Drawing on the phenomenological tradition, this article focuses on the ‘lay media theories’ that ordinary people rely on to orient their media use. Existing scholarship on certain perceptions users hold about media and their behavioral consequences tends to assume that these perceptions by default rest on a sense of self that is pre-existing and immune to media. My empirical research troubles this theoretical assumption. Analyzing interviews and ethnography in China, I investigate the media practices of certain individuals under the influence of ‘brainwashing paranoia’. Through their engagements with the information abundance on the Chinese Internet, these individuals had, over time, revamped rather than enhanced their established political beliefs. I argue that in today’s high-choice environments, users’ lay media theories, especially their conceptions about media in relation to the self, should be taken into account as one major sociocultural factor that moderates or mediates the age-old tendency for selective exposure.
- lay theory
- reception study
- selective exposure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science