IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog
  Institutions
     
  Tanks
     
  Blogs
     
  Mags
     

Friday, January 1, 2010

 
Are Consumers Mindless Sheep?
(previous | next)
 

sheepOne of the themes you come across again and again in public policy debates about privacy, advertising, marketing, or even free speech battles, is the notion that the public at large is made up of mindless sheep being duped at every turn. And, as Berin Szoka and I noted in our paper "What Unites Advocates of Speech Controls & Privacy Regulation?" if you buy into the argument that consumers are basically that stupid then it logically follows that people cannot be trusted or left to their own devices. Thus, government must intervene and establish a baseline "community standard" on behalf of the entire citizenry to tell them what's best for them.

But there are good reasons to question the premise that consumers are blind to efforts to persuade or influence them -- regardless of what type of media content or communications efforts we are talking about. I was recently reading Communication Power by Manuel Castells and liked what he had to say about how so many media critics make this false assumption. Castells rightly notes:

Interestingly enough, critical theorists of communication often espouse [a] one-sided view of the communications process. By assuming the notion of a helpless audience manipulated by corporate media, they place the source of social alienation in the realm of consumerist mass communication. And yet, a well-established stream of research, particularly in the psychology of communications, shows the capacity of people to modify the signified of the messages they receive by interpreting them according to their own cultural frames, and by mixing the messages from one particular source with their variegated range of communicative practices. (p. 127)

That's exactly right, and it is even more true in an age of ubiquitous, interactive communications technologies. "The people formerly known as the audience" have the unprecedented ability to talk back, to compare notes, to collectively criticize and hold accountable those who previously held all the cards in the mass media age of the past. Most consumers are perfectly capable of judging the merits of advertising, commercial messages, or other content on their own; they cast a skeptical eye toward most claims but process those claims alongside other counter-claims, independent judgments, informational inputs, and "cultural frames," as Castells rightly argues. We need to give the public some credit.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:05 AM | Advertising & Marketing , Free Speech , Privacy

Share |

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly | Email a Comment | Post a Comment(0)

Comments

Post a Comment:





 
Blog Main
RSS Feed  
Recent Posts
  EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case
New OECD Study Finds That Improved IPR Protections Benefit Developing Countries
Hubris, Cowardice, File-sharing, and TechDirt
iPhones, DRM, and Doom-Mongers
"Rogue Archivist" Carl Malamud On How to Fix Gov2.0
Coping with Information Overload: Thoughts on Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers
How Many Times Has Michael "Dr. Doom" Copps Forecast an Internet Apocalypse?
Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Two Schools of Internet Pessimism
GAO: Wireless Prices Plummeting; Public Knowledge: We Must Regulate!
Archives by Month
  September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  - A La Carte
- Add category
- Advertising & Marketing
- Antitrust & Competition Policy
- Appleplectics
- Books & Book Reviews
- Broadband
- Cable
- Campaign Finance Law
- Capitalism
- Capitol Hill
- China
- Commons
- Communications
- Copyright
- Cutting the Video Cord
- Cyber-Security
- DACA
- Digital Americas
- Digital Europe
- Digital Europe 2006
- Digital TV
- E-commerce
- e-Government & Transparency
- Economics
- Education
- Electricity
- Energy
- Events
- Exaflood
- Free Speech
- Gambling
- General
- Generic Rant
- Global Innovation
- Googlephobia
- Googlephobia
- Human Capital
- Innovation
- Intermediary Deputization & Section 230
- Internet
- Internet Governance
- Internet TV
- Interoperability
- IP
- Local Franchising
- Mass Media
- Media Regulation
- Monetary Policy
- Municipal Ownership
- Net Neutrality
- Neutrality
- Non-PFF Podcasts
- Ongoing Series
- Online Safety & Parental Controls
- Open Source
- PFF
- PFF Podcasts
- Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
- Privacy
- Privacy Solutions
- Regulation
- Search
- Security
- Software
- Space
- Spectrum
- Sports
- State Policy
- Supreme Court
- Taxes
- The FCC
- The FTC
- The News Frontier
- Think Tanks
- Trade
- Trademark
- Universal Service
- Video Games & Virtual Worlds
- VoIP
- What We're Reading
- Wireless
- Wireline
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archives
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.
 










The Progress & Freedom Foundation