What is meant by the term ‘media’? Essay

Topic 1.2: Question 1- What is meant by the term ‘media’?

The term ‘media’ involves all means of communication that reach and influence large numbers of people; they are used to store and deliver information, for example; newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the internet. They are created to be consumed by immense number of population worldwide. Media represent the voice of the people and society as a whole. It (media) is such a controversial, unstable and yet hugely important field (Bazalgette, p 5) which is really important to study and comprehend.  Media is all about innovation and modernity that is continually evolving and producing ways to speed up the way humanity is subsisting.

“There are many ways of categorizing media” (Grossberg, Wartella and Whitney, p 8); for example by the geography or type of social relationships. These are:  interpersonal media, mass media and network media. Also according to a number of different modalities, for example the channel used in communicating: print, electronic, chemical. Another modality is the sense on which a particular media operate: visual, aural, tactile, mixed (Grossberg, Wartella and Whitney, p 8). Communication media can be distinguished from other kinds of information technologies, and from culture.

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Topic 1.3: Question 3- In time of war, how do visual images impact on the audience’s reactions to events?

Visual images have a massive impact on people’s perceptions of war and how the world is seen. But when images meet the eye, the reactions depend on the sense of context. Media that select certain photos and video clips also influence how we look at what we see. The pictures can have political power to influence because of commonly practised assumptions and attitudes largely shaped by media. For example a magazine photograph, taken in a war zone, shows a mother holding a baby covered with blood. Two people who looking at the same photo could perceive the suffering quite differently. One might see an unfortunate though unavoidable casualty of war. Another might see a victim of a war crime. Visual Images are an invitation to pay attention and to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers. “Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses, a call for peace, a cry for revenge. Or simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen. … Information about what is happening elsewhere, called ‘news,’ features conflict and violence — ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ runs the venerable guideline of tabloids and 24-hour headline news shows — to which the response is compassion, or indignation, or titillation, or approval, as each misery heaves into view.” (Sontag, p.10)

Topic 1.4: Question 1- What are some of the differences between the ‘transmission’ (or ‘process’) model and ‘cultural’ (or ‘semiotic’) model of communication studies?

There are two kinds of communication models; transmission or ‘process’ and cultural or ‘semiotic’. The transmission model is the most common in our culture and it was developed by Shannon and Weaver (1949),  defined as ‘transmitting or giving information to others, which  main idea of communication is the transmission of signals or messages over distance for the purpose of control’ (Carey 1989, p.13).  The transmission model is not merely a gross over-simplification but a misleading misrepresentation of the nature of human communication. This is important since it underlies the ‘commonsense’ understanding of what communication is. Whilst its use may be adequate for many everyday purposes, in the context of the study of media and communication the concept needs reframing. This model consists of five elements:  an information source, which produces a message, a transmitter, which encodes the message into signals, a channel, to which signals are adapted for transmission, a receiver, which reconstructs the message, and a destination, where the message arrives.

The cultural model on the other hand celebrates shared meanings and spaces. Culture plays a main role on how we interpret messages we see on the media: “There is no such thing as ‘the text itself’, that auto telic object dreamed up by the Russian Formalists and American New Critics.  There are only texts that are more or less implicated in their environments.” (Clark & Holquist pp. 209-210).  People relate to what they see, and give different meanings to the messages received. “[The] system of shared [cultural] meaning represents the world for us; it gives us a common picture of reality; this concept is often described as ideology.” (Ibid. p.21).

Topic 1.6: Question 2- How does information differ from knowledge?

It is important to first define Information and knowledge.

 “Information is meaningful; it has a subject; it is intelligence or instruction about something or someone.” (Webster p.26). Information is usually unintegrated and unprocessed data, it is anything that can promote knowledge. Information seeking is thus a natural and necessary mechanism of human existence. (Marchionini, p.6).

Knowledge is information which has been integrated into an existing body of information. The next step up is wisdom, which is information applied with reason, logic and insight. To seek information, people seek to change the state of their knowledge and also physical representations that represent abstractions that can cause this change (Marchionini, p. 5). You cannot store knowledge in anything other than a brain, because a brain connects it all together. Everything is inter-connected in the brain. The brain uses information to build knowledge (Smith, p.12). Machionini states that one of the key changes in the information society is that information seeking has become a fundamental skill for larger portions of the population – more people must regularly manage more information in order to survive and prosper and they must use an expanding array of technologies to do so (Marchionini, p.6).

Topic 1.7: Question 2- How central is the concept of ‘information’ in conspiracy theories?

A conspiracy theory is “a theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act” (Wilson, p.3). In today’s society there is a negative undertone to this term, however conspiracy theories relate to any event.

“Information is meaningful; it has a subject; it is intelligence or instruction about something or someone.” (Webster, p. 26)

One example of a conspiracy theory is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After the assassination, the government offered its explanation of the events. A large number of people simply do not believe the government’s explanation. This particular conspiracy theory rose to such a high level in the public consciousness that an entire Hollywood movie was made about it. The Kennedy assassination really started the modern “conspiracy theory” movement (Wilson, p.12). This is an event where the “official” government explanation of the crime was openly ridiculed by a large number of normal citizens. Many people believe that the Kennedy assassination was carried out as part of a larger government-centered conspiracy, rather than as a random event arranged by a single man.  In order to create a complete conspiracy theory, a person has to create a set of story elements that explain everything that happened in the event to then find evidence to support the story elements.

Information plays an important role in conspiracy theories; there is obviously some missing and that is the reason theories are created.

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