Argument Paper: Active Audience
Today we live in the fourth era of Mass Communication, the ‘meaning-making perspective,’ in which active audience members use media to “intentionally induce desired experiences” (Baran & Davis, 2009 p. 35). However, an extended disagreement persists in “where researchers focus their attention in the search for effects” (Baran & Davis, 2009 p. 41). Some theories agree with the idea of an active audience and others firmly believe the media influences a person’s mind entirely. The purpose of this paper is to look at both sides—theories of media effects and active-audience theories - in order to prove which one prevails today. I will argue for the active audience, focusing on the role individuals have in how they are affected by the media. I will focus on three different approaches that consider media effects based on individual, personal choice, and free agency to determine what purposes and effects one seeks. I will begin with a two-sided argument pertaining to the uses-and-gratifications approach followed by a debate between direct-effect assumptions versus selectivity and the two-step flow. I am arguing that media effects are based on the individual’s choice, not the media’s manipulation.
Uses and Gratifications Approach
Audience members are individually in charge of their own uses of and exposure to media. Professors Mark Levy and Sven Windal explain that “audience activity” suggests that individuals are motivated by their own needs and goals to use the media and that active participation influences the gratifications (rewards) and effects (influences) associated with exposure (as cited in Baran & Davis, 2009). So, individuals decide their use of media content based on the purpose it will serve them. The uses-and-gratifications (U&G) approach provides structure “for understanding when and how different media consumers become more or less active” (Baran & Davis, 2009, p. 240). For example, as a college student I am continuously...