Media Studies 101
Erika Pearson, University of Otago
Copyright Year: 2013
Conditions of Use
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As an overview of a Birmingham School Cultural Studies/Structuralism and semiotics/Critical theory+ approach to media studies, this textbook is excellent. It does branch off into more distant ideas of continental philosophy (e.g. Jurgen Habermas)... read more
As an overview of a Birmingham School Cultural Studies/Structuralism and semiotics/Critical theory+ approach to media studies, this textbook is excellent. It does branch off into more distant ideas of continental philosophy (e.g. Jurgen Habermas) and traditional communications studies (e.g. uses and effects) concepts, but its bias is clear. It makes no attempt to hide that bias, nor should it in this reviewer's opinion. It's good to know exactly what one will be serving up to students. The discussion questions at the end of each section, however, likely would not allow for a wide range of opinions in a diverse classroom. It is also the opinion of this reviewer that more emphasis should have been placed on the actual technologies that assume a critical role in studying media. For example, there is no discussion of VR/AR, and mobile phones are only mentioned in passing. For that matter, even brief histories of TV and radio are excluded. When they do engage in discussions of specific technological concepts, such as the digital commons, the brevity of the sections hampers their effectiveness in conveying the complexity of the ideas.
This reviewer found no major issues with accuracy in any of the multi-varied topics (which is quite an accomplishment on the part of the contributors, as the scope is so broad). Topics ranging from the fields of rhetoric to cognitive neuroscience are covered with appropriate accuracy. However, there is a strong emphasis on the culture and history of New Zealand, so, as an American, this reviewer can't be certain that that information is wholly accurate. For example, this reviewer knows nothing about the New Zealand (or even UK) Green Party.
This book might be updated to cover recent technological developments (or any, really) and cultural movements (e.g. the #MeToo movement) that could make it more interesting and relevant to traditional college-age students. However, in general, the book does an outstanding job of breaking down complex ideas (e.g. globalization, technological determinism, semiotics) and showing why students should perhaps find them relevant.
The book is written in clear, fluid prose that would be easy to understand for community college students, even given the difficulty of most of the concepts borrowed from critical theory (e.g. postcolonialism). The decision to break the book down into small, 4-6 page modules was a good one, as students would likely find the material less intimidating, even if the entire book were assigned and especially if not all of it were. (However, as mentioned above, this brevity does come at the expense of thorough explanation (e.g. p2p networks and their social significance for the old media industry and therefore as part of that evolving history). The discussion questions at the end of each section are placed well and easy to find.
For the most part, absolutely. What the contributors set out to do (again, to clarify a complex idea briefly and then move on relentlessly until the entire field of media studies has at least been mentioned within 150 pages) has been accomplished, and they should be commended for it. One of the texts shortcomings is its relative dearth of the visual mode (not that it's barren), especially in the latter two thirds of the text. One other specific problematic issue is that YouTube videos were not available in the digital PDF used for this review, and the hyperlinks to the website for the textbook delivered pages where thumbnails weren't even displayed.
This is a double-edged sword because (at the risk of sounding like a glitchy MP3), the module idea is brilliant so that the book is approachable for both students and instructors. This 150-page text seems like it could be used in a four-week crash course, a standard 11-week quarter, a semester or even over an entire academic year (with supplemental readings or just by following the plentiful hyperlinks provided). Again, though, this does mean that a concept like Creative Commons (which the authors even point out this book is a product of) is glossed over. Even Raymond Williams, one of the key figures in media studies (who gets more attention than almost any other single figure in the text, save perhaps McLuhan) has to be rushed off-stage quickly in order to get the next sets in place. Depending on the interests of the instructor, additional readings could be assigned, making this quick intro formula handy.
This is perhaps the text's greatest strength. The book is organized into four main parts, each with about 13 short modules that can either be used as scaffolds that aid in a deeper understanding of subsequent modules or skipped over depending on the aims of the instructor and/or the time frame of the course. The table of contents and glossary are also helpful.
The hyperlinks this reviewer followed in the digital PDF all worked. However, as mentioned above, the online version that the PDF linked out to sometimes contained missing thumbnails making navigation to multimedia content a little difficult at times (e.g. the YouTube video of Julia Gillard's misogyny speech). It's a shame that the videos couldn't have been embedded in the digital textbook, creating one less barrier for accessing content. text could have been formatted in relation to images in a more visually appealing manner.
This reviewer didn't find any major issues, but there are a few minor typos, such as in module 35, where one of the discussion questions reads "Do you agree with Donna Haraway’s aim that we are all cyborgs (part biological part technology)?" when the authors ostensibly meant to write "claim." They should also proofread to catch things like the lack of italicized titles of books at the end of module 7. Another possible problem could be Commonwealth nations tendency to place commas and end punctuation outside of quotation marks. It's difficult enough to get American students not to do that when they're reading it all the time.
