Functional Analysis of Mass Communication in our Society

  • Before we jump into functional analysis of mass communication at society we need to understand what functionalism is. Functionalism is a system of thinking based on the ideas of Emile Durkheim that looks at society from a largescale perspective. It examines the necessary structures that make up a society and how each part helps to keep the society stable according to functionalism society is heading toward an equilibrium. I know it sounds a bit strange that a society can be at equilibrium but consider the changes many businesses have had to make in response to companies like Amazon local businesses must adapt to find a new way to cater to customers, in order to restore the balance in the theory of functionalism society is made from a bunch of connected structures one structure is institutions which are structures that meet the needs of the society like education systems, financial institutions, businesses ,marriage laws ,mass media ,nongovernmental ,organizations ,medicine ,religion the military police forces and lots of others too. Another structure is what Durkheim called social facts social facts are ways of thinking and acting formed by the society that existed before any one individual and will still exist after any individual is dead. They are unique objects that cannot be influenced by an individual. They have a coercive effect over the individual that is usually only noticed when we resist against them. So, for example one social fact is the law it is always there but we don't notice it until we try and break it or act against it some other examples are moral regulations religious faiths and social currents like suicide or birthrate, you might wonder how suicide can be a social fact well one person committing suicide has no effect on the presence of suicide in the society. Social facts are a facet of the society itself and according to Durkheim or a necessary structure, but society is more than just the sum of its parts it is dependent on the structures that created just like a cell is dependent on all the little parts that make it up every part of the cell has a specific vital function that depends on other parts of the cell without everything working together smoothly. The cell would die the same is true of a society every structure has a function that meets a need of the society and all the structures work together to maintain the social equilibrium. So for example you have schools which educate students so they can find good jobs and support the community and businesses provide specialized services and laws maintain social order these recognized and intended consequences of institutions are known as manifest functions, but sometimes the institutions have unintended consequences schools allow the students and professors to make social connections and they expose the students to new activities through extracurriculars businesses connect people across societies. These unrecognized and unintended consequences are called latent functions and are often indirect effects of the institution. Now Durkheim's main question was what holds a society together, how can it remain relatively stable even as traditions disappear and customs change he thought that small societies were held together by their similarities and the individual was self-sufficient but that only works for small societies and we all know societies change and grow large the small society would eventually evolve into a large society, where the individual was interdependent on others but what causes this evolution of society to occur the most basic factor is population growth, within a limited space suddenly there isn't enough land for everyone to own their own farm and feed themselves. So just a few farmers grow enough food for the entire community but now the farmers don't have enough time for other necessities like making clothes or teaching their kids the people who no longer have to grow food. Now take on different roles like tailoring or education and everyone becomes dependent on one another for their continued wellbeing people have become specialized which forces mutual inter dependence. This interdependence helped to ensure that the community won't fall apart. Now that people depend on each other for the production of goods and services there is a need for a method of distribution and a way to control and coordinate that production and distribution in functionalism a change to either production distribution or coordination will or see others to adapt in order to maintain a stable state society social change is annoying and upsets the equilibrium and threatens the mutual inter dependence of the people with in that society the institutions and structures of the society adapt only just enough to compensate for a change and maintain the stability of mutual interdependence who all right that just about covers it. While functionalism is a nice way to look at society with its equilibrium of institutions all filling the needs of the society they create there are some serious problems here. Functionalism focuses completely on the institution with little regard for the importance of the individual the individual is acknowledged but nothing they do really affects the structures of society. Functionalism is also largely unable to explain social change and conflict we know it happens but functionalism is so focused on maintaining the equilibrium of the society that little significant change is modeled and no conflict can occur the structures of a society adapt only just enough to find the stability again right so while there's more to understanding a society than just looking at the stable state of its parts functionalism is helpful in understanding the workings of society by examining the functions of its integral structures. The dissemination of information, or how information is transmitted within a culture. And this can include print media, like books, newspapers, and magazines, as well as digital media, like TV, movies, radio and the internet. Exactly how this media is consumed changes across cultures and age groups. For example, my grandmother gets a lot of her information about current events through TV and newspapers, but I primarily get this information online. And when we look at mass media, we can look at the role it plays in our society through different sociological perspectives. So according to the functionalist view, one of the most important functions of mass media is to provide entertainment. So it's meant to occupy our leisure time. But the functionalist view also says that mass media can also act as an agent of socialization and an enforcer of social norms. It presents a standardized view of society and provides a collective experience for members of that society. Think about the shared experience of watching the Olympics on television or being with a group of people to see a movie on opening night. Mass media also functions to bring people together. And there are entire internet-based communities that are focused on things like women rights or childcare, or fans of music groups that sing songs about Harry Potter. But