COMM 101, review for final exam.

There will be 33 multiple choice questions, each worth three points. You will receive one “free” point for taking the test.

The exam will include:


Media and Ideology

An ideology is a system of meaning that helps define and explain the world and that makes value judgments about that world. A dominant ideology is when that system is the most pervasive one.

We all have this feeling that the media contribute to our world view. And we’re right. You do see other views. But there is a “dominant ideology” in struggle with other views.

People worry that the media can promote ideas that are objectionable. Therefore, most people don’t complain about the programming that supports the views they support.

The accumulation of media images tells us what’s “normal” and what is “deviant”. Those who fear depictions of pre-marital sex have the same fears as those who fear depictions of a perfect, white, middle class lifestyle. Both fear that such depictions will define “normal” and set limits.

“Common sense”. Things that are so obvious that we need not critically evaluate them. Things that “everybody knows” Deeply held cultural beliefs. EXAMPLES: Women are more nurturing; men are more competitive.

People also talk of “natural” ways. “It’s only natural.” “People only want to hang out with others of the same type.” There is a danger that this can be used to legitimize economic inequality or segregation. Racism counts on thinking that one race is superior. Sexism assumes sexes being suited for different and unequal tasks. Elitists claim that the poor deserve to be poor since they are not as smart as they are.

Media Representations of Society

Representations are not reality.

What is the “real world”? Should media reflect reality?

Where TV “reality” comes from

Representation of "others"

Three critical issues emerge when we look at portrayals of race in the media.


Initially, no serious roles for blacks

Is Racial Narrowcasting of Programming a Good Thing? 94-95 season only 1 out of top 20 shows was shared between blacks and whites. Today it’s 9 out of the 20


But things are getting better… Blatantly racist images are now rare

Representation of "class"

Generational, gender and class differences may challenge the traditional idea of racism targets in media.

Working class characters are shown as dumb and therefore “deserving” of their economic status

Reinforced by idea that working class characters are dumb. Message is that working class families are poor because they deserve it.

Media and Politics

Can be interesting to look at voter patterns but more importantly, consider what the needs of “Image” do to political campaigns. They live and die and are run by the needs of media.

The big lesson was that image matters

News accounts focus on personal stories, personalities and campaign events and do little to discuss actual issues.

Advance people today routinely set up photos with actors and then tell press where to get the best shot complete with lens recommendations. They are controlling images.

Image has come to be the “real”.

Even meeting voters, shaking hands, kissing babys is unlikely to happen unless the cameras are there.

Politics and Media

People have less interest now in politics and don’t work as hard to learn about issues. Where are they getting information? Ads sell candidates like products.

Order of determinant of vote in the 1940s

Order of determinant of vote in the today

This means media is more important since image and personality are their forte.

Decoding Media and Social Position

We often don’t think about how interpretations come into play. We “decode” messages using knowledge of conventions of the medium. The differences between us such as gender, race, age, social status, and everything else cause us to at times see different messages in the media.

A lot of interpretation is based on things that are taken for granted. “Natural”. Don’t have to be told why we cover the president. Beauty and success and desirable. Relationships between men and women, worker and boss, rich and poor, parents and kids. We have implicit knowledge of these things.

People can arrive at three types of meanings when viewing/reading/listening to media:

David Morley studied a British news magazine show called Nationwide and its coverage of economic issues. Very different interpretations of the content based upon class.

Very hard to predict how a different audience will interpret, only that they have a good chance of interpreting differently. Cultural tools associated with a group we may be a part of. 



North America, Europe and Japan dominate media industry world-wide. American movies including sex and violence dominate world-wide films. American TV shows very popular in Europe. Music is easy to export because it is easily understood.

Because American movies, TV and other media are so popular, some people in other countries worry about "cultural imperialism." They worry that our values are in our media, but perhaps they don't share those values. Canada, in fact, has a number of laws that limit the amount of U.S. programming shown on its TV channels, and American music played on the radio.


News focuses on the powerful and institutions with established interests. A study noted that says the most common themes in news were:

• “social order” and
• “national leadership”.

Order and leadership are ways of supporting the existing structures.

More attention paid to the doings of elite individuals. Not very diverse in its views. Insider politics – presented as something that is not for us. Keep out of politics. And only views that are very mainstream.

Economic news

Cultivation Theory

TV has a homogenizing role on viewers of many cultures. Do TV programs show us the real world? But for many, that’s where opinions about the real world are formed. People who watch a lot of TV see the world as having more crime than it really does. They believe in a "mean and dangerous world". They also form more conservative political views based on those concerns. Those views can make them more likely to give up some legal protections for safety.


Children and violence on TV

Study looked at whole season and 23 cable and reg. TV stations. Looked at if violence was rewarded or not. Results: TV is very violent.


Media Technology and Social Change

We’ve looked at production, content and meaning of media. There are those who argue that the medium itself affects our message. After all, we hear or watch a ball game (radio TV) different experiences.

Mediating Communication

Media means “middle”. Media have a social significance because they affect human communication.


The Social Construction of Media Technologies

Human Agency in Developing Technology

Human agency at work. And not always predictably.

Early Years of Radio

People’s agency made the changes. Businesses, government and amateur end-users. Not technological specifications.


Television into the Home

Quick adoption - 1/10 of 1 percent in 1946 to 90% by 1960.

Today Show tried to become the new morning newspaper showing that they tried to shape their viewers lives too.

But cultural practices of our society shaped TV’s development. Early years of technology are often characterized by people having mistaken ideas about how it will ultimately be used.


Safe Computing

Images from web sites you visit can accumulate in your web browser's cache. If someone searches your hard drive with the wild card *.jpg, they can learn a lot about what sites you visit.

The most common risk of downloading illegal music and movies for your computer is the secret installation of Spyware. Spyware can monitor a number of your behaviors, steal your email list, lock your files, and learn your passwords.

Keyloggers are easy to get and install. They are an easy software-based way for someone to get your login information for Facebook, banking, etc. when you use a public computer.