The Uses and Gratifications’ Theory
What is Uses and gratifications theory?
The uses and gratification theory was first discovered by an Israeli Psychologist, Elihu Katz in 1959, reacting to a research that answered the question “what do the media do to people?” He led the argument that there should be less attention paid to what the media do to people and more attention on what people do with the media. mass media audiences are assumed to be active participants in the interaction between the mass medium and the audience. This implies that uses and gratifications research focuses on audiences’ motives for selecting certain media and media content.
He cited a study by interviewing people during a newspaper strike about what they missed in the newspaper. Many read because they felt it was the socially acceptable thing to do, and some felt that the newspaper was indispensable in finding out about world affairs. Many however, sought escape, relaxation, entertainment, and social prestige. These people recognized that awareness of public affairs was value in conversations. Some wanted help in their daily lives by reading material about fashion, recipes, weather forecasts and other useful information.
The audience is made up of individuals who demand something from communications to which they are exposed, and who select those that are likely to be useful to them. In other words, they must get something from the manipulator is he is to get something from them. A bargain is involved. The uses and gratifications approach involves a shift of focus from the purposes of the communicator to the purposes of the receiver. It attempts to determine what functions mass communication is serving for audience members.
... is the most comprehensive collection linking media content to peoples' attitudes. One measure of newspaper content taps diversity in news stories, ... predicting that news diversity moves audiences leftward is that the majority of local newspapers appear to promote a generally ... yet generated a theory that explicitly refutes the assumption of audience autonomy and explains more fully the media's impact ...
The uses and gratifications approach reminds us that people use the media for various purposes. Studies have shown that bored audiences use the media for exiting content while stressed subjects would use relaxing content, supporting the idea that audiences choose media content to provide gratifications they are seeking. Elliot and Rosenberg concluded that much of mass media use might be merely a matter of habit. They carried a study in which people indicated that they watched some soap operators out of habit which they enjoyed doing. Due to social and psychological differences, individuals’ needs differ. This results in different uses of the mass media and consequently, different levels of gratifications being obtained.
In recent years the theory has been extended and adapted to match the modernisation of media texts; with many more forms of media for the public the consume.
Reasons why audiences might absorb media texts.
The extent to which an audience engages with a media text can be roughly split into three degrees.
The first of these is primary involvement, in which the audience is solely concentrating on consuming the media text; for example, sitting down solely to watch a favourite program on television. Secondary involvement is when an audience’s concentration is split between the media text and another distraction; for example, working on the computer while watching television. Tertiary involvement is when the media text is merely in the background, with no real concentration upon it at all; for example, glancing at a newspaper on a crowded train.
... 'media texts' in the same way. But you will certainly also b asked to think about how they address you – or other people ... handy maxims such as 'the basic function of all media is to sell audiences to advertisers'. To object that this can hardly ... to be made than another. The politics of the media affect our lives as much as the politics of Parliament or Congress ...
While this theory is somewhat simplistic, it provides a clear and probable explanation as to the changes in audience reception.
In 1974 Bulmer and Katz expanded the Uses and Gratifications theory and suggested four subsequent reasons explaining why audiences may consume various media texts.
The four explanations are as follows:
Diversion- The need for people to escape the reality of their everyday lives and routines. This may involve various forms of media such as watching a fantasy film, examples of which could be Twilight, Fantastic Four and Spiderman. Vast audiences have watched all these films to escape their everyday lives and relax, yet they know that no matter how many times they watch these out of the ordinary films Vampires, Werewolves and Superheroes created by radioactivity will never exist.
Another way this theory can be shown in a completely antagonistic view is through music. The public is almost constantly using music as a way of escaping their everyday lives. Attending a live music concert is something that can not be experienced everyday, when a person attends a concert of their favourite artist there is something somewhat magical that occurs. Suddenly every problem disappears and that person is engulfed in the beauty of the music, stolen away from every heartache and disappointment and all that matters in the world is happening right there and then.
