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We are living in a world with full of diversity, so it is common to see different ideas, beliefs, or different interpretations of things all around us. “Different people, different ideas” is a phrase that you may have heard in your whole life when you are facing the stage called conflicting of ideas. It could start with a lighthearted argument like contrasting the reactions to new movie trailers or new songs, or even a serious topic about politics. In the media, could others just react to the media stimuli in the same way as me? Or just in a way that does not annoy me because, sometimes, seeing people behave in a completely opposite way to me, or in a way that I believe is wrong, is so dissatisfying. For example, in Thailand, the gap between generations always creates a conflict of ideas. Having a dispute with your dad or mom because they decode the same media message wholly contrasting from yours is typical. I believe that you (or even myself) might wonder why people have to react differently or decode things diversely. This article is the answer to that question. Let’s see how we could understand the dissimilar perception of media message between people.

The knowledge frameworks of the audience

The framework of knowledge, or in other words, the background of the audience, plays a critical role when the people interprets the media message. Their background can include their level of education, pre-existing beliefs and attitudes, gender, and so on. Basically, it is what the audience already knew before receiving the media message. Let’s take a look at the recent controversial news in the social media about the Phuket taxi fee issue. Mr. Kevin, a famous Thai influencer, wrote on his Facebook account that he was cheated by a Phuket local taxi. The story is that he called a cab via the Bolt application and a driver quoted 168 baht for the trip. However, the driver later asked to cancel the booking after knowing he was in Kamala, saying he could not pick him up there because of the dominance of local taxi drivers. Mr. Kevin said his request for a Grab taxi was also rejected for the same reason. When he learned that local taxi drivers were waiting in front of the restaurant, he went to see them. They told him that the trip would cost him 600 baht, but he said they were overcharging. The cabbies’ response back then became very heated. 

We are living in a world with full of diversity, so it is common to see different ideas, beliefs, or different interpretations of things all around us. “Different people, different ideas” is a phrase that you may have heard in your whole life when you are facing the stage called conflicting of ideas. It could start with a lighthearted argument like contrasting the reactions to new movie trailers or new songs, or even a serious topic about politics. In the media, could others just react to the media stimuli in the same way as me? Or just in a way that does not annoy me because, sometimes, seeing people behave in a completely opposite way to me, or in a way that I believe is wrong, is so dissatisfying. For example, in Thailand, the gap between generations always creates a conflict of ideas. Having a dispute with your dad or mom because they decode the same media message wholly contrasting from yours is typical. I believe that you (or even myself) might wonder why people have to react differently or decode things diversely. This article is the answer to that question. Let’s see how we could understand the dissimilar perception of media message between people.

The audience’s framework of knowledge

The framework of knowledge, or in other words, the background of the audience, plays a critical role when the people interprets the media message. Their background can include their level of education, pre-existing beliefs and attitudes, gender, and so on. Basically, it is what the audience already knew before receiving the media message. Let’s take a look at the recent controversial news in the social media about the Phuket taxi fee issue. Mr. Kevin, a famous Thai influencer, wrote on his Facebook account that he was cheated by a Phuket local taxi. The story is that he called a cab via the Bolt application and a driver quoted 168 baht for the trip. However, the driver later asked to cancel the booking after knowing he was in Kamala, saying he could not pick him up there because of the dominance of local taxi drivers. Mr. Kevin said his request for a Grab taxi was also rejected for the same reason. When he learned that local taxi drivers were waiting in front of the restaurant, he went to see them. They told him that the trip would cost him 600 baht, but he said they were overcharging. The cabbies’ response back then became very heated. 

This incident has sparked outrage on social media. Mostly, the comments of people from other provinces agree with Mr. Kevin and support him. On the other hand, some Phuket people have completely different points of view from those on social media. Local people believe it is fair to pay 600 baht for a taxi and think it is normal in Phuket to do this due to the fact that Phuket people have been familiar with overpriced taxis in this tourist destination area for many years. Whereas, people who disagree with Phuket people are unfamiliar with the unfairness of the taxi fee, which is unsurprisingly why they are contributing to fixing this problem in Phuket and blaming the taxi drivers for their unjust actions.

After reading this news, you may wonder how on earth the majority of Phuket people think that paying 600 baht for a taxi fee is fair for them. According to the limited or minimal-effects theory, which is a theory regarding communication, this is a clear example of a social category. This theory can clarify that this incident happened because people with similar backgrounds will have similar patterns of media exposure and similar reactions to that exposure. Therefore, when we use the logic of Social Category theory to comprehend this occasion, it is understandable why Phuket people react in these uniform ways to media stimuli. 

Moreover, there is also a specific theory within the limited or minimal-effects theory called the Individual Difference theory. In the comments of Phuket people on social media, there are not only comments that support their own province but also comments that disagree with taxi-drivers’ actions and want to fix this unfairness to create a better image of Phuket. Individual Difference theory will explain that this action occurred due to the fact that people vary greatly in their psychological make up and because they have different perceptions of media messages, so the media influence differs from person to person. Phuket people who disagree may have better media logic and media literacy, a higher level of education, and they may reasonably look deeper into these problems than people who are supporting their province with bias. 

