Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hello again! Welcome to Week 3 of our VCE Media blog series, where today I'll be continuing with some revision about Agency and Control. Last week, I gave descriptions of three communication theories and some examples of how they influence audiences. Today, I’d like to begin by capping off that list with another two theories. These theories are interesting because unlike those from last week, they argue that the media does not have much power over audiences. Let’s take a look:
4. The Reinforcement Theory (media has a little power)
The basic argument of this theory is that the media cannot do much to change your beliefs or opinions. Instead, the Reinforcement theory suggests that what you believe is mainly learnt through people close to you (family, friends, etc.) and the kinds of real-life experiences you had as you grew up. So where does the media come into play? Well, as the name of the theory suggests, the media can only reinforce the opinions or beliefs you already hold. This is commonly linked to the ways that people behave in situations like voting or even choosing what brands of food to buy - they are usually more likely to choose the option that their family or close relations always choose, because it’s a learned behaviour. However, this theory does state that if the media is projecting a new idea, such as a brand new product or a modern political issue, then the media can have some influence because the audience has no pre-existing beliefs. It’s important to note that the ability to reinforce beliefs can still be very powerful - it could make someone buy more of a product than they usually would, for instance. However, unlike the theories I mentioned last week, this theory shows us that in many situations an audience can disagree with messages they see in the media, and that they can have plenty of control over what they choose to believe.
5. The Uses and Gratifications Theory (media has almost zero power)
Here is a quote from a paper that I think really summarises this theory - “it is the program that asks the question, not ‘What do the media do to people?’ but, ‘What do people do with the media?” (Katz, 1959, p. 2). The Uses and Gratification Theory suggests that the media exists so that it can be used by audiences, helping them with their daily lives in a range of different ways. This makes the theory the most audience-driven one on our list, because of how little power the media has to direct the beliefs or actions of the audience. Some of the ways audiences can use the media under this theory are:
To inform themselves (watching the news, reading newspaper articles)
To entertain or help themselves relax (binging a Netflix show, watching a game show)
To help them to socialise (the ability to send messages through a social networking site, participating in a Twitch stream)
To help build personal identity
And many more! We have lots of needs as human beings, and this theory suggests that the media is a tool to help us meet those needs.
Now that I’ve established these five theories, it’s time for you to start considering how they apply to real-life evidence of media influence. Like I said last week, your school will almost definitely have a list of communication theories that looks a bit different to this, and that’s totally fine! Either way, once you’re comfortable in your understanding of your theories, it’s super helpful to start learning and memorising some case studies of real-life influence. During my Year 12 study, I saw firsthand how stressful it could be for students who didn’t take the time to learn some examples. These students, my peers, would be super stressed before the SAC and exam because they couldn’t remember any of these examples, and they carried that weight into the exam which is never fun.
You’ve probably all looked at some examples as a class, and those are the ones your teacher thinks are excellent examples, so I would suggest learning those first and foremost. If you are still struggling for ideas, I would like to recommend a show called The Social Dilemma which was recently released on Netflix. It’s a documentary series built around interviews of former social media company CEOs, who talk about all the hidden agendas of social media apps and all the ways they can trick you into staying online. Needless to say, it is full of modern examples of media influence, and also a few ethical concerns which will help broaden your perspective for the ‘Ethical and Legal Issues in the Media’ part of your studies. If you don’t have access to Netflix, I would still suggest looking into the effects that social media can have on audiences - it is an incredibly popular area of research, it relates to modern audiences, and there’s lots of room to apply many of the theories I’ve spoken about over the last two weeks.
With that being said, I’m going to wrap it up there for today. Good luck to any of you having your Agency and Control SACs in the coming weeks, I hope this has helped! Next week, I’m hoping to travel all the way back to Unit 3, and do some revision of codes and conventions and how to use them properly for maximised marks.
Until then, thank you and enjoy your holidays!
Katz, E. (1959). "Mass Communications Research and the Study of Popular Culture: An Editorial Note on a Possible Future for this Journal". Departmental Papers (ASC): 1–6. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&httpsredir=1&article=1168&context=asc_papers&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar_url%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Frepository.upenn.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1168%2526context%253Dasc_papers%26sa%3DX%26scisig%3DAAGBfm3sEC9JZkct13HTnv8rJNash_GE2Q%26oi%3Dscholarr#search=%22http%3A%2F%2Frepository.upenn.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1168%26context%3Dasc_papers%22