Functional Analysis and Mass Communication Revisited
Some fifteen years ago, drawing heavily upon the theoretical orientation of Merton (1957), I attempted to specify a functional perspective for the study of mass communication (Wright, 1959, 1960). The resultant paradigm provided a useful framework (labelled a functional inventory) for the classification of many alleged and some documented consequences of mass communication activities for individuals, groups, societies, and cultural systems. The essay also considered problems in the specification and codification of. the kinds of communication phenomena that lend themselves to functional analysis,the need to formulate new hypotheses in terms of functional theory, and a variety of difficulties in inventing research designs and in finding research sites suitable for conducting functional analyses of mass communication. It was noted that various studies during the immediate preceding years had explicitly or implicitly used a functional framework for examining different aspects of mass communication (some were cited by way of illustration) and, therefore, the paper was not a call for something novel; rather, it was a preliminary first step toward explicit consideration of certain theoretical and methodological issues relevant to the future growth of a functional theory of mass communication.