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Posts Tagged ‘mass media’

Experiments in Visual Sociology

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

media_ownAs you might expect from someone who makes films I like to explore visual ways of adding content to what can be fairly plain text information and this particular project is the result of just such an exploration. The objective here was to distil essential course information into a series of simple tableaux that highlight the information without necessarily distracting from it.

Whether this works or not is probably something for you to decide and you can check-out three examples in terms of the following media modules: 

Defining The Mass Media: Traditional definitions of “mass media”; Old mass media / old media; New mass media / new media; Characteristics of the new mass media.

Ownership and Control 1: Key Concepts in the Ownership and Control debate: Media Ownership: State and Private; Owners and Controllers; Concentration: Product and Information Diversity; Conglomeration and Diagonal Integration.

Ownership and Control 2: Theories of Ownership and Control: Instrumental Marxism; Neo (Hegemonic) Marxism; Pluralism.

 

GCSE Revision Resources

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

While it’s probably fair to say that teacher-created GCSE revision resources are a bit thin on the ground (and take a bit of finding), there are useful resources “out there” if you’re prepared to do a lot of searching. To save you the time and trouble, here’s some I found earlier (the quality’s a bit variable, but needs must etc.):

gcsemedia

Unit 1 Revision Guide

Unit 1: Education

Unit 2 Topics – keywords / concepts

Crime and Deviance

Mass Media Revision Booklet

Unit B671 (Sociology Basics) Revision: Methods / Culture / Socialisation / Identity

 

 

Postmodernism and New Media

Friday, October 14th, 2016

This set of Notes was originally part of a textbook chapter looking at the impact on audiences of different types of old and new media, something I mention by way of explanation for both the general focus and lack of depth in the Notes. pomo_media

Without wishing to bore you with the intimate details of dealing with publishers and exam boards, there’s always a certain tension between the amount of depth and detail demanded by the latter and the number of print pages a publisher is willing to support – and while each has their reasons it’s akin, for an author, to steering an unhappy course between Cilia and Charybdis.

The point of this little preamble is that textbook chapters are always a compromise between cramming in as much information as possible about a topic and the level of detail with which that topic can be treated. In other words, while these Notes mention quite a few ideas none are developed in any great depth.

What they should give you, however, is a series of signposts to some of the most significant ideas in this area that, should you see the need, can be pursued and developed with additional Notes of your own. In this respect the Notes cover things like:

  • social identities and social spaces
  • a post-effects approach
  • perverse spectators: immanent and activated meanings.
  • audience as media
  • positive effects of new media
  • negative effects of new media

Download Postmodernism and New Media pdf

 

More Revision Mapping

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

mediamap

Following from the previous post on sociological perspectives, this map on Media Representations demonstrates how useful these types of revision maps can be for organising student knowledge around quite diverse topics.

As with previous examples, this map is based around keywords illustrated by pictures and fleshed-out where necessary with short pieces of text.

Applying news values to contemporary events

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Chibnall (1977) defines news values as “The criteria of relevance which guide reporters’ choice and construction of newsworthy stories, learnt through a process of informal professional socialisation”. They are values determined by organisational needs that translate into the professional codes used by editors and journalists to guide their assessment of media content – and particular news values directly influence how and why certain types of information are selected and presented as news.

An interesting exercise here is to look at news values and how they can be defined and apply them to a contemporary news story such as, in the UK, something like Ebola.

Applying news values to contemporary events (Part 2)

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Chibnall (1977) defines news values as “The criteria of relevance which guide reporters’ choice andnewsvalue construction of newsworthy stories, learnt through a process of informal professional socialisation”. They are values determined by organisational needs that translate into the professional codes used by editors and journalists to guide their assessment of media content – and particular news values directly influence how and why certain types of information are selected and presented as news.

If you’re looking for a recent, very sad, example of personalisation – and the power it can command – look no further than the Syrian Refugee Crisis…

 

Media Representations: Part 1 – Traditional Marxism

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Continuing the sociology of the media theme that began with moral and amoral panics, this series of posts looks at the idea of media representations from a range of different perspectives.

For traditional Marxism, economic power is a key variable; those who own the means of physical production are always the most powerful class and economic power brings with it the ownership of mental production – control over how different social groups are represented.

Cultural institutions such as the media are part of the ideological superstructure and their role is to support the status quo through the creation and maintenance of a worldview that favours the political, ideological and, above all, economic interests of a ruling class. How different social groups are represented within this worldview is a crucial aspect of ruling class domination and control – with the focus of explanation being the various ways a ruling class use their economic dominance to represent less powerful groups in ways that enhance and justify their power. While media representations are not in themselves a means of controlling behaviour, they are a means to an end. By representing different groups in particular ways the media allows a ruling class to act against such groups if and whenever they threaten their political, ideological or economic power.

