Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Group 4 Chapter Summaries

56. FDR and the White House Mail from Public Opinion Quarterly (1956) by Leila A. Sussman
Chapter 56 discusses the communicative and political functions that mail provided between FDR and the mass of citizens.

  • Any personal letter to FDR was to receive an individual and thoughtful response.
  • Presidential mail allowed Roosevelt to keep a pulse on the issues that were concerning the public masses.  
  • FDR used content analysis to find general trends in the mail, but that was not a replacement for him to read through letters himself.
    • The letters were his form of qualitative research
  • This was also a tool, which prompted topics for speeches, fireside chats, etc.
57. Notes on a Natural History of Fads from American Journal of Sociology (1957) by Rolf Meyersohm and Elihu Katz
Meyersohn and Katz draw on the interpretation of popular music and fashion in the mid-1950s as a precursor to today’s studies of styles and subcultures (410).
  • The process which fads operate is typically confined to subgroups in society (410).
  • Each new fad is a functional alternative for its predecessor: this hit for that hit, etc.(410).

Several approaches to the study of fads:
  • Function of fashion for society, groups and individuals.
  • Fashions examined in terms of specific content and many attempts have been made to relate a trend or style to a Zeitgeist or “climate of opinion” (411).
  • Fashion system seen in the interaction among producers, distributers and consumers.
  • Fourth approach studies the origin of a given item—conditions of acceptance, characteristics of those whom the innovators influence, shifts from minority to majority acceptance, its waning and where it goes to die (411).
  • Stages of a fad can be isolated and studied. Each stage has been described as paving the way for the next stage.
  • Fads are not born but rediscovered. Meyersohn and Katz give the example of R&B music rising to the top of pop or mainstream music charts.
58. Mass Communication and Socio-Cultural Integration from Social Forces (1958) by Warren Breed (p. 417)
If the primary function of mass media was to spread information among the masses. Breed theorized that media had a secondary function in society that served the latent function of enforcing the status quo.
  • By expressing, dramatizing and repeating cultural patterns, both traditional and the newly emerging, the media reinforce tradition and at the same time explain new roles. (p. 418)
  • Literature reflects, shapes and controls society by omitting certain aspects of society or culture.  Without representation in media, society can effectively ignore on culture or norm.
  • Reverse content check found most of the omitted ideas in mass media were politico-economic significance, religious significance, justice, health and family issues.
  • Individuals who have stature within mass media can use undemocratic means to their ends.
  • Media not only protects ‘pressure’ groups but also protects the community from ‘pressure’ groups.
  • Overall Findings:
    • Values and behaviors highlighted as well as individuals; doctors, leaders, judges, mothers, clergymen, GIs overseas, etc.
    • Values of religion are linked to social processes taking the form of ritual (p. 423).
    • The stating of unpleasant facts maybe be prevalent in all forms of social communication.
59. Modernizing Styles of Life: A Theory from The Passing of Traditional Society (1958) by Daniel Lerner (p. 426)
Daniel Lerner documents ways in which the modern social life is seemingly displacing the ancient regime of tradition in the Middle East.
  • “I am thankful that the good God created us all ignorant. I am glad that when we change His plan in this regard we have to do it at our own risk.” –Mark Twain
  • “The people of the area today are unified not by their common solutions but by their common problems: how to modernize traditional life ways that no longer “work” to their own satisfaction. “
  • “Middle Easterners more than ever want the modern package, but reject the label “made in the U.S.A.”
  • …millions throughout the Middle East are yearning to trade in their old lives for such newer ways in what modernization promises to most people. The rapid spread of these new desires, which provide the dynamic power of modernization, is most clearly perceived in the coming of the mass media.”
  • “A complication of Middle East modernization is its own ethnocentrism—expressed politically in extreme nationalism, psychologically in passionate xenophobia.”
  • “The expansion of psychic mobility means that more people now command greater skill in imagining themselves as strange persons in strange situations, places and times than did people in any previous historical epoch.”
  • “Thus the mass media, by simplifying perception (what we “see”) while greatly complicating response (what we “do”), have been great teachers of interior manipulation.”
60. The Social-Anatomy of the Romance-Confession Cover Girl from Journalism Quarterly (1959) by George Gerbner
This is a study by George Gerbner about confession magazine covers.  Gerbners study analyzed the influence of the cover girl image combined with the influence of her position in the verbal context.  This study answered questions such as “How does the cover girl actually perform her task of confession magazine salesmanship?  How is the apparent contrast between the cover girl and her verbal setting resolved in perception?  What is her image in the eyes of the viewer?  How does her juxtaposition with the contrasting verbal context affect her assumed personality, status, functions?” (p. 436)
  • Three different covers used in the experiment:  One with only the verbal material (Group V), one with only the cover girl’s picture (Group P), and one without any alteration (Group T).
  • Group V perceived the cover girl more negatively (Bad, false, foolish, unsuccessful, powerless, unimportant, and a hard creature), and wrote short and negative essays about their perceptions of the cover girl’s personality
  • Group T perceived the cover girl more positively (good, kind, true, successful, soft, wise, powerful and important) and wrote lengthy essays with the most positive assertions and defended cover girl’s personality.
