Corey Couch 1/30 – Sardar/Van Loon and Murray

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.

Understanding Media by Cuong Le

Walter Benjamin’s 1936 critique about the reproduction of art and media through Marxist lenses beckon a rethinking about the purpose and role of creating media. Benjamin argues that throughout time, the mechanical reproduction of art has coincided with the masses and social movements, while at the same time made art pieces less unique. In his words, it is the aurora of art that loses its value through reproduction. Citing in chronological order, Benjamin describes various methods of production beginning with the Greek procedure of “founding and stamping.” Eventually, Benjamin moves towards film and movie making. Contrasting Benjamin is Bolter and Gruisin’s article about immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation. Immediacy is the attempt to imitate reality through digital forms such as virtual reality. Hypermediacy is the combining of multiple forms of media such as text and images for print, or text, images, and sound for digital media. Remediation is explained to be the adaption of one media form into another such as a movie from a book. These two perspectives contrast and compliment the field of media studies which reflect a perception of social life within a society. On one hand, Benjamin attributes reproduction of art as a capitalistic endeavor, but also part of a proletariat movement. On the other hand, Bolter and Gruisin suggests that the reproduction of media is part of an evolving nature of media.

Benjamin focuses mainly on the process of reproduction while Bolter and Gruisin is concerned about the perception of media forms and its evolution. Together, both sets of writings are focused around the idea of reproducible media items that parallel innovations in technology. Hypermediacy is a concept that Benjamin has not worked with in the mid-20th century given the limitations of art reproduction to film and photography. The internet and digital spaces of games simultaneously demonstrate hypermediacy and create new media through blending various media forms to generate a unique user experience. Limitations in technology at the time of writing restricted Benjamin’s analysis, but he was correct that penetration of reality through mechanical equipment has created an illusion.

Another major theme that arises between both pieces of literature is the idea of original media and reproduced copies. The dialectic is a focus for Benjamin who is concerned about the abolition of capitalism’s endless accumulation of capital and production. Thus, he suggests that the reproduction of art changes its values, and the consumption of such reproductions by the masses also shifts their social views. For Bolter and Gruisin, it is the consumption of copies and accessibility of experiences by the consumer that creates meaning found in immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation. Both sets of writing offer a complex and dialectic approach to art, media, reproduction, but more importantly, both sets of writing approach the consumption of media products through diverging lenses.

January 30th

Understanding the media, its technological and social changes, and where the media fits into the larger spectrum of American life is not a recent problem.  Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is, in many ways, just as resonant today as it was in the mid-1930s.  Indeed, many of Benjamin’s concerns regarding the emergence of film as a viable—and highly influential—medium can be heard echoing through the years in the Lev Manovich’s Database as a Genre of New Media: the internet, coupled with computer technology, allowed for an elevation of both art and artifice.  The blurring of the line between art and artifice—particularly in cinema—is analogous to possibilities that computers and the internet offer today.

Mechanical reproduction of media has been an evolving reality since Gutenberg and his printing press.  The marriage of mechanization and mass-production of media and the forces of capital have created a new form of media, one that seeks to maintain the status quo in most cases and is heavily resistant to social (and economic) change.  The costs associated with publishing a newspaper or a book have often served as gate-keepers to insure that only acceptable ideas are promoted, yet the digital revolution has also democratized a large swath of previously closely-guarded industries.  Record labels are no longer required for a recording artist to release an album globally; iTunes has stepped into the breach.  Emerging or independent authors no longer have to face an endless litany of rejection letters from the major publishing houses; small, independent online publishers have put the self-publishing dream well within most peoples’ reach.  Blogging is yet another new avenue that people have to express ideas and tell their stories without the constraints of the corporate gate keepers barring admission.

The professionalization of the media in the 20th century has spawned a host of experts, one of the five propaganda filters used by the corporate media, according to David Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media. From foreign policy to business, “experts” from the government and the private sector have backed up media claims that fats are unhealthy, tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs, or that Saddam Hussein had a hidden nuclear arsenal.  The danger, of course, is that with the unlimited capacity of the internet, anyone can declare themselves an “expert”, regardless of their qualifications.