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Media Representations: Part 2 – Neo-Marxism

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

This approach addresses the theoretical weaknesses of traditional Marxism by explaining media representations in terms of ruling class cohesion. The role of the media is not necessarily to divide or scapegoat the lower classes as a way of controlling their behaviour; rather, media representations are a way of creating and maintaining an elite’s sense of its own self-cohesion as a class.

Where traditional Marxism explains class cohesion in terms of common cultural backgrounds, neo-Marxism uses the concept of hegemony to suggest cohesion is maintained through representations of “the Other”; by defining those who are not “part of the ruling class” the media functions to define for the disparate members of the ruling class the thing they have in common that unites them – an opposition to other social classes. This explanation of the role of the media doesn’t rely on a ruling class being a cohesive entity prior to using its economic power to manipulate public opinion. Rather, how and why the media represent different social groups becomes the cohesive factor in ruling class consciousness; by defining itself in terms of what it is not, it comes to see itself in terms of what it is.

Inclusion – Exclusion

Hegemonic control operates in the context of inclusion and exclusion:

Inclusiveness defines the things a society “has in common”; from a sense of nationality, through shared religious beliefs and practices, to a common territorial origin, political and economic values and so forth. The mass media defines and propagates these inclusive characteristics and while their particular properties may shift and change, the basic principle holds; there are some fundamental characteristics that “define Us” (a ruling class) as opposed to “Them” (subject classes).

Exclusiveness, on the other hand, defines “Them” or “The Other” – people who for whatever reason exclude themselves or have to be excluded – in opposition to a ruling class.

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Media Representations: Part 3 – Feminism

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

While the focus for all kinds of feminism is on how and why media representations contribute to female inequality, different approaches produce different forms of explanation.

Liberal feminism generally focuses on how the mass media can be purged of sexist assumptions and representations, such that women in particular are neither stereotyped into a narrow range of roles nor represented in ways that disadvantage them in relation to men. Here, a combination of legal and social changes are the key to changing female representations; strong legal barriers to sexist representations coupled with moral changes in how we view male-female relationships and statuses are the means to ensuring the media represents gender in more-equitable and balanced ways.

Marxist feminism, drawing on its connections to Marxist economic analysis, focuses on the commodification of women under capitalism; the idea female bodies are represented as objects of desire; Gill (2003), for example, argues women are exploited by displays of naked female flesh because it represents them as consumer objects to be bought and sold by men. Commodification is also expressed in terms of how sexist stereotypes are used to sell a variety of consumer goods, from cars to newspapers.

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Media Representations: Part 4 – Pluralism

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Pluralist explanations recognise a variety of different media representations of categories such as gender. They also emphasise the importance of the role of the audience in interpreting such representations – ideas that relate to two dominant themes in pluralist explanations – diversity and choice.

In terms of diversity, contemporary media and audiences are characterised more by their differences than their similarities; wide differences within categories like class, age, gender and ethnicity makes the Marxist approach of reading audience responses from media representations increasingly problematic. Diverse audiences make diverse choices about what, when and how they consume different media – which puts the audience in control, rather than being controlled by that media. These ideas are brought into even sharper focus through contemporary forms of new media that increase the range and diversity of choices available to individual consumers.

For pluralists, the media follow the market; audiences are given the types of representation they want. For example, the kind of overtly racist, sexist and homophobic representations once found in British sitcoms reflected a society largely tolerant of such things; contemporary audiences are less tolerant and this type of television programme no longer exists because it would be commercial suicide. Media diversity is encouraged by changing audience tastes and higher levels of economic competition for audience share.

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Media Representations: Part 5 – Postmodernism

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

While Marxist and Feminist perspectives generally discuss media representations in terms of how and why they misrepresent particular groups, Baudrillard (1995) argues representations shouldn’t be considered in terms of whether something is fairly or unfairly represented; this follows because, he argues, how something is represented is its reality.

In this respect conventional approaches to understanding media representations suggest the media re-presents something like ‘news’ in a way that’s somehow different to the original event; ‘something happens’ that is then described (re-presented) to an audience. Conventionally, therefore, sociologists contrast ‘the real’ – the ‘thing’ that ‘happened’ – with its representation and examine the media to see if they can disentangle the real from the not real.

Baudrillard however argues “reality” is experienced differently depending on who you are, where you are and your source of information. Every audience, therefore, constructs its own version of reality and everything represented in the media is experienced as multiple realities, all of which – and none of which – are real; everything is simply a representation of something seen from different viewpoints. Thus, the ‘reality of anything’ can’t be found in any single definitive account or experience; that which we can “real”, therefore, has no definitive or essential features that distinguish it from how it is represented.

