Monday, October 8, 2012

Katz: On Conceptualizing Media Effects

     Elihu Katz's critical survey on international media research acts as an important tool for reviewing major concepts of mass communication we have discussed this semester. As a major figure in twentieth-century sociology, Elihu Katz provides a culmination of research and further analyzes the social scientific research's continuing relevance to the field of mass communications. Katz takes a mediated but inquisitive role when describing the empirical works of other experts in the mass media field and uses his book to show readers new ways of looking at mass communication effects. In his own words, Katz reviews five new traditions of work which propose more powerful effects - socialization, knowledge gaps, agenda setting, media effects, and ideological effects. After discussing their creators and the researched differences between them, Katz ties the theories together with seven major points, including the arguments that they have a "shared belief in the persuasive powers of the media" and the fact that the media are "capable of exerting influence 'directly'" (133).
     As a man who has actively participated in research and debates for over 40 years, his article encompasses much of the history of modern communications research. In "On Conceptualizing Media Effects", Katz discusses both the conceptual and methodological shift away from what he calls short-run effects and to a more concrete hypothesis of direct effects. Katz brings up the idea of historical change, which he is well aware of due to his prolonged experience with the American mass media. Katz ends his article with somewhat vague predictions for the future of media theories and the direction of future research.
     Katz's compiled presentation of these findings allows readers to actively engage in debates and to ignore the possibility for passivity. His arguments for and against aspects of media research have brought about criticism but his skill for content analysis and his continuing interest in sparking debates regarding different approaches to media research seems to be a necessity to the future of empirical media research.

1 comment:

  1. Lauren, this is a lovely summary of Katz's contributions and I am glad that his work brought to life the otherwise abstract world of "communications research." It does show mastery when one can look back over decades and chart the course that a discipline has taken, including all the zigs and zags. In fact, his description often waxes Biblical, with all the "begats"... more of a genealogical tree of effects approaches.