Monday, 29 October 2012

How the media constructs reality - Agenda Setting Week 11 Lecture Review

Agenda setting in the media plays a large role in constructing and mediating the social world and how we understand it. Agenda setting can be explained as a social construction of reality by the media. when looking at agenda setting there are four sub-categories:
1. Public Agenda - or what the public sees as being important
2. Policy Agenda - or the issues that the decision maker's face
3.Corporate Agenda - only the big business and corporations
4. Media Agenda - what is discussed in the media

Two assumptions of media agenda setting are that the mass media do not merely reflect and report reality but they shape and filter it and secondly, media concentrate on a few issues and subjects which lead the public to perceive those issues as more important than others.

The history of agenda setting first originated in the 1920's from Lasswell who suggested that the mass media 'injects' direct influence into the audience and this created limitations as the news was all one way and non-thinking. Also in the 1920's, Lippman suggested that the mass media creates images of events in our minds

From this, two types of agenda setting theory developed. The first level is studied by researchers which emphasises the major issues and the transfer of the salience of those issues. The media suggest what the public should focus on through coverage.

Second level agenda setting theory is how the media focuses on the attributes of the issues. The media suggest how people should think about an issue rather than what.

Along with these theories comes the Agenda Setting 'Family', its members and definitions include:
1.Media Gatekeeping : How (and what) the media chooses to expose and reveal to the public
2. Media Advocacy : The purposive promotion of a message through the media
3. Agenda Cutting : Most of the truth or reality that is going on in the world isn't represented.
4. Agenda Surfing : or the 'Bandwagon' effect, the media surfs on topics originally mentioned in opinion-leading media
5. The diffusion on News : The process through which an important event is communicated to the public
6. Portrayal of and issue : The way an issue is portrayed will often influence how it is perceived by the public
7. Media Dependence  : The more dependent a person is on the media for information, the more susceptible that person is to media agenda setting.

With social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, I think the agenda setting family, in particular media dependence, is a very accurate description on how the media filters its news.

Some strengths of Agenda Setting theory include how it has explanatory powers as it explains why most people consider the same issues important. It has predictive power as it predicts that if people are exposed to the same media they will consider the same issues important. It has organising power because it helps organise existing knowledge of media effects. Agenda setting can also be proven false and involves meta-theoretical assumptions  that are balanced scientifically and it leaves a lot of room for further research. However, along with strengths it also possess many weaknesses, as not all media users will conform to this theory.

To gain a better understanding of Agenda Setting, I have found the following video to be quite helpful, while still remaining entertaining.

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