Personal relationships.- This division of the theory can often be seen in people who consume the media for emotional and other alike interactions. Perhaps the most common being the modern day soap operas being substituted for family life. Soap operas easily dramatise the idea of every day life. In these media texts the public sees everday life in a small village constantly being full of excitement. The text is exaggerating the average family life and enthralling the consumer through the reality of their everyday boring routines.
As I already mentioned in the “diversion” category; Music is another way we substitute our emotion. How often does a person use music as a substitute for emotion? When a person feels in a certain mood they can use music to rejuvenate them, it distracts them from their emotional wellbeing and as I have said before, all that matters at that time is the song being played. Music is a way people release all their emotions, whether it be through grabbing a guitar, playing a piano, singing a song….Or even just laying back and listening to someone else do it.
... in the country, it is not the classical music that they listen to. ... music. Listening to music is a very common leisure activity in Britain. But for the vast majority of people ... that Hollywood is forever raiding its talent for people to star in films. In contrast, cinema ... , it is better to start with what British people are the most proud of. Theatre. The theatre ...
Personal Identity- The media influences a lot of the public lifestyle. Many people construct their own identity under influence from their favourite television, music or film star. From these people we look up to we can obtain value and opinions on how to behave.
No doubt a teenager obsessed with a musician will try to listen to what that person says and follow what that person does, they will buy their clothes, do their hair the same way and look up to them in admiration. In the same way a person could take influence from a celebrities fashion sense. Womens magazines are constantly printing articles on how to “Steal Kate Moss’s Look” At a fraction of the price of course.
Surveillance – Many people rely on the media for surveillance purposes. We use it for checking the weather to see how our journey to work is going to be, to view world news and become informed of current affairs eve to educate ourselves through watching nature, history and geographical television programmes. This can not only be used in television, but also through films such as the most recent 2012; based on a well known Armageddon theory by the renowned prophet Nostradamus, through radio such as BBC’s Radio One show- The Doctor and through the hundreds of educational magazines.
Denis McQuail The academic and writer of of communication theory suggests a more detailed breakdown of audience motivation.
Information – such as: finding out about relevant events and conditions in immediate surroundings, society and the world, seeking advice on practical matters or opinion and decision choices, satisfying curiosity and general interest, learning; self-education and gaining a sense of security through knowledge
Personal Identity – such as: finding reinforcement for personal values, finding models of behaviour, identifying with valued other (in the media) and gaining insight into one’s self
Integration and Social Interaction- such as : gaining insight into circumstances of others; social empathy, identifying with others and gaining a sense of belonging, finding a basis for conversation and social interaction, having a substitute for real-life companionship, helping to carry out social roles and enabling one to connect with family, friends and society
... the confines of social order. Edith Wharton's message about social order versus personal fulfillment can be ... meals, and room presentation), and all relationships, personal or business. The severity of the conformity makes ... and gossip. But these radicals are merely people who are unyielding to the harness of the ... Beaufort. He debauches the whole system and gains the scorn of all the other elitists. ...
Entertainment – Such as: escaping, or being diverted, from problems, relaxing, getting intrinsic cultural or aesthetic enjoyment, filling time, emotional release, sexual arousal
Many people absorb media texts for structural reasons this includes, background noises which are most often used when people are sleeping and find it necessary to have the television on in the background. Television can also be used for companionship and of course, entertainment.
Relational television use includes watching tv soap operas, people watch these as a regular part of their domestic routine, it becomes a launch pad for social and personal interaction, identification and involvement with a character and as an escapists fantasy.
In the same way people watch TV quiz shows to compare themselves with the experts, to imagine themselves on the programme, for comedy purposes and because the enjoy seeing the side they favour win.
When watching Channel 4’s popular soap opera Hollyoaks a young person like myself would expect to relate to a lot of the characters, they have every stereotype in the soap and the public will feel connected to at least one of them, it also fits into their everyday lives.
A criticism of the uses and gratification theory is the viewer may not know why they chose to watch that they did.