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Posts Tagged ‘new media’

Understanding Media and Culture: Free Textbook

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication (to give it its full title) is a textbook, released under a Creative Commons licence by the University of Minnesota, that’s free to read, copy and share – which makes it especially useful for schools / colleges or students on a tight budget.

Under this particular licence you’re also free to adapt the work in any way you like (“remix, transform, and build upon the material”) and what this will mostly mean is that if you want to chop chapters or sections out of the textbook you’re free to distribute these in any way you like (you just can’t charge anyone for the privilege).

In terms of content, the main body of the text dates from 2010 but there has been some updating in 2016 (particularly around the impact of new technologies) which makes it pretty up-to-the-moment as far as textbooks go.

The emphasis on media and culture means that most of the text is given-over to an analysis of the cultural impact of different types of media, both old (books, newspapers, film and television) and new (video games, entertainment, the internet and social media). Each type is given their own discrete chapter which, among other things, looks at their broad development, relationship to culture and, perhaps most-interestingly, how they have been impacted by the development of new technologies.

The remaining chapters deal more generally with a range of areas: concepts of culture, media effects (there’s coverage of a range of theories dealing with direct and indirect effects), globalisation, the relationship between the media and government and a final section on the future of the mass media.

Each chapter also has its own learning objectives, brief summary and short exercises. Whether or not you find these useful is, as ever, a moot point. I’m personally not a big fan, but Publisher’s love them so we probably have to learn to live with them.

Or ignore them.

It’s your choice.

Finally, one obvious drawback, as far as UK teachers and students are concerned, is that the cultural focus is largely North American. This means that many of the chapters draw on materials and examples that will be unfamiliar to any but an American audience and UK teachers who decide to use these chapters may want to take advantage of the aforementioned editing privileges afforded by the CC license.

If you think you might be able to live with this, the textbook’s available to:

Read online
• Download in a variety of ebook formats (such as mobi and epub) or as a pdf file.

New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

One of the nice things about running Dorset’s Most Popular Sociology Blog (*) is that from time-to-time we get to feature the work of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.

Previous posts have, for example, examined ideas as diverse as Cultural Capital, Parental Involvement in Education, Social Identity and Matriarchy as these relate specifically to Chinese society.

This particular piece of research, by Adelaide Han, is a qualitative examination of the impact new media, in the form of WeChat,  a hugely-popular Chinese social media messaging app (used by an estimated 900 million people each day), has on traditional forms of behaviour in the shape of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

As ever, you need to keep in mind the research was carried-out by an A-level student so you should see it as suggestive rather than definitive; it’s useful, nevertheless, for the way it looks at the relationship between new technology, in the shape of social media apps, and highly-structured traditional forms of behaviour.

Disclaimer

* While there’s no actual evidence to support this Proud Boast, we’re making it on the entirely-ridiculous basis that since there are no other Dorset-based Sociology Blogs (probably) we are, by default, the “most popular”. QED.

The Dark Side of Family Life: Domestic Abuse

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

The issue of domestic abuse has hit the headlines recently with the start of both the 2018 World Cup and not-uncoincidentally, a “Give Domestic Abuse the Red Card” campaign promoted by a range of police forces and widely-reported in both old and new media.

The campaign highlights the relationship between domestic violence (defined in terms of some form of physical assault) and the outcome of England football matches and is intended to draw attention to the social problem of domestic violence by connecting it to an event on which the eyes of the nation are currently fixed.

While the intention to may be laudable – domestic violence was arguably, until very recently, an “invisible crime” rarely perceived or investigated by the authorities as anything more than a “domestic dispute” – the campaign is, intentionally or otherwise, being a little disingenuous with its selection and presentation of evidence.

While the campaign claim that “Domestic Abuse rates rise 38% when England lose” is demonstrably true, the implication this is a nationwide increase is rather more open to question. The claim seems to be based on research by Kirby, Francis and O’Flahery (2014) who analysed police reports of “domestic abuse” (which they defined in terms of physical violence) during the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

While the analysis did indeed show “violent incidents increased by 38% when England lost” we need to note a couple of qualifications:

1. In what they acknowledge was “a relatively small study”, the rise was recorded in the one police force (Lancashire) they analysed. While it’s possible to speculate similar rises may have been recorded in other areas of the country this is not something supported by the evidence from this particular study.

2. The implied casual relationship between “England losing” and an increase in male violence towards their partner is somewhat clouded by Kirby et al’s observation that male domestic abuse “also rose by 26% when England won”.

