Why should we and how can we study the media?

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November 2003                                        Student Number 532403

Why should we and how can we study the media?


Since starting the course in Media, Culture and Society, it has become evident to me that studying the media is not only interesting but a vital tool in analysing contemporary society.

So far in our lectures and seminar sessions we have examined the role of the media, the message and the audience. During this essay I aim to provide a deeper understanding of the importance in studying the media and the shifting ways of approaching its study.

There are many different ways of defining what the media essentially is, which therefore makes the study of it all the more challenging. Throughout our daily lives, we come across diverse forms of media and interact with them in a variety of ways. According to many writers, it is the media that creates ‘who’ and ‘where’ we think we are. We rely on the media, or more specifically the mass media, for information, entertainment, ideas and education whether we realise it or not. According to Michael Real, (1996, cited in O’Sullivan et al, 1998, page 3) the variety of differing modes that modern media takes form in, are particular ways of creatively participating in the life of modern culture, namely by reading, watching and listening to certain entities around us.

In this essay, I focus on the mass media as the driving force of media itself since it has been the development of mass communication systems that have allowed modern societies to expand and be understood. Many writers agree that it has been the advancement of television, radio, film, literature, computer networks and so on that have enabled society to exist as it does today (Ibid. page 3).

Therefore, since it is evident that mass media forms a major part in the existence of society; surely the question of whether or not it should be studied has a simple answer. If we did not study the media, we would be ignoring a major dynamic that contributes to, or arguably controls, how society works the way it does. In other words, we should study the media in order to understand more about how we think, behave and interact with each other and ultimately about how we live.

On The Guardian newspaper web site, there has been a debate involving the validity of Media Studies degrees. An undergraduate student in Media studies has put forward a view that states:

‘Media Studies… is about understanding the world we live in; from the mediated nature of our political landscape to the corporatisation of our public spaces, these are issues which affect everyone…’

(Sarah Platt, 2001).

Here, the student is arguing that Media Studies as a degree involves looking at the vital issues that affect everyone in the contemporary world. Therefore I have related this to a more general understanding whereby the media determines and has a major influence on how society exists.

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However, contrary to this argument, there are writers who feel that the study of media should perhaps be neglected because, unlike traditional texts, ‘media has triggered such emotional connotations, particularly in terms of consumerism and cultural values’ (Farmer, 2003).

Hence because the media is so interrelated within people’s lives it can be said to be too personal to scrutinise.

An interesting point has also arisen in recent times, which connects these two arguments in that the media has become so intertwined with every aspect of our reality, the line between the two ‘has become blurred and even ...

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