ARTH 2220 Study Guide - Final Guide: Zapruder Film, Leni Riefenstahl, Shepard Fairey
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PRACTICES OF LOOKING
CHAPTER 6: MEDIA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
I. Content Summary
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, 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
Oscar Negt and Alexander
This chapter traces the concepts of the mass media, the public sphere, and media cultures through. Introduction 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 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). 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.