Order 1088118: Media

Media and the Social World

Chapter 1

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Importance of Media in Contemporary Society

The Rise of Mass Media

Mass Media in Socialization and in Social Relations

Sociology of Media

Structural Constraint and Human Agency

A Model of Media and the Social World

Key Questions

What are the key characteristics of media? How did they develop historically, and how are they evolving today?

How does the presence of media affect our life?

What is a sociological approach to the study of media?

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Importance of Media

Pervasiveness of Media in Contemporary Society

Radios in 99% and TVs in 96% of U.S. homes

Adults spend more than 5 hours a day watching TV

Cell-phone adoption, 2013—91%

Broadband Internet access at home, 2013—65%

Young people’s media use is even more extensive

More than 7.5 hours of entertainment media use per day

Media have become the dominant social institution today

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Rise of Mass Media

Social Construction of Reality

While reality exists, media users negotiate the meaning of that reality.

The same media product may mean very different things to different people.

Example: A music video may elicit different responses from a 15-year-old fan of the band and a parent concerned about stereotypically sexist images that may be present in the video.

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Rise of Mass Media: Print

Milestones in Print Media

Printing technology began in the 15th century

Cast metal type, Korea, early 15th century

Movable type, Johannes Gutenberg, 1450

Early printing reflected the power of the Church in Europe

Print as only means of reaching wide audiences from a distance for centuries

Invention of the telegraph and telephone in the 19th century allowed instantaneous communication over long distances

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The Rise of Mass Media: Sound and Film

Milestones in Sound Recording and Film

1877—Phonograph developed by Thomas Edison

1895—Cinematograph developed Lumiére brothers

1948—LP record launched by Columbia Records

1920s—Magnetic tape introduced

1960s—Personal cassette tapes become popular

1970s—VCRs become popular, allow movie purchase and rental and home recording

1980s—CDs make music digital

1990s—MP3, DVD, and other digital formats emerge

1990s-present—Websites and streaming services emerge

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Rise of Mass Media: Broadcast Media

Milestones in Broadcast Media

Radio became the first broadcast medium in the early 20 century.

For the first time in history

Communicators could cast a media message broadly.

Producers did not have to make physical products.

Audiences did not have to travel.

First television sets introduced in the 1940s; TVs in 65% of U.S. households by 1955

1998—Digital TV broadcast began

Broadcasting fundamentally created the possibility of a largely privatized and individualized media experience.

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Rise of Mass Media: Digitization, the Internet and Mobile Technologies

Media converge in digital form; distinctions between media are blurred.

Changes in media production

Internet provides global platform for media distribution and consumption

Greater interactivity between media users and contents

Technologies become smaller and more mobile

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Media and Society

Mass Media in Socialization

“Socialization”—The process whereby we learn and internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of our culture and, in so doing, develop a sense of self

Today, mass media serve as a powerful socializing agent

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Media in Social Relations

Media are bound up with the process of social relations

Media affect how we learn about our world and interact with one another

Media can create moral panics

Mass-mediated politics

Most of our political knowledge is based on mass media

Participate in politics through media

Mass-mediated social interactions

“Electronic hearth”

Media products are connected to the ways we interact with other people on a daily basis

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Sociology of Media

Importance of Social Relations

“Sociological imagination” (C. Wright Mills)

“Looking-glass self”

Our activities take place within larger groups and institutions

Relationships between institutions

Interactions between media industry and government

Relationships within an institution

Relationships between media producers and studios

Relationship between institutions and individuals

Relationships between media products and audiences

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Structural Constraint and Human Agency

“Structure” and “Agency” are core concepts of sociology


Any recurring pattern of social behavior

Examples: family structure, educational system

Structure limits the human agency


Intentional and undetermined human action

Example: students under an educational system

Structure limits the agency, but agency reproduces and changes social structure

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Structure and Agency in Media

Relationships Between Media and Other Institutions

Social, economic, and political institutions set certain limits on the media

Researchers need to look at how social structures external to media affect the media industry and how the media affect other social institutions

Relationships Within the Media Industry

Internal workings of mass media and processes of professional socialization

Researchers need to investigate the structure of media institutions, roles and practices in media production, professional norms, and how much autonomy media personnel have

Relationships Between the Media and the Public

How readers or users interact with media products

Researchers need to investigate how media contents are actively interpreted by readers and users.

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A Model of Media and the Social World

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Readers / Audiences


Media Industry

Media Message / Product

Applying the Model: The Civil Rights Movement

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Media messages about the movement affect audience

Audience interprets the meaning and significance of the message

Audiences use new technology to access media messages

Specific formats of technology influence audience’s media use

Technology affects industry practices

Industry makes use of new technology to cover the event

Industry creates messages about the event

Norms of news influence media personnel

Civil Rights Movement

Readers / Audiences


Media Industry

Media Message / Product