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A World without Media… part 2

After setting myself the challenge of avoiding any form of media for 3 days, I was confident that it would be easy.  I don’t have access to the internet at home, so I wouldn’t be tempted to go online for a quick check of my emails.  There’s never anything good on television during the daytime, so that wasn’t a problem.  Me and my flatmate managed to get a lot of work done that day since we had no media distractions, so it started well. 

 The next day I got a phonecall from work asking me to go in, and after contemplating whether or not I’d failed in my mission by having my phone switched on (I decided that I hadn’t, since we were not allowed to use text messages, but phonecalls were not banned) I realised that it was futile anyway.  As soon as I set off to work I was surrounded by advertisements, messages and signs.  When I got to work I was filled in on the latest gossip.  Then I admitted defeat and sat down on my break and read Heat magazine. 

 My experiment taught me that it is impossible to go without any form of media for a prolonged period of time unless you stay in the house all day and never communicate with anybody.  Media really does surround us and we are constantly its audience, not just in the obvious forms like television, the internet and newspapers, but in conversation, signage and adverts, which are virtually impossible to avoid.  As an active audience, we have to ability to choose which media forms we consume, we can refuse certain media influences by simply turning off the television, not buying a newspaper or not connecting to the internet.  By doing this we can simply switch off the media influences around us.  This is backed up by the uses and gratifications model of media, outlined by Blumler and Katz (1974), which theorises that “power here is often argued to lie with the individual consumer of the media…Far from being duped by the media, the audience here is seen as made up of individuals free to reject, use or play with media meanings as they choose” (Branston and Stafford 1996: 403).  This allows for freedom of choice in the audience, we can choose exactly how we use the media presented to us.  

There are however, as my experiment taught me, messages that we cannot switch off,  therefore the audience is not entirely active.  As a passive audience, we are constantly taking in messages that are all around us; in shop signs, advertising and conversations with other people.  These are media influences which we cannot easily switch off, they are a constant influence on an audience that doesn’t even realise they’re part of an audience.  The effects model focuses on “what the media do to their audiences.  Power lies within the message here” (Branston and Stafford 1996:403).  This can be used to explain the omnipresent nature of the media; we take in so many messages from different forms of media every day that we don’t even realise it’s there. 

Sources used:

Branston, G. and Stafford, R. (1996) The Media Student’s book (second edition) Routledge: Linodon and New York