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Chapter 1--Introduction and Theory Why is social identity important? “When an individual identifies him/herself as a group member, his/her beliefs, interests, and actions tend to become aligned with those of the group” (Luther, Lepre, & Clark, 2012, p. 3). We also tend to categorize other people into groups. The groups create a distinction between their members and non-members. Some core social identities are: gender, age, racial/ethnic, sexual orientation, national, religious, and class. The mass media transmits information related to these identities and “can play a part in creating, reinforcing, modifying, negotiating or adding to identities” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 3). Racial/Ethnic Identity Race is considered a classification of individuals based on genetics. One the other hand, “ethnicity encompasses one’s own heredity, national origin and culture” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 3). In 1927 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation legislation that had prohibited people from different races to marry. It wasn’t until 2000 that the U.D. Census Bureau provided the option for individuals to identify themselves as multiracial. Gender Identity Biological sex is genetic. Gender is a social construction. “From a very young age, individuals learn the roles and attributes that are associated with males and females” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 5). Socialization of gender roles is reinforced at very early ages. People who do not fite the norm of any group may be ridiculed or ostracized as being different. The media portray cultural ideas of masculinity and femininity which may change over time. Sexual Identity Just as our cultural ideas of gender change, so do our ideas about sexual orientation. Media portrayals of homosexuality were considered taboo in the past; however, contemporary media now reflect society’s changing attitudes. Television and film today feature individuals and cast characters of various sexual orientations. Age Identity Age schemas are developed when we are young children. They include cultural notions about “what type of language pattern or behavior is appropriate for certain age groups” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 7). In 2002 Actress Doris Roberts testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, “My peers and I are portrayed as dependent, helpless, unproductive, and demanding rather than deserving. In reality, the majority of seniors are self-sufficient, middle class consumers with more assets than most young people, and the time and talent to offer society” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 8). Disability Identity An individual with a disability is often defined by that disability. Cultural notions about disability also exist. Class Identity Every society is divided by social stratification and socioeconomic class is also a form of social identity. Media portrayals of class may reinforce societal attitudes about social class, but like any portrayal of social identities, portrayal in the media might be positive or negative. Chapter 2—Theoretical Foundations of Research in Mass Media Representations Research on media representations are largely based on content analysis of media messages and qualitative analysis such as critical or cultural studies. They fall into two broad perspectives: social psychological and critical/cultural. One construct of diversity portrayal in media is a stereotype defined as “beliefs about characteristics or attributes of a social group” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 14). Stereotypes are useful to help us classify information and stereotyping is a normal process. Mass media play a key role in transmitting or reinforcing stereotypes that may be either positive or negative. Framing Framing is a way we process and organize information when we stress certain aspects of reality and de-emphasize others. This affects our understanding of the world around us. Framing has been used as a theoretical foundation to study media portrayals of gender, news stories, race, and many other constructs. Social Comparison Theory Social comparison theory tells us that “individuals have a natural drive to compare themselves with others for self-evaluation purposes” and that “youngsters are being socialized through the comparison process”(Luther et al, 2012, p. 17). When we consider the effects of media images on children, it becomes clear that media does shape attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of children. Contemporary media researchers have used social comparison theory on topics such as media consumption and body image. Socialization “Socialization is the means by which individuals, beginning at an early age and continuing throughout their lives, learn about society norms, values, and beliefs” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 18). Social learning theory is attributed to psychologist Albert Bandura who tested his learning theory using children exposed to media violence and the link to aggressive play behavior with a Bobo doll. You can learn more about this theory at http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html. Cultivation Theory “Cultivation theory proposes that mass media contour or cultivate the viewpoints of individuals regarding their surrounding environment” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 20). This concept of media cultivating a society is attributed to the late journalist and communications professor George Gerbner. He lead the Cultural Indicators Project conducting content analysis on violence in television programs. The research project began as a government committee study in the 1960s following the assassinations of Present John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King. You can read more about George Gerbner and the Cultural Indicators Project at http://www.asc.upenn.edu/gerbner/archive.aspx?sectionID=18. Media Representations: Critical Perspectives “The critical perspective takes a long-term view of the impact of mass communication on social notions regarding individuals and groups….it takes a more holistic approach by examining the role of mass media in sustaining or bringing about change in our understandings of ourselves, of others, and of the societies in which we live” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 22). One primary concern of critical media studies is rooted in early research that looked at ways in which the social elite used popular culture to maintain control or dominance in society. Hegemony Hegemony “refers to the dominance of political and social elites over those with less power” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 23). Contemporary critics use this theory when examining how popular media and products produced by the United States help the U.S. maintain dominance on a worldwide basis. The Concept of Representation Representation is how we use language, nonverbal symbols and media to convey ideas in our society. It is divided into three theoretical approaches—reflective (reflection of the true meaning), intentional (it considers the intent of the person who created it), and constructionist (connecting it to a concept based on social conventions). Cultural studies scholars “have explored how social boundaries can be created, and even broken, through popular culture in such areas as race, class, sexuality, and gender” (Luther et al, 2012, p. 25). Feminist Theory and Feminism Feminist theory acknowledges that the female perspective is needed in theoretical research. Historically, feminism is considered to have evolved in three waves. The first wave began in the U.K. and U.S. and was focused on property rights and voting rights; the second wave focused on reproductive rights and workplace equality, and the third wave focused on recognizing the unique differences and qualities of women. Using Identity and Theory to Evaluate Representations As you progress in this course, you are encouraged to refer to these concepts of social identity and theory as you read and discuss the chapters and prepare papers and presentations. Your ability to link the information presented in the course to social identity and theory demonstrates your ability to critically evaluate it.