Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Information in Media

Mass media has, without a doubt, profound influence on different aspects of our lives. From the way we perceive the world to the way we act around our friends and family, everything we do and think has some sort of media monkey hanging onto it (if by its fingernails). P.J. Tichenor, G.A. Donohue, and C.N. Olien's piece titled "Mass Media Flow and Differential Growth in Knowledge," the "increasing knowledge gap" is defined as the growing disparity of information retention between the people of different socioeconomic statuses. They single out education as the main perpetuator of the knowledge gap in this study. In "Mass Communication and Information Diffusion," John P. Robinson goes further and elaborates on different mediums and possible exceptions to Tichenor et al.'s argument.

Although the essays are a bit antiquated, the arguments still persist to this day. Tichenor et al. and Robinson do not address the Internet and radio (Robinson touches on television slightly), but we can look at their essays in relation to today's media-consuming world. Robinson mentions the term "status conferral" and defines it as the increase of the "status conferred on [objects] merely by being exposed to media attention" (357). My first thought upon reading this was the stars of Jersey Shore. They obviously do little to contribute positively to our political and social institutions with what little talent they have, yet they make more money than some of the veteran movie stars out there. Their antics on the hit show drew the attention of a select few, who then blew their stories into a national phenomenon.Although many people don't look upon them favorably, they have achieved a higher socioeconomic status in society through the attention that we give them.

In reading Tichenor's, Donohue's, and Olien's essay, I was a bit bothered by one of the assumptions they make in the beginning of their piece. They say that their argument "applies primarily to public affairs and science news having more or less general appeal" (160). It is a very valid assumption and contributes greatly to their argument of the effects of mass media on information distribution, but I feel like it is worded in such a way that makes their hypothesis un-disprovable.  "Public affairs and science" can describe a good majority of the information that gets presented in mass media, even to this day. Information covers such a wide range of things... I mean, knowing the next big restaurant in New York City is also information! People have different interests and backgrounds, so I don't think we should disregard them. However, I will applaud the person who decides to conduct a study on every individual in this country; God knows that no one has the time or patience.

1 comment:

  1. Kay, I am most interested in your point about Tichenor et al.'s definition of "information" possibly being too narrow. How we define things certainly matters if we are seeking to measure their transmission.

    I find this to be an important, though latent issue in most of our readings, namely whether or not media are purveyors of information or entertainment (or both, though rarely are they treated as both in the same study). Even in the term information diffusion, we can substitute "innovation" for a rather different perspective.