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New Media: 1. Features

Friday, April 24th, 2015

This short series of blog posts looks at various dimensions of new media, beginning with a broad overview of some key distinquishing features:

As Socha and Eber-Schmid (2012) argue “Part of the difficulty in defining New Media is that there is an elusive quality to the idea of new”. This “elusive quality” can, perhaps, be best captured by thinking about how Crosbie (2002) suggests three features of new media make them qualitatively different to old media:

  • They can’t exist without the appropriate (computer) technology.
  • Information can be personalised; individualised messages tailored to the particular needs of those receiving them can be simultaneously delivered to large numbers of people.
  • Collective control means each person in a network can share, shape and change the content of the information being exchanged.

As an example Crosbie suggests “Imagine visiting a newspaper website and seeing not just the bulletins and major stories you wouldn’t have known about, but also the rest of that edition customized to your unique needs and interests. Rather than every reader seeing the same edition, each reader sees an edition simultaneously individualized to their interests and generalized to their needs”.

A further feature of new media is its capacity to be truly global in scope and reach. While older technologies like TV and film have global features – the American and Indian film industries, for example, span the globe – they are fundamentally local technologies; they are designed to be consumed by local audiences that just happen to be in different countries while new media, such as web sites or social networks, are global in intent. They enable global connections through the development of information networks based on the creation and exchange of information. A significant aspect of these global features is the ability to create and share text, images, videos and the like across physical borders through cyberspace.

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New Media 3: Implications – digital optimism

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The development of new media has led to a general debate about the implications of changing technologies and their impact on economic, political and cultural life, polarised around two opposing views – the first of which can be characterised as:

digital optimism

From this viewpoint the defining characteristic of new media is a form of digital liberation based, for Negroponte (1995), on four processes:

These processes impact on society in a range of ways:

In economic terms we see the development of new models of production, distribution and exchange, particularly “free” or “gifting” models where the consumer pays nothing to use a medium. One significant new model is the development of open economic systems where software, for example, is developed collaboratively to take advantage of wide creative pools of talent – an idea Tapscott and Williams (2008) call “Wikinomics” to reflect the pioneering collaborative efforts of Wikipedia.

Producers, especially large corporations, have to be more responsive to consumer demands because the ability to act as a global crowd, passing information swiftly from individual to individual, means corporate behaviour is continually being monitored, evaluated and held to account. Surowiecki (2005) argues digital technology facilitates crowd-sourcing, a process based on “the wisdom of crowds”; if you ask enough people their opinion a basic “crowd truth” will emerge.

Politically, the global flow of information weakens the hold of the State over individuals and ideas. Repressive State actions are much harder to disguise or keep secret when populations have access to instant forms of mass communication, such as Twitter. The Internet also makes it harder for the State to censor or restrict the flow of information and this contributes to political socialisation by way of greater understanding of the meaning of issues and events.

Culturally, behaviour can be both participatory and personalised, processes that in cyberspace can be complementary. The global village combines collectivity with individuality; cooperation flourishes while people simultaneously maintain what Negroponte calls the “Daily Me” – the personalisation of things like news and information focused around the specific interests of each individual. Personalisation contributes to participation through the development of a diverse individuality that leads to the development of new ways of thinking and behaving. The ability to be anonymous on the web encourages both freedom of speech and whistle-blowing.

Taken from:

Cambridge International AS and A Level Sociology Coursebook (UK)

ciebook

Cambridge International AS and A Level Sociology Coursebook (USA)

New Media 4: Implications – digital pessimism

Monday, April 20th, 2015

An alternative interpretation – digital pessimism – argues the globalising processes on which new media depends are neither wholly beneficial nor unambiguous; while globalisation involves decentralising processes, for example, it also produces greater centralisation across economic, political and cultural behaviours.

In economic terms “free” business models are only free in the sense they have costs hidden from the consumer. These include:

  • exploiting free labour: The news and opinion site The Huffington Post, for example, was built around the free labour provided by its blogging contributors; the site was, however, sold by its owners for $300 in 2011.
  • driving out quality: companies that can’t rely on cheap or free labour must either cut their costs, thereby potentially undermining quality, or go out of business.
  • privacy: new media that are dependent on free labour, such as social networking sites where consumers create content, make money by selling user data to advertisers.
  • copyright: Some corporate social media sites lay claim to the copyright of user-generated content, such as photographs and videos, that can then be sold to advertisers.