At this time, more than ever, critical thinking skills are needed in order to adequately process the sheer volume of data available to consumers, however, if current events and situations are any indicator, the masses (them-asses) are lacking the ability to research and understand “facts”, data and general statics.  They seem content in their echo chamber.

Andy Greenway

January 30 Post

One thing that stands out about the modern era and all of its technology is the democratization and distribution of knowledge that modern technology has afforded. The invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century revolutionized the print industry, but it was the technology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that has helped to equalize the distribution of knowledge to the masses.

Distribution of knowledge across vast distances to large groups of people was already happening in the nineteenth century by newspaper companies. Sandar and Van Loon’s comic, Introducing Media Studies does not go deep into the history of media, but they do stress the significance of media and their job “to communicate across space and time with as many people as possible.” Obviously, today media comes in a variety of formats, not just print, but the early days of print media/news should be seen as an indicator of the modern era and the spread of information to people who might not have previously been privy to that knowledge.

As the twentieth century approached, the invention of recorded sound and moving image (and we shouldn’t leave out photography) would continue to democratize knowledge. Media industries began consolidating into large corporations, but their information was going to more people. As more people consumed media in the twentieth century, more people became “experts” and had opinions about politics, sports, you name it! As Walter Benjamin explains in his essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, “For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the [nineteenth] century. With the increasing extension of the press . . . an increasing number of readers became writers . . . Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character.”

So, not only has knowledge become widely available to the masses, but now the masses can be experts. They are not only consumers, but producers of knowledge. We see this in a variety of formats in the twenty-first century. Book publication, as the Economist article, From Papyrus to Pixels explains, no longer requires that one hire or be hired by a publicist. Rather, there are multiple ways a person can self-publish and still be successful authors. The stigma of self-publishing is vanishing as more and more people find ways to publish their works through fan sites, crowdfunding, and, of course the internet.

Blogging and social media might be one of the most popular ways to self-publish and everyone participates (okay, not everyone…but a LOT of people, including the media). Even if you don’t actively post on social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or have an active blog, if you are on the internet you are probably coming across people publishing their ideas and opinions. In the article, Blogging our Criminal Past: Social Media, Public Engagement, and Creative History by Helen Rogers (2015), Rogers addresses this phenomenon and how it has changed (and will continue to change) the study of history and other social sciences. Internet culture allows for “history from below” and this article argues that blogging (and other social media platforms) are “becoming an integral and dynamic part of the research project.” Of course, blogging and social media is being used by historians and other academics, but it is vastly saturated with non-academics who now have a voice and an equal access to information, thus furthering the democratization and dissemination of knowledge to more and more people.

Article Link: Blogging our Criminal Past: Social Media, Public Engagement, and Creative History by Helen Rogers (2015)

Emily Hunt


Understanding the evolution of media makes it easier to see just how reliant we are on these different forms. Both “Inventing the Medium” and “Introducing Media Studies” tackle this idea of the how we approach the media, what it does for us, and how we can use it to different ends. As as media technology has progressed, it has increased its ability to present complex meanings. This is especially so with the onset of digital media. Digital media can more accurately capture the complexity of human thought because it is ever changing itself. This presents new consequences however, as the changeable nature of digital media and push for constant production can increase the potential for spreading incorrect information. Websites and digital projects can showcase multiple perspectives and incorporate various forms of media within themselves, thus broadening their presentation and being more widely available. Projects themselves can even be continuously updated, expanded, or edited in some way to keep not only the software, but the content, relevant and up-to-date.

The biggest change in media and how we use it is the accessibility of the different forms. Since media is intended to reach as many people as possible now, the potential audience is far broader than a single town or county. As humans our knowledge is constantly expanding as we try to organize both the world and our consciousness of it, and studying the media we use provides what Sardar and Van Loon term, “the most radical understanding of contemporary life.” The diversity of viewpoints and media sources means that people’s choices about what they consume says a lot about them as a person. Our shift towards globalization means that there are now even more options of what to consume. The computer has been transformative in this aspect, bringing most forms of media to people in one device. Computers at once represent the dialectic that Murray discusses about the humanist and engineering approaches to media; they represent both the unknowability of the world and the variety of solutions there could be for various problems.

