This week’s discussion prompt: The practice of hashtag activism was mentioned briefly in Chapter Nine, and incorporates concepts from the other chapters in this course; in particular, the intersection of social inequality, mediatization and political communication. Croteau & Hoynes (2019) point out that, “In some cases, so-called hashtag activism has enabled isolated voices to coalesce, attracting attention to neglected issues” (p. 327), and identifies examples, including #Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, #NeverAgain, and #MeToo. The authors go on argue that, drawing on Tufecki (2017), that, “Such activism will never replace traditional political organizing, but it has a useful role to play (p. 327). Additionally, they cite that social media is supplemental and associated with higher levels of political participation, rather than direct learning about political policy, candidates, etc. (p. 327).
In your post, please answer the following questions: What is the definition of mediatization, and how might we use that concept to explain the increased role of hashtag activism in the fight against social inequality? Has there been a particular hashtagthat has increased your political knowledge about a particular issue of inequality? For example, #MeToo increased many people’s knowledge/awareness about sexual misconduct, sexism and misogyny. And lastly, what are your thoughts on hashtag activism as a way to challenge inequality?
easy to understanding250 wordsgood grammar
Week Nine Lecture: Audiences, Creators & Media Influence
Note: Please click on all supplemental links as part of this lecture; the videos and articles provided will assist with your understanding of this chapter.
Please read the following sections of Chapters Eight & Nine from Croteau & Hoynes (2019):
Chapter Eight: pp. 268-281; pp. 283-290; pp. 295-6
Chapter Nine: pp. 300-320; pp. 328-331
1. What does the term “active audience” mean and why does it matter?
2. How do human agency and social structure interact in an audience’s reading of media texts?
3. What kind of roles do fantasy and pleasure play in media consumption?
4. How might media exposure affect individuals and societies?
5. What are the major tenets of major media effects and mediatization theories?
6. In what ways do media – and social media in particular – impact political processes?
8.1 Defining the Active Audience
8.3 Fan Communities & Disrupting Bias
9.1 Theorizing Media Influence & Effects
9.2 Effects, Mediatization & Politics
9.3 Social Media Logics & Deepfakes
8.1 Defining the Active Audience
At this point, your textbook – and this course – have explored media culture from a more institutional perspective, and have foregrounded structures that create both limitations and opportunities for media producers. Now that you’re familiar with those forces, it is essential that we pivot away from production and focus on consumption; and rather, how production and consumption are related processes that influence one another – from the audience perspective. This chapter positions the audience as both “active” and as “content creators”; while audiences have always been actively consuming, it is important to remember that their new role as creators, as well, is directly connected to digitization and increased access to the tools of production (e.g., GarageBand).
Because audience members have such active roles in contemporary media culture, Croteau & Hoynes (2019) make the case that we should refer to ourselves, and audience members, as “users” and state that: “User has the advantage of being open-ended, so it can include both our roles as audience members and our various roles on the internet. ‘User’ also implies active roles in both interpretingexisting media content and creating our own content” (p. 268). As they suggest, we both interpret and create, and both activities are influenced by various social forces.
Later in the chapter, Croteau & Hoyes (2019) identify three main motivations for audience creation online:
1. Self-expression/identity formation;
2. Interaction/community building;
3. Sharing (p. 294).
Think about yourself as a “user” on the internet. Which of these motivations do you feel summarizes your experiences? Do all three of them? Think about the last time you created something online (snap, tweet, IG story, etc.), what was your motivation?
Remember, while economic and political forces shape media culture, the “active audience” framework suggests that users/audience members have
and have an active role in both
use and interpretation
. To explore the dynamic nature of audience activity, your textbook includes two main theoretical orientations to the “active audience” framework in this chapter: (1) uses and gratifications (What are people doing with media? Why are they using media?); (2) critical cultural studies (How do people interpret media?).
One of the major motivations for pursuing audience research is the observation that media are
polysemic texts; in other words, multiple meanings can exist within one media text. Therefore, the way that users interpret those texts are worth exploring; social location/experiences of the audience member, editing techniques from the producers, the use of music to connect with emotions, etc. For example, if a student had lived through a school shooting, their interpretation of a violent film scene involving a similar weapon would be different than the interpretation of a student that is a gun rights advocate. And it may be more subtle; for example, humor is subjective, and something I may find funny may not be funny to the person sitting next to me – for a variety of reasons.
