The first point Sardar and Van Loon make in “Introducing Media Studies” revolves around the centralized position of media producers compared to their massive distribution and diverse audiences. The word media derives from the fact that media products are mediated by technologies then publicly dispersed. We are social creatures with a love for communication, and we spend, on average, about fifteen years of our lives consuming various media texts. It is important to study the media and its various modes since media production– and especially popular media– can be expensive. This means media texts are often created, reviewed, and backed by big corporations to be successful and garner wide reach. Thus, these texts can be heavily biased towards whatever content benefits profit margins, and even reaching into the realms of propaganda in favor of business interests. Media studies and critical thought can help keep media production in check.
Additionally, advertisements are increasingly targeted towards children with deregulation of the media. Full length serials are created as media texts with the intent to sell toys. Seeing as this was written in 2002, I’d add the growing popularity of “convergence culture” as a marketing strategy, this is no longer surprising, and even accepted, as a part of marketing more generally. The authors also advocate for the importance of media studies as a critical discipline within regular curriculum in grade school.
The authors then example the media as big business in which products become relatively standardized in terms of process in order to be produced as efficiently as possible. This was developed during a time when film, radio, and propaganda (particularly that of Nazi Germany) were considered to reach audiences as a mass with a Least Common Denominator of content, so to speak. In the 1940’s-60’s, we began to study audiences as individuals and center the effects of media on the end of reception. This is, perhaps, more relevant in the digital era with the rise of alternative, niche marketing to target specific consumers, essentially telling smaller demographics exactly what they want to hear– rather than what is ethical and true– to earn their revenue. From this view, the passive audiences of the 1960’s are then seen as more active audiences from the 1970’s and beyond, especially with the correlation of ideology as an important term during the Vietnam War.
Here, I hate when authors introduce the Frankfurt School and then use Adorno as its spokesperson. Kracauer, Benjamin, and Marcuse were not nearly as insufferable and clear cut. They propose something closer the McLuhan, in that technologies disrupt, and you can see the change in culture alongside and that re-routing the sensorium is what is important here. Either way, they then move into semiotics and deconstruction. As a whole, I think it’s a great basic spreadsheet for anyone who wants to jump in at any point in the discipline. It’s definitely useful, but perhaps not the best, most accurate article to get into the nuances. After all, it’s always a give and take, breadth vs. depth, etc. You can’t do it all. I’m salty over the Frankfurt School portion, but I’m not stressing too hard over the quick read through since that appears to be the point.
Murray attempts to establish the genealogy of the computer as an expressive medium in an attempt to position it as the medium of representation of our time, and even an aesthetic text. The linear stories of film in the past are no longer resonant with audiences of the digital age who conceptualize rhizomatically and nodally. We become aware of all the potential choices we might make, branching off in many different directions, and this definitely lines up with our turn towards stories that move forward and back in time– and those that can change time or present alternate dimensions and realities altogether. In the same way, books become inadequate without their relational qualities between different texts, like data sets, trends, and patterns of what tends to happen now versus what potentially could be and what is “deviant” right now that isn’t yet. According to Bush and Borges, the mode of thought in the age of the computer is more interconnected and speculative with the world as a problem at its core.
For Murray, the humanists often think of this in terms of the limitations and controls that come with it and rarely think of the opening of potential into the new this mode of thinking might offer. As we move away from the perceived benefits of the stronger connections between signifier and signified, we also move towards a consciousness that is self-reflexive, playful, and gesturing back towards the arbitrariness of it all, precisely allowing us to think up new ways of being. I see this essay as a refreshing counterpart to the pessimism of the computer age, albeit perhaps a naive view on its own. We need to look at the real, at what’s going on now, and the pessimistic cycles of control that have come before if we are to change for the future.
My recommendation is Steven Shaviro’s Post Cinematic Affect since it goes into detail about all of these concepts. It’s more recent, and it’s all about thinking through reproduction in the digital age both as constraint and as release.