Media! That’s a Thing!

I have always appreciated the term “media studies” more so than its individual terms.  The separation between media, as a media scholar, is frustrating. Little to no difference exists between the studies of the lot. To view a film, for example, requires similar techniques as studying a painting. Look at the composition. Who created it? What audience is it for? The questions go beyond if the media has artistic merit, or if is something you would own.

You might notice a similarity between these questions and those you might ask as you read a primary source document in a history class. There is a reason for that; they are one and the same. This is part of what Sardar and Van Loom want to say in “Introducing Media Studies.” Their other objective is to explain the history of the study and criticism of cinema and television, or what they dub “mass media.”

The explanations provided in “Introducing Media Studies” are thorough and easy to understand. They give perhaps the best introduction of the Frankfurt School I have read in a monograph or textbook; for once, Adorno did not bring fear to my heart. I have issues with the layout of the book; sometimes it was the equivalent of reading Manga, with non sequiturs in lieu of construction. Credit where credit is due, the work is unique, and I was not bored with the content.

The question of what to do in the world of new media comes up in the article from The Economist regarding the future of the book. One aspect of this essay that I found most interesting was how the advent of self-publishing and e-commerce, not e-books, have affected bookshops. Amazon sells more paperbacks than Kindle versions of books, the ebooks being more aligned toward a darker, albeit entertaining, community.
I am reminded of a bookstore in Asheville, NC. Situated in Grove Park Arcade, it prides itself on being pet-friendly, as well as offering champagne as you read and purchase. I could spend hours there, more than I would ever think of spending at my local shop.

Asheville is just amazing, but that is a digression for another time.

But what I kept thinking about as I read the article was how the history of the book is the history of history, in a sense. Just as online sellers and self-publishers are making headway in the industry, independent scholars and online learning has intervened in the arc of academia. Georgia State University has been given a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to try and figure out how to take Doctoral programs into the 21st century.

Should it be a concern that students come into college knowing how to tweet more than how to write? Perhaps. But we as scholars and pallbearers of discipline should embrace the ways in which people interact with technology. This is one reason I advocate for films being used as primary sources in the classroom. It can help many students grasp concepts when they are on celluloid, or binary code, rather than ink on trees.


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