Introduction To The Course, Definitions And Theories Of Mass Communication

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Class Outline

Course SOC309H5F Lecture 13/05/2015

Topic: Introduction to the course; definitions and theories of mass communication

Key educational goals/outcomes for today:
Define mass media.
Understand that the relationship between the mass media and society is reciprocal. Be able to illustrate aspects of this relationship on examples of mass media communication.
Be able to define the four models of mass media communication and apply them.
Understand social significance of mass media effects and the consequent scientific interest in mass media content.
Describe two main theories of media content and understand their usefulness in research.

Butsch, Richard. 2001. “Class and Audience Effects: A History of Research on Movies, Radio, and Television”, Journal of Popular Film and Television. 29:3. 112-120.

Eveland, William P. 2003. “A “Mix of Attributes” Approach to the Study of Media Effects and New Communication Technologies” Journal of Communication. (September). 395-410.

Questions to guide the reading/to think about ahead of time for students

Which element of mass media communication is the focus of Butsch’s article? Why?
Which groups have historically been described as more susceptible to mass media influence? What do they have in common, according to early researches on the topic? What do they have in common, according to Butsch? Whose explanation of their similarities do you think more likely?
What is “emotional possession”? How is it relevant for research in mass media?
Eveland means his proposed approach as a remedy against the “This changes everything” tendency in new media analysis. Understand his objections to this tendency. Do you support Eveland or his opponents? What are the merits of their arguments?
Eveland believes that every mass medium should be analyzed for five attributes. Learn what they are and apply this knowledge to a piece of communication you know well (e.g. your mobile telephone service, a favourite TV broadcast, a blog, your web-surfing habits…)
What is the difference between Eveland’s and McLuhan’s “Medium is the message” approaches? Agenda for class

We begin this overview course in sociology of mass media by considering the main areas of research and the general theories in this field. We shall see that, in common with other areas of sociology, various theories ask different questions and direct research in different directions. Each one of them is particularly useful in