belonging
    • finding a basis for conversation and social interaction
    • having a substitute for real-life companionship
    • helping to carry out social roles
    • enabling one to connect with family, friends and society

Entertainment

    • escaping, or being diverted, from problems
    • relaxing
    • getting intrinsic cultural or aesthetic enjoyment
    • filling time
    • emotional release
    • sexual arousal

Blumler & Katz (1974) argued that audience needs have social and psychological origins which generate certain expectations about the mass media, leading to differential patterns of media exposure which result in both the gratification of needs and in other (often unintended) consequences. This does assume an active audience making motivated choices. However, McQuail suggests that the dominant stance of recent researchers in this tradition is now that:

Personal social circumstances and psychological dispositions together influence both… general habits of media use and also… beliefs and expectations about the benefits offered by the media, which shape… specific acts of media choice and consumption, followed by…. assessments of the value of the experience (with consequences for further media use) and, possibly… applications of benefits acquired in other areas of experience and social activity. (ibid: 235).

James Lull (1990: 35-46) offers a typology of the social uses of television based on ethnographic research.

Social Uses of Television

Structural

    • Environmental: background noise; companionship; entertainment
    • Regulative: punctuation of time and activity; talk patterns

Relational

    • Communication Facilitation: Experience illustration; common ground; conversational entrance; anxiety reduction; agenda for talk; value clarification
    • Affiliation/Avoidance: Physical, verbal contact/neglect; family solidarity; family relaxant; conflict reduction; relationhip maintenance
    • Social Learning: Decision-making; behaviour modelling; problem-solving; value transmission; legitimization; information dissemination; substitute schooling
    • Competence/Dominance: Role enactment; role reinforcement; substitute role portrayal; intellectual validation; authority exercise; gatekeeping; argument facilitation

(Lull 1990: 36)

 

Watching TV Soap Operas

A major focus for research into why and how people watch TV has been the genre of soap opera. Adopting a U & G perspective, Richard Kilborn (1992: 75-84) offers the following common reasons for watching soaps:

    • regular part of domestic routine and entertaining reward for work
    • launchpad for social and personal interaction
    • fulfilling individual needs: a way of choosing to be alone or of enduring enforced loneliness
    • identification and involvement with characters (perhaps cathartic)
    • escapist fantasy (American supersoaps more fantastical)
    • focus of debate on topical issues
    • a kind of critical game involving knowledge of the rules and conventions of the genre

Watching TV Quiz Programmes

McQuail, Blumler and Brown (1972) offered the following summary of clusters of ‘uses’ that people made of TV quizzes:

Gratifications of TV Quiz Shows: Selected Responses

Self-Rating Appeal

    • I can compare myself with the experts
    • I like to imagine that I am on the programme and doing well
    • I feel pleased that the side I favour has actually won
    • I am reminded of when I was in school
    • I laugh at the contestants’ mistakes

Basis for Social Interaction

    • I look forward to talking about it with others
    • I like competing with other people watching with me
    • I like working together with the family on the answers
    • The children get a lot out of it
    • It brings the family together sharing the same interest
    • It is a topic of conversation afterwards

Excitement Appeal

    • I like the excitement of a close finish
    • I like to forget my worries for a while
    • I like trying to guess the winner
    • Having got the answer right I feel really good
    • I get involved in the competition

Educational Appeal

    • I find I know more than I thought
    • I find I have improved myself
    • I feel respect for the people on the programme
    • I think over some of the questions afterwards
    • It’s educational

(McQuail, Blumler & Brown 1972)

Social class seemed to be related to gratifications here. McQuail et al. noted that most of those who watched quiz programmes for ‘self-rating’ gratifications lived in council houses and were working-class. ‘Excitement’ was most commonly reported as a gratification by working-class viewers who were not very sociable. And those who reported ‘educational appeal’ as the major gratification were those who had left school at the minimum age. John Fiske suggests that these could be seen as compensatory uses of the media ‘to gratify needs that the rest of social life frustrates’ (Fiske 1982: 136). In contrast, people who reported having many acquaintances in their neighbourhood tended to see the quizzes as a basis for social interaction.

Criticisms of ‘Uses and Gratifications’

The use of retrospective ‘self-reports’ has several limitations. Viewers may not know why they chose to watch what they did, or may not be able to explain fully. The reasons which can be articulated may be the least important. People may simply offers reasons which they have heard others mention. More promising might be the study of people’s engagement with media as it happens.

Some degree of selectivity of media and content is clearly exercised by audiences (e.g. choice or avoidance of TV soap operas. However, instrumental (goal-directed) accounts assume a rational choice of appropriate media for predetermined purposes. Such accounts over-emphasize informational purposes and ignore a great deal in people’s engagement with media: TV viewing can be an end in itself. There is evidence that media use is often habitual, ritualistic and unselective (Barwise & Ehrenberg 1988). But more positively, TV viewing can sometimes be seen as aesthetic experience in which intrinsic motivation is involved.

The U & G approach has been criticized as ‘vulgar gratificationism’. It is individualistic and psychologistic, tending to ignore the socio-cultural context. As a theoretical stance it foregrounds individual psychological and personality factors and backgrounds sociological interpretations. For instance, David Morley (1992) acknowledges that individual differences in interpretation do exist, but he stresses the importance of subcultural socio-economic differences in shaping the ways in which people interpret their experiences with TV (via shared ‘cultural codes’). U & G theorists tend to exaggerate active and consciouschoice, whereas media can be forced on some people rather than freely chosen. The stance can also lead to the exaggeration of openness of interpretation, implying that audiences may obtain almost any kind of gratification regardless of content or of ‘preferred readings’. Its functionalist emphasis is politically conservative: if we insist that people will always find some gratifications from any use of media, we may adopt a complacently uncritical stance towards what the mass media currently offer.

U & G research has been concerned with why people use media. Whilst this approach sprang from ‘mainstream’ research in social science, an interpretive tradition has arisen primarily from the more arts-oriented ‘cultural (and ‘critical’) studies’. The approach sometimes referred to as reception theory (orreception analysis) focuses on what people see in the media, on the meanings which people produce when they interpret media ‘texts’ (e.g. Hobson 1982, Ang 1985, Seiter, Borchers, Kreutzner & Warth 1989). This perspective tends to be associated with the use of interviews rather than questionnaires. Such interviews are often with small groups (e.g. with friends who watch the same TV programmes). The emphasis is on specific content (e.g. a particular soap opera) and on specific social contexts (e.g. a particular group of working-class women viewers).

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