Posted by: julierussell55 | October 17, 2011

Yesterday’s Concepts for Today’s Mass Media

Although the articles for this week’s reading were published nearly 30 to 50 years ago, I found that their concepts could still be valuable for understanding today’s rapidly changing media environment.

For example, after reading about “the two-step flow of communication,” by Katz, I recognized how opinion leaders are used at University of Oregon through peer health groups. These student groups, formed of mostly human physiology or biology majors, meet to discuss student health issues such as smoking, alcohol/drug use, safe sex, etc. Student leaders, who are essentially opinion leaders, then volunteer to carry out informal student education campaigns, mostly through social media sites, to influence their peers to choose healthy behaviors.

McLuhan’s concept of hot and cold media can easily be applied to today’s social media. Perhaps facebook could be thought of as a hot media because the viewer doesn’t need to exert much effort to fill-in the details. In contrast, the traditional mass media sources of newspaper and TV may be considered today as cold because they require more of the viewer’s effort to determine meaning.

McCombs’ concept of agenda-setting by the mass media may describe the traditional role of the media in the past (when broadcast and print were our primary sources). However, today our convergence culture includes an extremely large variety of social media sites, online search engines, and instant online news from global resources. I believe well-educated consumers generally form more informed opinions through the power of collective intelligence and may therefore be less influenced by media agenda-setting in today’s world.

Discussion question: In the 2012 presidential campaign, do you think agenda-setting by the media will be a major factor? Do you currently see any use of opinion leaders to influence the election? Will the candidates use more hot or cold media?

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