3 Characteristics of Mass Communication According to Wright

Charles Robert Wright is a Professor Emeritus of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, United States. He is known as a sociologist of mass communication and a functional media analyst who is very influential. Wright was born on February 26, 1927 in Pennsauken, New Jersey, United States and died on October 17, 2017.

Wright joined the faculty of Annenberg School for Communication in 1969. Previously he was a Professor of Sociology at the University of California Los Angeles. He also teaches at Columbia University where he conducts research with Columbia’s Bureau of Applied Social Research. Before joining the University of Pennsylvania, United States, he served as Program Director in Sociology and Social Psychology at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Columbia College and later earned an MA and Ph.D in sociology from Columbia University.

His interest in the field of mass communication sociology is manifested in his famous scientific work entitled Mass Communication: Sociological Perspective (1959). The various studies carried out by Wright focused more on the analysis of sociological and sociological communication, sociology of mass communication, the effects of education, mass communication behavior and social structure. One of the research projects that Wright did together with other researchers at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania is research on the magnitude of the effect of mass media, namely television in shaping beliefs, ideas, and behavior of mass audiences.

Definition of Mass Communication

Judging from various notions of mass communication according to experts it is concluded that there is no universal understanding of mass communication. In a sense, the notion of mass communication differs from one expert to another. Here are some definitions of mass communication put forward by experts.

  • Bittner (1980) defines mass communication as the process of delivering messages to a large number of people through mass media.
  • DeFleur and Dennis (1985) define mass communication as the process by which communicators use the media to spread messages widely and continuously create meanings that are expected to influence large and diverse audiences in various ways.
  • Ruben (1992) defines mass communication as the process by which information is created and disseminated by organizations for public consumption.
  • Littlejohn and Foss (2011) define mass communication as the process by which media organizations produce and transmit messages to the broad public and the process by which messages can be seen, used, understood, and influenced by audiences.
  • McQuail stated that mass communication is the only communication process that runs at the level of the wider community, and is easily known by its institutional characteristics.

In general, from various understandings of mass communication according to experts it is concluded that mass communication is the process of sending or delivering messages to people who are very large in number and are widespread through mass communication channels. But Wright has another view regarding the notion of mass communication put forward by experts.

In the view of Wright (1975), the notion of mass communication cannot be synonymous with communication carried out using various types of communication media such as traditional mass media or other modern tech mass media. Although modern technology media are indeed important in helping the process of mass communication which is very complicated, but the presence of the communication media does not always mean as a mass communication. In Nasution (without years: 8) Wright (1975) explains,

“It is not the technical components that distinguish certain equipment as mass media, but mass communication is a special type of communication that involves distinctive operative conditions, especially among them the state of the audience, the state of communication experience felt by those who are participate, and the state of the communicator “.

In addition, Wright also explained that the concept of communication adopted was not limited to a particular mode or channel of exchange of symbols. According to him, the notion of true mass communication is more than just the transmission of mechanical information between the sender of the message and the recipient of the message.

Thus, the notion of mass communication according to Wright (1986) in Wisdom (2018) is as follows.

The new form can be distinguished from older types by following the major characteristic that is directed toward relatively large, heterogeneous and anonymous audiences; message is transmitted publicly often-times to reach most audience members simultaneously, and are transient in character; the communicator tends to be or to operate within a complex organization that may involve great expense.

Free translation of the definition of mass communication above is as follows.

Mass communication is a new form of communication that can be distinguished from previous forms of communication, which are followed by several main characteristics namely directed towards a broad, heterogeneous, and anonymous audience; messages sent to the public to reach large numbers of audiences simultaneously and simultaneously; communicators tend to be complex organizations or those in complex organizations.

Characteristics of Mass Communication

The definition of mass communication put forward by Wright also shows several characteristics of mass communication related to the components of communication such as audiences, messages, and communicators. The characteristics of mass communication according to Wright in question are as follows.

