Meaning Theory of Media Portrayal

in Mass Communication

Introduction

Meaning Theory of Media Portrayal theory is proposed by Melvin DeFleur and Timothy Plax. Defleur was born on April 27, 1923 in Portland. In 1980 DeFleur, Plax joined together and presented a research paper in the title “Human Communication as a Bio-Social Process” at International Communication association, Acapulco, Mexico.  Their contributions to the field of communication are noteworthy. Defleur along with Timothy Plax has formulated the meaning theory of communication that talks about how media shape messages and what that means for social conduct.

Meaning Theory of Media Portrayal

Communication is a tool that is used to process meanings. Individuals create, interpret and retain a sense of meaning through the media content. Meaning resides with in people and we relate it with the media content. Media content is constructed in the form of messages and interpreted within the context of those messages. Whatever content is portrayed through media should be interpreted correctly by the audience.

Meaning in Communication terminology refers to the link between readers / viewers / listeners and the message. According to this theory, how humans behave is a product of inner understandings. That understanding is formed based on how an individual constructs meanings for the symbols, images or events that they see through media and this happens only when their culture gives shared interpretations to those media content. Through participation in a variety of communication process, our meanings are shaped, reshaped and stabilized. The content presented by the media can shape meaning and establish similar meanings among large audiences.

Types of Influences

  1. Establishment (new words become part of our language system from media) : For example, the word “tag” which has become so common nowadays because of its usage in social networking sites. The meaning of “TAG” is a label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information. In social networking sites, you tag a person so that people can know who that person is, and his/her friends get notified that their friend has been tagged. Nowadays the word “tag” has become a part of social networking user language system
  2. Extension (media expand definitions) : The English word “Wall” means a continuous vertical brick or stone structure that encloses or divides an area of land. In social networking sites, the word is expanded with the meaning as an individual’s profile page where a person can see the updates. People are free to write any messages and others can view that too
  3. Substitution (displacement of older meanings) : In the social networking site Twitter, the word “Tweet” is used to indicate a short message posted on  someone’s wall. But the Tweet is  a weak chirping sound of a small bird. Here the word “Tweet” is replaced by a short message in the world of social networking site
  4. Stabilization (reinforcing conventions between words/symbols and their meanings) : The signifier red rose with a green stem signifies a symbol of passion and love. This is what rose represents throughout the ages. If a media talks about love, the concept of rose has become unavoidable. As a result, the meaning of love by representing rose is getting reinforced in human’s mind

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