Sociological analysis of content as a measurement procedure - Sociology of mass communications. Theory and practice

Sociological content analysis as a measurement procedure

A productive analysis of the forms of utterances, as real units of the speech stream, is possible only on the basis of the recognition of a single utterance as a purely sociological phenomenon.

Vladimir Voloishnov

Starting with the earliest attempts of thematic classification and quantitative measurement of the content of the newspaper, the text is considered in the system of social functioning of the press. Thus, G. Spida's research was aimed at recording changes in the thematic content of Sunday New York newspapers from 1881 to 1893, when the newspaper The New York Times sharply raised its circulation, reducing the price for the number from three to two cents and increasing the size, and the changes were not just formal (price, size), but as Snid showed, newspapers began to give more space to reports of gossip and scandals to the detriment of political topics , the sphere of art, etc.

In the context of the content that DW Wilcox suggested in his book "The American Newspaper in the Light of Social Psychology" (the researcher analyzed 240 daily newspapers in one day in the US), we also find an outlet for the functions of the newspaper in American society: news, illustrations, literature, opinions, advertising.

In one of the earliest works using the method of content analysis in the study of the local press, the author, M. Willey, saw the hypothetical influence of the press on the process of socialization. Willy's research rested on such theoretical assumptions that could only be approved hypothetically. However, they were very fruitful for later studies, which built their programs, and therefore, the principles of text consideration, on those or other dependencies between the QMS and the audience. In the study of S. Kingsbury, H. Hart and A. Clarke, the range of news in the newspaper is laid out on the topics of the reader's social interest, to which these news are appealed. From this point of view, all news is divided into three groups: news that affects the purely consumer interests of the reader; news that affects the reader as a member of a particular social group, a broader community, a nation; sensational news. The authors set the task by weighing the share of each news group and determining the social value of this newspaper.

The thematic classification of newspapers, proposed in his work by Willie, was used by the Soviet researcher of public opinion and press V. Kuzmichev in the analysis of twelve Soviet daily newspapers.

The study of John Woodward news in the American morning newspapers posed a similar problem - in terms of the volume in the newspapers of certain thematic layers to judge the public opinion that is formed by this newspaper. This is possible because, in the opinion of the author, the press influences changes in opinions rather through distortions, omissions, concentration or coloring of facts than by direct editorial sermons. The news presented in newspapers form the person's ideas about the world and the events occurring in it, and these stereotypical ideas in turn become the basis that determines the subsequent attitude of man to the world. Thus, the division of the whole newspaper area into certain thematic layers, the elucidation of the share that falls on each layer, allowed the authors to draw a conclusion about newspaper policy, i.e. comment on the predominance of some thematic layers to the detriment of others. The author has introduced into scientific circulation many of the terms and methodological principles of content analysis.

Thus, the study of texts was able to become precise, objective, which could be achieved by applying a measurement procedure, i.e. that technique, which until then had been peculiar only to the exact sciences. We indicate the main conditions for such an analysis.

1. If the researcher is interested in certain characteristics of texts, these characteristics should be fixed in all materials chosen for research, which ensures the objectivity of the analysis. Objectivity is complemented by the fact that these characteristics are determined by the program so clearly and unambiguously that two researchers working in the same method with the same array of texts come to the same result.

2. As with obtaining any scientific knowledge, you need systematic analysis of the object of research; the choice of messages for analysis should be based on formal, conditional, impartial signs, in other words, the researcher can not choose for analysis only those parts of the text that confirm his hypothesis and reject others. This requirement avoids the argumentative fraud of facts.

3. It is necessary scientific rigor , which implies mandatory compliance with the stages of research with a set of requirements for each of them.

4. In order to disseminate the findings derived from the analysis of a number of materials on the entire real activity of the source of these materials, this series must meet the requirements of representativeness - it should be characteristic for all real activity of the source.

5. This number of characteristics includes the very notion of quantitative analysis: calculation in the text gives the frequency of the use of certain elements of this text, the randomness of these uses, the correlation coefficients can be derived, as well as the percentage and specific ratios of weights of various characteristics text. Correctness or incorrectness of procedures is checked by a sufficiently developed mathematics language for these purposes.

In 1927, G. Lasswell, whose name is associated with a certain contribution to the development of the essential principles of this method (a number of historians of sociology call him the patriarch of content analysis), published the book "Technique of Propaganda in the First World War." The author posed the task of analyzing which social models the commanders are manipulated by the propaganda of the belligerent countries, what goals she sets herself in time of war.

Many of the possible propaganda channels of America, Britain, France and Germany were subjected to analysis: newspapers, centralized newsletter bulletins, propaganda materials in magazines, sermon texts, etc. In the analyzed propaganda materials of each of the belligerent countries, the author discovered the predominance of the following statements: "we" defending, & quot; enemy & quot; - insidious aggressor; & quot; enemy & quot; destroyed prosperity and therefore must be destroyed; & quot; we & quot; win, & quot; enemy & quot; will be destroyed. Lasswell generalized all the statements, statements, calls for action that were contained in these materials to the objectives of strategic propaganda, one of the methods of generalization characteristic of the analysis of taxonomies: [Sociology, argumentative, topic, community, publishing, topics] content: to incite hatred for the enemy, strengthen friendship with allies, strengthen relations with neutral countries, demoralize enemy.