Two further problematic areas in the campaign are also worth noting:

1. The focus on male domestic abuse and the implication domestic violence is not only a “problem of masculinity” but a very particular form of working-class masculinity ignores the increasing evidence of female domestic abuse. The Office for National Statistics (2018) for example estimates a roughly 66% female – 33% male ratio of victimisation (1.2 million female and 713,000 male reported victims) and while this imbalance is clearly important it also suggests that abuse causality is more-complex than it might, at first sight, appear.

2. The implication “abuse” is has only one dimension (physical violence). Again, the ONS (2018) suggests this is only one – albeit immediate and important – dimension of domestic abuse and we need to be aware of other, perhaps less immediate – dimensions.

In this respect, while the campaign and its relationship to the study on which it seems to be based raise interesting questions about how and to what end sociological research is used, a more-nuanced way to develop student understanding of the issues and debates surrounding domestic abuse and the darker side of family life is to use the recent Office for National Statistics’ Research Bulletin on “Domestic Abuse in England and Wales” (2018).

While this offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of the debate (in addition to useful observations about the reliability and validity of domestic abuse data that can be linked to the crime and deviance module – “Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police, which is why the estimated number of victims is much higher than the number of incidents and crimes recorded by the police. Of the cases which do come to the attention of the police, many, although still recorded as incidents and dealt with as required, will fall short of notifiable offences and are therefore not recorded as crimes.”) most students (and teachers come to that) will probably find the summary of its main points most accessible and memorable.

Globalisation and the Digital World: Revision Stuff

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Colourful PowerPoint Presentation summarising the OCR Globalisation and the Digital World Unit, plus a range of 6 / 9 mark exam practice questions.

It’s somehow typical that you see nothing about this OCR A-Level Sociology Unit for months and then, just as you’ve posted a “6 week course” guide, you stumble across a couple of PowerPoint Presentations that actually complement this quite well.

The first is a Big, Bold and Colourful Revision Presentation by Marc Addison that covers:

• What is the relationship between globalisation and digital forms of communication?
• Developments in digital forms of communication in a global society
• The Marxist Perspective
• The Feminist Perspective
• The Postmodernist Perspective
• The Impact of Digital Communications
• What is the relationship between globalisation and Conflict and Change?
• Cultural homogenisation, hybridity or resistance?

The second is neither Big, Bold nor Colourful because it doesn’t aim to be. It just wants to do its job quietly, efficiently and with the minimum of fuss. So, if you want to give your students some practice 6 and 9 mark questions, based around the PEEL mnemonic, this Presentation should fit the bill nicely.

Sociology Revision Booklets: 3. Mass Media

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

The third in our occasional series covering free revision resources on the web looks at the Mass Media (as you’ve probably guessed from the title).

The number of resources is substantially less than previous offerings on Theory and Methods and Beliefs in Society but what they lack in number is more than made-up for by the depth of their content.

Possibly.

I may just have been making that up.

Anyway, you can see for yourself by downloading any, or indeed all, of the following:

1. Media Revision Pack [Word version | Pdf version]: Although I’ve called this a Revision Pack (because that’s what it is…) it wasn’t originally created in that form. Rather, it’s an amalgam I’ve put together of a range of media revision documents, authored by Mark Gill, that cover:

• Ownership and Control
• New Media
• Representations
• Audiences
• Social Construction of News

Part of the reason for making the Pack available in different formats is that if you’d prefer to break the document down into its constituent parts it’s a fairly simple job to do this in Word. It’s possible to do this with a pdf document but that would mean faffing around with software that splits pdf files and you’re probably much too busy to bother with stuff like that.

The Notes themselves are coherent and competent, with good coverage of the major Specification areas (although it’s aimed at AQA there are parts that apply to other Specifications). (more…)

Knowledge Organiser Updates

Monday, March 5th, 2018

For those of you who just can’t get enough of free Knowledge Organisers, Learning Tables or Activity Mats, here’s a quick update on new materials.

The Hectic Teacher has added 30 new Beliefs in Society “Topic Summary Sheets” to the existing KO’s on Education, Family and Crime. This is for the AQA Specification, but a lot of the information can be applied to OCR, Eduqas or CIE (but this will obviously involve a bit of work on your part…).

These are all in pdf format but if you contact her and ask nicely they should be available as PowerPoint slides that can be edited to your particular lesson requirements.

