Agency and control in and of the media
Unit 4 – Area of study 2
In this area of study we focus on learning the following dot points:
• The arguments and issues surrounding control of the media in a digital world.
• The dynamic and changing relationship between the media and its audiences. The power and agency of audiences.
• The use of media by globalised media institutions, the government and the individual.
• Regulation of the relationships between the media and its audience in Australia.
• Issues and challenges relating to regulation and control of the media.
• Ethical and legal issues in the production, distribution, consumption and reception of media products.
By the end of this area of study you should be able to Discuss, analyse and evaluate these dot points.
From the study design
The relationship between the media and audiences has never been more complex. The contemporary media
landscape poses issues and challenges for the way that academics and commentators have traditionally theorised
the nature of communication. The media has always been considered to have the capacity to influence, but now
the balance of power is shifting and arguments around who influences who have become highly contested. The
media and its audiences are now both thought to exercise agency; the capacity to act and exert power.
Today the media not only produces and distributes content to audiences, it also generates and sustains social
networks, which have, in turn, enabled new modes of production, distribution, consumption and reception based
on the sharing of commercial and user-generated content. This has contributed to business models based on data
aggregation and the harvesting and sale of personal information collected from what many individuals consider
social and personalised media engagement.
Laws and policies of the Australian Government and self-regulation by media institutions define and maintain
standards through regulatory bodies and codes of conduct, but individual interaction with other media users, as in
social networks, is not subject to these constraints. As the media increasingly crosses national borders, governments
struggle to maintain control over the laws and policies created for their jurisdictions. These issues pose challenges
for managing and regulating the use of the media by globalised media institutions, governments and the individual.
• the dynamic and changing relationship between the media and its audience
• the influence of both the media and audience
• the way media is used by globalised media institutions, governments and the individual
• the rationale for regulating the relationships between the media and its audience in Australia
• the issues and challenges relating to regulation and control of the media
• ethical and legal issues in the production, distribution, consumption and reception of media products
• media language.
• discuss the dynamic and changing relationship between the media and its audience
• discuss the extent of the influence of the media and media audience
• analyse the regulation of relationships between the media and its audience in Australia
• analyse issues and challenges relating to regulation and control of the media
• evaluate ethical and legal issues in the media
• use media language
Agency & Control Definitions
Agency refers to the ability to act and make choices. When a media audience, producer or institution has agency, they feel they can use a medium or platform however they choose – to express themselves, to use the media for a specific purpose, or to communicate a message.
Control refers to the ability to exert power over somebody else’s actions or choices. When a media audience, producer or institution has control, they may be able to shape messages or direct how the media is used.
Heinemann Media Third Edition - 2018
The tension between Agency & Control
Tension between these two ideas – agency and control can be seen in many different audience relationships with the media. Many social media platforms sell the illusion of agency to an audience when in fact their use of the system is tightly controlled. In turn, some audiences enjoy subverting the systems of mediums or platforms to give themselves more agency. Media institutions are often fighting for more agency in how they interact with the different regulation systems that attempt to control them.
The Bobo Doll Experiment
The Bobo Doll experiment is one of the best known studies used in an attempt to explain the way the media could influence audiences. The study was conducted by a Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1961 and 1963. It claimed that children who were shown violent behaviour towards an inflatable Bobo Doll (a child's toy, designed to be knocked over - pictured in the image beside) would act accordingly. It has been used to draw links between violent imagery in the media and violent behaviour in the real world. Today, this study is not quite redundant, but it certainly struggles to factor in the vast reality of modern media. In short, the modern media has long since moved.
Media Reframed - Cambridge 2018
The act of searching online is referred to with one word: Googling. There is no other company that symbolizes the transition from old to new media like Google. While not necessarily a media company as such (although its own Youtube), Goggle has the capacity to read all of your data and determine the direction of your search. Google’s success is based on the complexity of its search algorithm. When you type ‘new music’ into the Goggle search bar, it uses the data collected from your previous searches, likes and interests from pages you have visited and the data from billions of other users to predict what you are looking for before you have even fished typing. Its accuracy can both frightening and hilarious. As Goggle is the primary entry point for most media users online, its role must be considered in the whole debate of agency and control.
The users data collected by Goggle leaves that of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter in its wake. The vast majority of what is spoken and typed into Google search bar is recorded and used to your advantage in your next search and then sold to governments and institutions, who are desperate to gather the private conversations all internet users have with their keyboard.
Media Reframed - Cambridge 2018
The effects of the media on audiences – Media Influence
When it comes to determining the nature and control, it is important to avoid generalisations. There are no definitive answers to any of the questions this study poses. Before the media was met with technological change, theorists and academic thinkers would attempt to explain the relationship between media products and their impact on audiences.
Before we dive into MEDIA INFLUENCE as a study we must ask ourselves these......
1. How was the relationship between media creators and the audience once explained?
2. In a new media landscape, which elements of their work are still relevant today?
Media Reframed - Cambridge 2018