Basic Ideas and Theories of Mass Communication sample essay

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In the first place, there were many well renowned scholars who contributed immensely towards the development of communication processes, society and their communication relationships, which are still relevant and heart touching. Thus, David K. Berlo developed the source-message-channel receiver (SMCR) theory in the 1960s. His theories emphasized the many factors that could affect how senders and receivers created, interpreted and reacted to a message. While Max Weber Explore his contribution to our understanding of social stratification, classes and status groups from category Sociology in relation to communication. According to him, “We cannot deny the existence of social structures or system by which people are categorized or ranked in a hierarchy. This people categorization is otherwise known as social stratification. It is a universal characteristic of society that persists over generations. It is a social structure by which social issues and organizational problems arise. In a society, groups of people share a similar social status, and this is known as social class”.


In this work (assignment), I bother most on the contributions, the basic ideas and established notions propounded by both theorists_ D K Berlo and that of Max Weber. And their biography.

Q. 1 (a)

Foremost, for a proper focus on communications theory, the Oxford English Dictionary defines communication as “the imparting, conveying, or exchange of ideas, knowledge, information, etc. We can look up the origin of the word. Communication comes from the Latin communis, “common.” When we communicate, we are trying to establish a “commonness” with someone. That is, we are trying to share information, an idea or an attitude. Looking further, you can find this type of definition: “Communications is the mechanism through which human relations exist and develop.” This broad definition, found in a book written by a sociologist, takes in about everything “Communications theory then becomes the study and statement of the principles and methods by which information is conveyed. Among key communications theorists were Wilbur Schramm, David Berlo, and Marshall McLuhan.

Basically, for a close examination, the major contribution in communication model that I will consider is the SMCR model, developed by David K. Berlo, a communications theorist and consultant. In his book The Process of Communication,6 Berlo points out the importance of the psychological view in his communications model. The four parts of Berlo’s SMCR model are — no surprises here — source, message, channel, receiver.

The first part of this communication model is the source. All communication must come from some source. The source might be one person, a group of people, or a company, organization, or institution such as MU. Several things determine how a source will operate in the communication process. They include the source’s communication skills — abilities to think, write, draw, speak. They also include attitudes toward audience, the subject matter, yourself, or toward any other factor pertinent to the situation. Knowledge of the subject, the audience, the situation and other background also influences the way the source operates. So will social background, education, friends, salary, culture — all sometimes called the sociocultural context in which the source lives. Message has to do with the package to be sent by the source.

The code or language must be chosen. In general, we think of code in terms of the natural languages — English, Spanish, German, Chinese and others. Sometimes we use other languages — music, art, gestures. In all cases, look at the code in terms of ease or difficulty for audience understanding. Within the message, select content and organize it to meet acceptable treatment for the given audience or specific channel. If the source makes a poor choice, the message will likely fail. Channel can be thought of as a sense — smelling, tasting, feeling, hearing, seeing. Sometimes it is preferable to think of the channel as the method over which the message will be transmitted: telegraph, newspaper, radio, letter, poster or other media. Kind and number of channels to use may depend largely on purpose.

In general, the more you can use and the more you tailor your message to the people “receiving” each channel, the more effective your message. Receiver becomes the final link in the communication process. The receiver is the person or persons who make up the audience of your message. All of the factors that determine how a source will operate apply to the receiver. Think of communication skills in terms of how well a receiver can hear, read, or use his or her other senses. Attitudes relate to how a receiver thinks of the source, of himself or herself, of the message, and so on. The receiver may have more or less knowledge than the source.

Sociocultural context could be different in many ways from that of the source, but social background, education, friends, salary, culture would still be involved. Each will affect the receiver’s understanding of the message. Messages sometimes fail to accomplish their purpose for many reasons. Frequently the source is unaware of receivers and how they view things. Certain channels may not be as effective under certain circumstances. Treatment of a message may not fit a certain channel. Or some receivers simply may not be aware of, interested in, or capable of using certain available messages. In short, Berlo: Several important ideas, notions and factors established must be considered relating to source, message, channel, and receiver.

Q. 1. (b)

D. K. Berlo in history. This caption attempts to give an insight in to the biography of the eminent scholar whose communication ideologies, philosophy and notions cannot be overlooked in the field of mass communication_ journalism.

Biographical information:

In 1955, David K. Berlo, at the age of 29, received his doctorate degree in the study of communication from the University of Illinois. Berlo was a student of Wilbur Schramm, who sat on the doctoral committee. Schramm, whose theories of communication are well known, was responsible for the creation of the first communication program at the graduate level which was an entity separate from speech and mass communications. Dean Gordon Sabine, also sat on the committee, and the following day offered Berlo an assistant professorship position and the chair of the newly created Department of General Communication Arts, at his Michigan State University (MSU) (Rogers, 2001).

