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Mediated messages' impact on students' perceptions of reality.


The media marketplace has evolved to on-demand delivery of product anywhere, anytime. The limitations of coaxial cable have been snipped and, where there's satellite or fiber optic cable, there's viewing options. While the United States is still the largest exporter of media product, social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter offer compelling competition in the global arena. YouTube has become a distribution outlet for broadcast programming and advertisers' messages and, as such, continues to influence viewers' perceptions of normalcy and acceptable behaviors. Developments in, and access to, technology has created greater concern about the effects of media consumption. Ampuja (2011) offers a lengthy critique of intellectual trends on globalization theory. One of the more interesting discussions focused on Appadurai's (1996) work which established two distinguishing components of globalization: deterritorialization and hybridization, and the notion that the net result of globalization is a "tremendous multiplication of imagined worlds" (1966, p. 33). Weimann (2000) adapted Whetmore's (1991) Double Code Model to capture the multi-tiered approach to decoding reality after media consumption. This research project focuses on testing the Double Cone Model before, and after, exposure to the award-winning documentary, "A Woman's Place." The first component of the discussion will establish the tenets of the Double Cone Model, and a brief description of "A Woman's Place" follows. A cogent presentation on the pre- and post-test surveys and results will describe the functionality of the model and the potential for the duplication of imagined worlds.

Literature Review

Volumes of research support mass media consumption influences, certain individual orientations (field of experience), and behaviors through observations of gender inequities, sexism, genderism, ethics, violence, victimizations, homophobia, etc. (Weimann, 2000). Potter (2010) suggests frequent exposure to common themes in media can have a projective effect on the viewer's own life, causing them to apply such themes to their everyday lives. The Double Cone Model depicts how realities experienced indirectly by an individual, who uses the mass media as mediators, creates "second-hand worlds" (Mills, 1967, p. 405). The Double Cone Model established the framework for cultivation theory where the cultivation hypothesis states that over time, media presentations reconstruct reality. In short, media serve as socializing agents and have the potential to influence viewers to model certain behaviors and mainstream perspectives, values, and habits. The Double Cone Model is a two-step process featuring three components: reality, constructed mediated reality (CMR), and perceived mediated reality (PMR). Step one has two stages: (a) personal experiences of an individual that define their "reality," and, (b) media constructions (CMR) of events dramatically, colorfully, and intensely created. The second stage is the transmission of the creation of the constructed mediated reality to audiences. The second step defines the perceived mediated reality (PMR) or what the audience selectively attends, exposes, perceives, and retains about the CMR. Finally, the PMR requires the individual to interpret the mediated message through personal filters, such as the field of experience (personal experiences, individual traits, dependency on the media, etc.). Lastly, the perceived mediated reality is then applied to the individual's real life. In short, we have a definition of reality and the media create a reality. What aspects of the mediated message we attend to has the potential to alter our notion of reality; it can change or remain unchanged as a result of the consumption. The next section describes the mediated product used to test the Double Cone Model.

A Woman's Place

Maria Nicolo (United States), Pat Van Heerden (Africa), and Paromita Vohra (India) produced documentaries designed to chronicle cross-cultural patriarchal biases in institutional and communitarian structures. The films explored democracy, law as an instrument of change, and the relationship, or lack thereof, between custom and law. The filmmakers believed that the media can be used as a tool in the process of engendering progressive social change and tracked audiences' reactions to the films. The documentaries were produced with the explicit goals of "reaching out in an effort to inform, to raise awareness, to incite to question, and to struggle and finally to change" (2000, p.10). Public broadcasting in the United States and comparable distribution outlets in Africa and India delivered the documentaries to audiences who completed questionnaires and debriefed with a facilitator to ascertain benefits and reactions. The American version of "A Woman's Place" was used to test the Double Cone Model.


