nature and function of mass communication and mass media

Prior to any discussion about the nature and function of mass communication and mass media, it is important to have a shared understanding of basic terminology, particularly since the terms “communication” and “media” are used in a variety of contexts to refer to a range of activities and concepts. The term “mass communication” refers to messages sent to a large audience by individuals, groups, or organizations. The vehicle through which mass messages are sent is referred to as mass media, such as newspapers, radio, broadcast television, the dramatic arts, books, and more recently the Internet.

The messages that are sent via mass media to large audiences are referred to as mass messages, and can include advertisements, news stories and editorials, books and screenplays, and even Tweets and Facebook statuses. The entity that broadcasts the mass message is referred to as a mass communicator and can include advertising marketers, journalists, bloggers, authors, and actors. The mass audience that receives the mass message includes any large group of people who may or may not have anything in common other than receiving messages from a common source. For instance, these might include readers of the sci-fi novel Hunger Games, viewers of

Anderson Cooper 360, subscribers to Time magazine, followers of George Takei on Twitter and Facebook, and followers of YouTube channels.

We are exposed to so much mass media, including simultaneous messages, that at times we may not be aware of the nature of the messages or how they are affecting or influencing us.

1.1 Media Exposure

Study Preview Many people engage in media for a significant portion of the day—often simultaneously. The output of mass communicators can be overwhelming, but tools are available for making sense of it. To chart a clear course to understand and articulate media issues, a mastery of basic vocabulary is essential. This means differentiating terms like mass media and mass communication.

Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. 1.1.1 Classify the digital media usage of the consumers of mass media in the United States
  2. 1.1.2 Describe concurrent media usage in the United States
  3. 1.1.3 Characterize the relationship between the producers and consumers of mass media
  4. 1.1.4 Explain how to empower consumers of mass communication

1.1.1 Media Usage 1. Objective: Classify the digital media usage of the consumers of mass media

in the United States

According to research, Americans are prolific consumers of mass media, particularly digital media. In fact, most Americans spend the majority of their waking hours engaging in some form of media, with television watching remaining the top media activity for the majority of Americans (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 Media Usage In fact, the media research firm Nielsen reports that television viewing easily leads other media in the average hours of use whether measured by hours per person or hours per household. There is likely considerable overlap though between time spent on the Internet and smartphones and television viewing, such as streaming television content on portable devices via subscription services like Hulu and Netflix, which is why in 2015 Nielson launched the Total it Up campaign to measure live television viewing across all devices.

Figure 1.1 Full Alternative Text

1.1.2 Concurrent Media Usage 1. Objective: Describe concurrent media usage in the United States

People are spending an increasing amount of time engaging in simultaneous digital media usage—viewing more than one device at a time (e.g., watching television while perusing Facebook on their smartphone), as well as media multitasking (e.g., half- watching television while cooking dinner). Between simultaneous media usage and media multitasking, most of us are consuming some type of mass media more than half of our waking hours (see Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2 Time Spent Media Multitasking with Smartphone Percentage of Smartphone Users Who Multitask on Their Media Devices

Figure 1.2 Full Alternative Text

This is particularly true for tween and teen smartphone users who according to one recent study, spend more time online than sleeping. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, since the advent of the smartphone, 92% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 go online daily, over half go online several times a day, and about one-quarter of all teens are online constantly. Caucasian tweens and teens from families with incomes over $75,000 per year report the highest digital media usage than other teen demographics. This included watching television and using the Internet and mobile media such as watching YouTube videos and using Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites. Furthermore, African American teens have the highest access to smartphones (85%), followed by Latinos and Caucasian (71%).

1.1.3 Inescapable Symbiosis 1. Objective: Characterize the relationship between the producers and

consumers of mass media

Most of us have symbiotic dependence on mass media. We depend on media for information, and media industries are dependent on us as consumers. What would be the purpose of a news station, for example, if nobody listened?

Personal Dependence. Each of us depends on mass communication delivered via through mass media everyday for important information. For instance, the weather forecast is the most- listened-to item in the morning newscast. Why? Because people want to know how to prepare for the day, how to dress, whether to take an umbrella. Not knowing that rain is expected can mean getting wet on the way home. For most of us, modern life simply wouldn’t be possible without media. We need media for news and information, for entertainment, amusement, diversion, and for the exchange of ideas.

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