This reviewer found nothing offensive or insensitive (although this reviewer is perceived as a white, upper-middle class male). On the contrary, the coverage of issues of race, sex and identity, especially later in the book (although even at beginning before the topics become narrowly focused) seem appropriate for a course that has some sort of cultural diversity curriculum requirement.
Overall, this textbook is excellent for all of the reasons listed above, and this reviewer found that it would be easy to supplement and/or direct students to the plentiful external materials linked to. However, teaching in the United States, this reviewer would not use this textbook due to its heavy focus on historical and cultural issues of New Zealand and Australia (for example, how many U.S. college students would understand the significance of the All-Blacks and be able to meaningfully engage in the discussion activity in module 1?) without significant cultural adaptation that would help American students apply the concepts under discussion.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the textbook is that it breaks the concepts into sensible chunks, but provides the linkages to other concepts within the text via hyperlinks. It's very reflective of how we naturally pull ideas and concepts... read more
One of the things I really enjoyed about the textbook is that it breaks the concepts into sensible chunks, but provides the linkages to other concepts within the text via hyperlinks. It's very reflective of how we naturally pull ideas and concepts together, which also does bring me to the glossary, which I thought was very clear and easy to use. I think the text also had enough complexity to keep it informative and interesting.
I thought the book was both informative and accurate; also useful and fact-based.
The content remains academically relevant throughout the text. Since it is a Media 101 book, the comprehensiveness balances well with the ideas being presented at a level that is easy to understand.
While it is dense in the sense that there is a lot of information to process, it is presented in such a way that it is clear and connected. If a person is just learning a concept for the first time, the context provides the relevant information. If a person is reviewing concepts, the context provides the link that refreshes the current understanding. It has been a while since I've dug into a Media book and I found it easy to follow.
The textbook is consistent with the terminology adopted for all the chapters.
Given that I read the text online, I feel pretty solidly that the modularity was one of the considerations in its development. It is broken down into blocks of information that could easily be "mixed" into an instructor's online course, but it's not so chunky that it would feel like a mental hamburger had been swallowed whole.
Given the modularity of the content, the flow is definitely there. Other instructors might want to address certain topics at a different place, but in the context of the text, everything flows in an organized way and stacks well.
As for the interface, it was very straightforward and not at all difficult to follow. Visual elements worked with the text without being clunky.
Given my own grammar and the fact I need to rely on Grammarly for my commas and the times I double up on "the", I hesitate to think of myself as an expert. However, the text reads well and is consistent. It's legible and clear. I did not spot anything overt.
A good part of the book is about culture and media, which means that has to be culturally relevant. However, the book is several years old now, so some content could stand to be updated.
Media Technology is one of those areas of rapid change, yet there are current themes that remain constant. Human beings are multi-sensory, with a strong visual and auditory bent. Media relies on those senses, on the cultural context and on the technology available to convey information. Storytelling and instruction has long relied on symbols, action, and examples to provide context to understanding Current technology reframes this for the needs of the modern, or rather the new age of technology and it's only going to get more complex (or simplified, depending on who you talk to) as we go on. Real holographic technology is here and it'll get more and more available. Emojis are becoming more than a quick visual howdy, but we rely on them to convey moods and meaning. Languages are blending and understanding is crossing cultures. Understanding how media fits into all of that is imperative. Media 101 may not be perfect, but it's a solid textbook for adding to our understanding.
This book covers very comprehensive topic in communication studies. Even though communication studies is very broad area, this book covers a pretty great amount of area with definitions and examples. One thing I impressed is some chapters include... read more
This book covers very comprehensive topic in communication studies. Even though communication studies is very broad area, this book covers a pretty great amount of area with definitions and examples. One thing I impressed is some chapters include links to read the (part of) original text written by the author they introduce in the chapter. That helps me a lot to learn more if I am interested in a certain topic or concept they introduced. Also, using hyperlink, this book provides glossary. However, I think the definition of each concept on the glossary is too brief. Some concept are too simplified in the glossary. Other than these points, I think this is a great source to start Media Studies.
I think this book needs to improve accuracy. Overall, it maintains some levels of accuracy. Media studies handles various controversial and/or critical issues. Thus, a great media studies book introduces various research, concepts, and scholars that have different perspective to each other. However, this book too simplifies the controversial topic or introduces just one side of perspectives. It would be enough for students who will have supplemental textbook, but, if not, it could be dangerous to learn biased perspective of media studies. In this sense, it could be too weak that use this book as the main textbook in class. Interpreting a scholar's idea as technological determinism without a clear investigation on TD could be one example.
Creating very up-to-date media studies book is very difficult because our media culture changes so quickly. Considering that, this book offers a pretty up-to-date example and theory. However, some of them should be updated. Specifically, chapters on technology are a bit out-dated. There are various new fields to study technology and agency, such as Latour's Actor-Network Theory, German Media Studies, Cybernetics, and so forth. I think technology part should be updated. Also, the latter chapters on film, fan culture, and/or gender also could be better if it has more recent example.
