How mass media impacts sociology…

Media – how mass media impacts sociology in the larger society

Sociology of Media

Sociologists are not the only ones who study the mass media. Political scientists are sometimes interested in the media’s role in politics. Literary scholars might examine the media as cultural texts. Some psychologists are interested in the effect of media exposure on individual behavior. Most important, mass communication scholars explore a wide range of media issues that often emphasize the structure and practice of media institutions.

The lines between different approaches to media are rarely clear. For example, not all sociologists study the media, and not all mass communications researchers use a sociological perspective. One of the best-known articulations of sociological perspective came from C. Wright Mills, an American sociologist, who argued that a sociological perspective – a “sociological imagination” in his words –enables us to see the connections between “private troubles” and “public issues”. Such a perspective suggests that we can understand the condition of the individual only by situating that person in the larger context of society. For example, students make individualized choices about why they want to attend college. However, we can understand this individual choice only in the broader context of an economy in which a college education is now required for more and more occupations, or a larger culture that highly values formal education. Thus, social structure inextricably links the private lives of college students to the public world of economics (jobs), politics (public universities, government loans), and culture (the value of learning).

In contemporary society, it is media that most often act as the bridge between people’s private lives and their relation to the public world. That is, people often learn about their place in larger society through mass media. The lessons media products might be teaching and the experience of participating in a mass-mediated society, therefore, are of crucial interest to anyone who wants to understand how society functions.

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