Thirty students, enrolled in Stereotypes in the Media, agreed to view the documentary and participate in a research study about its content. Course content was divided into three key areas: (a) media as industry-media economics, technological innovations in media, social and cultural effects of media, and globalization; (b) media as communication-intrapersonal, interpersonal, small group, and mass media; and (c) media as research-sexism, gender, age ethnicity, and violence. Students took a pre-test survey focusing on personal demographics, media consumption patterns, and genres. An audience feedback questionnaire from "A Woman's Place" was enhanced to solicit responses relating to the components of the Double Cone Model. Students viewed the documentary and completed a post-test survey. During the next class session, students were given a survey and guide questions that prompted reactions to globalization, gender portrayals, stereotypes, power elites, law as a mechanism to deprive and subordinate, and democracy All of the survey data was coded and statistically analyzed using SPSS 12.1. Open-ended question responses were content analyzed for themes. Selected results are presented next.


Twenty-four students participated in the study of which 25% were male and 75% were female. The average student age was 25 years and the majority was Caucasian (58.2%), There were 33.2% Hispanic and 8.3% Native American students.

Students' individual constructions of reality, based on their own views and those of media, were identified through the pre-test and in-class discussion. Students indicated there were laws which dictate how women should behave. Roe vs. Wade was presented as the foundation for a law promoting pre-marital sex, while others expressed the court decision as promoting choice. A majority of students indicated cultural rituals guide public and private behavior and performance of gender roles. There was a minor discussion of parental influences. Females were in agreement that males were given "preferential treatment" while males suggested females were "coddled and taken care of." The majority indicated media influence their understanding of gender, the plight of women across the globe, and how history is shared. Few were aware of the women's movement or the role of women prior to the 1980s. Many expressed frustration with domination. "It's really hard to go against the norm. You need to find people who can relate to your experiences to feel strength." The second stage of the Double Cone Model is the constructed mediated reality. Students indicated they consume 3 to 30 hours per week of media content, with the average hovering at 10.8 hours. Entertainment (62.5%) and education (25%) content were popular. They desired real representations of people, "... show realistic body images, more fat people." Students identified hardships when fantasy didn't become reality. "When I watched Roseanne I identified with her family. Then people said rude stuff, like she was white trash, about her and her family and I felt inferior." The final stage of the Double Cone Model is perceived as mediated reality where individuals interpret mediated messages through personal filters and apply them to their lives. "... Women aren't decision makers, unless the decision is about how to attract a guy."

"A Woman's Place" impacted students' perceptions of reality. Statistically significant results indicate students' understandings of gender inequity shifted after consumption of the documentary, and that there are laws which dictate how a woman should behave in certain countries (t=-2.68, p =0.01, [micro]=-0.74). Further, men have been raised to believe that women should be treated in a certain manner (1=2.20, p=0.0383, [micro]=0.74), and women have been raised to believe that men should be treated in a certain manner (t=2.22, p=0.01, ([micro]=5.78). After screening "A Woman's Place," the students experienced duplication of imagined worlds; they saw connections with culture, legal and political systems, and interpretations of democracy.


"A Woman's Place" introduced 24 students to the social, political, and economic realities regarding globalization and the media's efforts to enforce the domination of women in India, Africa, and the United States. Students developed an analytical framework with which to evaluate mediated constructions of reality. Results of pre- and post-tests, questionnaires, and in-class discussions support that students' realities were influenced by mediated constructions of reality. Thus, this limited research report supports that the Double Cone Model can accurately depict media influence. This study supports that educating students about global issues such as individual rights, cultural norms, and political processes contributes to their perceptions of globalization as more then financially driven. Limited exposure to the political, social, and economic conditions impacting women's abilities to thrive in their homelands enhanced the individual's field of experience. This exposure could impact personal decision-making and future treatment of people in the world.


Ampuja, M. (2011). Globalization theory, media-centrism and neoliberalism: A critique of recent intellectual trends. Critical Sociology, 38(2), 281-301. doi:10.1177/0896920510398018

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Mills, C. W. (1967). The culture apparatus. In 1. L. Horowitz (Ed.), Power, politics and people: The collected essays ofC. Wright Mills (pp. 404-420). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Nicolo, M., & Vohra, P. (2000). A woman's place audience feedback study. Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Potter, W. J. (2010). Media literacy (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Whetmore, E. J. (1991). Mediamerica: Form, content and consequences of mass communication (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Weimann, G. (2000). Communicating unreality: Modern media and the reconstruction of reality. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ann D. Jabro, Ph.D.

Robert Morris University
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Author:Jabro, Ann D.
Publication:The Proceedings of the Laurel Highlands Communications Conference
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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