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?