The Communication Book by Mikael Krogerus

(Martin Jones) #1

What we want when we’re online

What makes screens so attractive was a question already being asked by
researchers in the early days of television. In 1960, the sociologist Elihu
Katz claimed to have the answer. His ‘Uses and Gratifications Theory’ was
radically different from other media effect theories. He believed that
media consumption was an active, voluntary decision, and consequently
did not ask what media does to us, but what we do with media. He
identified five reasons why we use media and what we use it for (spoiler
alert: the first three reasons are obvious, the second two interesting):

  1. Information and education: we consume media to discover what has

happened but also to educate ourselves.

  1. Entertainment: we consume media for our emotional or aesthetic


  1. Identification: we consume media because we identify with people we

see on screen.

  1. Integration and social interaction: we consume media so that later we

can talk about what we saw or heard with others. Today the so-called
‘second screen’ comes into play: we watch TV and at the same time
consume via a second screen like a smartphone, with the consequence
that we are alone and yet not lonely (for example, #doctorwho or
#strictly) – see ‘The FoMO Phenomenon’.

  1. Escapism: we consume media to escape reality. Everyone is familiar

with this behaviour: we immerse ourselves in a film, a game or the
Internet and forget about ourselves.

It is important to notice that according to this theory media do not force us
into anything – we decide for ourselves what we want to use.

‘When I die I want my tombstone to say “Free WiFi” so people will visit
more often.’

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