As the sixties turned into the seventies, functional theory continued its evolution as more and more social thinkers and researchers added their comments to the mix. One of the most important outgrowths from the initial work of Katz and Lazarsfeld was the concept of gratifications in relationship to the functional theory model. Elihu Katz contributed greatly to this branch, which is, in essence, a theory in its own right.

 

Katz, along with colleague Jay G. Blumler, published a collection of essays on gratifications in 1974. The work, entitled The Uses of Mass Communication, pushed the framework of functional theory into an increasingly modern era, where mass communication was no longer dominated by the old guard: print and radio. With the coming of television came new insights and new causes for social research, and Katz and Blumler amassed a collection of work that placed functional theory in a more modern context.

 

Within the aforementioned collection is an essay by Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch in which the trio state that past functional efforts were a bit too general, noting that many of the studies tended to see an individual's use of a specific medium for very particular reasons, such as "to get information or advice for daily living, ... or to prepare [the individual] culturally for the demands of upward mobility, or to be assured about the dignity and usefulness of [the individual's] role" (1973, p.20). Subsequently, the authors make the point that in looking at communications in such a quantifiable and categorical way:

earlier research... failed to search for interrelationships among the various media functions ... in a manner that might have led to the detection of the latent structure of media gratifications. Consequently, these studies did not result in a cumulatively more detailed picture of media gratifications conducive to the eventual formula of theoretical statements (1973, p.20).

 

Essentially what the authors are saying here is that earlier functionalist efforts were quick to pigeon hole individual needs, satisfied through the media, in specific categories. The early theoretical models failed to wholeheartedly address the connections between these gratifications, and thus a larger picture had yet to be painted. The oils and canvas were there, but the pioneering researchers were a little timid in mixing the paint. It would appear, then, that Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch are calling for a more broad based and holistic approach. "Our position is that media researchers ought to be studying human needs to discover how much the media do or do not contribute to their creation and satisfaction" (Katz et al. 1974, p.30).

 

Charles R. Wright was one of those early researchers of functionalism in the mass media, and included in the Blumler and Katz compendium is an essay in which Wright updates his call for continued research of functionalism and gratifications. Wright notes that in the early sixties he developed a "useful framework for the classification of many alleged and some documented consequences of mass communication activities" (1974, p.197), one of the categorical models that Katz et al imply stunted the growth of functional theory as applied to media uses and gratifications. However Wright, in looking at the model some fifteen years after its initial debut, notes that, like Katz et al, there needs to be a wider look at, and deeper application of, the theory:

... the "uses and gratifications" traditions in research tells us much about the extent to which certain personal needs are being fulfilled by one or another of the communications media. The next step is to ask, what are the social consequences of having these needs of individuals fulfilled in this manner rather than some other way (1974, p.210).

 

Clearly Wright's proposal has a slightly different slant to it than that of Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch. However, it can be gleaned from both authors that there is a need for change in the approach of functional research to a more applicable, and almost qualitative, approach.

At this point it must be noted that this site is not a site on gratifications studies per se, so I will not delve too far into the issue. However, it is necessary to include the theory in this work, as it is important to see how functional theory has endured over time.

 

To continue on in this site and see how functional theory may be applied to present day advertising and marketing efforts, click here.

 

 

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