Essay on Mass Communication
This essay paper is written based around the communication scene observed in the daytime Soap Opera One Life to Live. The soap opera is based in a city called Landview. The scene takes place inside a local restaurant/bar, where people come to relax, hang out, drink, read the newspaper, listen to music, or do paper work. The characters in the scene are AJ (the restaurant’s owner), Zeth (an employee at the restaurant), and Al (a customer). In the scene Interpersonal and Mass communication are observed. Two functions that occurred in the scene are Instruction and Persuasion. This essay will show how these levels of communication, and functions, were played out in the scene. The Berlo’s Model of Communication will also be used to show how the characters act according to the model.
When communicating with other people we tend to have different ways to express ourselves. Communication is a process of sending and receiving messages using verbal and non-verbal symbols (Tubbs 16). It is a complicated procedure that has several levels in which people express themselves. The scene observed gave outstanding examples of Interpersonal communication. Interpersonal Communication is the basic form of communication between two people (Tubbs 16). Most people deal with Interpersonal communication on a daily basis. Zeth and AJ converse about the newspaper. Their conversation has no real point; it is just an informal exchange.
Most people have several informal exchanges each day. It might be a hello to the mailman or a five-minute conversation with an old friend. Zeth talks to one of the customers in the restaurant (Al) saying, “Can I get you something to drink?”(Tomlin). Al responds saying, “Yes a soda, a large soda, a large large soda” (Tomlin). The men converse back in forth taking about drinks, and then turn their conversation to the topic of Al’s writing. The conversation facilitates to them achieving a common ground; they both are going to take classes at Landview U. Al says, “I’m going to take a full load of courses next semester at Landview”(Tomlin). Zeth talks about how he is interested in sitting in on a couple of classes. From their conversation they start to form a relationship. They plan to take classes together, and study in groups in the near future.
Mass communication is the second level of communication observed in the scene. Mass communication is a source of message that communicates through print or electronic medium (Tubbs 17). AJ is observed reading the newspaper and he tells Zeth what he is reading about. “I was reading about the economy. Employment is up, you know?” (Tomlin). A newspaper is a source of message intended for a mass population, rather than for only a small number of individuals. Mass communication is an expensive form of communication. In order to get ideas across or to get people to buy a product.
“Television advertisements during the Super Bowl each January will cost millions of dollars per minute”( Tubbs 16). The radio (form of Mass communication) was playing in the restaurant during the entire scene. The radio is meant for a large public audience, anonymous to the source (Tubbs 16). The radio communicates to people on an intimate level and dictates which of many different moods people should be in. The broadcasts might say, “It’s time to dance,” and put people in a partying mood. Soft relaxing music might convey a message it is time to relax not work. Most mass communication has limited opportunities for feedback. For examples, television is a form of mass communication in which it is hard to give feedback. You watch TV and you both digest and remember the information or you simply dismiss and forget the information. You cannot talk back to the television.
There is several functions in communication, in which people try to express themselves. The scene observed clearly showed two functions. The first function is Instruction. Instruction gives the information plus the explanation of how to do something (Mullin, 2001). Instructions also show or teach skills for a particular topic. Zeth and Al both talked about, and read a course catalog for Landview College. The college catalog gave general information about the college and which classes to take for each major. It also gave a basic social understanding of in which classes one should register. Zeth and Al both were interested in reading the daily newspaper “The Sun.” The newspaper gives people a good social understanding of what is going on in their community. The newspaper can also be classified in another major function of communication, Persuasion. Newspapers persuade and attempt to change people’s minds by writing with a selected bias. Persuasion is the attempt to influence and change people’s opinions on certain topics(Mullin, 2001). The newspaper like other persuading items (magazine, TV) has a clear understanding of values and makes sure it stays within those values.
Berlo’s Model stresses the role of the relationship between the source and the receiver as an important variable in the communication process. The source and the receiver both have communication skills, attitudes, knowledge, social systems, and culture (Mullin, 2001). All characters in the scene observed used communication skills. AJ spoke to Zeth about the newspaper (a form of mass communication) and Zeth listened to what he had to say. Al, after reading the course catalog, wrote down notes on which classes he wanted to take at Landview U. Al is using a communication skill (reading) while looking over the course catalog (a form of mass communication). Zeth thought about Landview U and told Al he was interested in sitting in on classes. Zeth and Al were using communication skills (hearing, talking) while having an interpersonal relationship. Communication skills are used throughout the scene. When Zeth asked about the trial, AJ was tense and had an attitude with Zeth. The model helps to describe the scene, but falls short when it comes to giving the viewer background information. We do not know if Al and Zeth have meet before or why AJ has an attitude with Zeth. We have no knowledge of AJ’s past experiences. AJ acted as if he knew more about the trial than he was telling everyone. Without background information the viewer has to guess why characters communicate the way they do. Zeth’s role is affected by the social system and culture he lives in. He is working at a restaurant so he has to be polite and friendly to the costumers no what they do. The people in his culture expect him to act according to his job title.
In the middle of Berlo’s Model there is two important features; message and channel. The message consists of elements, content, treatment, and structure. When observing the scene you can see how the message is conveyed through different levels of communication. When Zeth and Al were talking (Interpersonal communication) a message was conveyed. Al talked about the content of the course catalog. The catalog was made with great attention (treatment) of the contents. In other words, it was written with the idea that thousands of people would be reading it. The authors of the catalog structured it so the average person could read it and get basic information about classes. The message conveys several important things to us throughout the scene, but falls short when giving us or letting us know the importance of what is being expressed. For example, when Zeth mentions the trial we do not know what the trial is about or its importance to AJ. Without knowing the importance of something, we have to guess why the characters act the way they do and why they stress certain things. After the message is conveyed we look into the channel, which consists of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. AJ held (touching) the newspaper as he read (seeing) it. Zeth is observed hearing AJ talk to him about the newspaper.
In order to better represent my scene I would add importance to the Message stage of Berlo’s Model. In order to better understand what is going on in a scene and why characters act the way they do, you have to understand the importance of the hidden looks, any object or thing that has special importance to the scene. For example, if you are watching a scene from a series you might need to know what happened in earlier scenes in order to get a better understanding of the characters actions or prized possessions. Maybe one character has a special watch and she explained how special it was to her in a previous episode. If we did not watch the previous episode then we would not know why she cried over the lost watch. The Source and the Receiver also need an element of history. This ties in with importance, because if you do not know the history of the scene or the characters, then you will not know the importance of an object or a saying. The history gives you a bit of background information, which helps you to better understand the scene.
Overall we can see how interpersonal communication, mass communication, Instruction, and Persuasion tie in with Berlo’s Model to explain how a scene is bursting with communication. At first you do not notice the levels or the functions, but after close scrutiny it is easy to see that almost everything we do has to do with or is affected by some form of communication. With the changes on Berlo’s Model the scene is completely explained and understood.
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