For example, consider
Between Two Ferns
on the website Funny or Die. Here’s a clip that includes an interview with Barack Obama(you only have to watch a minute or two):
(Links to an external site.)
Did you think this was funny? Some of you may have, some of you may not have enjoyed the dry humor; this is how “polysemy” works. Beyond comedy, think about complex filmmaking from directors such as Lars Von Trier or Paul Thomas Anderson. Think about the film Donnie Darko (2001). The considering of our individualistic meaning-making, in a particular historical and cultural context (structure) is the basis of the active audience – we are not passive audience members that interpret and use media in the same way. Another example: Consider the film
Zero Dark Thirty
(2012). Was this film a depiction of the effectiveness of interrogation techniques or a portrayal of the brutality and moral complexity of torture? Despite the director’s intention, it’s important to remember that audiences are thinking while they view media texts and can interpret and create meaning as an individualistic exercise.
Here are the four main ways that audiences are “active”:
1. Interpretation: Audiences may not construct the meaning intended by the producer; may make their own meanings.
2. Social Context of Interpretation: Media use is not just individual, but is also social.
3. Collective Action: Audiences sometimes make formal demands on media producers through protests, boycotts, or campaigns.
4. Audiences as Media Producers (“Prosumers”): Audiences create their own media outlets and products.
An important reminder, however, is that audiences are not just “free agents” with unlimited agency. There are structural and interpretive restraints on meaning-making; for example, your social position, experiences and cultural surroundings. For example, depending on your identity, you could be offended by particular portrayals of race, gender and/or sexuality. Take the program
Game of Thrones
, for example; some viewers may be triggered by some of the sexual violence due to previous experiences while others may interpret the sexual violence as just part of the narrative structure of the program.
The Encoding/Decoding model is a theory that supports the
active audience framework, yet also recognizes structural influences on user/audience interpretation; it is a model that is widely used in Media Studies/Cultural Studies, and was introduced by theorist Stuart Hall in the 1970s. Although dated, it continues to offer helpful language and reminds us that there’s a limit to audience agency. Here is a short lecture video that works to explain this theory:
– including class – plays a major role in decoding practices. In their discussion of David Morely’s (1980) research on interpretations of
Nationwide, Croteau & Hoynes (2019) remind us that, “Social class, Morely concludes, does not determine how people interpret media messages. Instead, social class – and we would add age, race, ethnicity, gender, and other central markers of identity – plays a key role in proving us with the cultural ‘tools’ for decoding. Often, these are discursive tools, giving people a language and framework for understanding the world” (p. 273). Think about the
in the Encoding/Decoding model; what “cultural tools” may lead a person to oppose a particular text? For example, why might a group protest a particular musician or film opening? What “tools” have led them to oppose those texts? Perhaps it was an experience, their access to critical social theories, or perhaps what their grand/parents have taught them about certain issues that are brought up in the lyrics/scenes.
8.3 Creators: Fan Communities & Disrupting Bias
While some audience members participate in resistance/culture jamming (see p. 287 in your textbook; click on this
link (Links to an external site.)
Adbusters as an example of this, or visit Banksy’s website:
http://www.banksy.co.uk/ (Links to an external site.)
), others participate in fan communities/fandom (see p. 295 of your textbook), which is a large step beyond consumption. According to media scholar Henry Jenkins (1988), a person is considered a fan, ” … not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some type of cultural activity, by sharing thoughts and feelings about the program content with friends, by joining a community of fans who share common interests” (p. 8).
Fan communities are:
1. Formed within and outside of popular culture;
2. Producers of their own media and build connection to community and promote social activity.
Twilight Fan Fiction (Fun fact: 50 Shade of Grey was based on Twilight fan fiction!):
https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Twilight/ (Links to an external site.)
Harry Potter Alliance:
http://thehpalliance.org/ (Links to an external site.)
http://www.comic-con.org/ (Links to an external site.)
