Media System Dependency Theory Core principles
MSD proposes that media and its audiences co-exist in a state of ecological dependency. They establish relationships with each other in which “the capacity of individuals to attain their goals is contingent upon the information resources of the media system.”
The Evolution of Media System Dependency Theory
Sandra Ball Rokeach, Joo Young Jung (use Purdue career account to access)
The SAGE handbook of media processes and effects, 2009, Sage
In this chapter, we first situate how media system dependency (MSD) theory grew out of the issues and debates surrounding prevailing theories of media effects. Following this contextual discussion, we proceed to examine the development of the theory over three decades-the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. We conclude the chapter by discussing the profound changes in the media system that prompted substantial expansion of MSD theory in the form of communication infrastructure theory.
MSD is defined by Ball Rokeach in this article as follows:
Questioning the persuasion frame led Ball-Rokeach to make a major shift away from regarding media as a persuasion system to regarding media as an information system… By conceiving of the media as an information system, (1) it directed attention to a relationship between producers and consumers where producers control scarce information resources, and consumers utilize those resources to make sense of, and act meaningfully in, their personal and social environs; (2) it was possible to examine all media products for their potential information value, crossing entertainment and news genres; (3) it encouraged viewing media consumers as active processors of media resources, not passive receptors, thus incorporating the active audience perspective that had developed in uses and gratifications without asserting anarchical audience interpretive freedoms; (4) it allowed the possibility that some media effects were intentional and others were not; and (5) it encouraged a multilevel analysis made possible by the ecological notion of a dependency relationship. Probably the most novel and difficult aspect of MSD theory to grasp is the ecological conception of a dependency relationship that crosses levels of analysis from media producers (macro) to media consumers (micro). This central concept derives from power-dependency theory (Emerson, 1962) in which power is conceived to reside in other actors’ having to access resources that you control, not in the resources per se. If you control resources that others do not have to access, then your resources create no power. The basic point of the first MSD paper (Ball-Rokeach, 1974) was that we can understand media effects as the outcome of dependency relations where consumers require access to information resources controlled by the media system to achieve their everyday goals, whereas the media system does not really require access to resources controlled by anyone consumer in order to achieve its economic and political goals. Most media effects theories focus on the attributes or characteristics of messages or audience members. The simplest way to distinguish between such attributional thinking and MSD ecological thinking is that the focus in ecological thinking is on the characteristics of relationships (e.g., intensity, scope), not on the attributes of the actors.
A Theory of Media Power and a Theory of Media Use: Different Stories, Questions, and Ways of Thinking
Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach
Mass Communication and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1 & 2 January 1998 , pages 5 – 40
In this article, I compare the assumptions, concepts, and propositions of media system dependency (MSD) theory and uses and gratifications (U&G) theory at the microlevel of analysis. The epistemological origins of these theories are situated within the differing social and personal contexts that affected their development. Those MSD assumptions that serve as background to this comparison are specified, and major hypotheses concerning the social ecology of microeffects processes are discussed, particularly as they pertain to public opinion concerns. Following this elaboration of MSD theory, basic differences between MSD and U&G conceptions of the audience, interpersonal networks, the media system, and the nature of media power are addressed. I conclude with a brief comment on the implications of the Internet for theorizing micro media effects.
The Role of Motivation and Media Involvement in Explaining Internet Dependency
Sun, Shaojing, Rubin, Alan M., Haridakis, Paul M.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media; Sep2008, Vol. 52 Issue 3, p408-431
Links among demographics, motivation for using the Internet, cognitive and affective involvement, and Internet dependency were investigated. By integrating uses and gratifications theory and media dependency research, motivation was found to play a more important antecedent role in explaining Internet dependency than demographics, and cognitive and affective involvement mediated the relationship between motivation and Internet dependency. This finding supported the uses and gratifications argument that certain factors intervene in the media uses and effects process between motivation to communicate and outcomes of communication behavior such as media use.
The Internet in the Communication Infrastructure of Urban Residential Communities: Macro- or Mesolinkage?
Sorin Matei and Sandra Ball-Rokeach
Volume 53 Issue 4, Pages 642 – 657
The article refines the view that the Internet is increasingly incorporated in everyday life, concluding that the new medium has been partially integrated in the “communication infrastructure” of English-speaking Los Angeles neighborhoods. Here, Internet connectedness is associated with civic participation and indirectly contributes to “belonging” to a residential community. However, in predominantly Asian and Latino areas, the Internet is disengaged from communication environments that lead to belonging, being associated with mainstream media. In these communities its contribution is contradictory; although it probably contributes to the process of ethnic assimilation, it might also lead to disengagement of most educated and technologically savvy residents from their neighborhoods. A possible “magnifying glass effect” is proposed as explanation for the differential integration of new media in community life.