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Mass media appropriations: Communication, culture, and everyday social life

Michelle Scollo, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study is a description and interpretation of mass media appropriations (or media references) in social interaction in US American culture. Two research questions guide the study: One, how, if at all, do cultural members appropriate texts from mass media in their ongoing, socially interactive lives? And two, what are the functions and meanings of mass media appropriations (MMAs) so enacted? The study is situated within the Ethnography of Communication research program and uses Cultural Discourse Theory as its main theoretical frame. The study employs ethnographic and cultural discourse analysis methods including participant-observation, interviewing, cultural description and interpretation to formulate a native theory of mass media appropriations as they are patterned and practiced in US American culture. This theory is then compared to similar practices in Western Apache, Zambian, German, and Dominican American cases. The major descriptive findings include a sequence that MMAs typically follow in social interaction including a trigger, reference, and response; the essential, typical, and possible parts of MMAs, various combinations of which are formulated into types and subtypes of MMAs; the frames typically involved in MMAs including performance, play, and quotation and how they are cued, maintained, and terminated; and a set of dimensions upon which MMAs vary. The major interpretive findings include MMAs being performed for the humor, pleasure, play, shared identity and bonds that they create, these being necessary to diffuse the focus in the culture on self, serious talk and work.

Subject Area

Communication|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Scollo, Michelle, "Mass media appropriations: Communication, culture, and everyday social life" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3289210.