Remember, media culture also offers opportunities for audience members/users to disrupt ideology (as discussed in Chapters Six & Seven) – also known as engaging in cultural resistance – and this chapter includes a section on Black Twitter, and argues that, “Black Twitter is often used to directly challenge perceived biases in mainstream media stories” (p. 280). Another space that offers opportunities to directly challenge bias is Tumblr, although it has recently experienced restrictions on sexual/adult content that has had an impact on sexual subcultures within the community. Can you think of other online spaces that offer opportunities for ideological disruption?
(Links to an external sit
Black Twitter brings visibility to “counter-narratives” (Croteau & Hoynes, 2019, p. 281) by allowing users to construct and distribute stories, comments and observations that are often overlooked by mainstream media. Please watch this short video and while you watch, think about the ways that concepts such as ideology, social inequality, decoding, active audience, social location, and digitization connect:
https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000003841604/blacktwitter-after-ferguson.html (Links to an external site.)
9.1 Theorizing Media Influence & Effects
The previous chapter explored questions of agency as it relates to the active audience, or “users,” as Croteau & Hoynes (2019) have articulated, including the process of decoding, resistance, and creation. This chapter extends this discussion to the issue of “influence” at the individual and societal level, as questions about how media affects individuals has been at the center of various research studies, policy initiatives, organizational missions, political platforms, and so on. As Croteau & Hoynes (2019) state, “Welcome to the complicated, often ambiguous world of media effects where nearly everyone knows something is going on but where it is notoriously difficult to pinpoint exactly why, how, to what degree, and on whom media may be having an influence” (p. 301). They go on to argue that “negative behaviors” (e.g., violence, substance abuse, hate-group radicalization and consumerism) as well as democratic influence get the most attention, and that in the end, effects research suggests “more complex and subtle influences”than direct, easy-to-identify ones (p. 301).
So why is it so complicated to determine effects? Remember what we explored in the last chapter: decoding/interpretation, social location, and cultural context are among the various variables that influence influence/effect. However, what researchers to look for are patterns, and they identify these patterns through audience research, which includes methods such as polling, interviews, focus groups, pre-test/post-test experimentation, surveys, etc.
For example, we know that cyberbullying happens, and that it can have a negative impact for some individuals, but what can we say about effects on a mass scale? Pew Research Center’s work on cyberbulling (
https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/ (Links to an external site.)
) has identified that 56% of US teens have been bullied or harassed online, but there is a lack of concrete data that suggests exactly
how this cyberbulling effects individuals or groups. The next step in research would be to ask these same teens who have identified that they’ve been bullied how they feel after the bullying takes place, and then see what patterns arise. For example, perhaps a majority of these teens then feel “self-conscious” or “depressed.” What are some questions you might ask?
Additionally, we know that that seeing an increased amount of the“thin ideal” imagery (mostly on visual social media websites such as IG and TikTok) is having an impact, but it is hard to measure.
One possible answer is self-objectification; but does not impact everyone the same way (social location, socialization). Self-objectification is when an individual begins to judge themselvesbased on the ways that they are taught to judge others, including celebrities, friends, etc. So, if we, the public – and girls/women in particular, although this does impact boys/masculinity and queer identities, as well – are taught to judge other women based on cultural attitudes about body shape (slim thick, etc.), hair, skin, etc., this will eventually lead to an internal judgment when looking in the mirror. So if the posts and comments on Instagram promote a narrow standard of beauty, this could have an impact/effect on users.
Early theories on media influence/effect grew from a concern over media’s role in democratic life; journalists and scholars – including Ferdinand Toennis, Charles Horton Colley, and even Karl Marx -questioned the ways that media may influence how the public would come to support particular candidates, vote for president, etc. They believed that, as societies continued to urbanize due to industrialization, as well as spread out due to the growth of suburbia, media were developing a growing significance in the lives of those who were increasingly reliant on newspapers, and later, radio and television, for information.
It is important to remember that many of these theories had methodological issues, meaning that the questions were too narrow, or they were conducted in too experimental of a setting (subject were removed from a more “natural” setting and were uncomfortable and/or may have told the researchers what they wanted to hear). For example, as Croteau & Hoynes (2019) point out that Herbert Blumer’s social-psychological studies on influence, ” … was problematic, especially in how it asked leading questions about the influence of movies” (p. 303). This is not to say that all of the early, direct theories were problematic – indeed, they were very influential on creating a foundation for effects research – but like any research tradition, methodology and theory have improved over time.
