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I think the Uses and gratification approach and two-step flow of communication under limited effect theory is still relevant in contemporary media on audiences and users. In general, limited effect theory argues that the message from mass media cannot directly influence the audience's perspective. Such influence is limited. In other words, audiences tend to seek for advice from others instead of believing what they see or hear on mass media. The people that they seek for advice called opinion leaders. This type of leader pay close attention to the mass media and conveys their interpretation of media message to audiences.
In addition, the second approach under limited effect theory is called Uses and gratification. It explores how audiences also tend to seek out media that fulfill their desire and needs, which it is crucial to understand what motivates the audience to use the media.
Herzog on borrowed experience use the Uses and gratification approach to her observation and research on radio broadcast programs.
Herzog mentioned “emotional, wishful thinking and learning” are the three main types of gratification. (Herzog, 1941) Yet, audiences are active media users that seek their gratification through using certain media text. Thus, it shows their cognitive needs and behavior through their media usage. As the popular pleasure sought from media usage, researchers are using this theory to investigate more in-depth in different new media nowadays. According to Len Ang’s book “Watching Dallas”, Ang addressed Pierre Bourdieu on his explanation of popular pleasure as recognition. “It is characterized by an immediate emotional or sensual involvement in the object of pleasure.
What matters is the possibility of identifying oneself with it in some way or other, to integrate it into everyday life.” (Ang, 1982)
Uses and gratification and a two-way flow of communication can apply to social media platforms. From the content itself, it is obvious to see how the users are now able to deliver and post their own media content on social media site. These contents are turned into “user-generated content” along with the rise of “Web 2.0”. The research has shown users gratify their major needs on social media include entertainment, social interaction, self-status seeking and information. Beside these needs, affection, sharing problems or fashion is also part of the motivation of why users are using social media platforms. (Tanta. Et al, 2014) As the platform is based on sharing “user-generated content” from users to users, it forms a phenomenon of these users become free audience labor. “Fans take pleasure in writing reviews or creating art, in sharing their work and receiving feedback, in exchange their works in a gift economy, and/ or aiming for success in a reputation economy.” (Kosnik, 2012)
Although these users tend to not think of themselves as equivalent to labor, but they are still considered part of it as long as they are contributing to producing value for the internet. For instance, social media platforms create content, browsing data, social networks and data user’s personal performance to track what are content attract this user the most. In such, even user did not post or share any content, but did click like, view certain sites or tag someone; they are still considered as free digital labor. Thus, audiences create a data commodity that these social media giants generate to sold to advertising clients. Through this process, advertisers and stakeholders understand and know how to resonate effectively with their target consumers and user’s online behavior. Although it seems data collection make business easier to identify their target audiences, it can possibly lead to social issues by “reinforcing and making prejudice”, which involve privacy and ethic. (Chen 2014) Take home loan as an example, the financial services tend to tracks people that consider as “undesirable” consumer groups and redline these people for a home loan.
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