Media Agenda/ McCombs interview

Media Agenda
Chapter 28 Page 360

I went to a fascinating lecture last night, in MLK library, by Professor Cordero about global warming and food. This relates to agenda-setting theory because, as McCombs says, "journalists are message producers" (as cited in Griffin, 2008). Griffin and McCombs make it very clear that what the media emphasize as important, and what they focus our attention on, are the very things that we as a society think about and look at. Thankfully the issue of global climate change is becoming more and more mainstream, and getting more news coverage in the media. But there still needs to be more attention focused on the issue as a global community. Professor Cordero talked about agriculture and food regarding how much energy is used and carbon is emitted in the process. I did not realize that we can actually reduce our emissions by changing our diets, as we can by buying a brand new prius, or riding a bike. The carbon footprint on a jar of skippy peanut butter is 4. That is not too bad compared to a cheeseburger which was something like 15. Don't quote me on this, but I doubt the media has ever covered a story about the link between consumption (namely food) and global warming. I have never even heard of mitigations or adaptations we can each make in order to reduce greenhouse gases, regarding food. Frankly it scares me that the media has not deemed it necessary to focus the publics' attention on these issues. What will it take for journalists to take these things into consideration? Grocery stores like whole foods and trader joes are atleast trying to, on a small scale, keep consumers aware of these things by packaging food with labels such as "air-freighted" on them. Air freighting food is a way to avoid seasonality of foods, by shipping them internationally to stores here. It is great that we can have fresh cherries almost year round at Safeway, but we never really think about how many tons of carbon are emitted in the process of air-freighting that fruit to us. Anyways, I will get off my soap box now, but it is just something to think about. Some food for thought (pun intended). Are there other issues that worry you, that the media makes seemingly invisible? I am curious to know...

Christians' Christian Approach

Chapter 28 (page 369)
Christians' Communitarian Ethics:
"A moral community demonstrates more than mere interdependence; it is characterized by mutuality, a will-to-community, a genuine concern for the other apart from immediate self-interest...An act is morally right when compelled by the intention to maintain the community of person; it is wrong if driven by self-centeredness" (as cited in Griffen, 369).

In my envrionmental studies class: global climate change, we have been talking a lot about ethical theories and how they pertain to choices and mitigations about global climate change. Ethics is the philisophical study of morality; and morality deals with concerns about values and value judgments relating to the well-being of persons. Morality is a sort of convention of language that is perception-shaped. What we view as good/bad, right/wrong, harm/benefit; depend on our values and perceptions from our socialization process. Christian's theory is based on the premise that a community ought to be concerned with morality, regarding mutuality and selflessness. This quote in particular focuses on a persons character more so than their actions. Obviously your character will motivate your actions; actions are defined as what people do, whereas character is what people "ought to do." This sounds to me like a utilitarian ethical theory.

Media Malady Effect

This excerpt about the media malady effect is a powerful statement:

"Negative economic headlines were found to have a significant and negative impact on subsequent consumer sentiment [and] an adverse effect on subsequent leading economic indicators up to a five-month time lag...Clearly news organizations hold the power to effect change" (as cited in Griffin, 367).

It is very similar to the polls. Many times the press coverage on election polls will harm the front-runner. The reasoning for this is that people assume that the front-runner already has enough support, so they assume their vote will not make a difference. Then the runner-up will get more votes, and maybe even sympathy votes in order to keep them in the game. The media and the press can have a black magic or poisonous affect on people's opinions and perceptions. The creation and perpetuation of ideas in media headlines seem to create a self-fulfilling prophecy for the audience that subscribes to those ideas. When someone falls prey to believing a negatively-framed idea, they will almost always act out those ideas subconciously in order to prove to themselves that what they chose to believe is true. This also brings to my attention, the recent stock market crash and recession in America right now. The more people listen to and believe the media, the more they will panic and sell their stocks, which leads to a larger crash in the market. It is an evil cycle; an economic catch twenty-two.