The way audience obtain the information

We also need to consider the way audience obtain the information, in other words, technical infrastructure, we could think of it as the social media and its ability to share and spread the information. The infrastructure is different than before when we only had broadcast technologies which only certain people can broadcast, or in the era that audience can only obtain the information through the newspaper or the word of mouth. Nowadays, anyone can be able to broadcast or become the citizens journalist and share information via the online platform; it does affect the way things are decoded. 

When these small matches glow, the circulation of information in social media will most likely mirror them.

To illustrate, the first group of people decode some particular information negatively and disseminate it on social media. Then everyone joins the conversation and gets influenced by the first group of people, so they also decode it negatively. Let’s say that the controversial Phuket taxi fee issue is spreading via broadcast radio. Would the same scenario happen again like on the social media platform? Maybe not because its power to circulate the media message is weaker than the social media platform. You probably will not see this controversial issue going viral on broadcast radio era. It will be just a small group of people talking about this topic, and, definitely, it will have way less impact compared to the circulation of information on social media. 

Culture

Culture is one of the core aspects of how the audience interprets the message. It is a fundamental determinant of a person’s wants and behavior. Advertising and mass media are not simply considered in the context of a certain region. Different countries’ cultures reflect society’s creative and intellectual achievements, as well as a set of behavioral codes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Messages, symbols, rituals, and even colors can have a wide range of meanings and messages depending on the culture. 

Culture can shape an audience’s perception of things. Some particular products or brands are so popular in another country, but in another it is completely different. For instance, Subway is not widely known and recognized in Thailand, but in the U.S. It is broadly accepted as one of the most popular brands. Unfortunately, Subway may not  be considered demographically enough compared to its competitors, which are McDonald’s and KFC. These two brands adapt their products to the region; for example, they create a new menu and include the spicy flavor that Thai people are accustomed to in their product. This leads to their customer’s acceptance, and they become even more successful. 

Why isn’t Subway as popular in Thailand as it is in the United States?

On the other hand, the message that Subway tries to send to the Thai customer is about being a healthy and fresh American fast food option, but it is not efficient for the Thai customer to accept this new idea. In Thai culture, the influence of Thai food is powerful, which makes Thai people narrow-minded when facing new ideas about food. The feedback from Thai customers is that the Subway product is too big and hard to eat for them. Moreover, their customer journey is not going quite well because of the confusion caused by the customized menu and poor support from the staff. This example shows us that being authentic is not always the best choice when a cooperation wants to expand its brand worldwide. Clearly, adaptation is the winner this time. They must carefully consider the culture of that particular country before launching their message to the customer. 

Messi and Adidas regarded world-class footballers’ shoes as assets that are valuable, honorable, and valued

Another case of not caring about the culture comes from Adidas, a famous sports brand. Adidas launched a charity campaign in Egypt in cooperation with Lionel Messi, one of the world’s best football players. Adidas established the auction of Messi’s football shoes to donate the earnings to the poor people in Egypt. Everything seems fine, Adidas can easily have an even better image of a sports brand company in the eyes of the world, especially for Egyptian people. Egyptians will see Adidas and Messi as the philanthropists who helped them financially with this donation. However, everything went wrong when Adidas forgot to look deeply into the background culture of the Egyptian people.

Sadly, this is not the case with Egyptians, who regard shoes as a humiliation.

People’s perspectives vary considerably based on their background, demographics, and psychographics. Messi and Adidas regarded world-class footballers’ shoes as valuable, dignified, and valued assets. Nevertheless, Egyptians considered shoes and feet to be lowly objects, which led them to regard the donation as disrespectful and humiliating by giving them money from shoe auctions. This can be described as a cross-cultural issue, as Adidas did not conduct sufficient research into the Egyptian audience’s background. This helps us to realize that people’s origins, age, gender, demographics, and psychographic characteristics can influence their perceptions of things.

After reading this explanation and example of why people decode media messages differently, I want you to know that there is no right or wrong when you interpret something in a certain way. Yes, in this social media world, there will be individuals or groups of people that will politically correct your opinion, which is absolutely fine for them to do that. Because it is our basic right to speak freely, it is our freedom of speech, but please be aware of that line that you had better not cross. You could judge people’s opinions, but judge them with reason, not your bias. You could disagree with others, but argue with them logically. Ultimately, if we cannot change or control people’s opinions, why don’t we listen to them with an open-minded attitude, join their conversation, and learn from them? The benefit of diversity, which is creativity, is only achievable when we break each other’s walls down and try to understand each brick. 

2 Comments

  • Gam says:

    This article is well written and so easy to understand! Love it.

    • Thank you for this useful article! I really agreed with your article that the diversity of humans makes diversity of thinking and how to live together in the same society is do not cross other beliefs, if you are not getting into it but you should try to respect and understand what others believe. And if you want to argue just use reason in the conversation. So, we can live together with no matter who you are or how old are you.

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