The media does not own us!

“It is they [children] who use television rather than television that uses them”
– Schramm, Lyle & Parker (1961) on Uses & Gratification

It’s interesting how over the course of the semester, we’ve moved from the magic bullet theory of communication, to the two-step theory (i.e. opinion leaders), to agenda setting, and now to the inverse theory of Uses & Gratification. Blumler and Katz offer a historical tour of communication theory and explain the early existence of uses and gratification theory (1974) based on the works from early researchers to recent ones. Uses and gratification theory suggests that media users play an active role in choosing and using the media. Unlike popular communition theories which talk about media effects as a direct/indirect effect directed from media to audience behaviors, this theory respects the decisions made by the user and realizes the user as the starting point of the communication process. Users are goal oriented in their media use in that they would choose what they wish to be exposed to based on the perceived ability of the media to fulfill their needs and wants. Uses and gratifications assume that the user has alternate choices to satisfy their need and a simple example of this can be seen in how people choose what music cds to buy, or what movies to loan from their local Blockbuster. I see this as a humanistic approach to understanding media effects, since it is less deterministic and allows for free will.

References:
Ang, I. (1995). The nature of the audience. In J. Downing, A. Mohammadi, & A. Sreverny-Mohammadi (Eds.), Questioning the media: A critical introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Katz, E., Blumler, J., & Furevitch, M. (1974). Uses of mass communication by the individual. In W.P. Davison, & F.T.C. Yu (Eds.), Mass communication research: Major issues and future directions (pp.11-35). New York: Praeger.

Livingstone, S. (1998). The social psychology of the television viewer. Making sense of television: The psychology of audience interpretation. Routledge.

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