Message Reception in Media and in Theater: Towards Media Schemas and Motives



Received: 05/04/2016

Accepted: 09/15/2016

Extended Abstract:

Introduction and problematic of research. The rationale of media audience research shifts the focus from text to context and thus incites doubt about media hegemony as well. At the same time, social media continues to perform hegemonic power in the recruitment of ‘radical groups’ which, through a kind of ‘nourished-by’ ego-delusion, denaturalize religion as well. What media offer or can offer to the recipient matters, and it also matters that research on audience reception should focus on how to get at the core of one of the main problems of our era wherein the responsibility is shared precisely by (those) media. This paper offers an instance of theater anthropology’s approach to the audience issue, justified by the inspection of its evolving routes that go almost in parallel with those of media audience studies, and wherein the issue of the impact of the theater performance on a spectator goes beyond the borders of the conceptual meaning of the ‘active spectator’. I argue that what media audience studies should bring from the state of absence to the state of presence is the person-centered element within its research to elucidate, promote, and encourage (both within that research and apropos productions) the very essence of human motives to act, also in response to media messages. This partially forgotten human essence is not the “surface” of the given motives, but it’s the ‘basic trust’ within each motive - as it was first described by Sufi masters and further developed in Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the human psyche – namely, the trust flowing from human’s continuous tendency to integrate unconsciousness and consciousness. For the explication and engagement of this ‘basic trust’ as an innermost human motive to act, as well as its juxtaposition with non-rational human acts, media audience research would be preferable to include and develop the concept of media schemas and motives.

Theoretical framework. Amongst others, the paper’s theoretical framework includes Sonia Livingstone’s ‘prospect for media audience studies’ (1988), Gregory Bateson’s theses on the ‘fundamental analogies between different contexts and their relata’ (2000), Naomi Quinn’s ‘motivational force of self-understanding’ (1995), and several principles of Eugenio Barba’s theater anthropology (1990; 1991).

Methodology. The above-mentioned theoretical framework is taken as a ground to develop the hypothesis of this paper. Bateson’s theses frame the background of media schemas and motives as developed by the cultural schemas and human motives. Quinn’s hypothesis on the way cultural schemas become high-level goal schemas is further developed in a statement that constitutes the core hypothesis of this paper.

Findings and discussion. This paper argues that media schemas are an instance of ‘an experience’ (Victor Turner and Edward Burner, 1986), i.e. an ‘Erlebnis’ according to Dilthey, and as such they are complementary to the cultural schemas. Media schemas can have motivational force in the way that cultural schemas can have motivational force, due to the continuity between media models and cultural models as well as the compelling force of media schemas (and cultural schemas). What applies to the cultural schemas applies for media schemas as well. The person-centered analysis of media audience ought to take into account the complexity of schemas, amongst others the issue on how schemas come to act as goals for individuals. According to Naomi Quinn (1995), one important way cultural schemas become high-level goal schemas in an individual’s goal hierarchies is by supplying us with understanding of ourselves. I argue that a given cultural schema that supplies us with self-understanding becomes our high-level goal schema because it’s exactly that certain schema which is our own, individual, most adequate means to self-surpass ourselves so that our innermost innate yearning for the individuation process could be achieved, or at least be an object of an effort to be achieved. Self-understanding is a means, rather than a goal itself. Goals are linked to self-understanding for the sake of self-transforming. Due to the ‘high vitality’ of the media schemas, the motivational force of self-understanding for the purpose of self-transforming acts more compelling through media schema (and also through theater schema) than via cultural schema.

Conclusion. The trans-cultural highest-level goal of the audience (i.e. the urge towards ‘basic trust’) is conceptualized in terms of a moving force. ‘Media schemas and motives’ that make this component salient can make an attempt to shift media audience studies towards a position other than the current one, namely a situation wherein its likely accomplice-witnessing component vis-a-vis the engagement of social media in non-rational acts persists.

Prominent result. The ‘disappearing audience’ detected by the critical communications approach is likely a symptom of man’s urge to reach the affirming ‘empty space’ (the ‘shared space’) that stands beyond the ideological determinants and tends to integrate two extreme levels of our minds, rather than an undesirable effect of the conceptualizations of the media (con)texts as highly dependent on hegemonic power. Media hegemony is explicit not only within the key role of the social media in the recruitment of ‘radical groups’. It is reasonable to state that it is the responsibility of media audience studies as well to deal more intensively with this urgent problem whereby its resolution would imply not a stigmatization but, on the contrary, a contribution to expose, face and overcome (master) our circular (‘nourished-by’) ego-delusions. Qualitative research of media audience can intensify attempts to provide data for its quantitative research to expose the forgotten essence of the human psyche and man’s acts. However, if media audience studies neglect its competence in regard to this problem, than social media should either be excluded from what we call media or all media expect social media should offer a plausible argument for its new denomination. If all variants are disapproved, it results that the question to consider is the one regarding the length of the long-term consequences for media (audience) studies in neglecting our shared problems.