Making Meaning Through Discourse

Making Meaning Through Discourse (Chapter 26, page 337)
Two quotes that really stood out to me in this section. They are about defining insanity, and having the power to make or break definitions or ideas of any kind. Griffin describes Foucault's idea about dramatic change in defining people as insane, saying, “People with power drew arbitrary lines between between the normal and the abnormal” (338). In the last line of the section, Griffin brings this idea full circle, “The right to make meaning, can literally be the power to make others crazy” (338). If you have “discursive power,” some public platform or soap box that reaches across many mass media lines, you then have the power to define, and label people. Once that power is abused, it oppresses people and media then perpetuates that oppression and those ideals used to hold them down. Being in the public eye was made possible by the media. Media, as a globally powered avenue and environment can be used by people in power, thus having drastically positive and negative affects on public perception all over the world. This blurred line is created between truth and fiction, or even truth and reality. Griffin states later in the chapter, “truth has prospered by investigating what is, separately from what we think it ought to be. Hall seems to blur that distinction” (343). The problem is, media and people that hold powerful positions in public discourse, start to deem what is as one in the same, as what they think ought to be. Since we are seeing and hearing them more so than someone of lesser power, we are more apt to believe in the “school of thought” that they are teaching.

The Print Age

Chapter 24
The Print Age (page 316)
I never really thought of books as a way to isolate, and be alienated from others and from the “immediacy of your surroundings” (317). I always thought of reading as something that intelligent people did, to better themselves and gain more knowledge. I am not saying the latter is false, but I am seeing portable books in a whole new light. McLuhan describes the print revolution as the, “forerunner of the industrial revolution” (316). I agree that once we were able to produce and reproduce mass quantities of the same things, nationwide globalization began. He talks more about globalization in the digital age, but this is where it all started. Something that has the potential to making a nation feel unified, was actually stunting our growth and making us feel even more separate and alone (316). Often times when I am sitting in my room studying for a test, or doing reading for a class, I feel very isolated and alone. I know it is something I have to do in order to succeed in my classes, but often times I dread reading because of the isolation it brings. I often enjoy what I am reading, and learn a lot from doing so, but at the end of the day I feel as if I have been holed up in a cave. This can lead to feeling very depressed and lethargic. Study groups are a good way of getting out of that alienation. Unfortunately I have ADD so I often have to control the environment that I study in, in order to retain what I am reading.

The Tribal Age

The Tribal Age: An Acoustic Place in History
Chapter 24: Page 314-315
The act of listening and sharing in a group can form a sense of community, similar to symbolic convergence. In this section McLuhan describes how our sensitivity to sound is an essential tool in understanding and perceiving environments. “The sense of sound works against privatization. Listening to someone speak in a group is a unifying act. Everyone hears at the same time”(315). We are less restricted and have less boundaries with sound and spoken words than we do with sight. Spoken words are unifying, communal, and “lack materiality” (315) because they are arbitrary. Spoken words or ideas are only alive in the moments that they are uttered. Because of this McLuhan says spoken words must, “constantly be shared and reiterated and passed down” (315) in order to stay alive. Without the ability to hear we are “hopelessly unaware”(315) of our surroundings. McLuhan summed up the tribal age in his last line, “hearing is believing” (315). I agree with McLuhan in that, hearing is a much more holistic interpretation of the world around us, and gives us so much freedom with that interpretation and perception.

Narrative Paradigm

Narrative Paradigm
Walter Fisher Chapter 23 (pg. 300)
Narration and Paradigm
Since this section is about defining terms, I will start off by defining a couple of them.
Narration: “Symbolic actions-words and/or deed- that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create, or interpret them” (300).
Paradigm: “A conceptual framework; a universal model that calls for people to view events through a common interpretive lens” (300).
Fisher defines narration beautifully saying, “It is embedded in the speaker's ongoing story that has a beginning, middle, and end, and it invites listeners to interpret its meaning and assess its value for their own lives” (as cite in Griffin, 300). To me this embodies the idea of sharing books with people that I love. I lend books to friends in hopes that they will get something as wonderful, or even better, out of it as I did. It also gives me a totally new perspective on the material when we can then discuss the book. Seeing it from another person's “interpretive lens” gives me so much more to look at, than just seeing it through my own. Have you ever read a book three or four times, and gotten something different out of it each and every time? As time goes by my experiences and newly acquired knowledge change my interpretation of a book I have read time and time again. Perception has a lot to do with what I get from a book, and my outlook on life at that point in time. I enjoy reading books several times, at different points in time, because I always find that more will be revealed, each time. It is like the onion layers of my life coordinate differently each time with the layers in the book.