mass media can also tell us about what society expects of us through what it rewards and punishes. So when we hear something about criminal behavior from mass media, it is often talked about in terms of bringing criminals to justice. Which reinforces the idea that criminal behaviors are bad and should be avoided. However, the media can sometimes also glorify behaviors that society as a whole would deem to be wrong. Things like intense physical violence. Mass media also functions as a promoter of consumer culture. At the turn of the century, the average U.S. child saw, commercials a year on TV. And that doesn't include ads on the radio or billboards or signs in front of stores announcing % off sales. And it's only increased from there. And it's not necessarily clear what kind of an impact this might have on the next generation. The conflict view focuses on how the media reflects and portrays, and may even exacerbate, divisions that exist within our society. Like divisions based on race, ethnicity, gender, or social class. Conflict theory uses the term gatekeeping to describe the process by a small number of people and corporations control what material is being presented on the media. It describes how information, so things that appear in our newspapers, the stories that are made into movies, what TV shows are turned into pilots, it describes how these things move through a series of gates before they can reach the public. In some countries, this might be controlled primarily by the government. But for others, it's decided primarily by large media corporations. Gatekeeping can also have more of an effect on some media than others. For example, a lot of control is put on what big budget movies are made, but there is very little overhead control of what gets posted online. The conflict theory also describes how mass media often reflects the dominant ideology. Giving time and space, or privileging, certain social, economic, and political interests, while sometimes actively limiting other views. The people who make the choices about what media is produced, the gatekeepers, are predominantly white, male, and wealthy. And as a result, stories representing the views of racial minority groups, women, individuals, and working class people are typically underrepresented. And because of this divide, portrayals of minority groups can often be stereotyped, or guided by unrealistic generalizations about a certain group of people. And while some corporations have taken the steps to try to improve this, they sometimes take it in the wrong direction, which results in tokenism instead of actual diversity Or cases where a single minority member is added to a TV show or movie as a standing for that entire group. Feminist theory's understanding of mass media is similar to what we would see in conflict theory in that it also holds that mass media stereotypes and misrepresents society towards the dominant ideology. Specifically, it focuses on the way that messages about men and women are represented in the media. It notes that women are often underrepresented in media content, that men are often considered normal while women are considered to be other. Think about ads for products. We have razors and razors for women. Pens and pens for her. Depictions of men and women are often highly stereotyped, enforcing strict gender roles and emphasizing traditional sex roles. So, women are more often portrayed as victims and men as aggressors. And women are much more likely to be depicted as shallow or being obsessed with looks, which also makes it more likely that they'll be sexualized and objectified. The interactionist perspective looks at mass media on the micro level to see how it shapes day to day behavior. It looks at how mass media blurs the line between solitary and group activities. So think of the act of seeing a movie. You may be watching it with other people, but because of societal norms or even theater rules, you are actually forbidden from talking about the movie with the people you're with. It also looks at the fact that how we connect with other people using media tends to change over time. So whereas before I might have called my grandparents to keep in touch with them, now I can talk with them via email, or even text message. The rate at which people meet romantic partners online has also increased, which is something that probably would have seemed very confusing to just a few generations before ours. Whether you're looking for the best pizza recipe or you're looking to understand a math lesson that you didn't understand at school mass media gives you resources to learn new things. Mass media helps of spread news and information quickly and easily so if you heard on TV that there was a big storm coming you could share with your friends information about whether or not there will be school the next day number three it helps people around the world understand each other and accept their differences so without leaving your home you can learn about other countries their culture their food and their music through different forms of mass media now let's talk about the disadvantages number one it can spread false information about people and events which can be extremely dangerous especially if you think of cyberbullying and other people spreading rumors about each other which can really hurt other people number two it distracts you from studying working and spending time with your family so instead of focusing on schoolwork or talking to the people at your dinner table or the people at work many people just stare into their phones all day playing games and reading the news so what does this all mean should we stop using mass media altogether of course not I mean you couldn't do that if you wanted to the answer is to be smart don't believe everything you see or hear on mass media also be safe do not share personal information over mass media created using balloon. H&M Backlash for Racist Advertisement H&M is feeling the wrath of the internet after they included what people are calling a racist advertisement on their US and UK website. People are calling for a boycott of H&M after they noticed rather questionable advertisement on their website. The photo shows an African American boy wearing a green jumper, but the green jumper is what really ticked people off. The jumper has the words coolest monkey in the jungle. Using the term monkey to refer to black people dates back centuries. At the same time the other jumpers in the same category but with different colors and different words written on them are advertised using white children. In a day and age when consumers are extremely savvy and are willing to get triggered at absolutely anything I find it a bit confusing as to how H&M could let this one fall through the cracks. Since the allegations started H&M has taken down the photo. A spokesperson for h&M told the daily mail this image has now been removed from all h&m channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended. H&M has been accused of not being racially conscious in the past. When they opened their first stores in south Africa there were hardly any