Media studies

Media studies is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass communication, communication, communication sciences and communication studies. Researchers may also develop and employ theories and methods from disciplines including cultural studies, rhetoric, philosophy, literary theory, psychology, political science, political economy, economics, sociology, anthropology, social theory, art history and criticism, film theory, feminist theory, and information theory. Foundational Media theories include: Media effects theory; Agenda Setting, Priming, Framing, political economy, discourse analysis, content analysis, Hyperpersonal theory, representation theory, imagined community, public sphere, theories of persuasion, attention, and control, etc. Most production and journalism courses incorporate media studies content, but academic institutions often establish separate departments. Media studies students may see themselves as observers of media, not creators or practitioners. These distinctions vary across national boundaries. The essential definition of media studies involves the study of media effects. Separate strands exist within media studies, such as television studies. Film studies is often considered a separate discipline, though television and video games studies grew out of it, as made evident by the application of basic critical theories such as psychoanalysis, feminism and Marxism. Critical media theory looks at how the corporate ownership of media production and distribution affects society, and provides a common ground to social conservatives (concerned by the effects of media on the traditional family) and liberals and socialists (concerned by the corporatization of social discourse). The study of the effects and techniques of advertising forms a cornerstone of media studies. Contemporary media studies includes the analysis of new media with emphasis on the internet, video games, mobile devices, interactive television, and other forms of mass mediawhich developed from the 1990s. Because these new technologies allow instant communication across the world (chat rooms and instant messaging, online video games, video conferencing), interpersonal communication is an important element in new media studies. It has been argued that media studies has not fully acknowledged the changes which the internet and digital interactive media have brought about, seeing these as an 'add-on'. David Gauntlett has argued for a 'Media Studies 2.0' which fully recognises the ways in which media has changed, and that traditional boundaries between 'audiences' and 'producers' has collapsed.

  •  Political communication and political economy. From the beginning, media studies are closely related to politics and wars such as campaign research and war propaganda. Political communication mainly studies the connections among politicians, voters and media. It focused on the media effects. There are four main media influence theories: hypodermic needle model (1930s behaviorism), two-step flow model (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955), limited effects (Klapper, 1960), and the spiral of silence (Noelle-Neumann, 1984). Also, many scholars studied the technique of political communication such as rhetoric, symbolism etc. Much of this research has been developed in journals of mass communication and public opinion scholarship. In the last quarter century, political economy has played a major part in media studies literature. The theory gained notoriety in media studies particularly with the publication of Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, published in 1988. In the book, the authors discuss a theory of how the United States’ media industry operates, which they term a “propaganda model.” The model describes a “decentralized and non-conspiratorial market system of control and processing, although at times the government or one or more private actors may take initiatives and mobilize co-ordinated elite handling of an issue."
  •  News gathering and distribution. Not so much the normative theories of how news should come about, but rather the empirical practice of how it does really come about. An early emphasis was on ‘gatekeeping’: what are the criteria an editor uses to select items from the stream of information at hand, for instance from material provided by the news agencies? Later, emphasis shifted to the entire process of news gathering and distribution. Classical studies were Making news – A study in the construction of reality by Gaye Tuchman (1978), Deciding what’s news (at CBS & NBC, Time and Newsweek) by Herbert J. Gans (1979) in the U.S., and Putting ‘reality’ together – BBC news by Philip Schlesinger (1987). Another influential early study was The media are American by British scholar Jeremy Tunstall (1977). It discussed the reasons behind the Anglophone dominance of the industry. Sean McBride, a former Irish minister and co-founder of Amnesty International, led a major study for Unesco: Many voices, One world – Towards a new more just and more efficient world information and communication order (1983). Various legal aspects of this debate were summarized in The politics of world communication by Cees Hamelink (1994), social and psychological ones in Understanding global news by Jaap van Ginneken (1998).
