Month: November 2013

Agenda setting

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Are the media able to cover all the news that might be in one day? Is the public ready to understand all this information, with the same attention? I don’t think so, and media producers neither. Therefore, they have created something called Agenda setting, in order to choose the most relevant news, remove the less relevant news, and try to measure the effects that they will have in the public.

In the conclusion of my last post, I said that we are continuously bombarded by useless media information since we are kids. However, the aim of media setting is ‘to help’ people focus their attention in concrete issues. Therefore, they don’t say people what to think or talk, but they are telling them what to talk about. The final result is that the media decide what is important for the public, so they determine the public agenda, too. For example, if I watch the news, and they only inform about the economic inflation or a scandal about a politician, when I talk with other people I will talk about this topics just because the media thought that these were the most relevant news of the day. I think that, if media is working so, we are continuously being manipulated because there are many news that we cannot know just because some people considered them boring. However, I think that we don’t have the ability to receive all the existing news every day, because we have limited attention and capacity.

On the other hand, Agenda setting reminds me of Two-step flow theory. The two-step states that there are  ‘gatekeepers’ in the society, called opinion leaders, that have the capacity to filter the information, remove the useless one and give a new interpretation of the media content to the opinion followers, influencing them. The agenda setting is based on the same process: there are also ‘gatekeepers’ that determine, very subjectively, which are the most relevant news, that have to be exposed to the public, and which are the less important news that have to ignored. Then, the public receive just that filtered information and introduce it in its conversations.

Another point in agenda setting, that I find interesting, is the ”need for orientation”. Also, I would link this idea with Limited-effects theory. One of the key ideas of limited-effects was that, if we have clearly defined choices and preferences, for example, about political orientation, media would have very low effects if it tries to change his or her mind. On the other hand, if I don’t have clear religious or political ideology, I will be influenced easier by any media message. The need for orientation say something similar. For example, if I have high interest in political issues, but I also have high uncertainty, the need for orientation will be higher because I don’t have a clear idea about the political issue and, therefore, the agenda setting will be stronger. Additionally, I think that is very important the personal experience. If I see the economic inflation in my life every day, because I see the price of the gas or the price of the food when I go to the supermarket, I am well informed about that issue and I don’t need additional information from the media. On the other hand, if I have no idea about the political situation in Palestine and I don’t have a personal experience related to Palestine, maybe I would need information provided by the media in order to satisfy my needs for orientation and  decrease the uncertainty.

My conclusion is that, indeed, we are bombed by thousands of ads and useless information every day. However, if we are talking about news, by agenda setting we are bombed by extremely concrete information, which is carefully chosen by a gatekeeper. Therefore, I think we should have clear political ideas, and we will not be manipulated. We should have our own agenda setting.

Cultural changes

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‘’Times have changed’’, said my mother, when my 7 years old nephew asked her to buy him a mobile phone. And this is true, in the last years the world and people’s behavior have changed drastically. What is the reason of these changes? Cultural theories want to answer to this, and more interesting questions.

Since we are 3, we watch curiously and attentively the television. Then, we start to learn the names of our favorite cartoon characters. I remember my nephew singing Dora the Explorer’s song since he was 4, and recognizing Spongebob perfectly. However, we shouldn’t be surprised because by the age of six, children are already watching TV 3 hours every day, and by the age of eight they spend 4 hours in front of the screen. What is the result in their lives after all this time in front of the, what people in Spain call, ‘’stupid box’’? Average teenagers spend more time using media, than being with real people, in the real world. This not only includes television, this is Internet, movies, video games, etc. I believe that there are consequences even in the family relationships. I remember Turkle’s Talk (Post 1 in this blog), and how she said that the members of the family, or members in a group of friends, ‘’are together, but not being together’’. And I think this is a real problem in this technological era.

On the other hand, this provokes problems related to face-to-face communication, because people just get used to talk using technology and is not able to develop other communication skills. I have seen that personally. For example, some days ago I have been talking with a person, that I know, long time by Whatsapp and it was a good conversation, but when I saw her two days after and I tried to have a face-to-face friendly conversation, it was quite different, a cold conversation. This is exactly what the cultural studies try to identify, how the media is used to create forms of culture that structure the everyday life. They want to know, for example, what will happen if the media is incorporated to the routines of normal people, there will be disruptions or the media will improve the people’s life styles? In my opinion, it depends how we use the media. It can be disruptive if it is destroying our face-to-face communication skills or it is destroying our family relations. But, in the other hand, if we use wisely the media, it will provide us with useful information and entertainment.

My conclusion is that, in this technological era we are continuously exposed to the media, and this is not a problem if we are able to filter the media messages that we don’t need, at all. But the problem is that since we are kids, we are bombed with uncountable useless information. Therefore, this exposure is changing our world and our behavior, is changing our culture and our habits. Also, is the reason of why my nephew wants a mobile phone after watching an advertisement.

Gratifications.

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Why we love that television program? What is the reason of our expectation  for that show, every singles week? These are the some of the questions that the Uses and Gratifications researches are raising and attempting to answer. They want to know why and how we use de media.

Last week, I finished my post saying that only we can decide how valuable is the media for us, how powerful it is for us. This week, I would like to mix this idea with the uses and gratifications approach because I found an interesting link between them. Analyzing the models to explain uses and effects, I think the most important idea is that we will pay more attention to something that gratify us. But, in the other hand, based on the audience activity model, it is very important the attitude of the viewer. Also, the more involved we are in the media, the more influence it has in our behavior. I think this approach is used continuously in marketing, for example. I am saying that because marketing’s main goal is to attract people and gratify them, in order to sell the product. On the other hand, the costumer’s attitude is crucial. If I am interested in buying a car, obviously I will pay extremely attention to the television advertisements and, therefore, some of them will have an effect on my decision.

Another point that I find interesting in use and gratification is the ‘competition and mediation‘ assumption. Basically, the idea is that if we have clear defined choices and individual initiative, we could control the media effects. I think this idea is very interesting because it reminds me of limited-effects theory. I think so because one of the ideas of limited-effects is that, we cannot be influenced directly by media when we have strongly defined ideas about something. Therefore, if we have clear choices and individual initiative, we will not be influenced by media. However, I think that, if we have so strongly defined choices, we could have problems related to prejudices. For example, I have the strong idea that Nokia is the best telephone brand in the market. And now, Samsung and Apple start to produce mobile phones that are clearly better than Nokia, but if I still have that strong idea, I will get stuck technologically, just because of my prejudice about other brands.

My conclusion is that, the effects of the media are limited, because we have clear defined ideas  and individual initiative. But also, sometimes, we respond depending on how gratifying is the media message for us. And this is the reason of why we love that song. This is why we anxiously expect the next episode of our favorite TV show every single week.