In our trivial pursuit, it was discovered that, Berlo, being many years younger than his colleagues and some of his students, perceived himself to be in need of communicating an air of permanence and maturity, so that his position, and that of the newly formed department, would be taken seriously. To this end, he deliberately gained weight…up to 270 pounds of body mass, dressed in dark, fancy suits, and began to act the part of the chairperson of a more well-established department (Rogers, 2001). It must have worked, because he was able to successfully establish, at Michigan State, one of our country’s first undergraduate majors in communication.

He functioned in the role of educator, author, and communication department chair at MSU for 14 years, from the department’s inception in 1957 through 1971. In 1960 he wrote the textbook which was implemented in his undergraduate classes, The Process of Communication. He taught an excellent doctoral level core course in research methods and statistics. He was a strong leader, excellent educator, and advocate for the field of communication study. He continued to research and develops his SMCR theory of communication and information.

In it he stressed the importance of the perception of the source in the “eye” of the receiver and also the channel(s) by which the message is delivered. During his final 3 years at Michigan State, it is said, that he seemed to lose interest in his job. He became county chairperson of the Republican Party and was passed over for the position of Dean of the College of Communication Arts (Rogers, 2001). In 1971 he became President of Illinois State University, but resigned in 1973 when an investigation took place to uncover whether or not he had spent unauthorized funds for the completion of the presidential house (Plummer, 2005). He completed his career working as a corporate consultant in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Q. 2. (a)

Max Weber was one of the founding figures of sociology. His work is important to students of communication for several reasons, including his methodological and theoretical innovations as well as a diversity of useful concepts and examples for the analysis of social behaviour, economic organization and administration, authority, leadership, culture, society, and politics. Some of his greatest achievements, notions, ideologies, philosophy, and the experiences that guided his convictions he established, which also characterized his stand and position; thus, can be seen as highlighted in the following contributions outlined: * Max Weber’s work provides an example of historical and comparative social science that successfully negotiated between attention to theoretical concepts and empirical details. Rather than concluding an investigation with a generalization or theoretical claim—that all economic behaviour is rational, for example—Weber would use the concept of rational behaviour as a comparison point in conducting his research.

* Weber’s work provides the origin of action theory as such. Weber defines action as meaningfully oriented behaviour, and takes it to be the fundamental unit of sociological investigation. This is crucially important for communication studies, for it defines a model of social science distinct from behaviourism. * How could Weber claim a scientific approach to motives and meanings, which cannot be directly observed? His resolution of this problem has been widely admired and imitated. On the one hand, he combined logic, empathy, and interpretation to construct ideal types for the analysis of historical cases. He constructed, for example, idealtype models of how the perfectly rational or perfectly traditional actor would make choices in ideal circumstances. These expectations would then be compared with what real people did in actual circumstances. When historical actors deviated from the ideal types, Weber did not take that as evidence of their cognitive shortcomings (their irrationality, for example) but as clues to additional concepts he needed to develop for further analysis.

* Working from the other direction, he interpreted historical records empathetically, striving to identify how the actors in a particular situation could have seen their action as a rational response to their circumstances. In this way, he was able to construct models of a range of types of rational action, opening up his theory to a greater range of human situations than either the behaviorists or the economists. Prayer, for example, as Weber pointed out, is rational behavior from the point of view of the faithful. * Weber’s work also provides many useful concepts and examples for communication studies, in addition to the wide-ranging importance of his action theory and his methodological innovations.

* His analysis of economic organization and administration is the standard model of rational organization in the study of organizational communication. His studies of authority and leadership are important to students of mass communication, and of both organizational and political communication. * His studies in the sociology of religion explore the range of possibilities in the relation between ideas and social structures, a problem that continues to be at the heart of cultural studies. * His contrasts of rational and traditional and his analysis of modern bureaucracy are starting points for analysis of modern industrial-commercial culture and communication and the effect of the media on culture and politics. * Weber distinguished three ideal types of political leadership (alternatively referred to as three types of domination, legitimisation or authority): 1. Charismatic domination (familial and religious),

2. Traditional domination (patriarchs, patrimonialism, feudalism) and 3. Legal domination (modern law and state, bureaucracy). In his view, every historical relation between rulers and ruled contained such elements and they can be analysed on the basis of this tripartite distinction. He notes that the instability of charismatic authority forces it to “routinise” into a more structured form of authority. In a pure type of traditional rule, sufficient resistance to a ruler can lead to a “traditional revolution”.

