Week 1: Media Influence

Introducing Media Studies is built on two opposing ideas, one of which is the critic’s opposition to the pursuit of media as an area of study, the other is a validation of how it may very well be one of the more important social sciences pursued in scholarship today. Leaving behind the traditional style of argumentative paper writing, the author embraces the use of comic strip and television news copy formats, allowing him to argue his points in an imaginative yet fact-giving way. This along with the rest of the week’s readings, reveals just how much of an influence audiences and mass media alike have on each other. This was demonstrated in From Papyrus to Pixels, which explores the evolution of book formats and briefly discusses the influences that consumers and media producers both share.

In the opening pages of Introducing Media Studies the author introduces the idea that audiences who engage with various communication mediums such as television, news programs, radio and the Internet, are creating their own meanings and emotions in the process. The article goes on to advocate the importance of understanding how media is engineered, so that audiences can become critical users of the various formats. As a teen, I found myself almost intrigued, maybe even somewhat impressed, when I learned that The Walt Disney Company had acquired ABC Networks. Years later, as a young adult I was disappointed when I learned that the once black-owned television station BET Networks had been purchased and pulled under the Viacom umbrella. It is my belief that media conglomerates operate with a two edged sword. On one hand, a conglomerate has more resources, which usually results in improved production values and greater visibility. On the other hand, any entity operating under a conglomerate is usually doing so using the voice of the parent company. As the author suggests, media is mediated. As a member of a targeted audience, media studies will better prepare you to understand how and why cultural products have such a powerful influence over contemporary life. This goes against the functionalist and Marxist ideas that “presume audiences to be passive and powerless.” Again, as a kid, intrigued by Disney’s accrual of ABC I didn’t realize or maybe it wasn’t important to me that the culture would be shaped by the parent company, similar to how BET is shaped by Viacom today. Knowing that media is produced for mass-consumption and in most cases for economic impact, I mindful of how much influence I allow it to have over my spending habits and decision making – No “healthy” Sunny Delight, for me!

Although, one of the concluding thoughts is that mediation is an exchange that is mostly one-sided, I do believe that today audiences have a greater influence on mediums and media content. From Papyrus to Pixels provides a snapshot of how books have evolved since the mid-1400s. Starting with the development of materials such as vellum, which made it possible for print media to be created and ending with electronic literary formats, the author provides a number of instances where the audience has had a direct influence on print production. Let’s look at the first era of self-publishing. Before the 19th century, self-publishing was the primary method of an author to reader exchange. As publishing companies became more prominent, self-published authors lost their authentic appeal. Bookstores refused to stock their shelves with self-published books and this eventually led to the decline of such a format. Yet, in the late 20th to early 21st century, the advent of electronic books and a thriving do-it-yourself culture resulted in self-published books rising in popularity again. Gone now were the “egoist” and “kook” stigmas.

Introducing Media Studies and From Papyrus to Pixels were written in 2013 and 2014, respectively. So, I am surprised to not have found more of a discourse on data. Today, I would say a good amount of my information comes from social media interaction. I have found that the producers of social mediums have developed ways to tailor my social media experience based on the data they collect from my online use. If I perform a Google search for Reebok tennis shoes, guaranteed I will see an advertisement for the same on one of my social media pages. I am curious to see if media studies will someday prove that such ads are user-influenced or designed to influence the user?

-Sophia Nelson





One thought on “Week 1: Media Influence

  1. klrobinson101 says:

    Innovation is the double edged sword. Uniting both the past and the present in unprecedented ways, technology has become a necessity even in the smallest minutiae of our day. We seek it for questions we have no answer and for providing answers to those we do. How the world worked before… we rely on movies and our grandparents to tell the stories. But must we walk nine miles in the snow up-hill to appreciate the written word or is access, complete and unmitigated, the easiest route to true appreciation? Can these alternate sources of access water down our experiences?

    Are these technological advances mediating our relationship with the material? As news becomes increasingly sensationalized and thereby worried about the impact over the message, we can only assume the content will become increasingly mediated. “Words, gestures, songs, pictures and writings” according to Sadar and Van Loom have all become the tools by which these first responders are disseminating information in the hopes of being first or at least the most interesting. Are Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers acting in a similar suit? From Papyrus to Pixels notes, “books read in electronic form will boast the samepower [sic].” These tools of interaction with written words also act as a method of interaction in which multiple parties may participate and analyze information otherwise unattainable.

    It is my argument and endless cause to represent technology in a favorable light in this present, which uses and views technology as a potential threat to the individual and a tool of misrepresentation. Technology has opened doors allowing otherwise marginalized groups access that could change outlooks and futures. What we must understand as consumers is our responsibility to ourselves to not just accept the first thing we read or view as fact and continue to search and add complexity to our understanding—we must acknowledge the mediation. Technology gives us this chance by allowing us to reach out to an increasingly interconnected world.

    We carry our phones in ready position. Always on hand and hopefully charged for the at moments notice Google search or news update. Sardar and Van Loon speak to the mass production and marketing tactics of media products (television, film, literature, etc.) and how our basic human instinct to consume has allowed a monster industry to potentially skew perspectives. We even have case studies to the far extreme (Nazi Germany) where human sentiment was prayed upon and strengthened support for mass genocide. Germany was able to act in a vacuum technology and the media that comes from it would not allow us to in this day and age.

    Bolter and Grusin note:

    Contemporary literary and cultural theorists would deny that linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, or computer graphics could ever achieve unmediated presentation.

    These contemporary theorists desire immediacy, which is an unreal expectation at this time. This desire may even be unfavorable as this desire increases sensationalism, displaying information just to be first. Bolter and Grusin go on to make the point that the logic behind transparent immediacy is not necessarily the panacea we believe it to be—that even the apparent immediacy of photography is mediated by something as small as lighting. The new “dead cow” may be just as flawed as the old, but one has certainly not made the other obsolete… just a little bit behind the curve.

    – Lynn Robinson


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