Motivation and reward for media consumption
Uses and gratifications theory
Problems with traditional media effects research
It takes the viewpoint of the communicatorThe goal is to change attitudes, behavior, etc.Research looks at the impact of a single show, medium, political campaign, etc. without considering other choices the audience hasEffects research usually looks at influence as a one-way processIt sees audience members as targets rather than as ‘active’ seekers, interpreters, etc.
‘Active audience’ view
People actively choose from among a large number of optionsChoose among activitiesChoose among mediaChoose among content options
Uses and gratifications research
“Uses and grats” asks why people attend to media content and what they get from itThe common-sense theory is that people seek out media that satisfy their wants and/or needs.U&G research tries to build up a list of different types of gratifications that people turn to media content to provide. The goal is to match media and content to gratifications
Uses and gratifications
If we can determine what people are looking for, we can better provide content that will satisfy their needs and interestsVery practical side to all this
Personal social circumstances and psychological dispositions together influence both... general habits of media use and also... beliefs and expectations about the benefits offered by the media, which shape... specific acts of media choice and consumption, followed by.... assessments of the value of the experience (with consequences for further media use) and, possibly... applications of benefits acquired in other areas of experience and social activity. (Blumler and Katz, 1974).
People sometimes give reasons for consumption you would not predict
Some gratifications may not be as obvious as othersHerzog’s (no relation—not even spelled the same) study of daytime radio serial listenersRadway’sReading the RomanceBerelson’s study of what people missed during a newspaper strike
Five basic assumptions(Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch, 1974)
The audience is conceived as active, i.e., an important part of mass media use is assumed to be goal oriented … patterns of media use are shaped by more or less definite expectations of what certain kinds of content have to offer the audience member.
In the mass communication process much initiative in liking need gratification and media choice lies with the audience member … individual and public opinions have power vis-à-vis the seemingly all-powerful media.
The media compete with other sources of need satisfaction. The needs served by mass communication constitute but a segment of the wider range of human needs, and the degree to which they can be adequately met through mass media consumption certainly varies.
Methodologically speaking, many of the goals of mass media use can be derived from data supplied by individual audience members themselves- i.e., people are sufficiently self-aware to be able to report their interests and motives in particular cases, or at least to recognize them when confronted with them in an intelligible and familiar verbal formulation.
Value judgments about the cultural significance of mass communication should be suspended while audience orientations are explored on their own terms.
McQuail, Blumler, and Brown (1972) proposed a model of “media-person interactions” to classify four important media gratifications: (1) Diversion: escape from routine or problems; emotional release; (2) Personal relationships: companionship; social utility; (3) Personal identity: self reference; reality exploration; value reinforces; and (4) Surveillance (forms of information seeking).
Katz, Gurevitch and Haas (1973) developed 35 needs taken from the social and psychological functions of the mass media and put them into five categories:Cognitive needs, including acquiring information, knowledge and understanding;Affective needs, including emotion, pleasure, feelings;Personal integrative needs, including credibility, stability, status;Social integrative needs, including interacting with family and friends; andTension release needs, including escape and diversion.
McQuail (1994) added another dimension to this definition. He states:Personal social circumstances and psychological dispositions together influence both … general habits of media use and also … beliefs and expectations about the benefits offered by the media, which shape ... specific acts of media choice and consumption, followed by ... assessments of the value of the experience (with consequences for further media use) and, possibly ... applications of benefits acquired in other areas of experience and social activity (p. 235).
Daytime serial listeners
Emotional releaseEnjoyed hearing of other people’s troubleProvided some compensation for their own distressWishful thinkingCharacters led lives the listeners wanted to live themselvesValuable advice“serials provided many of their listeners with explanations as to how to handle problems that they themselves might experience”(Lowery & DeFleur)
Richard Kilborn (1992: 75-84) offers the following common reasons for watching soaps:regular part of domestic routine and entertaining reward for worklaunchpad for social and personal interactionfulfilling individual needs: a way of choosing to be alone or of enduring enforced loneliness
identification and involvement with characters (perhaps cathartic)escapist fantasy (American supersoaps more fantastical)focus of debate on topical issuesa kind of critical game involving knowledge of the rules and conventions of the genre
Reading the Romance
Women used the romance novels as a form of escape from their rather humdrum lives, a means to connect with other housewives and as a way to accommodate themselves to the male-dominated world they live in
One way to classify gratifications is based on whether exposure is sought for its own sake or whether it is pursued to support some other goalEntertainmentSocial interactionLearning
Another distinction is between gratifications that are biologically based and those that are learnedNature v. nurtureExcitation/sensation seekingMood managementSocial reinforcementAestheticsEconomic profitability
People will choose content that best complements their current moodMaintains an optimal state of excitationMeadowcroft and Zillmann
Theorists have argued that excitation itself generates pleasure. Simply getting the blood pumping watching an action show or playing a video game generates endorphins
Group discussion of content—being ‘in the know’Parasocial interaction with charactersCompensation for lost partners, lack of social circleOccasion for getting together with friends, family
Appreciation for beauty, form, etc.Some innate preferences (balance, color) but mostly learnedDevelop an appreciation for art, music, etc.
