Collective Review: Media, Black on White

  • Achim Seiffarth Università degli Studi di Milano
Keywords: theory of mass communication, mass media effects, scientific narrative, representation of science, quantitative social research

Abstract

There is a difference between ordinary scientific essays and introductory text books. While we may (and usually do) just scan the contents of the first, we are supposed to read the latter from the first to the last page. If the text follows the history of scientific thought, it may thus seem reasonable to expect a narrative structure similar to the one of bourgeois novel. The text should, in other words, show some kind of plot, linking a poor beginning to a better end. According to this "frame," the end of the story should be able to justify preceding intrigues, torments and struggles as well as the reader's continuous effort to understand what it all was about. As a matter of fact, BONFADELLIs book (volume I) about "Theories and Fundamentals for Analyzing the Effects of Mass Media," though ordered chronologically, is very far from that kind of narrative and might more adequately be compared to postmodern literature. In each chapter of his book, the author presents theoretical approaches to "The Effects of Mass Media," from ALLPORT and LARZARSFELD to the most recent quantitative research efforts in the field. The reader will not get, however, an idea of "what it all was about." The author accurately eliminates any reference to history—that is, about personal, political and theoretical contexts of the theories he is writing about. He even destroys the object of his study, quoting theories about "effects" on "behavior," naming scientists that seek for "effects on social action," or "effects through social action," for "constructions" or studies on "interaction with media." BONFADELLI certainly does name them all, but he does not make any effort to fit them together. But what if this kind of conceptual dissolution really was the most adequate narrative strategy in order to expose a certain concept of empirical science? The second volume of BONFADELLIs work examines research traditions of applied research on topics such as violence in the media, political campaigns and advertising. Both volumes of this work on "The Effects of Mass Media" may be useful to someone who is looking for orientation about single schools of thought or for bibliographical references. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0204127

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Author Biography

Achim Seiffarth, Università degli Studi di Milano
Achim SEIFFARTH, M.A., Jahrgang 1960. Studium der Philosophie, Soziologie und Germanistik an der TU Berlin. Lektor für deutsche Sprache an der (staatlichen) Universität Mailand. Lehrbuch- und Zeitschriftenveröffentlichungen zur Didaktik, vor allem des Deutschen. Fachliche Interessen: Theorie, soziologisch informierte Landeskunde (observing). In einer zurückliegenden Ausgabe von FQS findet sich von Achim SEIFFARTH der Rezensionsaufsatz Verschwinden kann alles. Der Soziologe bleibt (http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs-texte/2-01/2-01review-seiffarth-d.htm) zu dem Band "Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie. Standpunkte zur Theorie der Interpretation".
Published
2002-11-30
Section
Online-Research / New Media