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Critical Media Studies – Textbook Notes.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Media Studies
Ted Petit

Critical Media Studies – Textbook Notes Chapter 1 – Introducing Critical Media Studies  We learn things in two ways: o Somatically – things we know through direct sensory perception (six senses) o Symbolically – things we know through someone or something  E.g. a parent, friend, textbook, radio, film, etc.  Medium – middle; that which comes between two things o E.g. television  Media – broad term describing a diverse array of communication technologies o E.g. human beings, smoke signals, letters  Mass Media – communication technologies with the potential to reach a large audience o Print Media  Johannes Gutenberg – German printer, and inventor of the movable-type printing press (1450)  Mass media was born  Cambridge, Massachusetts – popular religious tracts were being printed by 1640  E.g. Bay Psalm Book  1700s – many cities began to have their own local newspapers  New York Sun was considered the first successful mass- circulation newspaper – didn’t begin until 1833  Newspaper industry grew when they began using editors and receiving financial backing th th  19 – 20 century, newspaper industry experience explosive growth  1973 – newspapers reached 63 million copies daily  Declined from then on… o 2005 – 55.3 million copies daily  History of magazines also reflects newspaper  American Magazine, first US mthazine published in 1741  Magazine boom began mid 20 century  Total number of magazine titles dropped by 29% from 2000 – 2006  Although magazine and newspaper sales are down, books sales are still strong  3 billion books sold in 2005 o Motion Picture and Sound Recording  Thomas Edison  Span of 15 years, Edison and William Kennedy Laurie Dickson created: o Phonograph (1877), which played recorded sound o Kinetoscope (1892), an early motion picture device displaying short, silent films in peep-show fashion  Goal was to intertwine these two devices  Talking pictures, “talkies”  The Jazz Singer (1927)  Sound recording branched onto its own record industry  Magnetic tape (1926) o Invented by Fritz Pfleumer, a german engineer  Long-playing (LP) (1948) o Columbia Records  Compact/Audio cassettes (1963)  Optical/Compact discs (CDs) (1982)  MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3s) (1995)  Sony and Phillips were responsible for most sound recording formats  Betamax (1975)  Laserdisc (1978)  Video2000 (1980)  Betacam (1982)  Video8 (1985)  Digital Audio Tape (1987)  Hi8 (1989)  CD-i (1991)  MiniDisc (1992)  Digital Compact Disc (1992)  Universal Medai Disc (2005)  Blu-ray Disc (2006) o Broadcast Media  Media could not be brought to its audience instantly without distribution  1890s – radio was experimenting with transmissions  1920s – scheduled broadcasts were happening  Television followed shortly after  1927 – Philo T. Farnsworth applied for first television patent  1941 – CBS launched first TV schedule  Many early TV stars started out from radio  Federal Communication Commission (FCC)  1945 – sorted out radio broadcast frequencies  1952 – sorted out TV broadcast frequencies  Caused commercial broadcast stations to expand  2004 US census – 99% of households have a radio, 98.2% have a television set  Todd Gitlin observed that on average television sets were more than 7 hours daily  Cable television and satellite radio employ a digital signal – sort of qualifies as new media  Cable television and satellite radio are growing quickly o New Media  Lev Manovich: “new media are the cultural objects which use digital computer technology for distribution and circulation.”  As many communication technologies are now digital: photography, eBooks, Internet, video games, etc.  Will new media grow to include all media and be a meaningless category?  1971 – world’s first commercial microprocessor was introduced  4-bit Intel 4004, executed 60,000 calculations a second  Early 1990s – 486 microprocessor performed 54 million calculations  1995 – Intel’s Pentium Pro performed 250 million calculations per second  Internet caught public’s attention in the 1970s  E-mail ability  World Wide Web – graphic-based user interface, common network protocols  Living in Postmodernity o Postmodernity – “describes the historical epoch that began to emerge in the 1960s as the economic mode of production in most Western societies slowly sifted from goods-based manufacturing to information-based services.” o Durable goods: cars, toasters o Soft goods: iTunes libraries, cell phone plans o Convergence – tendency of formerly diverse media to share a common, integrated platform  Before media convergence could become a reality, there were 2 obstacles:  1. Noise associated with analog signals generated message distortion and decay o Solved by digitization: reduces distortion by relying on other bits  2. Bandwidth limitations prevented large data packages (e.g. video) from being transmitted quickly and easily o Solved by bandwidth expansions and data-compression