What You Need to Know About : Media and Mass Communication Theories

When people think of the media, they primarily think of one of the most popular leisure activities in the world: watching television. However, there are many other forms of media, or mediums, which must be examined when studying mass communication. Until recently, defining mass media was easy. Mass media were comprised of eight traditional industries: books, newspapers, magazines, recordings, radio, movies, television, and the Internet. Recent technological advances and societal changes, however, challenge traditional definitions of mass communication. Mass communication theories have also evolved with the changing nature of the media.

Although the definition of mass communication can vary from source to source, most definitions have similar elements. Mass communication is often described or explained by comparing it to interpersonal communication, when a source encodes a message and sends it to a receiver via both verbal and nonverbal messages who then decodes the message and provides feedback. In interpersonal communication, the source and receiver are typically individuals, the channel is typically face-to-face, and the communication is typically private. Feedback is generally direct and immediate.

Mass communication, however, is the process by which a person, group of people, or large organization creates a message and transmits it through some type of medium to a large, anonymous, heterogeneous audience. In mass communication, the source is typically a professional communicator or a complex organization that incurs a great cost. The message is typically rapid and public. And, as stated, the receiver is generally large, heterogeneous, and anonymous. Feedback in mass communication is generally indirect and delayed.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.692

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