What is the media, why is it important to study the media and does it have an impact and can it change the way we think and behave? These are questions that are important in the study of the media industry. The media is a communication tool that is used to transfer messages to the general public. There are many types of media, for example the radio, television, newspapers and etc. It’s important to be media literate as the media can be used to change and leave a lasting impact on an individual.
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The media is one of the most powerful tools that have been created. The media plays a vital role in an individual’s perspective on political, economic and socio-cultural issues. According to Bazalgette “Media studies open up your understanding of how things work, how people become informed – or misinformed – and how the myths and ideologies that govern all our lives are created and sustained.” (Bazalgette, 2000). The media continually changes and evolves, the term “media studies” means different courses priorities different media; different theories and different learning outcomes (Bazalgette, 2000). Since this subject is still new there are a lot of disagreements on how media should be interpreted and it is also a hybrid subject as the idea that it came about comes from a variety of sources (Bazalgette, 2000). Media studies is also considered an academic discipline as it binds the different types of hybrid disciplines such as semiotics, structuralism, sociolinguistics and a lot more and there are no limits to an individual as how to analyze the media.
The analysis of media is very important for this particular subject. Media studies are normally associated with the English language subject and also English Literature. However the difference is rather apparent and media studies courses uses economics, politics, psychology and sociology perspectives as ways to understand the media as well as requirements to consider texts from different contrasting perspectives. The English subject on the other hand, deals with reading and writing skills as well critical analysis. Bazalgette goes on to state that “media studies are essentially political”, it is ‘political’ to ask questions like who owns a certain media and why (Bazalgette, 2000). This is known as media ownership, the individual consuming the media needs to have knowledge about who owns what media. Is it owned by an individual, a small firm or a large conglomeration?
The understanding of what is studied and why it is studied is a very important topic in media studies. According to Bazalgetee there are five reasoning’s, the first is popularity. “Why is there a certain game show, movie, song, or computer game studied more that another is simply because a lot if people like them” (Bazalgetee,2000). This shows how audiences are manipulated and what the preferred media is. Second is exemplification, which means worthiness of study. “It is characteristic of media studies that it tests and reviews its own theories, asking students to consider a range of examples and then to figure out not only the usefulness of a theory but also its limitations” (Bazalgette, 2000). The third is notoriety, which helps us analyze media text in the contexts of social, political and culture. Most of these are controversial documentaries, movies or songs etc. The fourth is turning point, where selected text as stated in the previous point, can be significant without being notorious. The final reason is aesthetic value, is a way of picking out important meanings from a text and making judgements.
Important influences in media studies are self and experience in a mediated world. The self is seen as a product of the symbolic systems which precede it (Thompson, 1995).
Identity and capacity to make sense of the world around us is said to be an outcome of a symbolic project.
Controversies to how the media construct our personal lives and the role it plays as well as the views of the world about it (Thompson, 1995).
Studying the media is also a very good way to understand the different jobs in the media industries and how these works are changing. The film and broadcasting industries have been predicted to face a shortage of skills it the time to come and therefore will be in need of people who are literate about the media
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As we have understood why it’s important to study the media, we also need to look at how the media is studied. There are two different schools of thought, one being American and the other European. Sinclair states that “European and American theories are identified as application to media and communications. They are differences between these two and the “European” is characterized as interpretive and holistic in scope and “American” as empirical and micro (Sinclair, 2002). What this means is that we can study the media according to either the American way or the European way, but the outcome of the study would be different. The European way relays “heavily interpretive and holistic in scope that is taking a macro-perspective, looking down on society on a whole (Sinclair, 2002). It exists most often in the sociopolitical stance of Marxists. This school of thought originated from the ‘Frankfurt School’, a group of Marxist based at Frankfurt in Germany, who had developed their ‘critical theory’. This theory is now usually called ‘cultural Marxism’ or ‘Western Marxism’ (Sinclair, 2002). “Western Marxism is said to incorporate semiology and structuralism in the media and Ideological Critique argues that the media induce misunderstanding” (Sinclair, 2002). The British were seeking to reconcile traditional British Marxism, which had little conception of culture at all with a theoretical critique of the media (Sinclair, 2002). In 1960 the University of Birmingham established a Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies and taught a combination of literary criticism and Marxist sociology. The Birmingham School emphasized the significance of media images and representations within the context of social and political conflicts. Political Economy studies the production and distribution of media content, It does not argue that media content under capitalism is ideological but somehow had assume that audiences fall under the ideological influence. The American way is of direct observation and controlled measurable occurrences. The American Empiricism defines content analysis as a systematic and quantifiable method to describe and analyze the meaning of the media messages (Sinclair, 2002). Harold Lesswell (1948) said that a convenient way to describe communication is to answer these questions, who, says what, through which channel, to whom, with what effect? Through this model we can study the way messages are transferred and to whom.
Textual analysis is a way of gathering and analyzing information in academic research, “it is also a way to approach media texts to try to understand their meanings” (McKee, 2001). Content analysis breaks down the components of a program or newspaper into units which you are able to count them and replicates can be done. Semiotic analysis on the other hand, breaks down different elements of a text and labels them. In media studies, there is never a claim to whether a text is an accurate or inaccurate representation of reality. This means there is never a single ‘correct’ way of any text (McKee, 2001). The text is likely to be interpreted through genre, the different codes producers and audiences communicated with and context, which is divide into 3 levels, the rest of the text, the genre of the text, the winder public context in which a text is circulated (McKee, 2001). Since there is no correct way of interpreting a text we need to learn how to understand media text and the world of reality. One way is by understanding the elements of language and culture, the form and context that shape the meanings that are available to us.
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