Redemption Through Victimage

Dramatism Chapter 22
Redemption Through Victimage page 293
There is so much good material to discuss in this section, let alone in this chapter. I was not sure where to begin, or which direction to go. One of Burke's defining ideas about rhetoric is its use, “as a continual pattern of redemption through victimage” (Griffin, 293). He defines victimage as, “the process of designating an external enemy as the source of all our ills” (293). In other words finding a scapegoat to use as common ground (identification) between you and your audience members. I thought it was very interesting how he paralleled the God terms and devil terms with this idea, ultimately portraying the scapegoat as the “personification of evil,” which aesthetically juxtaposes the victim. These opposing terms, and characters make it much easier for an audience to choose the victims side. I speak for myself when I say that as an audience member, I am much more likely to agree with a speaker that I feel compassion, and empathy for. If I feel that we are in the same boat, and are both victims of whatever or whomever the scapegoat is, I will side with the victim. The bigger the gap of opposition between the two extremes, the easier it is to pick a side. If they are too similar, too close in position (golden mean), the harder it will be to decipher right from wrong, good from bad. This obviously has a lot to do with my value system, and perceptions; but if the speaker is good he/she will know these general values well enough to adapt to his audience.

The Golden Mean

The Rhetoric Chapter 21 pg. 286
The Golden Mean
“Aristotle saw wisdom in the person who avoids excess on either side. Moderate is best; virtue develops habits that seek to walk an intermediate path (286). Aristotle called this theory of virtue the golden mean. Within the framework of emotional proof, this idea “struck a responsive chord” (283) with me. As far as I am concerned, moderation and balance in all aspects of life, are the key to happiness, health and success. Think about all the diet programs that push portion control and moderate eating. This also brings to mind healthy relationships, where neither person is too dependent or co-dependent on the other. Workaholism is a disease just like alcoholism, and both are due to overconsumption of their drug of choice (work or alcohol). Extremists are on either side of the spectrum, but nowhere near the middle; thus there is no such thing as a “happy medium” for them. Their life scale is in black and white, and disregards gray. The gray area is the healthy balance in the middle of the two extremes. I enjoyed the suggestions that Aristotle gave for using the golden mean in other aspects of communication in our relationships. He suggests truthful statements as opposed to lies or brutal honesty. Notice how lies and brutal honesty are polar opposites, but truthful statements falls nicely in the middle. He also suggests self-disclosure over secrecy or soul-baring, and courage instead of cowardice or recklessness. I think these suggestions can be utilized not only in our everyday interactions with others, but also in our intimate interpersonal relationships. This “happy medium” and moderate way of life will strengthen our relationships with others. To honor Aristotle's love for metaphors I will close with one that sums up the golden mean. Too much of a good thing.

Democratic Demise

Chapter 20
Free Expression Of Ideas, But No Voice (268)
As quoted by Griffin (268), Deetz states, “The combination of belief in “reality” and cynicism is disastrous for a democracy. The belief that all claims are merely opinions is used to stop discussions rather than start them.”
This quote especially resonated with me, considering the big election coming up in November. Deetz focuses on corporate communication practices, but this idea can be applied to any kind of democracy.
Griffin uses this quote to highlight the importance of not only freedom of expression, but also the right to have a voice, being equally as important. Deetz thought that the emphasis was too heavily weighted on the first notion and not enough on the latter. People need to believe that their voice has purpose and will actually make a difference in the ultimate outcome. If having a voice is not effective, and considered a “mere opinion,” there is no point, and that democracy will surely fail. The foundation of a democracy is that we all have an equal voice, and freedom to express that voice, but more importantly that it be put to use and action. “People won't have a voice if they regard communication as the transmission of information” (Griffin, 268). If “reality” proves this time and time again, it is no wonder that people would be cynical about the process of a democracy; not to say all democracies are this way. Whether in business, personal or political affairs, having an effective voice is crucial for all parties involved, the establishment upholding these rights, and the people utilizing them.

