Review and reflect on the readings and film issues, communications homework help

Review and reflect on the readings and film issues. Consider these questions and post your responses in the discussion forum. Remember to respond to classmates posts as well.

  • What is theory?
  • How does theory help us understand media and our experience of it?
  • Hall says ideology is encoded into all media messages, how do we recognize ideology in media? Is Hall’s concept of ideology encoding and audience decoding important to understanding media experience?
  • What does bell hooks say about critical thinking and why is it valuable?
  • Does critical thinking about media improve or diminish media appreciation?

Article 1

The Whites of their Eyes Reading Notes

Hegemony is the power or dominance that one social group holds over others…more than social power itself, but a method for gaining and maintaining power.

Hegemony is “fragile…requires renewal & modification through assertion, reassertion of power” (Lull, p. 61).

Ideology is “Media’s main sphere of operations is the production and transformation of  ideology” (Hall, 89).

Media are a means of ideological production and contribute to the reaffirmation of existing ideas and power relationships. This ideological work helps secure hegemony over time.

Stuart Hall identified how media creators encode ideology into messages. Then audiences decode ideology from messages. 

Hall identifies these three types of decoding, receiving or interpreting message.

  • Dminant—Person interprets message according to intended meaning or dominant ideology.
  • Negotiated—Person interprets message meaning in negotiation with own experience and knowledge, accepts some ideology and rejects some ideology.
  • Oppositional—Interprets message in contradiction to intended meaning or ideology.

Hall says

  • Media’s main sphere of operations is the production and transformation of ideologies.
  • Ideologies articulate or connect different elements into a chain or set of meanings and are not the product of individual consciousness.
  • Ideologies form part of the determinate social formations and conditions into which individuals are born.
  • Ideologies provide us with the means of making sense of social relations and our place within them.
  • Transformation of ideology is therefore a collective process.
  • Ideologies work by constructing positions of identification and knowledge which people voice as ideological truths as if they were authentic authors.


Hall, S. (2003). The whites of their eyes: Racist ideologies and the media. In G. Hines & J. Humez (Eds.), Gender, race, and class in media: A critical reader. (81 – 84). New York, NY: Sage.


The Color Blind Double Bind Reading Notes

Politically Responsive Constructionist Theory of Communication (PRCT) contends that radical encounters with otherness are critical to the dialogic project.

Scholars argue that race dominance ideology or white racism creates blinders that significantly and perhaps irreparably inhibit the possibility of meaningful dialogue about race across the color line (DuBois, 1903).

Can PRCT model be applied specifically to the possibility of dialogue across racial lines?

Simpson argues, that a discourse of color blindness hinders dialogue about race in the US.

University campus efforts to foster dialogue and to build a welcoming and diverse community present a case where color-blind stance narrowed the discursive space in which interracial dialogue could occur.

Stepping out of discourses of color blindness in favor of a discursive context that recognizes both the limitless human potential inherent in all people and the differential historical and material realities that persist on the basis of race is a critical starting point.


Simpson, J. L. (2008). The color blind double bind: Whiteness and the (im)possibility of Dialogue. Communication Theory, 18(1), 139-159. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00317.x

Article 3

Communication Theories

Communication theory helps explain media dynamics. The following are definitions of theories developed from research findings and commonly used to explain observed results of media research.

Table 3.1: Communication Theories

Theory Explanation
SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY (also called Social Learning Theory) Albert Bandura helped develop this theory which encompasses both imitation and identification to explain how people learn through observation of others in their environments and can base behavior on symbolic representations of behavior in media.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY THEORY A treatise on the sociology of knowledge. Media contribute to the construction of our social reality (Berger P. L. & Luckmann, T. 1966)
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THEORY Media are responsible to inform the public in a democracy. Developed from 1948 Hutchins Commission Report findings.
FEMINIST THEORY Idea that gender equality is a social value.
CULTIVATION THEORY George Gerbner and others’ research helped develop this theory to explain research findings that mass media exposure cultivates a view of the world that is consistent with mediated reality in heavy viewers.

Theories help explain Media Production, Distribution, Exhibition and Consumption.