In the work, Lasswell emphasized the main principles of content analysis: to dismember, in a certain way, anatomize a continuous array of propaganda, so that the smallest particle of it bears the properties of the whole, and to detect tendencies in propaganda, based on the prevalence of those or other statements. Hence the beginning of the Laswell school of content analysis. A systematic study-counting and analyzing-of significant units represented in the text by a word, a judgment, a fragment is, according to Lasvelle, the essence of this method. The popularity of this method in sociological research in the years when Lasswell worked with him obviously gave Lassevell the right to speak even of a special unit of measurement - about mention & quot; mention & quot;). In this unit of measurement, the most important thing is that the ment is designed by the researcher for each study. Laswell and his closest associates worked out methodological issues: choosing a context unit for frequency counting of symbols, ways of verifying the results for validity, for comparability.

Essential conclusion made by Lasswell: social transformations inevitably find their reflection in the texts of the QMS and, accordingly, can be fixed. The non-professional, non-systematic analysis of newspaper texts, with which we compared the method discussed for clarity, would have folded before such a task. When we have a sea of ​​information that ultimately looks like an innumerable set of proposals, statements, judgments, the tendency can be grasped by systematically counting, for example, the opinions of "for" or "against", judgments that speak in favor of or to the detriment of some person, etc.

The frequency of the characteristics in the text is an indicator of the trends in the communicative process. Sometimes this is the way of traditional professional research of journalism. But if the traditional researcher is more interested in each individual element of the mosaic canvas in its uniqueness, then the content analysis affects the entire canvas, since it affects the viewer, and if the sociologist considers the individual element, then only to determine what exactly does this element is part of the whole.

Let's give an example. When researchers think about the origins of racial discrimination in the US, they increasingly come to the conclusion that it is a home-grown product. Thus, B. Berelson and P. Salter analyzed the fiction of eight popular American publications in the period from 1937 to 1943. In the stories, representatives of national minorities, in comparison with "real" Americans, were much less likely to act as "heroes", and their images often had a negative downward coloring. They had a low social and economic standard of living, often were involved in illegal or at least dark matters. They more often acted out of material motives, than & quot; these & quot; Americans. In general, representatives of national minorities were characterized as worse, inferior and subordinate than Americans. The closer the figure to the American stereotype, the more often it was portrayed as decent, noble, honorable, etc.

In terms of quantitative data on the supply of blacks and whites in newspapers and magazines as skilled or unskilled workers, we end up with a problem of racial discrimination in the country. And not only to the problem - but also to the very notion. At the same time, we are aware that "racial discrimination" as a concept broader, more theoretical than the concrete fact that American researchers chose as their subject. In addition to the fact that hundreds of other facts can be interpreted as relating to racial discrimination.

This can be illustrated by the example of learning the language. Mastering the meaning of the word occurs in the highest degree individually: in specific situations of human experience, which are innumerable in their variations. Learning the language, a person is attached to human culture, to norms, prohibitions, values, standards, cognizing them not in the form of ready-made conceptual formulations, but in the verbal formulation of behavior patterns, situational positions, etc. A certain concept about the norms of behavior is developed through a long and varied list of "what is good" and "what's bad". The content analyst goes the opposite way. Having as an object of research the vast stream of information plying in society and representing a certain amount of information about the world, he determines that he must enter this list to be named, for example, "cultural man" or "racial discrimination".

So, in the course of the content analysis procedure, the analyzed text is subject to dissection, a kind of vivisection, quantification to those linguistic units of speech that serve as indicators of certain phenomena of reality, ideas, behaviors, etc. in the text. These language units, in turn, should be adequate in essence to more generalized concepts, categories, phenomena that are of interest to the researcher. In other words, the sociological analysis of the content of communication consists in a kind of "regrouping" text according to the conceptual scheme of the researcher.

As in any scientific analysis, where there is a generalization to the conceptual system of the facts that are given to us in our sensory experience, when analyzing the language of the press, radio and television, advertising, arrays of personal texts, the same logic of scientific knowledge is necessary. The conceptual system is defined by the program (goals and hypotheses) of the study, the content is analyzed by finding in the text the linguistic analogues of this conceptual system.

Thus, the frame of the text is expanded as an object of analysis for the researcher. A separate message ceases to be equal to itself, ceases to have (for the researcher!) A self-sufficient value, but is estimated as the implementation of the communicator's intentions, as a characteristic of the communicative situation, as the potential of certain characteristics of the audience, etc. It becomes important, as it were, not the text itself, but only that which makes it natural for it to appear in the QMS.

So, the main theoretical feature of the method is that the text in the course of analysis is perceived as an objective reflection of the intentions of the subjects communicating with each other, in the case of mass communication - the communicator and the audience. Accordingly, quantification and subsequent quantitative analysis allow the researcher to judge with certain confidence the behavior, politics, intentions, etc. participants in communication. The ego has always been the goal of the researchers' appeal to the texts.

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