  • Mass communication is the term used to describe the academic study of the various means by which individuals and entities relay information through mass media to large segments of the population at the same time. It is usually understood to relate to newspaper and magazine publishing, radio, television and film, as these are used both for disseminating news and for advertising. Mass communication research includes media institutions and processes such as diffusion of information, and media effects such as persuasion or manipulation of public opinion. In the United States, for instance, several university departments were remodeled into schools or colleges of mass communication or "journalism and mass communication". In addition to studying practical skills of journalism, public relations or advertising, they offer programs on "mass communication" or "mass communication research." The latter is often the title given to doctoral studies in such schools, whether the focus of the student's research is journalism practice, history, law or media effects. Departmental structures within such colleges may separate research and instruction in professional or technical aspects of mass communication. With the increased role of the Internet in delivering news and information, mass communication studies and media organizations tend to focus on the convergence of publishing,broadcasting and digital communication. The academic mass communication discipline historically differs from media studies and communication studies programs with roots in departments of theatre, film or speech, and with more interest in "qualitative", interpretive theory, critical or cultural approaches to communication study. In contrast, many mass communication programs historically lean toward empirical analysis and quantitative research — from statistical content analysis of media messages to survey research, public opinion polling, and experimental research. Although national standards for the study of interactive media have been present in the United Kingdom since the mid-nineties, course work in these areas tends to vary significantly from university to university. Graduates of Mass Communication programs work in a variety of fields in traditional news media and publishing, advertising, public relations and research institutes. Such programs are accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is the major membership organization for academics in the field, offering regional and national conferences and refereed publications. The International Communication Association and National Communication Association (formerly the Speech Communication Association) include divisions and publications that overlap with those of AEJMC, but AEJMC historically has stronger ties to the mass communication professions in the United States.


  • Media Ecology. The term Media Ecology was first formally introduced by Neil Postman in 1968, while the concept of the theory was proposed by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. Media Ecology Theory centers on the principles that technology puts profound influences on the society while technology remain control over virtually all walks of life. It is a study of how media and communication processes affect human perception and understanding. To strengthen this theory, McLuhan and Quentin Fiore claim that it is the media of the epoch which defines the essence of the society by presenting four epochs, inclusive of Tribal Era, Literate Era, Print Era and Electronic Era, which corresponds to the dominant mode of communication of the time respectively. McLuhan argues that media act as extensions of the human senses in each era, and communication technology is the primary cause of social change. To understand how media affects large structural changes in human outlook, McLuhan classify media as either hot or cool. Hot media refers to a high-definition communication that demands little involvement from audience, whereas, Cool media describes media that demands active involvement from audience. McLuhan with his son Eric McLuhan expanded the theory in 1988 by developing a way to look further into the effects of technology on society. They offer the tetrad as an organized concept that allows people to know the laws of media, the past, present and current effects of media. Media ecology is a contested term within media studies for it has different meanings in European and North American contexts. The North American definition refers to an interdisciplinary field of media theory and media design involving the study of media environments. The European version of media ecology is a materialist investigation of media systems as complex dynamic systems. According to the Media Ecology Association, media ecology can be defined as "the study of media environments, the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs."  In 1977, Marshall McLuhan said that media ecology:.means arranging various media to help each other so they won't cancel each other out, to buttress one medium with another. You might say, for example, that radio is a bigger help to literacy than television, but television might be a very wonderful aid to teaching languages. And so you can do some things on some media that you cannot do on others. And, therefore, if you watch the whole field, you can prevent this waste that comes by one canceling the other out. Inspired by McLuhan, Neil Postman founded the Program in Media Ecology at New York University in 1971. He described it as: Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affects human perception, understanding, feeling, and value, as well as how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people.
    Corey Anton, Editor of Explorations in Media Ecology at Grand Valley State University, defines media ecology as: A broad based scholarly tradition and social practice. It is both historical and contemporary, as it slides between and incorporates the ancient, the modern, and the post-modern. . . .More precisely, media ecology understands the on-going history of humanity and the dynamics of culture and personhood to be intricately intertwined with communication and communication technologies.
    Along with McLuhan (McLuhan 1962), Postman (Postman 1985), and Anton, media ecology draws from many authors, including the work of Harold Innis, Walter Ong, Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Eric Havelock, Susanne Langer, Erving Goffman, Edward T. Hall, George Herbert Mead, Margaret Mead, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Benjamin Lee Whorf, and Gregory Bateson. Assumptions of the theory: Media infuse every act and action in society. Media fix our perceptions and organize our experiences. Media tie the world togheter.
