- Theories of Miscommunication
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Theories of Miscommunication
Throughout history people had their media to communicate about matters of public interest. Therefore today mass communication i. e.
newspapers, magazines, journals, radio, television, film, video and many more are not new. The history of mass communication however evolved over time where by each culture was dominant during a certain period of time as discussed below. The oral communication culture was dominant during the pre-literate or pre-industrial time, they used the spoken word for communication, nothing was written, no news reports, television, and radio.
Everything meant what it was supposed to mean, nothing was like ‘read between the lines. ’ The contrast of oral culture was memory. People relied on their memory, placed a higher value on the present tense. Oral communication is still dominant in areas where the written culture does not exist. Their histories are verbally told through stories and myths. The written and printed communication culture started more or less 6000 years ago with carvings and cave painting, phonetic alphabets have been known for little more than 3000 years ago, and writing as we know it today started way back in 800 BC.
After the written word came into existence the spoken word became casual. Writing makes records for the creation of a historical sensibility for example science. In 1450’s a German, Johann Gutenberg invented the printed press. Publishing contributed to the advancement of literacy, publishing contributed to institutions such as schools and by the end of 18th century, printing press had created an entirely new information and mass communication culture.
Electronic communication culture is today’s new form of communication, the electronic and digital media dominate the mass communication culture. Today something is true because it’s on the television and internet not because its printed in the newspaper. In the 19th century, photography and film brought about the graphic revolution. Television however is the most dominant communication medium. When defining mass communication one has to define it from different perspectives because of its background and latest developments.
For this reason mass communication has to be through the various theoretic perspectives of mass communication which are. Media-materialist, emphasis is on the technical aspects and how technology of medium impacts on the nature of media messages and audiences for example difference between radio and television. Social culturist influence the social factors an media production and reception and functions of social media are emphasized. With the social materialist media and content are mainly seen as reflection on society.
Mass communication has got focal points such as communication, medium, message, and recipient, or audience, public nature of mass communication and diverse content of mass communication. A communicator is usually a collective body a group of people responsible for the production of programs, news bulletins, films, newspapers, websites and many more. A medium or a media is usually of technical nature and can involve complicated production and distribution technologies and techniques. Also the channel through which the media content is transmitted and distributed. A message has both concrete and abstract meaning.
It is concrete in the form of content being produced for example the newspaper story you can hold and read, a message is abstract in terms of the meaning encoded in the content by the communicator and the meaning the reader,viewer,listener attaches to and derives from the content through their own interpretation of the content. An audience is heterogeneous and usually unknown, without audience there is no media. Other questions related to the focal points in any definition of mass communication are for instance what we mean by ‘mass’ in mass communication? What do we mean by ‘public sphere’, ‘publicness’, and democracy?
These questions have been approached from a number of theoretical perspectives. Let’s look at the theories. Julia wood in her book communication theory, explains theories scientific value and that it teaches us how to describe, interpret, understand, evaluate, and predict a phenomenon. It also o provides an over view of the development of a discipline. Its relations with other discipline’s and its future developments. For example effect theories focus on the effect of the media on personal behavior and the developed into a more holistic approach to the effects of the media on society and culture in general.
Effect theories started from a behaviorist perspective closely associated with the positivism and behaviorism of the social sciences in the in the first part of the 1900s and then moved onto the more critical approaches presently practiced in the social sciences. Theory teaches us skills of describing, interpreting understanding, evaluating, and predicting a phenomenon such skills can become entrenched in ways we have to deal with our everyday relations such as relationships with colleagues and family members. Goals of theory are to then describe explain understand, predict control and reform.
Theory has got building blocks such as: Ontology where we distinguish between two broad views of humanity, determinism and humanism. Epistemology which in philosophical terms is the science of knowledge, we distinguish it between two different schools the objective truth and subjective experience. Purpose according two Wood concerns the purpose of theory, it’s also distinguished between two schools the universalist and situationalists. Focus the fourth building block is concerned with the two broad schools behaviorism and humanism.
When evaluating theory Wood 2000:41-47 suggests five criteria; scope, where we have to establish how well and how much a theory describes and explains, Testability, where a theory can be theorized about and investigated by different researchers and they arrive at the same conclusion. Parsimony which refers to simplicity. A theory does not have to be complex. The fourth criterion is utility where theories need to have a practical value in terms of our understanding, controlling and improving of the phenomenon. The goals of mass media are to understand the structures involved and the human agency in influencing these structures.
Understanding of the media and its structural relationships will come from different theoretical approaches as discussed below. Different authors have different ways of categorizing theories, Little John (1992:341-374) distinguishes between macro and micro theories, Mcquail(2000:61-16) distinguishes between theories and approaches concerned with the relationships between media and society and between media and culture and a third branch of new theories and approaches concerned with relationships between new media and information society.
How we think about the power of media, the media effects on behavior, and the functions of the media in society and so on is usually done from a specific theoretical approach. Below we distinguish between the seven perspectives. The positivistic approach emphasizes on scientific methods on knowledge derived from scientifically processed and analyzed data about a phenomenon. The scientific method requires that all phenomena should be treated in the same way. In research the same rules and same requirements have to be applied and met regardless of the phenomena under investigation.