Don't Get Boxed In

Chapter 20 pg. 269
Figure 20-2 “A Morning Exercise” Created by Stan Deetz
After reading the Don't Get Boxed In, exercise by Deetz, I was able to get a clearer understanding of his theory. It is so easy to just be a passive consumer of information, without thinking about who is providing and sponsoring that information to us. A quote that stood out to me about this, “It only shows that all information is sponsored. All data, whether scientific or not, is value-laden and hence political” (269). The author explains that this does not make the information good or bad, it is just value based and chosen from and through those values by the stakeholder. I thought the whole idea of writing your own information about the cereal in the clear containers, was so creative and thought-provoking. I would love to see the different kinds of information on a can of Diet Coke, sponsored by a parent, a scientist, a government agency, a nutritionist, a teenager...etc. There would be thousands of different views of political information, just within those subsets of people themselves. “...government agencies and I have different preferences and therefore produce and reproduce different truths. None of us is more noble or evil by producing a particular truth” (269). I tend to deem people as good and bad based upon the evidence or information they choose to sponsor, but that is unfair of me. Just because my preferences do not align with theirs, does not mean they are bad. I think the point Deetz is trying to make is not about the truth itself, but just the awareness of knowing there are many sides to everything. That information can be manipulated by us and we can be manipulated by it. He believes in a democracy in action, which means being critical, open-minded and aware of as much information as possible.

Symbolic Interpretation of Story

The Symbolic Interpretation of Story, Chapter 19, page 254.

When I started working at Nordstrom, as a personal shopper, I was very excited about the prospect of excelling in such a large company. The opportunities seemed endless to me, as they told me they “promote from within.” I remember my first day of the two week training for the job. The Human Relations director stood at the front of the room and gave us story after story about the foundation of the company, its successes as a company and its successes for employees within the company. She painted a picture for the new employees in that room with both corporate and personal stories. The corporate stories included things about how the founders' sons all started out of the sales floor, just like any one of us. They all had to work their way up, so therefor we are all on common ground. She explained how the general manager of our store is hands on, always getting her “hands dirty” by cleaning, doing displays, painting and even selling at times. This gave us a sense that she loved her job, and that the values of the company include close-ties, hard-work, community, equality and a go-getter attitude. She also told us that the general manager did not get a college degree, in fact she started working at Nordstrom right after high-school. The message she was trying to send us through her story was very clear. She wanted us to see that we all have a chance at being the general manager one day, if we work hard enough. Her personal stories were about her summer internships with Nordstrom, and how after graduating from UC Davis she was offered a position as Assistant Manager of her department and then eventually manager of HR. With her personal story she wanted to be “seen within the organization” (254) as a smart woman who kept close connections in the company during her college education in order to get promoted after graduating. This was all fine and dandy information, and made Nordstrom sound like the best place on earth to work, but I knew better. I had to get the truth, the reality the real story of how things really work within the organization (254). This is where the Collegial stories came in handy. I knew that if I went down to my department and asked a few of my co-workers about their experiences at Nordstrom, I would find out what it is really like to be an employee in this company. The truth prevailed because after getting both positive and negative stories about the company, my own experience at Nordstrom aligned with those stories more so than anything else I had heard.

Hirokawa interview

Hirokawa Interview

Em Griffin disclosed that many times he has cracked jokes during group meetings, in order to lighten the mood. It was interesting that in Symbolic Convergence Theory this would be considered starting a fantasy chain theme, but he wondered if it counterproductive regarding the Functional Perspective. Hirokawa talked about how this could actually help the group to focus on the pros and cons of the situation and even get them to look at it from a different perspective than their own. Even if Em's intention was nothing more than lightening the mood due to boredom, the function of his action could help the group interaction. Hirokawa explains this as, “one of the great intriguing aspects of group communication. That is, how you intend your message to function may not at all function in a way that you intended. There’s an irony there, but it is a reality” (as cited in Griffin). The most crucial question asked by Griffin was how we know the difference between a good decision and a bad one. Hirokawa notes goodness or badness as a “subjective judgment” (as cited in Griffin). I agree that what might be considered a good decision made by one group, could be considered bad by another group. It is all based on who is going to be affected the most by the outcome of that decision, and who it is in favor of.
I find myself using this technique when making big decisions in my life. It would be very ineffective and potentially harmful to bypass weighing the pros and cons of an outcome. Hirokawa explains this approach as the groups, “ability to evaluate the positive and negative aspects of alternate choices prior to making a decision” (as cited in Griffin). He also claims this to be the most essential of the four steps in Functional Perspective.