In digital media projects, especially for historians, the internet is ripe for creating a new way for the public to engage with the past and the media from the past in a reliable way. As the public’s way of understanding the past moves past simply knowing dates and events to interpretation and experience instead, digital history can allow the public to move past what Murray refers to as the “library shelf as a map of knowledge.” We can instead make history immersive and focused, whether that is through documenting a building that will be removed, making available old newspapers en mass, or creating a website that delves deep into a single topic from various perspectives. In any case, understanding the variety of media types and how we use it in a broad sense is important for those intending to create digital media and increase visibility of a topic.

– Jocelyn Lion

January 30,2019 – Blaire Bosley

When reading the article in The Economist the transition from print to a digital form showcased how the publishing industry has transformed to one that is not as profitable as it used to be, because of the introduction of eBooks as well as cheaper ways of producing and disseminating books, as can be seen in my last blog post I believe that these changes allow for a more extensive range of access to media. However, this reading by The Economist as well as the reading by Sardar and Van Loon made me wonder if giving such access to a broader audience would cause problems within a larger scope. To the media has created a lot of problem such as the shutting down of stores and making public spaces such as libraries obsolete. However, this transition in media also allows for a more diverse showcase of authors by offering new was of publishing. Recently I was able to reflect on the literature I was assigned to read in class and realized that none of the authors I read were minorities, yet how one now can access media creates space for the works of these authors.


Additionally, the introduction of technology has changed how we consume media. Although there are still some people who get their news from printed materials such as newspapers and magazines, there is a growing number of people who rely on tv’s and more so social media to be aware of the events occurring in their daily lives; however, this offers up many pros and cons. The advantages being that the news is now easily accessible anywhere and at any time. Just like the woman watching the news in Sardar and Van Loon’s work I wondered whether there would be space for the representation of minorities in media. Through the use of technology, one can also find and connect with the story that’s important to them. For example, many news outlets do not report on incidents that occur within the minority (black, latinx, indigenous, LGTBQ+, etc.) communities; thus, its vital that there are spaces that are created for these specific groups.

However, as stated before these offer up several cons; one such problem is that when news is spread through a social media platform that makes it easily accessible, it can also be altered or created rather than being factually based. Within a society that so heavily depends on social media to share and spread information, often this falsified information gets shared to a point where people have to take on their responsibility of dissecting the news themselves. But this is not just something that happens on social media; it also takes place within actual televised news when the context in which something is stated, or an event takes place is not shared.

Overall, the work by Sardar and Van Loon and The Economist are eye-opening in how they portray how media is consumed and have allowed me to challenge my perception of everyday media and how information, or lack thereof, can be spread throughout society.

1/30 Reading response

Walter Benjamin said that “in principle a work of art has always been reproducible.” In his article on art in the age of mechanical reproduction, he outlines that changes that have led to this rapid reproduction that can be found in modern art. Additionally, he critically looks at the current state of this mechanical reproduction, stating that the “aura” of a work of art is lost after continued reproduction. A photographer who captures a beautiful landscape can experience the “aura” of that place in real time, the photo captures a piece of that and every subsequent reproduction loses more and more of the aura and the underlying context in which the photo was taken.

He seems to be arguing that the more art is reproduced it loses the history of the time and place it was created. While I think this is true in some regards, the very nature of history is trying to “reconfigure” the larger time and place in which a moment in history happened. The aura and the context of things are lost through time and space, and so in this regard, Benjamin is correct. However, I do not agree that the context of art is lost completely. He mentions captions that appear in photos reprinted in newspapers and in this way this is the role of the historian to understand this context. Additionally, as is stated in the other readings, the easy reproduction of art democratizes the whole process. This means that people are able to not only hear “expert” opinions on a piece of media but are also able to form and document their own opinions. The larger idea of media lends itself to constant interpretation, where every person theoretically can have access to a myriad of documents, artwork, films, music, books, etc, and are therefore able to interpret them in any way they see fit.

This can be problematic when we are dealing with history, as who is to say that someone can interpret history in a way that is problematic, harmful or willfully ignorant. The cost of democratizing includes the fact that everyone has a voice, most will use it to learn, to experience and to be exposed to cultural touchstones, but with the accessibility and easy reproduction of everything comes the “trolls” who are empowered by this easy access. I think overall though, there are far more good things that have come out of this than bad. It is up to artists, historians, authors and anyone who is creating or studying media to continue interpreting, educating and creating and allow the public to do what they will.

