The Theory of ‘Uses and Gratifications’
The theory of ‘uses and gratifications’ does not resolve the problems raised by the attempt to place different types of audiences on a continuum of social cohesion; indeed, it was not explicitly evolved to tackle these problems. The main theoretical contributions it provides are an assumption that the context of social conditions is essential for a comprehension of the behaviour of audiences and individuals, and that mass communications operate in terms of audience adaptations rather than reactions. The theoretical emphasis is, therefore, laid on the rewards of audience membership, so that the problems of their cohesion are translated into problems of discovering and classifying the types of reward they receive. A shift in emphasis of this sort is justifiable, not only because it may at the moment be more manageable empirically, but it should also, if successful, lead to a rewarding analysis of the cultural relationship embodied in the mass communications process. It is for these reasons that a functional theory of audience behaviour deserves close examination.
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