  • Picture of the cover girls designed to the specifications of the romance-confession market transforms the impressions created by the supercharged verbal context of the cover (p. 438).
  • Effects of verbal context on her image are subtle.  When the verbal context was absent, the girl’s success rating went up the most (p. 438).
  • Mass media content reflects, in ways both explicit and implicit, the imprint of concrete circumstances of its production (p. 439).
  • The dominant cover girl image appeals to society as a representative heroine who overcomes the surrounding negative verbal context that shares her cover space.
  • Art-editors conceive of the romance-confession cover girls as a projection of the readers’ self-image.  Her function on the cover appears to be analogous to the inside heroine’s function of identification.  The editorial prescription calls for a heroine who may be outwardly plain and sinful, but not unsympathetic. (p. 440).
61. The State of Communication Research from Public Opinion Quarterly (1959) by Bernard Berelson (p. 440)
  • Communication research is withering/dying
  • Past research stems from 4 major approaches
  1. Political approach - Lasswell
    1. Base - Broad politico-historical approach; concern with power
    2. Propositions:
      1. Propaganda pushes the intensity of the situation to extremes: facilitates catharsis  if interest is low, and precipitates crisis if interest is high.
      2. Political symbols circulating among the power holder correspond more closely to the power facts than do symbols presented to the domain.
  2. Sample survey approach - Lazarsfeld
    1. Base - Social psychology moving toward sociology
    2. Propositions:
      1. People tend to expose to communications whose content is congenial to their predispositions.
      2. Communication exposure “pushes” people to a decision, but mainly in line with their latent attitudes
  3. Small-groups approach - Lewis
    1. Base - Experimental psychology moving toward social psychology
    2. Propositions
      1. Pressure to communicate within a group on a given topic increase with the discrepancy within the group, the cohesiveness of the group, and the relevance of the issue to group moral
      2. Pressure to communicate to a giving individual within a group decreases to the extent the member is not wanted in the group
  4. Experimental approach - Hovland
    1. Base - Experimental psychology moving toward social psychology
    2. Propositions:
      1. One-sided communications are more effective with those initially favoring the position taken; both-sided communication are more effective with those initially opposed
      2. Recall of factual material fades with time, but initial opinion changes are strengthened, especially when in line with prevailing group attitude (sleeper effect).
  • 6 minor approaches to communication research
  1. The reformist approach: represented by the Commission on the Freedom of the Press; concerned with organization, structure and control of the mass media, and particularly with considerations of public policy.
  2. The broad historical approach: represented by David Riesman and Horold Innis. Concern - “Is it science?”
  3. The journalistic approach: represented by the professional schools and such people as Casey, Nixon, Schramm, and others. Concern with control aspects of the media, characteristics of communicators and “practical” interests.
  4. The mathematical approach: represented by Shannon and Weaver
  5. The psycho-linguistic approach: represented by  Osgood and Miller
  6. The psychiatric approach: represented by Ruesch and Bateson
  • The last three define communication differently and lead to different problems
  • Researchers greatly expanded the field of communication but many researchers have either died, left the field to explore other fields or are no longer teaching
  • Future major points of focus include:  Combinations, Comparative studies, Economic analysis, Socio-historical analysis, Popular culture, “Mass” communication, Practical affairs
62. The State of Communication Research: Comments from Public Opinion Quarterly (1959) by Wilbur Schramm, David Riesman, and Raymond Bauer
Schramm focuses on a more pessimistic approach to the future of Communications research. He describes the founding communication approaches (448):
  • The political approach represented by Lasswell
  • The sample survey approach represented by Lazarsfeld
  • The small-groups approach, represented by Lewin
  • And the experimental approach, represented by Hovland.
  • Schramms argues these approaches are “playing out” and the outlook is dark for communications research.
  • However, communications research has helped make a bridge between the professional teachings of journalism and political science and ancient intellectual strengths of the university.
Reisman offers are more humane vision of what communications research could be (446):
  • He argues that work in the field of communications is inviting because of its very ambiguity and lack of structure. There is room for people with an interest in literature, social sciences, economics and aesthetics (449).
  • Reisman also asks if mass media is creating a homogenous national culture.
Bauer developed the notion of “social indicators” to supplement the more traditional and economically oriented view of what statistical measures are important in social research.
  • Argues that early approaches carried with them necessary over-simplications which have become clear because the approaches were pushed to the point where they exposed their own limitations (453).
  • A shift now to primary concern with the substance of the problems with less commitment to a particular device of investigation (453).
  • Communications shaping attitudes and behavior.
63. What Is Mass Communication? from Mass Communication: A Sociological Perspective (1959) by Charles R. Wright
Wright discusses audience, experience, and institutional mode of production as a means of defining what mass communication is.
  • “Mass Communication as it is used in this Study is not simply a synonym for communication by means of radio, television, or any other modern technique. Although modern technology is essential to the process, its presence does not always signify mass communication (455).”