Can learn valuable skillsInformation value in competitive settingsMoney-saving tips
McQuail (1994) commented that the approach has not provided much successful prediction or casual explanation of media choice and use. . . . much media use is circumstantial and weakly motivated, the approach seems to work best in examining specific types of media where motivation might be presented (McQuail, 1994).
Ien Ang also criticized uses and gratifications approach:It is highly individualistic, taking into account only the individual psychological gratification derived from individual media use.Social context tends to be ignoredSome use may be forced on us
There is relatively little attention paid to media contentresearchers study why people use the media, but less what meanings they actually get out of their media use.The approach starts from the view that the media are always functional to people and may thus implicitly offer a justification for the way the media are currently organized(cited by CCMS-Infobase, 2003).
uses and gratifications research relies heavily on self-reports (Katz, 1987).Personal memory can be problematic
The stance can also lead to the exaggeration ofopenness of interpretation, implying that audiences may obtain almost any kind of gratification regardless of content or of 'preferred readings'. Itsfunctionalistemphasis is politically conservative: if we insist that people will always find some gratifications from any use of media, we may adopt a complacently uncritical stance towards what the mass media currently offer.Chandler
Internet use motivations
Although motivations for Internet use may vary among individuals, situations, and media vehicles, most uses and gratifications studies explore them based on some or all of the following dimensions: relaxation, companionship, habit, passing time, entertainment, social interaction, information/surveillance, arousal, and escape (Lin, 1999).Wikipedia
Video game uses and gratifications
Types of video game players
“Play theorists have identified a number of types of players, each with a different need that gets met by the type of game they play.”Klug & Schell
The Competitorplays to be better than other players.The Explorerplays to experience the boundaries of the play world. He plays to discover first what others do not know yet.The Collectorplays to acquire the most stuff through the game.The Achieverplays to not only be better now, but also be better in the rankings over time. He plays to achieve the most championships over time.
The Jokerplays for the fun alone and enjoys the social aspects.The Directorplays for the thrill of being in charge. He wants to orchestrate the event.The Storytellerplays to create or live in an alternate world and build narrative out of that world.The Performerplays for the show he can put on.The Craftsmanplays to build, solve puzzles, and engineer constructs.
Controlling their environment
Games not only allow players to escape their environment, but to actively become involved in a new environmentOnly escape available in most entertainment mediaGamers make up little stories about game characters, increasing the realistic feeling of the gameControl sought is mainly predictability of actions within the game so that the player can anticipate actions of opponents and be assured that random happenings do not undo his own actions
MMORPG game players tend to be Achiever/Collectors“These people tend to view MMORPG games as a way to gain control in an alternative universe that is “sort of” like the one they actually live in, but is much more predictable. This forms an alternative to the world they live in, which feels (to them) random, heartless, and insensitive to their needs.”
Control players want order so much that they are willing to give up narrative logic for predictability
Participants are attracted to the ability to “experience a universe they may have only imagined”Fantasy gamesHistory gamesStorytellers are attracted by this possibilityStorytellers often want to see “what would have happened if—”“What if Stonewall Jackson had not been killed 2 months earlier and Lee had him at his side in [the battle of Gettysburg]?
Sports games are also popular for this gratification—especially those that allow for team management and strategy
“Similar to Storytellers, these players have a lot in common with those who enjoy traditional media such (as) books and movies. They often play games to escape into an alternate reality, to see and explore and interact with every nook and cranny of that reality.”Having control over the environment is not as important has having the environment seem real and fleshed outThey expect random events, even want them (so long as they fit with the scenario)VolcanoesScenarios can be designed to allow for role playing, collection of artifacts, rebuilding after disasters, etc.Explorers, Collectors, Performers, and Craftsmen
People play to compete
“The stereotype is hardcore,frag-minded, trash-talking, head-to-head gamers playingDoomorQuakeon the Internet and bragging about their conquests afterwards.”“Competitive games give people a way to express their combative, aggressive tendencies in a safe, socially acceptable way.”The player wants to establish a pecking orderThis group may be maladjusted sociallyEngineers
“Their success in games many times is a substitute for social acceptance and success in the real world. Let us be clear that we are talking about the extremes in these cases.”Similar to those who play competitive real-life sports for “the adrenaline rush of competition and the need to establish dominance in some arena.”The environment must be organizedStandings, ladders, rankings
Exploring fantasy relationships
Explorer, Joker, Director, Storyteller, PerformerMuch as the appeal of romance novels (women) or pornography (men)Not really well developed in gaming field yetRPGs closestWomen are attracted by the possibilities of romantic relationships“Even if the game designer does not explicitly deal with romance in the story, the female gamers will invent it in their own head.”Chat rooms, etc. have been much more involved in ‘cyber-sex’Note: Japanese development of sex games has been significant