    Another aspect of media ecology is the Laws of Media. The Laws of Media Theory is depicted by a tetrad which poses questions with the outcome of developing people's critical thinking skills and to prepare people for "the social and physical chaos" that accompanies every technological advancement/development. There is no certain order for the Laws of Media, the effects occur simultaneously. The four effects are: Enhance: What does it enhance? Obsolesce: What does it obsolesce? Retrieve: What does it retrieve? Reverse: What will it reverse? "McLuhan (1951) found inspiration in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” in which a shipwrecked sailor is trapped within a whirlpool, but escapes death by finding the pattern hidden within the vortex. McLuhan relates this to "the social and physical chaos" we feel as we move from one technological development to the other." "The maelstrom is our media environment, and the only way out is through synthesis or pattern recognition. We cannot get out through linear logic and cause-and-effect thinking alone. We need to work dialectically and ecologically, riding through complex systems on the edge of chaos." 
    McLuhan developed an idea called hot and cold media. Hot media requires very little participation from the audience. It concentrates on one sensory organ at a time. This type of media requires no interpretation because it gives all the information necessary to comprehend. Some examples of hot media include radio, books, and lectures. Cool media requires the audience to be active and fill in information by mentally participating. This is multi-sensory participation. Some examples of cool media are TV, seminars, and cartoons.
    HOT: high in definition; low in participation Media: film; radio; the lecture; photograph
    COOL: low in definition; high in participation Media: television; the seminar; cartoons
    "McLuhan frequently referred to a chart that hung in his seminar room at the University of Toronto. This was a type of shorthand for understanding the differences between hot and cool media, characterized by their emphasis on the eye or the ear."
    EYE: left hemisphere (hot) controls right side of the body; visual speech verbal analytical mathematical linear detailed sequential controlled intellectual dominant worldly quantitative active sequential ordering
    EAR: right hemisphere (cool) controls the left side of the body; spatial musical acoustic holistic artistic symbolic simultaneous emotional creative minor spiritual qualitative receptive synthetic gestalt facial recognition simultaneous comprehension perception of abstract patterns.
  • Media History. McLuhan believed there are three inventions that transformed the world: the phonetic alphabet, the printing press, and the telegraph. Due to these technologies the world was taken from one era into the next. In order to understand the effects of symbolic environment, McLuhan split history into four periods: the tribal age, the literate age, the print age, and the electronic age. Throughout the structure of their distinctive methods of communication (e.g., oral, written, printed, electronic), different media arouse patterns in the brain that are distinctive to each and every particular form of communication. The first period in history that McLuhan describes is the Tribal Age, a time of community because the ear is the dominant sense organ. This is also known as an acoustic era because the senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell were far more strongly developed than the ability to visualize. During this time, hearing was more valuable because it allowed you to be more immediately aware of your surroundings, which was extremely important for hunting during this time. Everyone hears at the same time makings listening to someone in a group a unifying act, deepening the feeling of community. In this world of surround sound, everything is more immediate, more present, and more actual fostering more passion and spontaneity. During the Tribal Age, hearing was believing. The second stage is the Literary Stage, a time of private detachment because the eyes is a dominant sense organ; also known as the visual era. Turning sounds into visible objects radically altered the symbolic environment. Words were no longer alive and immediate, they were able to read over and over again. Hearing no longer becomes trustworthy, seeing was believing. Even though people read the same words, the act of reading is an individual act of singular focus. Tribes didn't need to come together to get information anymore. This is when the invention of the alphabet came about. During this time, when people learned to read, they became independent thinkers. The third stage is the Print Age, mass production of individual products due to the invention of the printing press. It gave the ability to reproduce the same text over and over again, making multiple copies. With printing came a new visual stress, the portable book. It allowed men to carry books, so men could read in privacy and isolated from others. Libraries were created to hold these books and also gave freedom to be alienated from others and from immediacy of their surroundings. Lastly, the Electronic Age, an era of instant communication and a return to an environment with simultaneous sounds and touch. It started with a device created by Samuel Morse's invention of the telegraph and lead to the telephone, the cell phone, television, internet, DVD, video games, etc. This ability to communicate instantly returned us to the tradition of sound and touch rather than sight. Being able to be in constant contact with the world becomes a nosy generation where everyone knows everyone's business and everyone's business is everyone else's. This phenomenon is called the global village. "We have seen the birth of nationalism which is the largest possible social unit. It occurred because the print media made it possible for government systems to coordinate, which facilitated homogeneous cultures. Now other nations join our nation to form a global community. Nations can easily break apart as fast as they join together like we see in case throughout the former Soviet bloc, in the developing world, or in Iraq and with Al Qaeda. Strate hopes we can find the freedom to step outside the system to understand our media environment and that we can find the discipline to systematize that knowledge and make it available to others." This possibly will lead to a another stage called the Digital Stage which is solely electronic. This Electronic Age would have a growing number of digital tribes forming around the most specialized ideas, beliefs, values, interests, and fetishes. If McLuhan was alive today, there is no doubt that he would probably speculate on whether the electronic environment is the destiny of mankind, or if there is another media force that has potential hold on our future centuries.