Your book outlines a few of the more popular theories:
The Hypodermic Model: Direct and powerful influence (Orson Welles’s, WOTW, 1939): PBS War of the Worlds
Mass Society Theory: Mass media as “homogenizing” the public; less personal ties post-WWII (suburbs), but united through mass media
The Minimal Effects Model: “Two-step flow of influence”: (1) Media transmitted information to opinion leaders; (2) Leaders influence those with personal contact
Agenda Setting: Media tell us not WHAT to think, but what to think ABOUT
Priming: Mass media attention to particular issues; “prime” audiences to be more sensitive (economics, candidates)
Cultivation Theory: Continued, lengthly and ritualistic viewing that leads to homogenized public and “mainstreaming.” Mean World Syndrome: Heavy television viewers internalize many of the distorted views of the social and political world presented by television (i.e., crime and violence)
Additionally, your Croteau & Hoynes (2019) outline theories of “framing” and the “spiral of silence,” which are extremely relevant to contemporary coverage of politics (along with agenda-setting):
Framing: How coverage is constructed; how the media organizes and presenting information influences how people are likely to understand the story (second-level agenda setting); frames make an event “intelligible” – easy to decode in a particular way.
Spiral of Silence: Media’s role in the squeezing out of minority views and overstating the degree of political consensus (narrows public discussion).
Example: “Trump’s election may have animated some who had been previously silent because they had not seen their views included in the mainstream media” (p. 310).
Before you move on to the next section, I’d like you to do an activity that will help deepen your understanding of agenda-setting and framing. Select a news item/story that has been deemed extremely “newsworthy” today. For example, today (I’m writing this on May 20th), I’d be interested in the evacuation of thousands of Michigan residents due to flooding or any updated news related to COVID-19. So, choose a story that interests you and then select three newspapers (digital/online editions; visit their website); next, you will see how those newspapers are covering this story.
Agenda-setting: Where is the story located in the publication or website? Is it on the front/landing page? Do you have to click through many links to find it? How is the location of the story telling you how important it is.
Framing: What does the headline reveal about the framing of this story? Is there a photo as well, as how does that convey meaning? Are there any politically-charged terms being used? What sources are present (and absent?) and in what order?
how is the coverage different in each newspaper? How might this be linked to ownership, circulation, funding, and audience?
9.2 Effects, Mediatization & Politics
In a democratic nation such as the United States, we are charged with
in our government through electing representatives. Because we have this electoral power, it is important that we maintain an awareness of candidates and issues.So where do we receive this information? Where do we learn about candidates? How do we figure out which policies a presidential candidate supports? It comes as no surprise to you, then, that media hold much political power in this way; we come to support our representatives through their mediations. In other words, the way candidates and issues are portrayed in news media become the way we understand them; we
rely on political communication and thus, it becomes essential that we understand media’s impact on politics.And with the Presidential election coming up this year (!!!), we’re already experiencing a sharp increase in political messaging; in particular, a partisan divide in the response to COVID-19.
(Links to an external site.)
Your textbook (2019) explores political culture using/through the concept of
which is defined as ” … a social change process in which media have become increasingly influential in and deeply integrated into different spheres of society” (Strömbäck and Esser 2014, p. 244, as quoted in Croteau & Hoynes, 2019, p. 314). Mediatization, as a framework, draws on earlier media effects theories (including agenda setting, framing, medium theory), but also “transcends” them (as quoted by Schulz, 2004 in Croteau & Hoynes, 2019, p. 314) by rethinking the social world and how media have had a direct impact. Like globalization, mediatization is a process and ” … evolves over time and manifests itself differently in different social and cultural contexts” (p. 314. And while the framework/theory of mediatization is helpful for some – and for us to consider – it has also been critiqued as similar to technological determinism and its emphasis on the role of media versus its inclusion of human agency (p. 315).
Some examples of mediatization include: health care (WebMD); criminal justice system (“risk assessment” tools and algorithms); online shopping; live streaming musical events and religious ceremonies (“virtualization of social institutions”).
