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ARTH 1220 Study notes Ch 6 .doc

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Art History
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ARTH 2220
Susan Douglas

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PRACTICES OF LOOKING CHAPTER 6: MEDIA IN EVERYDAY LIFE I. Content Summary Introduction This chapter traces the concepts of the mass media, the public sphere, and media cultures through the twentieth century to the present, looking at how particular media forms have shaped our understanding of information, news events, national and global media events, and our sense of a public. The Masses and Mass Media The term masses developed in the Industrial Revolution to describe the emergence of a massive working class, which had influence on social opinion and social practice. Used negatively, the term masses described anonymity and alienation (from people, community, and productive labor). The idea of a monolithic mass culture is linked to a particular historical period—the period of modernity and industrialization when the model of national newspapers and television broadcast media rose and dominated the industry through periods of monopoly and corporate growth. Mass media is a term that has been used since the 1920s to describe those media forms designed to reach large audiences perceived to have shared interests—primarily television, film, newspapers, and radio. By the end of the twentieth century and with the advent of electronic and digital media, the idea of “mass” media needed to be redefined and reexamined. Media Forms Media, or the means through which messages pass, are no longer a neutral instrument. Theorists like Marshall McLuhan argued that the medium and the message are inextricably linked and are impossible to separate. Media never operate wholly apart from other media forms. They implicitly refer to and comment upon other media forms. Convergence (a term used to describe the coming together of media forms) has resulted in the merger of such previously discrete instruments and technologies as the still camera, the video camera, the telephone, the musical listening device, the Internet, and the video screen. Broadcast, Narrowcast, and Webcast Media In broadcast media, one central source broadcasts a signal to many venues, whereas narrowcast media target, via cable and other means, niche audiences. Along with webcasting, these forms have changed the landscape of media in society in a multitude of ways, including media ownership, the ability of the small-scale, unknown producer to reach a mass audience, and the ability of developing countries’ citizens to access content that was formerly out of reach. The History of Mass Media Critiques One of the major critiques of mass media was articulated by Herbert Schiller, who argued that mass broadcasting, with its ability to reach large numbers of people across national boundaries with the same messages, fosters conformity to dominant ideas about politics and culture. Timothy Havens’s critique is that the market drives decisions about the program choices available to viewers globally, while John Fiske introduced the argument that mass media forms changed the dynamics of the flow of information by making more information directly available to nonliterate people, thus making possible a more democratic flow of information. Scholars such as Robert McChesney have also argued that new technologies continue to serve as powerful tools for propaganda or mass persuasion. This conventional view emphasizes the top- down unifying potential of various communications technologies together as “the media” singular. Media and Democratic Potential A response to some of the critiques of mass media sees communications technologies as empowering tools for use by citizens to promote an open flow of information and exchange of ideas, thereby strengthening democracy. It emphasizes the potential for various individual media forms to be used by individuals and groups to advance positions of resistance or countercultural perspectives, which challenge the mass media society. The movement of the Internet has created new divisions between those with access to online content and those without, however, and movements to counter this divide (such as the One Laptop per Child project) provide a counterpoint to this division. Media and the Public Sphere This chapter relies on Michael Warner’s definition of “public” as a space of discourse, which involves a relation among strangers in which public speech is both personal and impersonal, a social space constituted through the “reflexive circulation of discourse,” that is, the circulation and exchange of ideas. Another theorist, Jürgen Habermas, postulated that modern bourgeois society has had within the potential for an ideal public sphere. Habermas believed that the public sphere is a public space where private interests (such as business interests) are inadmissible, hence a place where true public opinion can be formulated. Habermas’s understanding of a public sphere has been debated rigorously since it was introduced. More recently, the ideal public sphere imagined in the context of modern societies is also more global in its constitution and more embedded in the production of culture. National and Global Media Events Over the past few decades, media events have affirmed the key role for television to create a sense of simultaneous audiences while also expanding into a broad range of simultaneous media at work. Thus, media events can be simultaneously local, national, and global, and they can involve an extraordinary range of producers, sources, and media. The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, are one of the most recognizable examples of a global media event. Contemporary Media and Image Flows One of the results of globalized media conglomerates is that such institutions self-censor in an ideological context in which they are so a part of power systems that they play the role of media watchdogs less. The contradiction between media as the product of global powers and media as technologies for local meaning and use exists not because the theories we rely on to assess the media are faulty but rather because the status of media in contemporary cultures is contradictory and mixed in exactly this way. II. Key Figures and Terms Artist/Creator/Producers Theorist/Scholars Key Terms Robert Rauschenberg Emile Durkheim Convergence Shepard Fairey Karl Marx Frankfurt School Ant Farm and T. R. Uthco Jean Baudrillard Public Oliver Stone Marshall McLuhan Public sphere Marilyn Manson Raymond Williams Print capitalism Joe Bereta and Luke Barats Robert McChesney Electronic capitalism Leni Riefenstahl Herbert Schiller Medium TVTV Timothy Havens Message Tim Berners-Lee John Fiske Masses Jules Naudet Ien Ang Public culture Spike Lee Henry Jenkins Propaganda Guy Debord Countersphere Max Horkheimer Counterpublic Herb Schiller Michael Warner Jürgen Habermas Walter Lippmann Oscar Negt and Alexander Kluge Nancy Fraser Lynn Spigel Arjun Appadurai Benedict Anderson Arvind Rajagopal Shunya Yoshimi Slavoj Žižek Theodor Adorno Herbert Marcuse ARTIST/CREATOR/PRODUCER Robert Rauschenberg: - Artists have engaged with