Table 3.2: Communication Theories

Theory Explanation
ECONOMICS Theory that explains society in terms of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.
POLITICAL ECONOMY Struggle between social classes, the owners of means of production & the production workers, underlies all political issues.
MARKET ECONOMY SYSTEM Decisions on resource allocation are left to the independent decisions of individual producers and consumers acting in their own best interests without central direction (Baumol & Blinder, 1988).
MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS All ideas are put before the public and a democratic public will choose the best ideas.

Theory helps explain media-audience relationships & meaning construction

Table 3.3: Communication Theories Theory Explanation USES & GRATIFICATIONS Predicts media usage according to the human needs media satisfy. SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY Emphasizes the inherent use of group comparisons in managing identity needs and recognizes the important role that media images play in this process (Mastro et al, 2008, p4) FRAME ANALYSIS Erving Goffman helped develop this analysis method and theory, which explains how frames or sets of expectations are used to make sense of social situations and frames use cues to help interpret or plan actions. PRIMING THEORY Explains how media images can stimulate related thoughts in the minds of the audience. AGENDA SETTING THEORY Explains how media help determine what is important, because though they don’t tell us what to think, media does tell us what to think about. GATEKEEPING THEORY Explains the media power to decide what to present to the public and what to withhold from public. 


Cultural Criticism and Transformation Film Notes

Watch Cultural Criticism and Transformation (66 minutes).

Book Cover of Cultural Criticism
Watch the film for this lesson.

Filmmaker Info and Transcript are available online.


Part 1: On Cultural Criticism

Why Study Popular Culture?  Because “popular culture is the primary pedagogical medium, it is where the learning or pedagogy is.

Critical Thinking as Transformation

  • Critical thinking is at the heart of anybody transforming their lives.
  • We all use culture to negotiate the politics of difference to develop agency.
  • Hooks found the primary difference between students in or not in conditions of privilege, was a profound difference in their sense of agency.

The Power of Representation

  • Who has power to create representations and decide who does what to whom?
  • Who determines meaning of representations?
  • Hooks discusses films Kids and Braveheart.

Motivated Representations

  • Hooks examines: What motivation caused Wayne Wang to cast thief as African American in film Smoke, beyond economic profit?
  • What motivates reproduction of dehumanizing stereotypes in gender, race and other representations?

Why? white supremacist capitalist patriarchy

  • Hooks uses the phrase to describe an institutional structure with interlocking systems of domination that define our reality… and we all frame ourselves in relation to this political world.
  • We will not understand if we only look through the lens of race or of gender.

Enlightened Witness

  • We observe representations and responses with a proactive sense of agency.
  • We use our literacy, media literacy and our critical thinking to determine what we see and to decolonize out minds

Part 2: Doing Cultural Criticism

Constructed Narrative

  • Hooks discussed documentary Hoop Dreams (1990) as a constructed narrative and not a complete account. 

Dealing with OJ

  • News constructed as race based spectacle, though the public response was similar across race.
  • Guy Debord (1967) Society of the Spectacle, described this media behavior pattern.

Madonna: From Feminism to Patriarchy

  • Hooks describes how her feminist celebrity was reinvented as realigned patriarchy.

Spike Lee: Hollywood’s Fall Guy

  • Hooks questions how filmmaker Lee’s success is framed as failure in Hollywood media.

The Voyeur’s Gaze

  • Critical analysis of the film KIDS, described as an example of how the media seduces audiences with images of “transgression”, which actually reinforce and do not challenge gender and race based hegemony with stereotyped images of sexual and racial domination.

Rap: Authentic expression or market construct?  

  • Hooks says it is important to examine distinctions between authentic cultural expression or voice and economically constructed media products that use gender and race based hegemony.

Color Coding Black Female Bodies

  • Hooks explores continuing patterns of gender and race based subordination in media including reinscribing a color based caste system, where ideas of authenticity become meaningless.

Consuming Commodified Blackness

  • Imitation of cultural difference is different from real change rooted in cultural understanding.
  • It is possible to consume culturally distinctive products, without ever building deeper cultural understanding of difference.
  • This allows white privilege to remain unexamined.

Hooks claims Americans are obsessed with transgression and content that grabs our attention, but does not really challenge race, gender, and other hegemony systems. 


Jhally, S. (1997). Cultural criticism & transformation. [Motion picture]. Northampton, MA. Media Education Foundation.