techniques o Mobility  Development of powerful microprocessors/wireless technology improves how people access media  Media comes to you, can be accessed anywhere o Fragmentation  “De-massification” – term coined by Alvin Toffler  Decreasing production costs have altered the economics of the media industry, reducing necessity for standardization  Resulting in increase in media channels and fragmentation output, catering to consuming public  E.g. Life magazine dominated by 4,000 special-interest magazines by 1980  Over time, media will become more tailored to individual tastes o Globalization – a complex set of social, political, and economic process 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  Economic Globalization  Spread of capitalism fueled the rise of multinational corporations o Support free trade policies, e.g. no trade tariffs o Opportunities to bring cultural products to Markey o Cultural Imperialism, imposition of one set of cultural values on other cultures  Hybridized culture o Simulation  Jean Baudrillard, French theorist: “Simulation is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”  “The real and imaginary have imploded”  Precession of simulacra, suggesting that the image has evolved from being a good representation of an external reality, to a distorted representation of an external reality, to a mask that conceals the absence of a basic reality, to bearing no relation to any reality at all  Socialization – describes the process by which persons – both individually and collectively – learn, adopt, and internalize the prevailing cultural beliefs, values, and norms of society  Language is an example of symbols  Content – informational component of a message: details, facts, ideas, opinions o Information only needs to be meaningful, not necessarily fair/accurate  Content of the mass media matters: o Establishes which social issues are considered important/unimportant o Content lacking diversity of views limits the scope of public debate and deliberation on social matters o Content is communicated using symbols which are selective – necessarily biased  Form – cognitive component of a message o “… Way a message is packaged and delivered” o Packaging – medium and genre or class  Medium conditions how one processes the informational elements of a message  Critical studies – array of theoretical perspective that are united by skeptical attitude, humanistic approach, political assessment, and activist orientation o Attitude: skeptical  Understanding the pressures and practices that constrain media such as news  “Hermeneutics of suspicion” – mode of interpretation grounded in close analysis  Distrust of surface appearances and common-sense o Approach: humanistic  Associating a particular set of questions and a general approach to answering those questions to critical studies  Human criticism – self-reflection, critical citizenship, democratic principles o Assessment: political  Concerning the determination of whose interests are served by the media and how those interests contribute to domination, exploitation, and/or asymmetrical relations of power  How media creates, maintains, subverts particular social structures o Action: social activism  CS scholars believe that it is incumbent upon citizens and not just the government to hold big media accountable  Can take many forms: boycott, culture jamming, alternative media, supporting independent media outlets  Theory – explanatory and interpretive tool that enables and limits our understanding of the particular social product, practice, or process under investigation o No theory is without limitations Chapter 5 – Rhetorical Analysis Overview  Rhetoric – ancient art of oratory, or as Aristotle defines it, “an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion” o Relies on symbols to influence what, and how, audiences think and feel Theories of the Sign  Sign – something that invites someone to think of something other than itself, such as the way an image of a person invites one to think of that person or the way the unique letter combination d/o/g invites one to think of a four-legged canine  3 scholars that have theorized the sign: o Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)  Regarded as “the founder of modern linguistics”  Called his unique approach to linguistics semiology: “a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life… It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them”  All linguistic signs were a combo of signifier and signified  Signifier – sound-image, material form of a sign as perceived by the senses  Signified – mental concept, the idea evoked by the signifier o Together they designate a sign  Linguistic sign has 2 defining traits:  1. Signs are arbitrary, meaning there is no natural correspondence, no necessary relationship, between the signifier and the signified o “dogness” ≠ dog, because dog can be chien, perro, Hund, etc.  Linearity, because the signifier is auditory, unfolded solely in time, it is impossible to utt
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