(B) Audience Theory

Audience theory typically looks into how audiences’ consume media and how much of an influence the media has, with things like changing an audiences’ perception or behaviour. The Hypodermic Needle theory was developed in the 1920s-1930s while seeing the effects of war propaganda and postulates that media messages are ‘injected’ directly into the brains of the passive viewer, suggesting no individual difference.

Though the theory has been criticised with a consensus however, does not stop connections trying to be made e.g. when an eight-year-old shot his grandmother it was contributed to his playing the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV, and how “access to a violent video game may encourage aggressive behaviour” (Kristopher Kaliebe). This is grossly neglectful; rather than look into why an eight-year-old had access to a weapon – or even the game that has an age rating of 18+ – the responsibility is instead taken out of the hands of the one accountable, the child’s guardian, and puts it at the feet of violence in video games when 97% of US teens play them.

“To explain the problem of violence in society, researchers should begin with that social violence and seek to explain it with reference, quite obviously, to those who engage in it: their identity, background, character and so on,” David Gauntlett says in an article. “The ‘media effects’ approach, in this sense, comes at the problem backwards, by starting with the media and then trying to lasso connections from there on to social beings, rather than the other way around.” Even if this shouldn’t be practiced, studies have found that games help improve reaction time, problem solving and when “compared to teens that did not play video games, video game players reported more family closeness, higher involvement in activities, greater attachment to school, and positive mental health,” (Marilyn Price-Mitchell).

The Two Step Theory has similar elements to The Hypodermic Needle theory only it consists of “opinion leaders” who are held in regard, consume pieces of media and afterwards pass that information on, with their opinion to others. The difference is that the audience is seen as active rather than passive and relaying of information is centre. Twitter  is a good example of the Two Step Theory in both positive or negative, like back in 2013 when hackers tweeted from the Associated Press’ accounting saying that President Obama had been injured in an explosion which caused the Dow Jones share index to temporarily fall. On the opposite side of things, Eminem recently tweeted: “Join me in helping Manchester victims & their families, Make a donation to the @BritishRedCross and @MENnewsdesk” to his follows to aid soothe the tragedy after a terror attack at M.E.N Arena, and fans have gone on to donate £28,000 so far.

To contrast that, the Two Step Theory has its faults. For instance, J.K. Rowling is known for being opinionated about politics and has recently spoken out against Donald Trump who she has compared to an orange, and has gotten some backlash with one fan going as far as to respond: “@jk_rowling just burned all my Harry Potter books after being a fan for 17 years. The Phils. Stone was one of the first books I EVER read”/ “@jk_rowling I’m upset it has to be that way.. You embarrassed me, disgusted me, and I will never read your work again #ThankyouFor17Years”. It proves that though an “opinion leader” can. in fact effect the people who listen to them, those people can still decide whether they want to take it on board.


[1] https://www.businesstopia.net/mass-communication/hypodermic-needle-theory-communication

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/boy-8-shoots-grandmother-dead-2223955

[3] http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm

[4] http://www.rootsofaction.com/video-games-for-kids-more-good-than-bad-for-development/

[5] https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/communication-theories/sorted-by-cluster/Mass%20Media/Two_Step_Flow_Theory-1/

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24802766

[7] http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/join-me-eminem-donates-manchester-10505770

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/03/j-k-rowlings-twitter-feud-with-trump-supporters-is-so-bad-shes-now-fighting-some-of-her-fans/?utm_term=.2df8c28f2299


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