  • Conglomeration is a related process that mirrors the behaviour of old media corporations. The highly-concentrated ownership of new media allows global corporations to buy-up competitors or emerging technologies. This leads, for Schecter (2000), to a decrease in digital diversity in areas such as news production. As he argues “The Internet, is not very diverse, even though it appears to be. The concentration in ownership that is restructuring old media has led to conglomeration in news transmission and a narrowing of sourcing in new media. It is cheaper for Web sites to buy someone else’s news than generate their own”. In a related issue, it is also “cheaper” for global corporations to simply take and republish content generated by individual users with little or no prospect of recompense.

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    New Media 5: Building a Better Mousetrap – Digital Incarceration

    Sunday, April 19th, 2015

    In the final part of this short series on new media we can note a significant extension to the idea of digital pessimism.

    While new media ownership is sometimes likened to what Socha and Eber-Schmid call “the growing pains of the American Wild West”, where a diversity of companies compete for market share, the reality is probably closer to its old media counterpart; various forms of vertical, horizontal and diagonal concentrating processes have increasingly come into play, leading to the notion of:

    digital incarceration. This involves the idea producers are able to create digital “prisons” that are entered freely by consumers; once there, however, they are locked in. Someone who puts their life online through social networks such as Facebook or Flickr finds it very difficult to leave. A further similarity between the behaviour of old and new media corporations involves two related processes:

    • locking-out competitors from markets.
    • locking-in consumers to products.

    A relatively small-scale example of these tendencies is Amazon’s development of an eBook reader (the Kindle) that gave them control over who could publish eBooks for this product and how consumers could use the product (to buy eBooks form Amazon). On a much larger scale Apple has, over the past 30 years, consistently attempted to lock-out market competitors and lock-in product consumers; this corporate strategy failed spectacularly in the 1980s because Apple was not sufficiently powerful to challenge IBM’s strategy of allowing anyone to manufacture a “Personal Computer” (Apple would only allow third-party manufacturing under licensing they controlled). More-recently this strategy has, however, proved spectacularly successful with the development of the iPhone and iPad that allows Apple to control both of these processes.

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    Another flipbook…

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

    As I said in the previous post, I really like the idea of flipbooks – possibly because they give the illusion of actually reading a book, magazine or document in a way that reading text on a web page or in a pdf document doesn’t.

    Having posted an example of a GCSE flipbook, here’s an a-level example; defining the mass media looks, as I suspect you might have guessed, at how we can define this particular concept both conventionally / historically and in contemporary terms that takes in the development of New Media.

    Defining the Media Flipbook

    Applying Cultural Effects theories to race and crime

    Friday, March 20th, 2015

    Some background reading (and an example article):

    From this (neo-Marxist) perspective we’re looking at the media as an agency of social control and, in this particular respect, how the control of ideas – the way people think about the world – can be used to influence behaviour. However, as Newbold suggests, we are not thinking here about direct control, in the sense of forcing people (consciously or unconsciously) to behave in certain ways; rather, the media acts at the institutional (large group) level of culture, not at the level of individual beliefs.

    In other words, the media exercises social control through its actions as a socialising agency, advising and guiding audiences and, by so doing, exercising a hegemonic role. We can, for example, see this idea in terms of George Gerbner’s ideas (‘Communications Technology and Social Policy’, 1973) concerning Cultivation Theory, which argues television cultivates distinctive attitudes in its audience, rather than directly influencing their behaviour. As Daniel Chandler (‘Cultivation Theory’, 1995) puts it: ‘Heavy watching of television is seen as “cultivating” attitudes which are more consistent with the world of television programmes than with the everyday world. Watching television may induce a general mindset about violence in the world, quite apart from any effects it might have in inducing violent behaviour’.

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    Media Representations

    Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

    soldier

    If you’re looking for a good illustration of what Baudrillard meant by “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place” this article is worth checking-out.

    Crime, Media and Postmodern Modalities

    Saturday, January 31st, 2015

    911Harari’s “The theatre of terror” article is worth reading because it explicitly sees terrorism as a form of “spectacle” in contemporary Western societies – an idea referenced by Kidd-Hewitt and Osborne (1995) when they argue crime in general can be seen in terms of postmodern spectacle, a general “crime discourse” driven by two main narratives:

    1. Fear, whereby crime and deviance are represented in terms of threat – ‘the criminal’ as a cultural icon of fear (both in personal and more general social terms) – a narrative that involves both warnings about behaviour, the extent of crime and its consequences and risk assessments, in terms of the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime, for example.
    2. Fascination: Crime and deviance represent ‘media staples’ used to sell newspapers, encourage us to watch TV programmes (factual and fictional), visit news sites and so forth.

    These two narratives (fear and fascination) come together when postmodernists discuss deviance in terms of spectacle – crime is interesting (and sells media products) because of the powerful combination of fear and fascination.

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