In mass communication, the Hierarchy of Influences, formally known as the Hierarchical Influences Model, is an organized theoretical framework introduced by Pamela Shoemaker & Stephen D. Reese. This framework was introduced in their book Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content.
The macro social systems level is the outer-most ring of the model that represent the influences from social systems as a whole. This level focus on how ideological forces shape and influence media content. For this reason, it is often employed in cross-national comparative media studies.
Social institutional level describes influences coming from larger trans-organizational media field. How media organizations combine into larger institutions that become part of larger structured relationships that compete or depend on each other as powerful social institutions.
Media organization level is distinguished from routines as this level describes larger organizational and occupational context such as organizational policy, occupational roles, and how the media enterprise itself is structured.
The routines level has three sources of routines, which constrain and enable communicators in their work process: audiences, organizations, and suppliers of content. Journalists have developed routines from endless pattern of norms in response to common situations. This level is where Mr. Gates or gate-keeping (communication) theory is also applied in journalists’ jobs.
The micro individual level is located at the centre of the model. On this level, individual communicator’s characteristics, on both personal and professional, influence media content. Individual’s innate characteristics such as gender, race, religious and political background influence media content indirectly through shaping personal attitude and values (e.g. ethical values) as well as professional roles and education.
This theoretical way of organising the way in which mass communications are structured is interesting in that it shows us the position of different aspects of the media. What we define as fact, opinion, or news, are on the outer rings of the framework, with an individual’s characteristics (gender, race, political background) form the central sphere. This suggests that we can and are influenced strongly by outside communication, but ultimately our personal attitudes and values shape the outcome. The outcome here meaning our opinions, or our political leanings, which sides we pick, and right down to our bias based on the influence of mass communication and media.
I thought it would be interesting to compare this to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which categorises the things we need as human beings.
We’ve come to rely on the media for information or reassurance on most of the levels of Maslow’s pyramid. The physiological basics are taken care of by information on healthy diets, widespread understanding of social healthcare, and how to take care of ourselves. Moving up, the issue of shelter is dealt with by media bulletins whether that be on the weather of the day, or more serious issues like avoiding city centres due to terror alerts. Belonging gets taken care of by social networks, a wealth of online communication and constant gratification through ‘likes’ and online groups. Esteem could come again by way of online friends and social circles which deliver praise.
The upper most tier of the pyramid is the difficult one, because you could argue that the very one-dimensional bonds we form with others online do not substitute proper interaction and human behaviours. Of course ultimately it comes down to the will of the individual on whether or not to rely on modern communication or media services. Our personal preferences and upbringings shape the final tier of both systems – the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, or the system introduced by Shoemaker & Reese.
In terms of my project I think there could be a simple way of displaying the two scales in relation to each other, perhaps hinting that our needs have altered in some way. Have our abilities to judge for ourselves been compromised?
Is the media framework at odds with the framework for essential human needs?