Miss C Sociology on the other hand has been busy producing a new range of Organisers for both

A-level (Socialisation, culture and identity, Research Methods, Researching inequality, Globalisation and the digital world, Crime and deviance – all aimed at the OCR Specification but, once again, there is a degree of information cross-over with other Specs.) and GCSE (Key Concepts, Families and Households added thus far, with many more promised).

These are all available as PowerPoint Slides should you want to edit them in any way.

Knowledge Organisers: Media and Methods and Education

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Back by popular demand and with a brand-spanking new set of Tables covering media, methods and education. Each Unit is by a different author and the quality is, at times, variable.

Media

These are pdf files so unless you’ve got a programme that will edit them you’re stuck with the information they have to offer. That said, they’re fairly recent (2015) and so are probably reasonably up-to-date and in line with the latest Specifications. There is, unfortunately, no indication of authorship…

Ownership of the mass media
New media, globalisation and popular culture
Selection and presentation of news and moral panics
Mass media and audiences
Representations of the body
Representations of ethnicity age and class

Methods

These are a little older (2009) and again authorship is a little hazy. On the plus side they’re in Word format so they can be easily edited if necessary.

Experiments and Questionnaires
Interviews
Observation and Secondary Sources

Previous Tables you might find useful:

Table 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

Education

Again, not sure who created these or indeed when they were created. However, they are in Word format if you want to edit them.

Functionalism and Marxism
Feminism, New Right, Interactionism
Cultural and Material Factors

Previous Tables you might find useful:

Table 1.

Table 2.

 

Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The 2017 OfCom Report on “Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes” (2017) covers different types of on-and-offline media use by children in the UK and it’s quite a treasure trove of visual and verbal information that will repay careful analysis – although at around 300 pages it may prove a little hard-going for most students.

Luckily, there’s a really good Executive Summary that pulls-together a shedload of interesting empirical / opinion data and disgorges them into concise, bite-sized and consumption-friendly chunks. This section is something you or your students can easily browse, taking whatever you want from what is actually a very rich menu.

If you’re interested in media and methods – and, let’s face it, who is? – there’s extensive details about the overall research methodology. It’s actually quite useful (in a sort-of “you know you should be interested in this stuff, but…” kind of way) because this knowledge lets you assess the likely levels of reliability and validity of some parts of the Report (such as interviews with parents about the media usage of their 3 – 4 year old children).

If you do decide to take the plunge and swim down into the deep waters of the main section of the Report you’ll find it contains some very useful charts, tables and summaries about all aspects of children’s media use.

However, if you’re anything like me the main takeaway from the Report is this rather neat little chart summarising “Media lives by age: a snapshot” – perfectly poster-sized for pinning on that pristine wall.

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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.

 

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

 

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.

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: 2. Issues

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

The various features of new media raise a new set of issues for both producers and consumers. In terms of the former, for example, the development of global computer networks have presented problems for media industries whose products are relatively easy to copy and distribute, with no loss of quality because of digital reproduction. The development of peer-to-peer networks, for example, has led to the rise of global forms of intellectual property theft (“piracy”), to which media conglomerates have responded in a range of ways:

  • legal prosecutions of individual offenders and attempts to shut-down illegal providers, such as Napster and Megaupload.
  • the development of new economic models. “Freemium” models, for example, provide a free service, such as software or a game, but users then pay a premium for “added extras”. Popular Facebook games, such as Farmville, have successfully taken this approach..

A further issue involves the “unauthorised access to computers and networks” (“hacking”), something that involves:

  • governments: cyberwarfare, for example, involves governments engaging in the politically-motivated hacking of rival government computer networks for reasons that range from espionage to sabotage.
  • organisations: In 2010 the American government claimed the cybertheft of copyrights and patents by China remained at “unacceptable levels”.
  • individuals: viruses and malware designed to damage computers, extort money or steal information.

Specific issues for consumers have a number of dimensions, particularly those surrounding personal privacy. Social media such as Facebook make money through advertising, which can now be individualised, personalised and targeted through the sale of users’ personal data to third-parties; users, therefore, exchange “free” services for some loss of privacy. While corporations such as Facebook simply monitor how their network is used in terms of what an individual likes or dislikes, discusses or avoids in order to deliver adverts matched to these behaviours, Kosinski et al. (2013) have shown it is possible to accurately infer a wide range of personal information, such as ethnicity, IQ, sexuality, substance use and political views, from an analysis of an individual’s “likes”.

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