The impact of media introduced by Sadar and van Loon, in their comical and entertaining explanation of why media studies is important. Media, they argue, encompasses art, history, politics and the larger culture of a society. In this way, it is paramount that we critically consume and analyze media and art, as it has larger implications on our society than just being a beautiful painting or a funny movie. For us to have such access to these various forms of media allows more democratization. This democratization means that more people are consuming media than ever before, with the ease of a button or a swipe, we are able to experience more art and culture without leaving our couch. Because more people are consuming media, the media is then influenced more and more by each intersection of society. This confluence of politics, religion, class, history, and the personal life of those consuming it makes it ever more important to analyze and discuss media as historians. To capitalize on the current technological advances to further our research, publish our findings and create and make content available, means that history is constantly interacting with media.

Democratizing Art, Ben Rosen HuffPost:

Julia Templeton

1/30 (Alert the Media)

This is a week about media, and it’s adaptation over the last few thousands of years or so. What most resonated with me was Murray’s definition of creativity. They state that “All creativity can be understood as taking in the world as a problem.”[1] Following this line that if creativity is a problem, then media could be understood as how an individual conveys one’s understanding of that problem. So how do we end up studying the various creative things people generate. This is where media studies come into play, though I found the Sardar and Van Loon graphic novel zine, whatever it was difficult to read. It did provide some insight into how to think about what media is and how meaning-making can be deciphered. Specifically, we are given definitions of sign, symbol, code, and text with which to work with to understand media. This book also presents us with a discussion of context and methods of reading things that are not traditional written text, because essentially all media can be read. Thos of us in the library field have taken on the framework of transliteracy to discuss teaching users how to “fluent” in different forms of media so they might understand their nature and biases.

Benjamin presents an interesting point in his piece that I think should be understood as we contemplate what various types of media represents, mean and interpret. He stated that “The greatly increased mass of participants has produced a change in the mode of participation.”[2] This idea of increasing participation in understanding various types of performances and representations important to keep in mind when we contemplate mass-produced materials of the past, but also the internet-based content of today. The participation in the discourse has dramatically increased. With this increase, the act of criticism, creation, and amalgamation of content has as well.

Using the Economist piece as a stepping off point this pieces end rings true. The author stated that “What is the future of the book? It is much brighter than people think.”[3] What the author seemed most excited about was the possibility of interaction between the author, the reader as well as the interaction among reader that ebooks allowed. This discussion should also include a discussion of dynamic content within a text, like the much-lauded apple textbook system, which seems to be discussed no more. This suggests something interesting. Maybe users of text heavy sources do not want this kind of interactivity? While it is true that technology is impacting how we consume media. The print book is still going strong. Over the last several years print book sales have stayed strong or improved.[4] This implies that readers still prefer a traditional physical book over other methods of consumption. How should we deal with this kind of issues as creators of content? This understanding combined with ideas presented in other readings probably implies that for digital history the textbook might not be the best approach because consumption of these still follows traditional methods. Instead, we should focus on more complex forms of media that are consumed entirely virtually.
[1] Murray, 4.
[2] Benjamin,
[3] The Economist, “From Papyrus to Pixels” (2014)
[4] (

1/30 Blog

The dissemination and impact of media throughout multiple platforms is chronicled in “Introducing Media Studies” by Sardar and Van Loon (2000). Cleverly this piece details the creation of “Media Studies,” its importance, and how the oversaturation of consumerism through multiple mediums of traditional and non-traditional media outlets, shape and reflect the societal habits of the world. From subtle ads in children’s television, to strategic framing and discussion of headlining news, media dictates and shapes the society’s psyche and most importantly, curtails to a specific hegemonic audience. Watching bits and pieces of the Netflix series Ted Bundy Tapes and the new HBO season of True Detective, helps to substantiate  and illustrate how news media shapes and adheres to the historical precedence of criminality, race, and suspect-suspicion. In the case of Ted Bundy, citizens at the time were bewildered to find that a man who is white, cis, heterosexual, and deemed as “charming,” was remotely capable of such heinous crimes. In comparison, in the most recent episode of True Detective, the latest suspect was described as a “Black man with a dead eye,” in regard to the disappearance of two white children. This very vague description was sensationalized and all the evidence needed to find any culprit that fit the description. In both cases, it shows the need for suspects to fit a particular guise that is consistent with overwhelming beliefs around crime, suspicion, race, and fear. The media, in turn, works to adhere to these conditions, to reflect the precedented narratives of society’s behavior, and by society, meaning the hegemony. In the instance of crime in particular, media shapes and confirms the sociological, psychological, racial, and historical functions of the country. Therefore, as mentioned in this article, the humanities factor into the media, thus, Media Studies becomes crucial to unveil ways these factors work together and reflect larger social behaviors.