The move towards a rational-legal structure of authority, utilising a bureaucratic structure, is inevitable in the end. Thus this theory can be sometimes viewed as part of the social evolutionism theory. This ties to his broader concept of rationalisation by suggesting the inevitability of a move in this direction. * Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge. * Weber described many ideal types of public administration and government in his masterpiece Economy and Society (1922). His critical study of the bureaucratisation of society became one of the most enduring parts of his work. It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularisation of this term. Many aspects of modern public administration.

Social stratification

* Weber also formulated a three-component theory of stratification, with Social class, Social status and Political party as conceptually distinct elements. * Social class is based on economically determined relationship to the market (owner, renter, employee etc.). * Status class is based on non-economical qualities like honour, prestige and religion. * Party class refers to affiliations in the political domain. * All three dimensions have consequences for what Weber called “life chances” (opportunities to improve one’s life). This context consisted of the political problems engendered by the bourgeois status-group of the city, without which neither Judaism, nor Christianity, nor the developments of Hellenistic thinking are conceivable. According to Weber,

* He argued that Judaism, early Christianity, theology, and later the political party and modern science, were only possible in the urban context that reached a full development the West alone. =>He also saw in the history of medieval European cities the rise of a unique form of “non-legitimate domination” that successfully challenged the existing forms of legitimate domination (traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal) that had prevailed until then in the Medieval world. This new domination according to him, was based on the great economic and military power wielded by the organised community of city-dwellers (“citizens”).

Weber’s ideas “form the heart of what is commonly known as structuralism” (Littlejohn). Weber defines organization as follows: “An ‘organization’ is a system of continuous, purposive activity of a specified kind. A ‘corporate organization’ is an associative social relationship characterized by an administrative staff devoted to such continuous purposive activity” (Weber, Social and Economic Organizations, p. 151.). Weber’s notion of bureaucracy involves power, authority, and Legitimacy. Power “is the ability of a person in any social relation to Influence others and to overcome resistance. Power in this sense is fundamental to most social relationships” (Littlejohn).



Weber was born in 1864, in Erfurt, Thuringia.[3] He was the eldest of the seven children of Max Weber Sr., a wealthy and prominent civil servant and member of the National Liberal Party, and his wife he was buckin’ Helene (Fallenstein), who partly descended from French Huguenot immigrants and held strong moral absolutist ideas.[3][9] Weber Sr.’s involvement in public life immersed his home in both politics and academia, as his salon welcomed many prominent scholars and public figures.[3] The young Weber and his brother Alfred, who also became a sociologist and economist, thrived in this intellectual atmosphere.

Weber’s 1876 Christmas presents to his parents, when he was thirteen years old, were two historical essays entitled “About the course of German history, with special reference to the positions of the Emperor and the Pope,” and “About the Roman Imperial period from Constantine to the migration of nations.”[10] In class, bored and unimpressed with the teachers – who in turn resented what they perceived as a disrespectful attitude – he secretly read all forty volumes of Goethe.[11][12] Before entering the university, he would read many other classical works.[12] Over time, Weber would also be significantly affected by the marital tension between his father, “a man who enjoyed earthly pleasures,” and his mother, a devout Calvinist “who sought to lead an ascetic life.” Max Weber and his brothers, Alfred and Karl, in 1879


At this juncture, Weber was in 1882, enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student. After a year of military service he transferred to University of Berlin. After his first few years as a student, during which he spent much time “drinking beer and fencing,” Weber would increasingly take his mother’s side in family arguments and grew estranged from his father. Simultaneously with his studies, he worked as a junior barrister. In 1886 Weber passed the examination for Referenda, comparable to the bar association examination in the British and American legal systems. Throughout the late 1880s, Weber continued his study of law and history.

He earned his law doctorate in 1889 by writing a dissertation on legal history entitled ‘Development of the Principle of Joint Liability and the Separate Fund in the Public Trading Company out of Household and Trade Communities in Italian Cities.’ This work was used as part of a longer work ‘On the History of Trading Companies in the Middle Ages, based on South-European Sources,’ published in the same year. Two years later, Weber completed his Habilitationsschrift, Roman Agrarian History and its Significance for Public and Private Law, working with August Meitzen. Having thus become a Privatdozent, Weber joined the University of Berlin’s faculty, lecturing and consulting for the government.

Reinhard Bendix and Guenther Roth Scholarship and Partisanship: Essays on Max Weber, University of California Press, 1971, p. 244. “Max Weber.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 20 April 2009. “Max Weber”. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 17 February 2010. Max Weber; Hans Heinrich Gerth; Bryan S. Turner (7 March 1991). From Max Weber: essays in sociology. Psychology Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-415-06056-1. Retrieved 22 March 2011. D K Berlo. The Process of