Media is one of the areas that have undergone through a series of change as technology advances. Before the revolution of media, people believed that it had adverse effects on them. Initially, cave paintings, hand stencils and other markings were examples of communication made through a medium. Creation of technology introduced the mass media with the invention of newspapers first. However, few people could only read as most were illiterate. People improved their reading ability, and the use of mass media increased. Evolution of media through an improvement in literacy and technological advancement led to an increase in the ease of communication. We have moved from traditional print media to broadcasting, and now we have the digital media that uses internet and smartphone. Mass media has several functions in society such as providing information to reduce anxiety and giving a better understanding of the world (Leonard, 2004). Another purpose is the interpretation of issues like current events on social, political, and economic lives of people. Besides, media bonds, where it brings people together. For example online forums that are created by people with common interests. The evolution of media from 1940 to 1965 is associated with various theories, which brought about a revolution in the sector.
The Mass Society Theory
Evolution of the media influenced the society in the urbanization and industrialization as well as cultural standardization. The media effects led to different social groups, different cultures, and heterogeneous society. Initially, people lived in communities where they knew each other, but the media brought social problems. People had neighbors whom they had similar religious, racial as well as ethnic backgrounds. However, with the revolution, people started migrating from rural communities to urban areas in search of jobs. The migration from different societies and also from different countries led to people mixing, and they were not familiar with one another, resulting to the use of mass media sources such as newspapers to learn about the world and the different communities. People realized that the evolution of media broke the ties that they had in the communities, families, and churches. There were observations that people became impersonal complex, isolated and alienated. Mass media was replacing the communal ties with these changes. People began to worry that the media message would affect them as they became vulnerable to totalitarian propaganda. The absence of family and community influences due to mass media caused fears from the propaganda by the Combatants; Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during World War I.
The concept of mass media in the past era characterized society as a system consisting of people who are connected to one another through communication. Media has also been judgmental for criticizers of the contemporary capitalist society and the culture. The model of communication focused on the critics of mass society which was on the rise in the history of media. According to Lang & Lang (2009), mass media has played an insignificant role in society and it contains can be equated. The significant evolution of the media can be traced as from 1940-1965. This period is associated with high tendencies in the industrial revolution and undermining of the traditional practices the resulted in social change. The evolution of media has been favored by the various forms of technological development including the growth of mass media. Technological advancement has played a significant role in enhancing human productivity by the creation of new forms of material wealth. It has also provided a solution to social problems although it has been accused of its short-term adverse effect resulting from industrialization causing pollution, exploitation of workers and social theory. The mass society theory has been actively involved in assessing the vision of what the mass media such as cinema and television are delivering to the masses. Mass media plays a critical role in attaining and maintaining mass society. It is a primary tool of spreading culture by washing away traditional differences which are on the rise prior to 1940s. Mass-society theorists have acknowledged the transformation of people in many backgrounds into universal masses. In the 1930s and 1940s, media was criticized for creating numerous problematic effects. For instance, it has led to the disruption of the traditional social relationship and making people in society more prone to totalitarian propaganda. Gangster movies were also on the rise and other violent comic print media which increased the rate of crime in the society. The traditional elites lost power due to their inability to use media more effectively, and this resulted in weakening social order.
The Limited Effects Theory
The limited-effect theory provides that people can choose what to read or watch depending on their beliefs (Harcourt, 2016). Social scientist led by Hadley Cantril changed people's view of the influences of media on their lives. After the research, the society stopped fearing evolution of press as political oppression and manipulation, but as dynamism with social good (Lazarsfeld, 2017). Between the 1940s and 1950s, the limited effects theory was developed to assess the effects of media on society. Empirical methods used in the research included experiments and surveys enabling them to make conclusions on the influence of media. The study showed that the effects of media were hard to find as well as not influential as mass society theory had suggested. The theory was tested in the 1940s -1950s and is intended to assess the ability of the media to influence peoples' decision on voting. The theory addresses the role of media in framing the debate concerning the issues affecting society. The theory came into place when media dominance was not widespread.
