Paradigm Shifts in the Study of Media Eff ects Denis McQuail
This chapter deals very briefl y with a very large topic. It seeks, in particular, to locate spiral of silence theory within the debates that continue to resurface, concerning the strength and diversity of media eff ects and ways of conceptualizing the processes at work. These debates have often involved a choice between a powerful and a minimal model of infl uence. The term paradigm is chosen because the choice has large implications for research as well as for an estimate of consequences for society. We are not only dealing with shifts over time, with the implication that older approaches are replaced by newer and improved ones. It is also a question of a widening of options with alternative lines of thinking being opened up that do not necessarily replace earlier ideas. This refl ects three other relevant aspects of the case: that the term media eff ects covers a wide spectrum of phenomena, for which no single paradigm might be suitable; that the nature of eff ects and the process by which they are attained (or occur) is dependent on the nature of the media in question (their technology and organization); and that changing circumstances of societal and world environment play a part.