  1. Audience

The characteristics of mass communication according to Wright the first related to the audience. According to Wright, mass communication is aimed at a broad, heterogeneous, and anonymous audience.

  • Broad audience is the most important characteristic of mass communication. What is meant by a broad audience is an audience that is not only geographically wide but also social-psychological. In a sense, the number of audiences in mass communication is very large which is spread geographically and socially-psychologically. In the past century of mass communication, through traditional technology-based mass media was able to reach the audience with the help of communication satellites. Along with the development of communication and information technology, the number of audiences that can be reached by the mass media has become even wider.
  • Heterogeneous refers to the audience as recipients of mass communication messages that have diverse compositions. The characteristics of the audience inthis one mass communication include diversity in terms of culture, lifestyle, background, social status, employment, education, and so forth.
  • Anonymityor anonymity in mass communication means that the communicator does not know or does not know who is the audience. This is closely related to the large number of audiences that can be reached by the mass media as well as the heterogeneity of the audience.
  1. Message

Mass communication messages sent by communicators through mass media to a wide audience are general. In a sense, the message is intended for anyone who can receive the message and is not intended for certain people. In addition, through mass media, messages can be sent by communicators and received by the public in a short time and simultaneously. This can happen because of the ability of the mass media to reach a very wide audience.

  1. Communicators

Characteristics of mass communication according to Wright related to the communicator. According to Wright, the communicator in a mass communication system is someone who works in a media institution or organization or a formal institution or organization whose operations are complex. Examples of communicators in mass communication in the form of individuals such as newspaper editors. While examples of communicators in mass communication in the form of institutions or organizations are press agencies or media organizations.

What is the press there? According to Law No. Press 40 of 1999 stated that the press is a social institution and a vehicle for mass communication that carries out journalistic activities including searching, obtaining, possessing, storing, processing, and delivering information in the form of text, sound, images, sound and images, as well as data and graphics as well as in other forms using print media, electronic media and all types of available channels.

Mass Communication Function

As with other communication contexts , mass communication also has several functions. The communication functions according to Charles Wright are supervision, correlation, sensation, entertainment, transmission, mobilization, and validation.

  • Supervision implies that the function of mass communicationis as the eyes and ears for those seeking various types of information about the world around them. Here, people rely on the mass media to look for types of important news and information related to daily life.
  • Correlation relates to the way the mass media presents facts that are used by audiences to see the world. This is because the types of informationreceived by the public through mass media are not always true and objective. Therefore, we often see the mass media presenting different facts between one mass media and the other mass media.
  • Sensation is related to the way the mass media place the most sensational messages to attract the attention of the public. For example, if there is an incident a thief named similar to an official caught by the police then the media will write it. The audience will certainly be immediately interested in reading the entire contents of the news presented. After the reader reads the entire contents of the news, the reader realizes that the person arrested by the police for stealing is not an official but someone who has the same name as the official.
  • Entertainment is related to the function of the mass mediato provide entertainment for its audience. Or provide space for the audience to find entertainment. For example, watching a music concert on television.
  • Transmission relates to the function of mass media in cultural inheritancerelated to values, rules, norms, and habits to the public. (Also read: Cultural Transmission in Mass Communication )
  • Mobilization is related to the function of mass communication that can be used to provide opportunities for the public to be witnesses to events that are happening. For example, live broadcasts about soccer matches.
  • Validation relates to the function of mass communication to validate certain status and norms, certain individuals, movements, organizations or products.

Benefits of Learning the Characteristics of Mass Communication According to Wright

Studying the characteristics of mass communication according to Wright can provide several benefits including the following.

  • We can know and understand the notion of communication.
  • We can know and understand the meaning of mass communication according to Wright,
  • We can know and understand the characteristics of mass communication according to Wright.

Thus a brief review of the characteristics of mass communication according to Wright. Hopefully it can add insight and our knowledge about mass communication related to understanding and characteristics according to Wright.


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