MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction
How do we know?
Somatically – things we know through direct sensory perception of our environment
o Look, smell, feel, sound or taste
Symbolically – things we know through someone or something
o Parent, friend, teacher, museum, textbook, photograph, radio, film, television or internet
o This type of information comes to use from an indirect channel or medium
Who are the Mass Media?
Mass media – communication technologies that have the potential to reach a large audience in remote locations
Print Media –first mass medium
o Printed materials
o 19 – 20 centuries, newspaper industry experienced explosive growth
Motion Picture and Sound Recording
o Thomas Edison invented:
Phonograph – recorded sound
Kinetoscope – showed short, silent films to individual viewers
Broadcast Media – media brought to you directly over public airwaves
New Media – are the cultural objects which use digital computer technology for distribution and circulation
o The development of digital television, film, photography, e-books are part of new media
o Internet, websites, online computer games and mobile companies.
Living in PostModernity
Post Modernity describes the historical epoch that began to emerge in the 1960s as the economic mode of production
in most Western societies slowly from goods-based manufacturing to information-based services.
Convergence – the tendency of formerly diverse media to share a common, integrated platform.
o Two obstacles before media convergence became a reality
Noise associated with analog signals
Bandwidth limitations prevented large data packets
o Historically, mass media have not been very mobile
o Media can come to or go with us anywhere
o Media are being transformed from home appliances into personal accessories
Fragmentation MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction
o Dramatic increase in media channels and a fragmentation of output that caters to the increasing diversity
of the consuming public
o Internet is the most fragmented medium
Delivering a dizzying array of content
o Reducing the necessity for standardization
Globalization – complex set of social, political, and economic processes in which the physical boundaries and
structural policies that previously reinforced the autonomy of the nation state are collapsing in favour of
instantaneous and flexible worldwide social relations.
o Spread of capitalized has fuelled the rise of multinational corporations who wish to profit on “untapped”
o Creates opportunities to bring cultural products to distant local markets
o Cultural imperialism – the imposition of one set of cultural values on other cultures
Simulation - is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal
o Western Societies and America are increasingly becoming characterized as simulation because the real
and imaginary have imploded
o Mass media are the key institutions that fuel this social phenomenon
o Media no longer represent our social world; they construct a realer-than-real space that IS our social
Why Study the Media?
Socialization – describes the process by which persons – both individually and collectively – learn, adopt, and
internalize the prevailing cultural beliefs, values, and norms of a society.
o Mass media – being society’s main storytellers – filter virtually every aspect of our world, shaping both
what we learn and how we learn.
What we learn
Content influences what we learn
o Refers to the informational component of a message, to the specific details, facts,
ideas, and opinions communicated through mass media.
o Fairness and accuracy are not defining attributes of information
o Content of mass media matters
Media establish which social issues are considered important or
Content lacking a diversity of views and opinions is very limiting
Media content is necessarily biased
How we learn
Form describes the cognitive component of a message
o Can be thought of as the way a message is packaged and delivered
Communication mediums train our conscious to think, not what to think, but how to think
“the medium is in the message” – Marshall McLuhan MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction
Doing Critical Studies
o Assumption that there is more at stake in mass media than initially meets the eye
o Sceptical attitude as a “hermeneutics of suspicion”
Hermeneutics describes a mode of interpretation grounded in close analysis
o Emphasizes self-reflection, critical citizenship, and democratic principles; it involves “thinking about
freedom and responsibility and the contribution that intellectual pursuit can make to the welfare of
o Critical studies are generally concerned with determining whose interests are served by the media, how
those interests contribute to domination, exploitation, and/or asymmetrical relations of power
o Society as a complex network of interrelated power relations that symbolically privilege and materially
benefit some individuals and groups over others
Action: Social Activism
o Operate on the premise that scholarship should be action oriented, that scholars have a social
responsibility not only to identify injustice, but also to confront and challenge it
Key Critical Perspectives
Theory is an explanatory and interpretive tool that simultaneously enables and limits our understanding of the
particular social product, practice, or process under investigation.
Marxism – is both a theory and a social and political movement rooted in the idea that “society is the history of
o The mode of production in society (or underlying economic structure) determines the social relations of
production (or class structure)
o Historical materialism – the belief that the material world precedes human thought: that the external,
concrete, material conditions of social existence determine or ground consciousness
o Marxism is materialist rather than idealist
Marx holds that social consciousness, as encoded in institutions such as culture, religion, education, politics, and
the judicial system, which Marx collectively referred to as the superstructure, reflects or mirrors the material
conditions of soc