In the essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin details how the modification and accessibility of art makes it lose its value. I believe the digital age does not necessarily saturate art with mediocrity, but rather allow for people, no matter class, race, gender, sexuality, ability, the opportunity to create. Unfortunately there are still gatekeepers who determine what is worthy of recognition and attention. However, the accessibility of creativity in today’s age allows for more subjectivity and participation. I would never be opposed to such progression. I do find that capitalism infiltrates this, succumbing to prioritizing certain work over others, sometimes these works being what we deem as “mediocre.” Therefore, it becomes a period for all of us to determine what is worth consuming, what is worth paying attention. But also, are we really given a choice? Media has found a way to infiltrate our lives in very deceptive ways. Where do we draw the line between agency and consumerism? And how often are these modes of technology modifying itself to appease to our desires? We can find this with Spotify’s sophisticated algorithm that curtails to a user’s listening history in order to provide songs, artists, and playlists that suit the listener’s interest. But is this always the case? -Beza



In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Walter Benjamin argues that as art becomes easier to reproduce and put out into the world, the more the craft loses its value. My first thought when reading this, and especially considering this application of this principal to history, is that it was a ridiculous statement—if we are able to put art and history out to the masses easier, does this not mean that society progresses more because knowledge is so easily accessible to individuals? For example, I am writing an essay about a primary source for another class and am using 16th century trial records; I am able to view these trial records on my cellphone, whereas the author who inspired me to look at these (Carlo Ginzburg in his 1966 book The Night Battles) had to actually travel to the archives in Italy to obtain the same records—this is all very good right? Well, sort of.

The transition of paperbound books to digital, or as The Economist worded it “From Papyrus to Pixels”, has made it so that one can become a published author quicker and easier than any other time in history. As a history majors who hope to publish books, this development should seem also exciting. The problem is, that because so many publishing companies are starting up and releasing so many books, it is becoming increasingly difficult for authors to distinguish credibility in companies; likewise, for readers, it is becoming difficult to determine the credibility of authors. Indeed, just as Walter Benjamin suggested over 80 years ago, it does seem that because items are so easy to reproduce the fields are losing their value.

Luckily however, there is already an established field of study we can apply to historiography and to the historical method: media studies. In the year 2000, Ziauddin Sardar released a book entitled Introducing Media Studies, which discusses (in a very unique way) the importance of studying media studies. An illustration on the very first page has in bold letters coming from a television, “THE WORLD HAS BECOME OVERSATURATED WITH MEDIA!”, just as the scholar world has become oversaturated with books and authors. It goes on to discuss “pester power”, using Sunny Delight as an example. In short, the drink was advertised to be healthy, when in actuality it was not—imagine if oversights such as this happened when fact checking history. This has since become a crucial part of media studies. This is of course not to say that inaccurate histories are a new phenomenon, just that they are becoming harder to filter as the market continues to oversaturate.

In 1921, Albert Einstein said, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books…The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think,” and in an age with smartphones, it is important we keep the latter part of his statement in mind. Facts such as dates and names are indeed very important to historians, but the most important skill we possess and strengthen is that of research. We are able to apply what the field of media studies has already learned from their oversaturated market to history to keep credibility and value in our market.

The Scientific American posted a guest blog in 2013 titled “Research in the Digital Age: It’s More Than Finding Information…”, that discusses problems with research today, and provides a checklist on what to look for when determining if something is good for research—needless to say, it goes far beyond saying “does the site end in .org or .com?”


-Cole Hale