The first most important thing to do is to know the basics on the The Theories Of Mass Communication, and to do that we need to understand what mass communication is.
Mass communication is a very complex process that is much more complicated than interpersonal communication. It is a science which ‘seeks to understand the production, processing and effects of symbol and signal systems by developing testable theories, containing lawful generalizations, that explain phenomena associated with production, processing and effects’.
Mass communication messages are sent through mass medium is transmitted through an elaborate system of machines and individuals. Mass communication is concerned with transmitting information, thoughts and opinions, entertainment, etc. at a time to a large number of audiences of different characteristics. Mass communication involves at least five things:
- Relatively large audience
- Fairly undifferentiated audience composition
- Some form of message reproduction
- Rapid distribution and delivery
- Low unit cost to the customers.
Mass media content in particular serves as a store of memory for a society and for groups within it, and this can be selectively recovered or lost. It serves to define a place for its inhabitants and to establish an identity. It connects places, reducing the distance that separates individuals, countries and cultures. Major trends in mass communication are said to have a delocalizing effect, or to establish a new global ‘place’, which increasingly people recognize as familiar. has no power of compulsion but it is an invariable component and a frequent means of the exercise of power, whether effectively or not. Despite the voluntary character of attention to mass media, the question of their power over audiences is never far away. The media provide us with reports or reflections of this reality, with varying degrees of accuracy, completeness or dependability. The notion of ‘truth’ is often applied as a standard to the contents of news and fiction, however difficult to define and assess.
WHAT IS A THEORY?
A theory simply refers to a systematic set of ideas that can help make sense of a phenomenon, guide action or predict a consequence. A theory is a general law that states the relationship between two or more variables.
1. Conceptualization: This is the definition of the subject of inquiry. You may call it a topic of research.
2. Operationalization: This involves translation of general concepts into specific variables and specification of the procedure adopted in research. (From problem statement to generalization)
3. Observation: This is the careful study (observation) of the specified variables from available data, using any modes of research.
4. Analysis: This involves extracting meaning from the facts observed. This must be done objectively.
5. Testing: Here, the results of analysis are used to test the hypothesis or research questions raised in a study.
6. Generalization: The findings from the test are used to make some generalizations, regarding the subject of inquiry.
7. Theory: Theories are formulated from the generalization made as a result of our analysis and testing.
8. Law: Theory eventually leads to law after it has been repeatedly tested without being disproved or substantially modified. Laws are difficult to come by in social sciences because we study human organization and behavior, which are capricious.
CHARACTERISTIC OF THEORIES
Although there are many characteristics of scientific theories, there are five basic characteristics that can help you understand how they work.
A scientific theory should be:
Theories can be supported through a series of scientific research projects or experiments. Sometimes a theory is proven to be wrong through evidence: this is called rejecting a theory. However, a theory can never be proven to be absolutely true because it is an interpretation.
There is always the possibility that a different interpretation will someday be found to be more correct.
In other words, theories must also be able to be repeated by others. This means that enough information and data must be available in the theory so that others can test the theory and get similar results.
Stable: Another characteristic of theories is that they must be stable. This means that when others test the theory, they get the same results. So a theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it.
A theory should be simple. When we say a scientific theory must be simple, we don’t mean that the concept must be basic. We mean that only useful, relevant information should be presented in the theory.
A theory should agree with other theories, meaning that no principles in one theory should contradict another already accepted theory. However, some differences may be evident because the new theory may provide additional evidence.
TYPES OF THEORIES
There are at least five kinds of theory which are relevant to mass communication.
(a) Social scientific theories
This theory offers general statements about the nature, working and effects of mass communication, based on systematic and objective observation of media and other relevant sources, which can in turn be put to the test and validated or rejected by similar methods.
(b) Cultural theories
Cultural theory is much more diverse in character. In some forms it is evaluative, seeking to differentiate cultural artefacts according to some criteria of quality. Sometimes its goal is almost the opposite, seeking to challenge hierarchical classification as irrelevant to the true significance of culture.
(c) Normative theories
This is concerned with examining or prescribing how media ought to operate if certain social values are to be observed or attained. Such theory usually stems from the broader social philosophy or ideology of a given society. This kind of theory is important because it plays a part in shaping and legitimating media institutions and has considerable influence on the expectations concerning the media that are held by other social agencies and by the media’s own audiences.
(d) Operational theories
This refers to the practical ideas assembled and applied by media practitioners in the conduct of their own media work. Similar bodies of accumulated practical wisdom are to be found in most organizational and professional settings. In the case of the media, operational theory serves to guide solutions to fundamental tasks, including how to select news, please audiences, design effective advertising, keep within the limits of what society permits, and relate effectively to sources and society.
(e) Everyday theory
Everyday theory or common-sense theory of media use, referring to the knowledge we all have from our own personal experience with media. This enables us to make sense of what is going on, allows us to fit a medium into our daily lives, to understand how its content is intended to be ‘read’ as well as how we like to read it, to know what the differences are between different media and media genres, and much more. On the basis of such ‘theory’ is grounded the ability to make consistent choices, develop patterns of taste, construct lifestyles and identities as media consumers