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The Influences of Media on Society

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Media and Society

Essay 1

Due: 9/4/07

The Influences of Media on Society

It's everywhere! We cannot seem to turn away from it! What is it? It's the media influence. Media influence refers to the way in which the mass media in all their forms (television, film, advertising etc.) affect the way we, as an audience, behave and act in our everyday lives. The growth of media as an industry has accelerated over the past few years with new forms such as DVD and the Internet changing the way we consume and receive media. This has caused some media theorists to call into question the influence that the media has over our attitudes and beliefs.

The hypodermic needle model is a theory that has been held by media theorists since the early 19th century and suggests that the media can be seen as an 'intravenous injection' of message. In other words, any message conveyed by the media is willingly and unquestioningly accepted for its preferred reading by the audience. Certain events support this theory, such as the 1938 radio play of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles that was broadcast in the United States, its realistic tone and execution inciting panic within the audience started to cause riots in town. However, this theory is discredited by common sense observation. If this theory is nomothetic as it suggests, then we would all respond immediately to any media text we consume. Therefore, the theory's flaw lies in the vast number of intervening variables that alter a person's perception of media messages.

Another example of a passive audience theory is the Inoculation model, which is a long-term effect model. This states that upon being exposed to a media message, the audience becomes immediately 'immune' to them. So, for example, long-term exposure to a violent message will result in a desensitization to that degree of violence. This theory was used to explain the case of James Bulger, in which two boys murdered a child. This invoked a moral panic that saw the film Child's Play 3 being blamed for the violent behavior. However, there was no evidence that the Inoculation effect had led to this. In fact, there was little to suggest that boys had even seen the film. However, this theory suffers from the same shortfalls as the Hypodermic needle effect. It sees the audience as entirely passive and impressionable. Therefore, it is commonly discredited by media theorists.

It has been suggested that the extent to which an audience engages with a media text can be roughly split into three degrees.



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