Structural Pluralism and the Community Context: How and When Does the Environment Matter?
Several long-standing theories intersect in discussing the impact of community characteristics and of the mass media. First, the structural pluralism model popularized by Tichenor and his colleagues (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1980) says that social structure influences how mass media operate in communities because they respond to how power is distributed in the social system. Second, the linear model from Toennies (1887= 1957) and Wirth (1938) says that the increasing size of a community’s population leads to more social differentiation and heterogeneity and corresponding increases in subcultures with their own beliefs, customs, and behaviors. More recently, there has been a concern about how changes in society have led to a decline in organizational activity and the network of relationships and trust that constitute ‘‘social capital’’ for community problem solving; both media and interpersonal communication have roles in this third stream of research.