There is no jargon and technical terminology. This book explain all concepts in very simple and clear way. However, some chapters too briefly explain complex concepts. In terms of clarity, there are a huge gaps between chapters. Some chapters very clearly explain all terms and theories through direct quote and elaboration, but some chapters are too weak and short to understand all terms they are explaining. I think the glossary can be helpful if it is updated a bit.
First three parts (Part I-Part III) are very consistent. However, I cannot understand the consistency on the Part IV. Part IV includes too broad topics without a clear explanation of consistency. Some of them are not very related to media studies. I think it could be improved if they provide the chapter outline in the beginning of each big part and write paragraph of connection in every chapter to make a consistency of overall flow.
This book has a great modularity. Even though most of chapters do not have subheading and subchapter, it can be easily divisible and editable. Overall structure and text are very concise and not overwhelming. Also, each information have separate paragraph, so it can be easily used by its parts. All texts in this book can be divided in a small chunk.
It is helpful to all chapters pose possible discussion questions in the end. Also, the first three parts have pretty good organization and structure between each chapter. However, the book's overall flow seems like to be updated. It is related to consistency category in that some chapters seemed alien. For example, some chapters on Part IV are a bit overlapped with chapters on Part I. I think most of chapters on Part IV could be incorporated into different chapters in earlier part. Also, some of discussion questions harm the book's logical flow. Some of questions are irrelevant with media studies. I think discussion questions could function as a connection between chapters, if the last question brought some issues that can connect to the topic of the chapter with the next one.
This book doesn't have any interface issues. This book is a great example to use online interface for the textbook. Some chapters incorporate links of original text, artworks, interviews, and so forth; and all links work without interface issue. Their usage of images also are very appropriate to understand concepts on chapters. I think incorporating various hyperlink and multimedia texts in this book is the biggest strength of this book in that this is media studies book.
There is no significant error on this part.
Since this book clarify that this book is written by and for New Zealand and Australia culture. In that I am not familiar with those cultures, I cannot give an useful feedback on this part. However, it seems like culturally relevant in terms of their interpretation of each theory and its application. Also, some of theories and chapters are culturally relevant with the american culture and other worldwide issues as well. One big part they missed is a topic of race and ethnicity because that is very significant topic in media studies in history. I think it could be okay for New Zealand and Australia; but incorporating those issues could be helpful to the American readers or other countries.
No additional comments. I think this could be a great guide book to people who start to study Media Studies. As I mentioned, however, I wish this book develops more in structure (logical flows between chapters) and consistency. Also, I hope this book adds more worldwide and contemporary example for each topic. I think chapters on technology could be an exemplar for this part. Lastly, I suggest to use this book with other required textbooks or original texts of the scholar they introduced. Using only this book could be a bit biased and weak media studies class. If you want to know a big overview of media studies, I highly recommend this book!
Table of Contents
Introduction, and How To Use This Text
Part One: Reading Media Texts
- Analysing Texts: Media and Theory
- Communication & Culture
- Intercultural Communication
- Signs and Signifiers
- Sign Systems
- Semiotics and Communication Processes
- Two-step flow of communication
- Gender and politics
- Limitations of minimal effects model
Part Two: Culture and Contexts
- Discourse, Institutions, and Power
- Discourse and Institutions
- Media and Democracy
- Habermas' Public Sphere
- Who is 'the Public'?
- Media Effects - introduction
- The Hypodermic Needle
- Minimal effects models - the post WWII years
- Agenda Setting
- Uses and gratifications model
- Post-Cold War: strong effects model
Part Three: Production and Structures
- Political Economies
- Political Economies of Mass Culture
- The Audience Commodity
- The Propaganda Model
- Political Economies of Digital media
- Commons and P2P Production
- Political Ecologies of Media
- Technology and Agency
- Technology and the Body
- Technology, Time, and Space
- Technology and Politics
- Globalisation and Convergence
Part Four: Audiences & Identity
- Audiences and Audience Research
- Researching Audiences
- Consumer Cultures
- Consumerism and Subjectivity
- Identity and Fan Cultures
- Impressions Management
- Looking-Glass Self
- Postcolonialism Race and Ethnicity
- A History of Modern Political Economy
About the Book
Media Studies 101 is the open educational resource for media studies studies in New Zealand, Australia, and Pacifica. We have constructed this text so it can be read in a number of ways. You may wish to follow the structured order of 'chapters' like you would in a traditional printed textbook. Each section builds on and refers back to previous sections to build up your knowledge and skills. Alternatively, you may want to go straight to the section you are interested in -- links will help guide you back to definitions and key ideas if you need to refresh your knowledge or understand a new concept.This text is open under a Creative Commons NZ BY license.
About the Contributors
Erika Pearson is a senior lecturer at the department of Media, Film and Communication at the University of Otago, Dunedin. She first used the internet in the days of dial-up modems and has stayed there ever since. She researches social groups, personal identity, trust, and gift networks online, and is also interested in digital media and digital culture. She has recently presented about Big Data on National Radio and at the Royal Society.