the experience of media overload by working with “found” images from news and entertainment media - Silk screen “Retroactive” o Creates tension between news images and painting techniques o Gives a sense of the ways that news images penetrated the lives of U.S. citizens of the 1960s o Featured photographic image of President John F. Kennedy - He reproduces and combines news images in montage, overlapping and painting over them, to comment on the juxtaposition of images and texts that make news and history in modern life and the complexity of media culture’s layered meanings - Plays on the iconic status of Kennedy as a purveyor of visionary progress and democratic social change Shepard Fairey: - Created silkscreen print during the presidential campaign of 2008 to fund a broad poster compaign for Obama o Image draws on the iconographic pose, attire, and framing we associate with portrayls of JFK in the popular media, as well as the style of graphic poster design used by the Bolshevist agitprop artists of the 1920s o Graphic newsprint-like reproduction gives the work a sense of political urgency, playing with the idea of mass images and the random, electric manner in which they appear in our encounters with the billboards and digital displays of everday life Ant Farm and T.R. Uthco: Video activist groups - Reenacted the Zapruder film (Kennedy’s assassination) - Restaged the event in Dallas in order to comment on the power of the image itself - Their video makes clear that the Zapruder film image of the assassination cannot be separated from the event itself, indeed that the image is, in essence, the event - Video capture the fact that most of the Dallas tourists who saw the Ant Farm reenactment mistook it for an official event and wept over the staged assassination Oliver Stone: - The Zapruder film was incorportated his digitally enhanced form of the popular film JFK (1991) o Inter-referencing of media texts reminds us that mass media are not immune to interactions with other media cultures and popular culture Marilyn Manson: - Zapruder film was also reenacted again in the late 1900s in his parodic music video Joe Bereta and Luke Barats: - YouTube film clips won a film competition in Spokane Washington, generated more than a million hits o NBC gave them a six-figure contract to produce situation comedies and sketches Leni Riefenstahl: German Film director - Her work with the Nazi party to produce propaganda to enlist the German masses in the Nazi Party ethos - “Triumpth of the Will” o Documents a Nazi rally in Nurembery in 1934 o Considered most powerful examples of the use of visual images to instill and affirm political beliefs in its audience o The 1934 rally was planned and constructed as a mass visual spectacle with the film process well in mind o Example of the way that practices of looking can work in the service of overt nationalism and idolatry TVTV: “Top Value Televison” - Video activists in 1972 - Took their Portapak video equipment to the Republican National Convention that reelected President Richard Nixon to make their tape “Four More Years” - The gritty, kinetic style of TVTV, like other activist videos produced in the 1970s, demonstrated a resistance to mainstream television styles, and the groups tactics of looking “behind the scenes” at the media itself was radical at a time when the conventions of television news were highly staged Tim Berners-Lee: - Founder of the web and of W3C (a world wide web consortium) o Aim was to promote nonproprietary standards in Web languages and protocols o View that the Internet and the Web should remain free of government regulation and commercial ownership is strong among the founders of these forms of media and communication Jules Naudet: French filmmaker - While shooting a documentary about NYC firefighters, he glanced up with his camera as the plane flew over him and struck the tower (9/11) Spike Lee: Independent filmmaker - “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” o Not simply about the natural disaster but about the political and social dynamics that escalated its most damaging impact on the black and poor citizens of New Orleans o Shows institutional failure of the local and national government to ensure safety in advance of the storm for the residents of poor areas o Enhanced image reproducibility, flow and technologies made it possible for Lee to generate a critical text dense with audiovisual evidence that 20 years ago it would have been impossible to obtain - Contradiction of media as the product of global powers and media as technologies for local meaning and use exists not only because the theories we rely on to assess the media are faulty but because the status of media in contemporary cultures is contradictory and mixed in exactly this way THEORIST/SCHOLARS Emile Durkheim: French sociologist - In industrial society, collective sentiments and a collective conscience of the masses came to determine what constituted a crime, rather than the collective simply standing in judgment of actions predetermined to be criminal o We do not condemn an action because it is objectively a crime; the action is deemed a crime because society collectively evaluates and judges the action, determining it to be a crim and condemning o It is the mass response itself that shapes classification, laws and judgment about actions, and it is this function of the collectivity-its determining social role- that characterizes the masses as such - Concept of the masses was used by political economists, Karl Marx to describe the working class during the rise of industrial capitalism o In media theory, it is used with negative connotations o Used to characterize audiences as undifferentiated groups of people, individuals who are passively accepting and uncritical of media practices and messages authored by corporations with profit motives, whose messages support dominant ideologies and ruling class and/or government interests - Mass society describes social formations in Europe and the U.S. that began during the early period of industrialization and culminated after WWII. o Characterized much like modernity, populations consolidated around urban centers Jean Baudrillard: French philosopher - Used the term “cyberblitz” to describe the escalation of random and unpredictable media forms, images and information that have bombarded us in postmodern society Marshall McLuhan: Canadian media theorist - A medium is any extension of ourselves through a technological form - Media are not just those technologies that convey information o Include cars, trains, light bulbs and even vocal and gestured or signed speech - Media are forms through which we amplify, accelerate and prosthetically extend our bodies in processes of communication - “Understanding Media: Extensions of Man” - Our experience of information or content is shaped by the form and conventions of the medium (how images are framed, how stories are edited, what the newscasters wear, how they speak, who they are and so on) Raymond Williams: Cultural theorist - The concept that viewers’ experience of television involces an ongoing rhythm that incorporates interruptions (such as changes between prog
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