The Media, Culture, and Religion Perspective: Discovering a Theory and Methodology for Studying Media and Religion

By White, Robert A. | Communication Research Trends, March 2007 | Go to article overview

The Media, Culture, and Religion Perspective: Discovering a Theory and Methodology for Studying Media and Religion


White, Robert A., Communication Research Trends


1. Introduction

The cultural studies analysis of the media has now become a dominant paradigm of communication research, and the "Media, Religion, and Culture" focus is a central paradigm in research on religious media. For example, the biannual international conference on "Media, Religion, and Culture" usually draws from 300 to 600 people from around the world, virtually all carrying on research on media and religion from a cultural studies perspective. The cultural studies approach recognizes the importance of so-called "administrative research" used by broadcasters to measure the reach and effectiveness of programming, but argues that quantitative effects research really does not answer the central questions of religious media.

Religion is a personal response, seeking meaning in life and in one's universe. Religious expression is generally found within institutional religion, but the formal creed, rituals, devotions, and moral codes do not exhaust the personal experience of religion. The central question of the cultural studies approach is concerned with how individuals in groups use media to construct religious meaning in life and how this religious meaning relates to many other aspects of human life. This approach typically draws its theories and methodologies, not from psychology, functionalist sociology, or quantitative analysis, but from cultural anthropology, philosophy, literary studies, drama, and history. The methods of research are no less rigorous, but these are much closer to a tradition of humanities than to behavioral sciences

Until the 1970s virtually all research on media and religion was attempting to answer the questions of religious broadcasters as to what effects they were having. Most religious programs claimed to be having large audiences-impressed with what one can do with the media compared to the Sunday sermon-and they generally claimed to be "converting " many people. Others were skeptical, and the research was brought in to settle this kind of dispute. Gradually, however, researchers moved away from these "effects" questions to how people are creating meaning from media ... and many other sources. How and why did this move to a new set of questions in research on religious media come about? The present essay will explore this question.

A. Effects studies-background

From the time the 1920s-era Payne Studies concluded that the "impact" of film depended very much on family background, the subjective cultural background, and other factors influencing the subjective interpretation of the meaning of the film (in Rowland, 1983, pp. 92-99), media researchers felt that they had to use quantitative, objective methods to show the positive or negative effects of media in order to get action by governments or other public institutions. One of the typical examples was the attempt to devise an "objective" measuring scale of violent content which rated violence from the low point on the scale of a heated discussion to the high point of a bloody murder. The researchers then attempted to show a direct correlation between the level of violent content and aggressive behavior of audiences. Coders were instructed to mark exactly what they heard or saw whether it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon for children or a portrayal of the life of Christ. Not surprisingly, humorous children's cartoons, where rabbits, pigs, and ducks were continually getting smashed about came out as horribly violent. If the quantitative interpretation of violence that some social scientists proposed were applied to the media, there obviously would be no further presentation of great works of art such as Shakespeare and even the presentation of the Bible would be questionable.

What soon became evident is that the meaning construction placed on a scene or particular action can vary a great deal (Newcomb, 1978). The portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus can be seen as sickeningly offensive or as a beautiful sign of enormous love depending on the meaning that the beholder places on this. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Media, Culture, and Religion Perspective: Discovering a Theory and Methodology for Studying Media and Religion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.