Month: October 2013

Limited Power

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During the XXth century  social researchers were obsessed with the influence that the media could have in the people’s life styles. In one hand, we can find theories that hold we are directly influenced by the media. They thought that media has devastating effects in people. But, in the other hand, we can find researches that prove the limited effects of media in our lives.

In my last post I talked about Lazarsfeld’s work and how illuminating was his work. Between 1945 and 1960 was developed the Limited-Effects Theory, out of Lazarsfeld’s work. I find it very interesting because, by this theory, researchers wanted to generalize the role of the media in the society. One of the generalization I feel engaged with, is the fact that media rarely directly influence individuals. This is because people ignore the media information that is not important for them. I can say I have felt that in my own life. I am politically apathetic, this is I do not support any political party. Therefore, when the media tries to convince me in order to make me feel involved with a political party by using advertisement, for example, I just ignore this information. I do not care about the campaign. In this case, we can appreciate how limited are the effects of the media.

Another generalization in the limited-effects theory is the idea that when people become adults, they have stronger group commitments, as religious affiliations. I think this is true, even if we are talking about a youngster. Talking based on my own experience, I can say that I have very strong religion ideology. Supporting the limited-effects theory, I would say that even if I were systematically exposed to a different religious information, I wouldn’t change my believes.

My conclusion is that, media is powerful, but  in the end, we decide how much influence it has in our lives. It depends on how valuable is the media information for us. HOW POWERFUL is the media for us.


Influenced by whom? (Session 9)

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During the last decades, people have more and more independent spirit. We want to be special, express ourselves freely and have our own ideas, even if they are ‘weird’. But the question is:  Are we more independent? Or  our  ‘special’ ideas are influenced by something  or someone else?

In the early communication theories we learnt people believed that media have a direct and powerful influence in the population. But in 1940’s Lazarsfeld shaped another theory that shows us another interesting point of view. By some researches he discovered that people are more likely to be influenced by  other people, than the mass media. However, not everyone can influence masses of people, we need the opinion leaders. These leaders pay close attention to mass media and pass on their own interpretation of the media messages to others, the opinion followers.

The two-step flow theory  was shaped more than 70 years ago, but I think we can see this process nowadays.  For example, Twitter. We have even the same nomenclature: leaders (that sometimes are called ‘twitstars’), and the followers (the rest of the normal human beings). Maybe we think that those leaders do not influence us, but every time that we spend our time reading their little influential twits, we are impacted by their thoughts. Even influential people, like presidents, used Twitter and other Social Networks in order to convince people to vote them or make them feel involved with the party, like Obama’s campaign, when he invested large amounts of money in digital campaign, using Facebook, Twitter and more Social Networks.

On the other hand, two-step theory is used in the advertisement industry. I can say that because I have bought many products just because a friend recommended  me that product. For example, next week I will go to a specific  orthodontist, because one friend of mine recommended it to me.

My conclusion is that,  although this theory was made in 1940, it can be used nowadays because Social Networks have a great influence in our lives and prominent people (opinion leaders) are using them in order to move masses. Therefore, we have to know these influences in order to know the effects of the media. In order to know if our  ‘special and independent idea’  is our idea, or someone else’s.


What is this thing? (Session 7)

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I have a 7 years old nephew, who can use the Internet perfectly. He can find cartoon videos on YouTube and play video games online. But, when my little nephew saw a VHS videotape some months ago, he asked me amazed and surprised: ”Uncle! What is this thing?!”. At first I was a bit shocked,  but then, I realized that the times have changed a lot, especially during this last decades. We are living the Mass Media development.

This development is called ”Revolution”. When an important new technology appear, it destabilize the existing media industries. Therefore, large corporations based in old technologies fail, and the upstart companies reap enormous profits. And I would apply this development, based on cutthroat competition, on Social Networks.

 Some years ago, MySpace appeared, and everybody was exciting with this new way to be connected and sharing experiences. But then, something new appeared: FaceBook. Why Facebook succeeded? Basically, because is more private than MySpace, and while MySpace is more for youngsters, Facebook is for people of all ages. Also, facebook has an easier usage and people can mix their personal and professional profiles.  Nevertheless, we saw another media development, another revolution, when Twitter appeared few years ago. I think we prefer Twitter because it is easier to use, and because we can just post little sentences, simple emotions that we feel in a concrete moment. Finally, I think that soon will appear another trendy social network that will shake the world.

My conclusion is that new media industries do specialize in giving people what they want, and this is the reason of the development, the cause of so much competition between technology companies, and the reason of why my nephew doesn’t know the VHS videotapes. 


Connected, but alone?

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Today, more than ever, the technologies occupy a very important place in our lives.  We use the technology all the time and we are trying to be connected all the time, by social networks like Twitter, Facebook or just by texting. This is the result of an evolution, because some years ago we would find the devices that we use disturbing, but now they are part of our normal life.

If we analyze Sherry Turkle‘s TED talk we will learn more about the effects of technology in the human relationships:

Turkle used the exploration research in order to investigate a social phenomena by studying the technologies of mobile communication. She interviewed hundreds of people, young and  old, about them virtual lives  using the Qualitative Method in order to develop an authentic understanding of this social process.

Her conclusion was that all this devices are so psychologically powerful that they do not only change the things we do, but also change WHO WE ARE. Why we are saying that? Because today we usually see how some teenager are together, but they actually are not together. They are just abstracted, faraway.

I think this is a real problem in nowadays society, because, as Turkle said, it is a trouble in how we relate to each other and how we relate to ourselves. She said too that this is destroying our capacity for self-reflection. However, I thing that this is not always true. The fact that we have Twitter and Facebook account doesn’t mean that we are loosing our capacity for self-reflection. We can control the time that we spend in the social networks. We hang out with some friends and we like to talk face-to-face.

On the other hand,  by an Explanatory research Turkle discovered the ”Goldenloks effect”: Not too close, Not too far, just Right.

 But what is just right for an executive, is not for a teenager, who need to develop face-to-face relationships. And it could be a problem for a teenager who don’t have the capacity to control the time that he or she spends on social networks. Then, I think at this  moment is very important the role that the parents have. They have to control this and teach them how to keep a real conversation.

Another problem that Turkle mentioned and is interesting is the fact that is difficult to have a real conversation if the other person is not listening. Therefore, social networks are like automatic listeners that offer three gratifying fantasies: 1) we can put our attention wherever we want it to be, 2) we will always be heard, and 3) we will never have to be alone. That last one is interesting because people think that being alone is a problem that we have to solve quickly, and we do it just connecting with more and more people.

At last, I have found interesting the process of getting from connection to isolation. Is interesting that we will be isolated if we don’t have the ability to be separated, to gather ourselves. If we don’t have that capacity, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious. Nowadays, a lot of people think that if we are not connected, we will feel ourselves less alone. But it is the opposite! If we are not able to be alone, we are going to be more lonely.

For conclusion, I think that technologies are very useful nowadays. They bring us security and  make our lives easier. But the things is that we have to use them properly and put them in the correct place in our life. Being balanced, that is the secret. Because, after all, nothing is more enjoyable than taking a Coke and chatting with a couple of good friends in a pub.