Assumptions in positivism Application of the scientific method involves processes of empirical research which will yield objective findings and will ensure that no subjective elements intervene to influence the validity of the findings. This reasoning rests on the assumption that phenomena’s are governed by universal laws which may be relevant through the application of the scientific method. It comprises of certain fixed steps which must be followed by all researchers and requires use of standardized procedures and techniques.
A researcher is only important in the sense that he or she must apply the method correctly. Empiricism is usually related to the natural sciences and is also called scientific method. The concepts of objectivity and measurement are highly valued. Behaviorism concentrates on the experimental analysis of human behavior. To a great degree this method still underlies the analysis of communication problems as executed within the framework of positivistic approaches Functionalism is usually associated with the sociology of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and Talcott Parsons (1902-1979).
It concentrates on repetitive observable phenomena or observable indicators of phenomena. Positivism and mass communication. In positivistic research the emphasis is mainly on the efficient working and management of the media, efficient production of media content, functions of the media, media’s effect on people and society. Weaknesses of positivistic approach The weaknesses originated from the work of German sociologist Max Weber 91864-1920) he drew his work from Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) who emphasized the difference between the natural and social sciences.
Dilthey maintained that as social researcher would only gain insight into the social world by not distancing himself or herself from it claiming to objective. Human action is not just observable response to stimuli but it is based on interpretation and understanding. Although positivistic research may claim that its findings are objective because of its use of scientific methods, human behavior itself is scientific and based on values intentions, interpretations, understandings, meanings and contents which may differ from person to person group to group and circumstance to circumstance.
Critical approach. The development of critical thinking on mass communication has a long history. Critical thinking about mass communication started with what is called mass society theory. Mass society theory was formulated at the turn of 19th century and continued through the middle of 20th century. Began as a reaction to technological innovation that in turn gave rise to industrialization and urbanization. Assumptions Media has the power to influence the minds of average people. Media has corrupt minds. Media can initiate social chaos. Critical theory today
Critical theorists today are primarily concerned about medias ideological manipulation of the masses and capitalistic use and misuse of the media by owners to foster capitalized values. We have to describe as closely as possible the ideological instrument of society. These are instruments such as church, the economy, military and media. These instruments are responsible for production, circulation and distribution of ideology. The concept of ideology is therefore the center of the critical approach. Assumptions Media are symbolic forms of expressions for example literature,theatre ,paintings, and many more.
Assumes that the media and its different forms and genres like editorial comments can be read as texts. There is a relationship between production conventions and ideologies. There is a close relationship between media politics and the economy. Political economy is an umbrella for all those theories and analytical approaches which seek to understand how economic and political relationships, interests and affiliations determine the nature and functioning of social institutions and the impact or lack of impact of these relationships on social transformation and development.
Public sphere. A German philosopher Jurgen Habermas (1979) argues that the modern market oriented media undermine the idea of public sphere as a place for debate where consensus can be reached on the basis of which rational actions can be taken. Criticisms of critical theory. It does not acknowledge the libertarian, informative, educational and democratizing role of media. Does not acknowledge the entertainment value of media for billions of people. Production theory has its foundation in the phenomenology and symbolic interactionism.
Phenomenology is a point of departure in the social sciences from the work of the Austrian philosopher Alfred Schutz (1899-1959) Assumptions Reality is not given, but it is a structure of meanings constituted by human beings. The shared world is a pre structured word experienced inter subjectively. Symbolic internationalism centers on the process whereby meaning is socially constructed. Assumptions Reality is not given but created by human beings by virtue of their capacity to give meaning to their experiences. Meaning is embodied in symbols.
On both phenomenology and symbolic interactionism emphasis is on meaning and how meaning is constructed. Semiotics is the study of signs and codes. How signs and codes convey meaning. The aim is to sharpen our critical awareness on the ways in which media use signs and codes to reflect represent and imitate aspects of reality with the purpose of conveying a message. Technological determinism This focuses on the technology of mass communication and how such technology determines the nature of mass communication and its role in society and the lives of people.
Its aim is that a single cause determines all other aspects of life. Like economic determinism and biological determinism. Criticism against technological determinism. Lacks empirical support, its based on experimental research Does not acknowledge other research Information society approach concerns the role of the new media, information and communication technology in society. Its three broad enquiries are definition, characterization and description of new media, impact of Information communication on society, and policy related to new media. Post structuralist approach. s characterized by new social, economic, technological, global and cultural dynamics. Post modernity society’s structuralism emphasizes on the relationship between assign and its meaning and the role of the producer or author of texts to encode a specific meaning into texts. Post-colonial theory and Afrocentric approach seeks to situate and understand phenomena within the context of the larger and unequal geo political histories of global and cultural power. Normative theory concerns the perceived and ideal roles of the media which are to play in a society or ought to operate if certain social values are to be observed or attained.
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