Uses & Gratifications theory

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The Uses and Gratifications theory deals with the effect of people on the media. The theory describes mass communication, as it provides an approach that is audience centred. It deals with how and why people adopt specific media to satisfy their needs. it can be seen in such cases like personal music selection, we select music not to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or different motives.

During the 1950’s the Uses and Gratifications theory seemed like a breath of fresh air which resisted the pessimism of the effects models. Researchers questioned people as to the specific reasons they watch television. They then came to the conclusion that personality types are set apon an audience to set them into groups, meaning a different selection of people watch television for certain needs.  This theory takes out the possibility that the media can have an unconscious influence over our lives and how we view the world.

The central point of the uses and gratifications is the belief that people use the media to get individual pleasures. Therefore people are not seen as helpless victims of all powerful media and get brainwashed, rather they use the media to fulfil their distinct needs.

Jay G. Blumler and Elihu Katz devised their own uses and gratifications model in 1974 to highlight four areas of gratification in media texts for audiences.:-
 

-Escapism 

A media text which provides escapism, When a particular piece of media partially covers a viewers senses and completely emerges them within the product/piece. For example the purposes of someone playing a video game, such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’,  they would do this to escape reality and forget what is around them by surrounding themselves with a different universe.

– Personal relationships

People create personal relationships with the characters in a media text, they start to develop feelings for them as if they know them. This can become alarming if people start to trust them also, for example if someone formed a relationship with someone in a television series and that particular character died, they would feel as if they’ve lost someone in their life and ‘mourn’. Another example would be if someone trusted a news reporter too much; that they may take everything that they say at high value and not question it in any way, this trust could then be taken and abused by believing everything they say to be true.

-Personal Identity

When a person creates part of their own identity from things they find attractive in people from the media, for example somebody who is interested in the programme “TOWIE”. Usually on the show people are seen to be getting tans, dying their hair and keeping a high standard of a fashionable look, someone would copy this and incorporate this into their lives, like going to tan and getting their hair dyed shocking blonde, as in TOWIE this is seen as being acceptable and you are only “pretty” if you de-value your own natural looks to commit to the usual sexually attractiveness the cast is aiming to give off.

-Surveillance 

The audience gain an understanding of the world around them by consuming a media text, for example print and broadcasting news. For example the television series ‘Big Brother people are put in a house and surveillance, viewers would rather watch them do nothing, live & argue with each other, this makes people feel a sense of control and power. Another example would be ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’.

 

Pros: 

  • It could be suitable to all media forms

Cons:

  •   It rebukes any effect of the media
  •   It is primarily concerned with the viewers and their choice and consumption of media.
  •   We want to identify ourselves as active readers rather than passive couch potatoes
  • It doesn’t apply to all people
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