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Chapter 1

MDSA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Horizontal Integration, Friedrich Engels, Media Studies

Media Studies
Course Code
Michael Petit

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Introducing: Critical Media Studies
an umbrella term used to describe an array of theoretical perspectives which, though diverse, are united
by their skeptical attitude, humanistic approach, political assessment, and commitment to social justice.
Attitude: skeptical
the assumption that there is more at stake in media then meets the eye.
Various perspectives within the field of critical media studies adopt an attitude of skepticism
(hermeneutics of suspicion).
Approach: humanistic
Association with a particular set of intellectual concerns and approaches to the discovery of knowledge,
emphasis of self-reflection, critical citizenship, democratic principles, and humane education.
Adopting a humanistic approach entails “thinking about freedom and responsibility and the contribution
that intellectual pursuit can make to the welfare of society.” (H. Hardt)
Assessment: political
the general concern of determining whose interests are served by the media, and how those interests
contribute to domination, exploitation and/or asymmetrical relations of power.
Research in this tradition interrogates how media create, maintain, or subvert particular social structures,
and whether or not such structures are just and egalitarian. The central aim is to evaluate the media’s role
in constructing and maintaining power.
Ambition: social justice
the desire to better our world.
Media studies aims to not only identify political injustices but confront and challenge them.
Categorizing Mass Media
- Print
- Motion Picture and Sound Recording
- Broadcast
- New Media
Living in Postmodernity
Postmodernity- historical epoch that emerged in the 1960s as the economic mode of production shifted
from commodity-based manufacturing to information based services.
Mass production of standardized goods such as cars and toasters, has given way to the
reproduction of highly customizable soft goods such as cell phone plans and iTunes libraries.
5 Key trends that drove mass media in postmodernity:
1. Convergence the tendency of formerly diverse media to share a common, integrated
2. Mobility as tech becomes more and more mobile, media are being transformed from generic
to highly person accessories
3. Fragmentation a splintering of the consuming public into ever more specialized taste
4. Globalization the fear of cultural imperialism and hybridized culture due to the fact that
local markets are influencing the products and thinking of the very companies targeting them
5. Simulation the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal
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Key Critical Perspectives
Media Industries: Marxism, Organizational, and Pragmatic
Marxist Historical Materialistic Perspective
Generally speaking, Marxist media scholars are interested in how economic contexts and imperatives
impact the production and distribution of media content.
Marxism is both a social and a political movement rooted in the idea that “society is the history of class
struggles.” Its origin lies in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who collaborated on the German
Ideology (1845) and the Communist Manifesto (1948). Marxism is thought of as a materialistic rather than
an idealistic philosophy.
- That the mode of production in society, determines the social relations of production (to
understand the dominate ideologies in society one needs to attend to the material mode of
o This theory makes sense of the world through the prospective of historical materialism,
which regards the character of social life to be a reflection of the material conditions that
exist at a particular point in time (historical juncture).
the material conditions of society change over time, therefore must be viewed in
a historical context.
o a society based on a capitalist mode of production is inherently exploitive because it
creates two classes (proletariat/bourgeois)
Since the bourgeois owns and controls the means of production, the only
commodity the proletariat has to sell is its labour. For Marx, the ruling class
exploits the economic value of the working class to increase surplus value.
- That the material world precedes human thought.
o that the external, concrete, material conditions of social existence determine or ground
human consciousness
Marxist Analysis of Mass Media
Patterns of Media Ownership:
1. Concentration the media and entertainment industry in the USA and much of the rest of
the world is highly concentrated (owned and controlled by a small group of powerful
companies). It is referred to as an oligopoly rather than monopoly (in which only one
company dominates an industry).
a. Oligopolies reduce competition by making it impossible for small, start-ups to survive in
the marketplace. They often are just bought out by the larger companies.
b. Once an industry becomes highly concentrated, the few remaining companies function
more like partners than competitors. Because they each own such a large piece of the
industry, the other companies do not constitute a real threat to their success.
2. Conglomeration the corporate practice of accumulating multiple companies and businesses
through start-ups, mergers, buyouts, and takeovers. It describes a corporate structure, whereas
concentration describes the media industry as a whole.
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