Understanding Audiences: Learning to Use the Media Constructively

Understanding Audiences: Learning to Use the Media Constructively

Understanding Audiences: Learning to Use the Media Constructively

Understanding Audiences: Learning to Use the Media Constructively


Understanding Audiences helps readers to recognize the important role that media plays in their lives and suggests ways in which they may use media constructively. Author Robert H. Wicks considers the relationship between the producers and the receivers of media information, focusing on how messages shape perceptions of social reality. He analyzes how contemporary media--including newspapers, film, television, and the Internet--vie for the attention of the audience members, and evaluates the importance of message structure and content in attracting and maintaining the attention of audiences. Wicks also examines the principles associated with persuasive communication and the ways in which professional communicators frame messages to help audiences construct meaning about the world around them. Among other features, this text: * describes the processes associated with human information processing; * presents an analysis of the principles associated with social learning in children and adults and explores the possibility that media messages may cultivate ideas, attitudes, and criticisms of this perspective; * explains how most media messages are framed to highlight or accentuate specific perspectives of individuals or organizations--challenging the notion of objectivity in media information messages; * considers the effects of media exposure, such as whether the contemporary media environment may be partially responsible for the recent rash of school violence among young people; * analyzes the Internet as an interactive medium and considers whether it has the potential to contribute to social and civic disengagement as it substitutes for human interaction; and * evaluates the principles of the uses and gratifications approach as they apply to the new media environment, including traditional media as well as popular genres like talk shows and developing media systems such as the Internet. Intended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students who need to understand the nature of the media and how they interact with these messages, Understanding Audiences promotes the development of media literacy skills and helps readers to understand the processes associated with engaging them in media messages. It also offers them tools to apply toward the shaping of media in a socially constructive way.


As the 21st century begins, people are spending more time than ever before using media. The contemporary media environment includes traditional media such as films, newspapers, radio, and television as well as relative newcomers such as the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). Understanding Audiences is intended to help people recognize the important role that media play in their lives and to suggest ways that they may use media constructively.

Understanding Audiences invites scholars and students of mass communication to consider how media messages interact with attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and predispositions to produce conceptions of social reality among audience members. This book most heavily relies on social science theory and research from communication, psychology, and sociology. Many of the ideas, however, parallel recent work that has been produced by critical and cultural scholars of communication. It suggests that a wide range of methodological approaches should be used to help understand the nature of media audiences. To learn much about the processes associated with constructing social reality, students and scholars should appreciate the merits of both humanistic and scientific approaches.

Two primary questions are explored in this book: (a) How do people use media to develop attitudes, beliefs, and opinions in the course of constructing social reality? and (b) How may people learn to use media constructively to enhance the quality of their lives?

To answer these questions, one must understand the nature of the media as they relate to audience members. Media companies depend on attracting audiences for their survival. Newspapers without readers, television programs without viewers, and Internet homepages without visitors do not last for long. For this reason, media organizations continually experiment with new and innovative ways to attract and engage the audience members. People should understand why the media present the kinds of messages they do and how these messages interact with cognitions and emotions.

The first step in this inquiry is to consider the relationship between the media and audiences. To do so, one must understand what is meant by the term audience. The mass audience composed of a vast, anonymous, and . . .

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