Scholar Winfried Schulz (2004) outlines the changes in interactionand communication brought by mediatization into four categories(p. 315):
1. Media extend the ability of humans to communicate across space and time.
2. Media replace some forms of face-to-face interaction, as with online banking.
3. Media infiltrate and coexist with everyday communication, as with checking your cell phone while talking with a friend or “talking around” a television program while watching with others.
4. “Media logic” encourages people to adjust their attitudes and behaviors; connects media production to media effects.
So how might mediatization factor into the development of our current political climate? Drawing on the notion of
media logic,Croteau & Hoynes (2019) highlight that, increasingly, the ecosystem of US-based politics works to meet the needs of media consumption and the performativity of democracy. Candidates are thought of as “political actors” and debates and press conferences are thought of as “stages”; this transformation, as media scholars argue, is the result of the increased presence (mediatization) of media production/consumption in democratic life.
Now that political figures are mediated through television, social media, documentary, radio, magazines, etc., campaigns are built around media considerations. The importance of appearance, the branding and imaging of an individual candidate, and overall political messaging of a campaign becomes paramount to their success, especially as political parties have become less influential during a campaign season (see p. 320-321).
Further, the use of Twitter and Facebook have become absolutely essential in political races. How is this an example of mediatization?
Now, there are a few things to reflect on before I/we move further. First, your awareness and level of political “knowledge” is contingent on a few things: how much reporting is done on these issues, how much you read the news, the questions journalists are asking, and what is “newsworthy.” Think about it this way, our
to this important information (remember, we need it in order to vote in a democratic culture) is contingent upon media coverage. This is why political media coverage is essential in an American culture where we are not in a position to meet the candidates ourselves (but sometimes you can, depending on your job, etc.).
Although politicians can utilize media to maintain a curated image, media coverage can also negatively impact one’s image (warranted or not) due to constant exposure in light of a scandal. Some examples include: The Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sex scandal(1998), the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal (2011), also known as “Weinergate,” and the Chris Christie Fort Lee lane closure scandal (2013), also known as “Bridgegate,” and more recently, the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails before the 2016 election. In all of these cases – and there are many more – news media presented audiences with immediate coverage, including press conferences, interviews, panel interviews, videos, etc., that worked to shift their political image. In this way, politicians both use media to connect with their constituents, but can also be brought down by media coverage,often (but not always) resulting in resignation (as in the case with Weiner).
9.3. Social Media Logics & Deepfakes
As social media platforms continue to extend their reach as sites ofinteractive communication, community-building, and knowledge-sharing, concerns over influence (effect) are questioned various social stakeholders, including politicians, students, parents, etc. Croteau & Hoynes use the work of Van Dijk and Peoll (2013) to explore “social media logic,” or, ” … the strategies, mechanisms, and economies that are the foundation for social media platforms: programmability, popularity, connectivity, and datafication” and argue that the issue of influence can be traced back to one (or more) of these features (p. 328).
Programmability: Codes and algorithms that can steers users in a particular direction;
Popularity: Likes, followers and retweets a technological elements that will steer users in a particular direction;
Connectivity: Linking and connecting people and advertisers to each other in order to steer users in a particular direction.
Based on these “logics,” Croteau & Hoynes (2019) point out that social media platforms are not “neutral,” and they (the authors) highlight resulting issues related to surveillance, advertising, algorithms, and racist content (see p. 330).
Another concerning issue, especially during an election season, is the “deepfake,” which is the use of AI (artificial intelligence), algorithms, and video/audio footage to paste a person’s face onto another video. To date, this practice is often predatory/problematicand has been used a variety of practices including revenge porn and political coverage. Check out this recent deepfake that altered a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make it seem that she was drunk (the link has a short video and text):
https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/23/politics/doctored-video-pelosi/index.html (Links to an external site.)
Please read the following piece on deepfakes from
The Guardian,and as you’re reading consider how issues of mediatization, social media logic, media effects, and socialization contribute to this issue:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ng-interactive/2019/jun/22/the-rise-of-the-deepfake-and-the-threat-to-democracy (Links to an external site.)