Audience Models within Mass Media

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Hypodermic Syringe Model: Main Features

  • Sometimes known as the 'Magic Bullet Theory': The model believes that a direct correlation exists between the violence and antisocial behaviour portrayed in films, on television, in computer games, in rap music, etc., and violence and antisocial behaviour such as drug use and teenage gun/knife crime found in real life.
  • The model also suggests that certain children and teenagers are vulnerable to media content because they are still in the early stages of socialisation and therefore very impressionable. Consequently, they are seen to be in need of protection from this powerful secondary agency of socialisation.

Believers in the Hypodermic syringe model point to a number of films which they claim have resulted in young people using extreme violence. The most notorious examples citied in recent years are the Columbine High School massacre and the killing of the Liverpool toddler James Bulgar by two young boys.

  • Columbine H.S: 1999 - two students took guns and bombs into their school and killed 13 people. Supporters of the model place all responsiblity on the computer game Doom and a violent video known as The Basketball Diaries.
  • James Bulgar case: 1993 - two 10 year old boys abducted toddler James Bulgar from a shopping mall in Liverpool. They tortured and killed him using scenes from the film 'Child's Play 3' according to the tabloid press. Supports of this model use this to demonstrate a straightforward illustration of the correlation between violent media and violence in real life!
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Hypodermic Syringe Model: Imitation/Copycat Violen

In the early stages, sociologists aimed to examine the relationship of violence in the media and in real life through findings done in laboratory experiments. For example, Bandura et al, looked for a direct cause and effect relationship in their 'Bobo Doll experiment'. They did this by...

  • Observing the actions of three different groups of children who had witnessed an adult harming the bobo doll and waseither left alone, punished or praised.
  • Group A: Shown the adult being praised. Group B: Shown the adult being punished. Group C: Just saw the violence (control group).
  • Bandura found Group A and C imitated the aggressive behaviour whereas Group B where less likely to copy it. He therefore concluded that violent media content could lead to 'copycat' violence.

Similarly, McCabe and Martin argued that imitation was a likely outcome of media violence becuse the latter is portrayed as a heroic problem-solving exercise that goes unpunished and brings rewards to the perpetrators. - This has a 'Disinhibition effect' - it convinces children that in some situations the 'normal rules' don't apply, i.e. talking can be replaced with violence if it is a solution to the problem.

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Hypodermic Syringe Model: Censorship

Newson: leader sociologists in the area of Censorship.

Through her work she concluded that sadistic images in films were too easily available and encouraged viewers to identity with perpetrators. She also stated that children and teenagers are subjected to thousands of killings and acts of violence as they grow up through viewing television and films. She suggested that such prolonged exposure to media violence may have a 'drip-drip' effect and as a result, they become desensitised to violence. - they view it as 'normal'.

Newson's conclusions had a massive impact on society. As a result of her work, censorship increased in the film industry, meaning all videos and DVD's in the UK had age certificates. Film-makers had to make cuts relating to bad language, scenes of drug use and violence. Not only this by TV channels had to agree on a 9pm watershed and resorted to issue warnings before films were showed. Some even edited violecen or beeped bad language.

This ideo that violence effects real life continues. For example, in 2006, an advertising campaign for a film starring 50 Cent was criticised for glamourising gun crime. In 2007, the government launched a review of the impace of media violence on children. In 2008, an Ofcom survey reported that 2/3rds of their sample(children aged 12-15) claimed that violence in computer games has more of an impact than violence on TV.

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Hypodermic Syringe Model: Feminist Perspective

Feminists see a direct link between *********** and sexual violence in real life.

  • For example, Morgan suggests that 'Pornography is theory, **** is practise'

Dworkin supported Morgan's claim and suggested that *********** trivilises **** and makes men 'increasingly callous to cruetly, to inflict pain, to violence against persons and abuse to women'

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Critique of the Hypodermic Syringe Model

While the Hypodermic Syringe Model begins to help us understand the media and a direct correlation between violence indoctrinated into us, especially from a young age, it does't explain why in some cases, the message is rejected or ignored and isn't the primary cause to some violence acts.

Cathorsis - Fesbach and Sanger found that screen violence can actually provide a safe outlet for people's aggressive tendencies. To provide this, they conducted a study with a large sample of boys from both private schools and residential schools. They were fed a diet of TV for 6 weeks - one watched aggressive TV and the other watched non-aggressive TV. Fesbach and Sanger found that the gruop who watched aggressive programmes were less likely to be aggressive.

Sensitisation - Jock Young argued that seeing the effects of violence, especially the pain and suffering it causes to families, makes us more aware of the consequences and therefore less inclined to commit violence.

Audiences are not homogenous - is the general critique by sociologists as they recognise audiences have very different social characteristics in terms of age, maturity, social class, education, family background, etc. This means that all audiences respond differently and thereofre much more active then this model suggests.

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Uses and Gratifications Model: Blumber,McQuail

  • Blumber and McQuail see audiences as active.
  • Their model suggests that people use media in order to satisfy particular needs.
  • These needs may be biological, psychological or social. They are also relative - the way the audience use the media to gratify its needs will depend on influences such as, social position, age, gender, ethnicity, etc. For example, Wood illustrated how teenagers may use horror films to gratify their need for excitement.

Blumber and McQuail identify four basic needs which people use TV to satisfy:

  • Diversion - Watson notes that "we may use the media to escape from routines, to get out from under problems, to ease worries or tensions." People may make up for the lack of satisifaction at work, etc., by immersing themselves in the media.
  • Personal Relationships - Watson ntes that we often known more about characters in a soap opera then we do our neighbours. The mediai may provide the means to compensate for the decline of community. i.e. an elderly person, socially isolated, may use soap opera characters as companions.
  • Personal Identity - People may use the media to makeover or modify their identity. For example, a teenager who suspects he is gay may use the experiences of a gay character to help him make decisions about his sexualitiy.
  • Surveilance - People use the media to obtain info and news about the social world in order to make their mind up o recent issues.
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Uses and Gratifications Model: Lull

Lull developed the model along with Blumber and McQuail

Lull carried out a participant observation study of familes use of TV and agreed with Blumber and McQuail that audiences actively use the media in a social way. Lull stated there are Five Uses;

  • Relational - Media is used as a currency of communication. i.e. gives people something to talk about.
  • Affiliation - TV may reinforce family communities as some families, parents and children, sit down to watch a popular TV programme.
  • Avoidence - People may use TV to escape others.
  • Social Learning - Use it to solve problems, seek guidence, access information and find role models.
  • Compotence Dominance - Demonstrating the power of controlling the TV remote of answering quiz questions correctly to state who the dominant one is in the household.
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