  • Anthropology of media. Also anthropology of mass media or media anthropology is an area of study within social or cultural anthropology that emphasizes ethnographic studies as a means of understanding producers, audiences, and other cultural and social aspects of mass media.The use of qualitative methods, particularly ethnography, distinguishes media anthropology from other disciplinary approaches to mass media. Within media studies, media ethnographies have been of increasing interest. However these have often not followed anthropological approaches to ethnography like participant observation and long term fieldwork. These differences mean that anthropologists who take an interest in the media see themselves as a subfield distinct from ethnographic approaches in media studies andcultural studies. The anthropology of media is a fairly inter-disciplinary area, with a wide range of other influences. The theories used in the anthropology of media range from practice approaches, attributable to theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu, as well as discussions of the appropriation and adaptation of new technologies and practices. Theoretical approaches have also been picked up from visual anthropology and from film theory as well as from studies of ritual and performance studies (e.g. dance and theatre). Theoretical discussions have also been picked up from studies of consumption, audience reception in media studies, new media and network theories, theories of globalisation, theories of international civil society, and discussions of participatory communications, and governance from development studies. The types of ethnographic contexts explored in the anthropology of media range from the production of media: ethnographies of newsrooms in newspapers, journalists in the field, film production and so on, as well as reception studies, following audiences in their responses to media. Other types include cyber anthropology, a relatively new area of internet research, as well as ethnographies of other areas that happen to include media, such as development work, social movements, health education. This is in addition to many classic ethnographic contexts, where media such as radio, the press, new media and television have started to make their presences felt.
  • Mediatization. In communication studies or media studies, ‘mediatization’ or ‘mediatisation’ is a term used to describe a process in which modernity is shaped. (Krotz 2008). It is a process which begins with a change in communication media and proceeds to subordination of the power of prevailing influential institutions (Hjarvard 2008, 7). This situation is best described as ‘mediatization’ or ‘mediatisation’ and as a consequence of this process institutions and whole societies are shaped by and dependent on mass media (Mazzoleni & Schulz, 1999). In political communications: Mediatisation is a theory which argues that it is the media which shapes and frames the processes and discourse of political comms as well as the society in which that communication takes place. (Lilleker, 2008) As noted by Von Joachim Preusse and Sarah Zielmann, Kent Asp introduced and lamented on the concept of “mediatazation” and clarifiy that: “Mediatisation was first applied to media’s impact on political communication and other effects on politics. The Swedish media researcher Kent Asp was the first to speak of the mediatisation of political life, by which he meant a process whereby “a political system to a high degree is influenced by and adjusted to the demands of the mass media in their coverage of politics’ (2010:336). Asp used the term mediated politics to describe how the media have become a necessary source of information between politicians and those in authority and those they governed. According to Asp’s understanding politics are mediated when the mass media are the main or the only source of political information through which it may influence or even shape people’s conceptions of political reality. Asp theoretical assumptions that mass media may influence and mobilize current political ideas through mediatized rituals have been adopted my various communication scholars. In tradition of Asp, the Danish media scholar Stig Hjarvard (2008) helped to develop the concept of mediatization and suggests that mediatization is a social process whereby the society is saturated and inundated by the media to the extent that the media cannot longer be thought of separated from other institutions within the society.