black models used on the posters. H&M sparked further backlash when they responded that their intention was to convey a positive feeling. Media as a controlling tool First off what is persuading or the idea of persuasion. It is the action or fact of influencing someone or of being influenced to do or to believe something in other words we're encouraging someone to change his or her mind on an issue and so perhaps we want someone to simply believe our idea. Perhaps we want someone to vote a certain way to donate money to donate their time. We might need to convince people to do something and so we might have to persuade them to change their mind about something and so why do these persuasive techniques matter if you are a good pursue a derp you can convince people to do something. Perhaps to vote a certain way to believe a certain thing and then on the other side of the issue if we are a good reader or analysts of text then we can see what kind of techniques the authors are using to try and persuade us we can see what they're saying we can deduce or figure out the techniques they're using and then we can kind of pick apart their argument to see how they're trying to persuade us. Trying to persuade somebody of an idea because everybody else is doing it so if everybody is drinking vitamin water or everybody else is buying a verizon cellphone or everybody else is buying an iPhone then why don't you and that seems to be a very logical appeal. It appeals to the brain now I can see some emotional overlap there because you don't want to be left out if everybody else is doing it but if the commercial is providing you with tons of statistics about how many people are buying a product that seems very logical that why wouldn't I also buy this product if tens of thousands of people are subscribing to Verizon for cell phone coverage why shouldn't I be ten thousand and one that's a very logical appeal and again the idea that everybody else is doing it so why don't you. so we see these commercials out there where they say that this product can absorb ounces of a spilled liquid well maybe it can absorb eight ounces or maybe even four but they're going to go ahead and tell you some sort of bolstered amount to make it sound really good or perhaps with the blanket they're going to tell you that yes this will generate X amount of degrees of heat with this amount of degree of freedom for your arms while you wear this blanket sweater combo thing now perhaps it will make you a little bit warmer but can they really document that it's going to raise your body temperature X amount of degrees probably not and then the idea of the as seen on tv logo on many products many people would say hey if it's on TV it clearly has been vetted by somebody so definitely the claims that they're making about this product. The media does not control your brain probably. I suppose it's possible that the media has controlled my brain such that I'm convinced that the media doesn't control brains. It's also possible if not more likely that I'm one of the people controlling your brain so it would behoove me to lie about whether or not your brain is controlled by media. Or maybe your brain is controlled but you like it that way. So whatever water under the bridge control away. If we can agree that the media doesn't literally control your brain good. But still we can't ignore the fact that the media news entertainment even educational media is able to handily deliver messages which impact the way we see the world. We learn our personal values from our parents our friend’s colleagues and authority figures, but we also gain tons of insight about ourselves and the world from the arts sciences politics entertainment journalism. Much information about this stuff gets to us through the media. So, the question is as the media is bringing information and insight to us and that information slash insight is having some kind of impact on our thoughts and actions how exactly does that happen? How is it that media contains messages which we parse judge and sort into good or believable and bad or not believable? How does a message turn into an opinion or a behavior? Well one explanation is the magic bullet theory which is in reference to an actual bullet and not the magic bullet blender that you can buy on QVC. Instant guacamole. Sometimes called the hypodermic needle model as well this media theory dates way back It was popular during World War II when propaganda in both Germany and the United States was a big part of the media landscape. TV ANNOUNCER Working together to produce an ever-greater abundance of material and spiritual values for all. That is the secret of American prosperity. At the time it was thought that all audiences would respond basically uniformly to messages contained in media that media messages were like bullets shot into the brains of spectators or in the case of the hypodermic needle model a serum injected into their bloodstream and that they wouldn't be able to resist its effects. Basically, it was thought that media could directly influence public opinion. This was also an explanation as to how someone like Hitler a literally evil overlord could come to power. The relatively nascent technologies of radio and moving pictures could contain impossible to resist messages that would just implant into the minds of its audiences. Today this sounds absurd and actually remarkably like a conspiracy theory that the media can inject thoughts and meaning into its audiences who are unable to resist them and say that the media controls our brains and tells us what to like but we also know how the mere exposure effect means the more we're exposed to something especially a media something the more we identify with it. This is one of the central principles of advertising which both is and works for the media. I'm not uncritically defending the hypodermic needle, but media organizations do work very hard in lots of different and sometimes very tricky ways to get us to experience and accept certain messages even if we're not interested in them. Second, I think we can question the degree to which media consumption is clearly usage or gratification oriented. It may be hard slash impossible to say how and why someone enjoys a thing or how exactly enjoyment or usefulness factor into choices determining one's media diet. You need only talk with a few friends about their favorite movies books or whatever to discover that most humans are not great at knowing why we like stuff. We like stuff because certain other people like it because certain other people don't like it because we've been told to because we feel we have to and a million other reasons. And rarely do we sit down and think ah yes, I find this medium message pleasurable and I will allow it to dictate my opinions because the in group I wish to belong to believes that nope it just doesn't work that way. In the end to the degree that opinions and beliefs are influenced by the media we consume how that works may be a weighted combination of these three ideas operating at varying levels of complexity and effectiveness just hopefully not perfect effectiveness.