The empirical research had some influences on the mass media as follows; the researchers criticized the mass society theory as being biased against the media since the propaganda notions faded in the 1950s and 1960s. Also, private industries supported the researchers in their surveys and experiments in understanding people's attitudes and behaviors. Further, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation funded the researchers in the early stages. To validate his approach, Lazarsfeld was funded and supported to go to the United States. Major universities had several communication research centers developed (Lazarsfeld, 2017).
Besides, with the success of empirical research, most media companies began to carry out their research on media. The media companies established their social research departments and employed people as researchers and consultants. Finally, the empirical researchers developed numerous social research categories such as sociology and economy, social psychology, political science as well as history. These disciplines enhanced communication research leading to an evolution in media with the introduction of advertising and journalism (Lazarsfeld, 2017). Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton joined the Columbia Department of Sociology in 1941, and they developed the research methodology. The two types of empirical research used by Lazarsfeld were the survey research which was used to find out the actions people were taking and why they did so, and the experimental analysis. Experiments were done to determine the things that influenced actions taken by people. Both research methods analyzed public opinion as well as media influence (Balnaves, Donald, & Shoesmith, 2009).
The theory connotes that the media reflects the view of the minority elite. It is argued that the people who own and controls the media companies comprise this elite. The theory focusses on the mass media organizations and how they address the forces of competition especially that resulting from the new media. As technology advances, the existing one might become obsolete and hence been less competitive in the market. Media corporations ought to be continually creative and innovative to keep in pace with technological trends. This will help in sustaining their survival in the market by meeting the consumers' needs and wants. It is also vital to uphold positive corporate image by adhering to professional ethics since the companies are responsible for the content they present to the audience. The theory critics the argument that local news mainly lies beyond the control of the large companies that dominate the market. While some have argued that the media elite controls the media, there are other external forces such as political views (Harcourt, 2016).
The People's Choice
Paul Lazarsfeld and other researchers initiated the People's Choice which was research to understand the decisions made by people during a presidential campaign. The researchers wanted to find out the influence of media to the voters. When Nazis, Soviets, and Italian Fascists were using propaganda, they feared that media would influence political campaigns. People could access the media messages on a particular candidate, and it could guide them in making choices of whom to vote for. The people's choice was a study contacted in 1940 during the contest for US Presidential election between Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and Republic Wendell Willkie.
Lazarsfeld and his team investigated on voters in Erie Country, Ohio to know whom the citizens would elect. From his research, people voted for the candidate who was well understood, and the media had influenced most of them. However, those who made their decisions in the last minute of whom to elect depended on their neighbors and friends whom Lazarsfeld referred to them as opinion people (Balnaves, Donald, & Shoesmith, 2009). The floating voters (those who depended on others for information) had their voting decisions influenced by others as they were less educated and informed. According to Lazarsfeld, opinion leaders received information from the media then transfer it to the other people. The information flowed from the press to the opinion leaders and then passed it to the followers. This flow was horizontal since it was between leaders and followers in society.
The researchers concluded that people who had little information on the candidates to elect paid little attention to political communications; therefore, media plays a small part in their influence. Similarly, those people well informed of political information are highly influenced, and the media can change their decision making (Balnaves, Donald, & Shoesmith, 2009). Also, the two-step flow was advisable for shopping and fashion but not suitable for use in politics. Lazarsfeld's survey research posited that the researchers must pay attention to the political campaigns because they also impose a notable impact on the media sector. He recommends the need for studying why media influence change of voter's decision during campaigns. There is enough evidence that the media has been used by politicians to influence their followers during campaigns. The content may contain both propaganda and useful information which eventually changes the decisions of the voters.
The Experimental Research on Media Effects
The second phase of experimenting effects of mass media was conducted to analyze the influence of the press on young people. Researchers conducted empirical studies to determine the impact of films to influence American military trainees. Similarly, a series of studies were performed in the US, to determine the effects of movies on the behaviors and attitudes of children. The researchers found out that there were different variables associated with the impacts of the film, such as social psychological factors, demographi...
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