and Technology Communication Theories
and Technology Communication Theories
Social Action Theory
. . . and more!
Developed by Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
Technological Determinism: The belief that
technological development determines social and cultural change. “The medium
is the message.”
Media: Technologies through which we relate
to the world around us.
Broad definition (includes light bulb, wheel).
Dominant media determine our “ratio of the
senses” - how we experience the world.
and Cool Media
& Cool Media: Examples
Hot Medium: A high definition channel of communication
such as print that focuses on a single sensory receptor.
Cool Medium: A low definition channel of communication
such as television that stimulates several different senses and requires
high sensory involvement.
face to face talk
The Tribal Age - emphasis on oral communication;
oral culture, storytelling - multisensory involvement - holistic, intuitive
The Age of Literacy - emphasis on writing
- the line becomes an organizing principle; logic emerges.
The Print Age - emphasis on visual print .
“Guttenberg Galaxy” - the eye becomes the dominant sense; age of linear
thinking; status to science and individualism.
The Electronic Age - emphasis on visual image.
The “Global Village” - TV the dominant medium; multisensory involvement;
retribalization; decline of logic & linearity.
The Tribal Age: Oral culture
The Age of Literacy: Writing
Sense of hearing, touch, taste and smell more
developed than the visual.
Encourages high involvement, passion, and
spontaneity in interactions.
Importance of stories.
Personal interaction and attention.
The Print Age: The printing press
Visual sense becomes more dominant.
Encourages contemplation; private detachment
rather than tribal involvement
Promotes logical, linear thinking; mathematics,
The Electronic Age: Electronic media
Made visual dependence widespread.
Converting personal writing into technical
Standardization of national languages produced
Prototype of the industrial revolution.
Emergence of the “Global Village”
Cool medium of TV encourages spontaneity and
defined involvement, retribalization of humanity.
Passive spectator effect.
Linear, logical thinking becomes useless in
the electronic culture.
Is Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) a
Is linear thinking irrelevant?
Are systems and non-linear thinking the future?
What are Implications for education?
Should we resist electronic culture - revive
Should we redesign curriculum to foster new
Studies: Key Concepts
Based on the work of Stuart Hall
The Central Claim: Mass media are a means
by which the "haves" of society gain the willing support of the "have nots"
for the status quo.
A “Culturalist” view of Marxism
Rejection of rigid economic determinism.
Social behavior is is “over-determined;”
not determined by one dominant cause. It has multiple causes such
as class, race, and gender.
Preponderant influence or domination of
“haves” over “have nots”:
not based on force
not a plot or conspiracy
based on widespread acceptance of dominant
Mental frameworks (“worldviews” or “code
systems”) widely used to understand society.
Mass media, especially television, usually
encode (implicitly assume) the dominant ideology.
Media - 3 Ways
Operate inside the dominant code (fail
to question the implicit dominant ideology)
Apply a negotiable code (a version of
the dominant ideology that reflects the audience member’s social position)
Substitute an oppositional code (critical
awareness, rejection of dominant ideology)
Cultural studies theory promotes oppositional
Theory vs. Functional Theory
Critical theory (like Hall’s critical
studies theory) stresses that "the mass media support the established social
order by acting as the means of social control and thus legitimizing the
status quo" (Cohen et al., 1990, p. 29).
Functional theory emphasizes the integrative
role of the media that regulate social controversies and create the basis
for social consensus (Cohen et al. 1990, p.28).
and Social Change
Do Media affect social change?
Three theoretical views.
Similar to "limited effects" paradigm:
Imbalances in information flows are NOT due
to the activities of governments and media.
Imbalances in news flows as being caused by
certain 'natural’ characteristics of information gathering and dissemination.
(1) "Media power as highly overrated and
its impact minimal" (Schiller, 1989, p. 146).
(2) Media power is balanced by "audience
power." Audience power refers to the capability of an active audience
to produce its own meanings and resist those messages "that it finds
objectionable or irrelevant" (Schiller).
(3) Audiences have the power
to choose what communication technologies to employ.
Concedes that imbalances in the flow of information
stem from near monopolies of information technology and news wires.
It acknowledges that harmful social and political
consequences may occur because of the dominance of a few media conglomerates.
Supports incremental changes in the current
communication order, while rejecting calls for a fundamental overhaul of
the communication system.
One View Right? What Theory Best Explains Media Influence?
The primary reason for information imbalance
can be found in the media conglomerates’ allied governments’ desire to
retain hegemony over low power and marginalized groups.
Control of communication technology and information
becomes a significant way for corporations and governments to economic,
social, and cultural influence over citizens and groups, influence not
obtained through conventional educational or political means.
Media communication promotes a form of cultural
Privileged institutions perpetuate a self-serving
communication and information imbalance.
Structuralists see no hope for reforming the
current unjust communication
A new information order must be constructed
from the ground up, with the needs of marginalized peoples as paramount
What Views are functional?
What Views are critical?
If someone is a “have,” should he or she even
care about any of this?
Would cultural studies theorists (Hall) put
technological determinism within the area of cultural determinism?