  • The audience should satisfy three requirements to be considered mass communication:
    • Large: Somewhat a subjective term, and may be difficult to justify what is considered “large”
    • Heterogeneous: “…occupying a variety of positions within society (455)”
    • Anonymous: Recipient ultimately remains unknown to the communicator
  • The experience for a receptor could be portrayed as transient, rapid, and public
  • The communicator is usually a large complex organization
  • Technology has driven this new form of human interaction—mass communication
64. Social Theory and Mass Media from Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science (1961) by Thelma McCormack
This article is Thelma McCormack’s attempt at offering a functional theory of the mass media, and to suggest new criteria (not taken from other disciplines or from the technology of the media) for evaluating the media which emerge from it.  She analyzes the present stage of communications research, the contributions of Marx and Freud, and then offers her hypothesis.
Present stage of comm. research
  • The major challenge to social theory in the field of communications lies in healing the breach between the disciplines of communications studies and urban studies.  These two bodies of knowledge are inextricably related. (p. 457)
  • Discussions of urban life present a picture of interpersonal relations in marked contrast.  Face-to-face relationships are disappearing.  Traditional communication is perceived as an “art” or a discipline to be learned.  (p. 458)
  • Mass urban society, then, is secular society; and it reveals itself most typically in the erosion and deterioration of the informal face-to-face relationship (p. 458).
Marx and Freud
  • Ideas are reflections of social systems.  Knowledge, according to this view, is not autonomous, outside of culture, but socially determined.  To be fully understood it must be examined…as a mirror of the aspirations and anxieties of people living in a given social structure (p. 459).
  • Freud: Attitudes are only terminal extensions of a deeper personality organization which seeks to preserve itself. Our approach to experience, then is selective:  we take from it only those parts which nourish and protect the self…Therefore, propaganda or informational material which “threaten” an individual’s self-image are ultimately ineffective. (p. 461)
  • Mass media as a social institution:  First, some form of media consumption is almost universal in modern societies, second, the media outlive their audiences.  Third, the primary functions of the mass media are socialization and social control. (p. 462)
  • The mass media are a temporary substitute for other institutions—institutions which have, for one reason or another, declined but can be made once again to function properly.  (p. 463)
  • Society is moving towards a trend of segmentation and fragmentation, the unique function of the mass media is to provide both to the individual and to society a coherence, a synthesis of experience…The supreme test of the mass media…is how well it provides an integration of experience. (p. 463)
  • Hypothesis: mass media are a social institution created by the demands, social and psychological, in a secular society, demands for an awareness of the connections in modern experience and our involvement in them. (p. 463)
  • The real problem for both theory and research is not impersonalized but depersonalized relationships. (p. 463)
65. Television and the Public Interest (1961) by Newton Minow
This selection was Minow’s first public address given after becoming the chairman for the Federal Communications Commission under JFK’s administration.
  • New FCC chairman is worried about the industry’s lack of responsibility in regards to public interest
  • Public interest = not what interests the public, but rather what is best for the public (industry responsibility is needed)
  • A majority of TV programming is a “vast wasteland” (p. 467)
    • Children spend as much time watching TV as in the classroom
    • People are likely to choose to watch entertainment (the wasteland), but the industry has a responsibility to provide a healthy programming diet (public interest)
  • Sponsors should know that buying a share in this industry means “buying a share in public responsibility” (p. 469)
  • Worried about how other countries would view the U.S. based on what they seen on American TV programming
  • “Television has grown faster than a teenager, and now it is time to grow up” (p. 471)
66. The Kennedy Assassination and the Nature of Political Commitment from The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public (1965) by Sidney Verba
This selection uses JFK’s assassination and the public’s reaction to it as a basis for analyzing American’s commitment to politics.
  • Historically, a king’s story showed human drama and the king himself stood as a symbol of society and nation
    • Engaged people intellectually and emotionally
  • However, in the West, politics is viewed differently – leaders (presidents) seems to only be seen as secular
  • But Verba argues that Kennedy’s assassination could show a reintegration of the political system
    • Americans had seemed detached from politics; however, JFK’s assassination brought the nation together on an emotional level (all people at all levels – politicians, media, etc.)
  • American politics had/has an absence of rituals
  • The ceremonies associated with JKF’s assassination allowed Americans to come together – through shared information and emotion as shown by the media
  • This shared experience allowed Americans to recommit to the democratic system
67. TV Overseas: The U.S. Hard Sell from The Nation (1966) by Herbert Schiller
This selection is critical of American style broadcasting, which relies on commercialization and consumerism.  Schiller also posits that the commercialization of broadcasting is spreading.
  • Before TV, the US was alone in having a commercial radio broadcasting system
  • After the advent of TV, most broadcasting is done commercially
  • Consumerism must grow; to expand more, the markets needed leave the US borders
  • While other countries tried to maintain a more socially responsible broadcasting system – US advertising continued to push… and eventually was able to establish a hold in foreign markets (“spillover” from countries that allowed for this kind of broadcasting would eventually lead to it being allowed in that country… and it spread from there)
  • Attention now on space and satellites
    • Commercial beat cultural in the race to space
  • Third World countries will not be able to escape the effects of commercialism in their futures either; Western commercialism is already entering their boarders

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