From the Icon Introducing... series, this book explores the complex relationship between the media, ideology, knowledge and power. Filled with illustrations and snappy asides, it provides a tour of media history and presents a coherent view of the media industry, media theory and methods in media research. It explains how "the audience" is constructed and how it in turn interprets the content and meaning of media representation.(Theatre Books)
The next one's a long one, but worth reproducing, we think ...
uneven overview of a suspect discipline, January 29, 2003
Reviewer: bruce bartlett from Toronto, Canada
If this book is less than a coherent whole, the fault is perhaps as much the nature of the subject matter as a failing on the part of the author(s). Already on page 9, we have Jonathon Margolis of the London Observer quoted thus: "Media studies is a pseudo-social science and puffed-up nonsense masquerading as an academic discipline." The accusation may have some merit; however, this same charge could be leveled against any number of contemporary ivory-tower activities, especially the cultural studies and sociology that is inspired by the likes of Michel Foucault and his ilk. (On that note, see the splendid 1997 LITERATURE LOST: SOCIAL AGENDAS AND THE CORRUPTION OF THE HUMANITIES by Yale University's John Ellis.)
That said, the volume is a timely reminder of just how much of modern-day life falls under the umbrella of "media." When we use the word "media," it is often in a far too restrictive sense: we think only of print journalism and the television news. Let us not forget those "media" (see pp. 16-17 epecially) that impinge far more on the consciousness of many global citizens, in particular advertising, comic books, rock videos, the cinema, and the Internet. Like the "news" of the more traditional meaning, all of these media are engaged on the same spectrum of activities. At the least complex and most innocuous end of the spectrum, those activities are essentially narrative ones. That is to say, they are ways of telling a story, value-free means of instruction and entertainment. They are high-tech versions of folk-tales around the campfire. At the other extreme of the spectrum (and the book leans to analysis of what goes on at this end), the activities are far more nuanced and nefarious. We are given messages not intended to inform intelligently, but to persuade unconsciously. We have not narrative, but propaganda. We are treated not as citizens, but as consumers. To put it another way, media is just a tool of market forces. One comes away from the book asking this question: At the dawn of the twenty-first century, is "the media" (the term here understood in its broadest sense) ultimately a force of enlightenment, or of darkness?
The highbrow comic-book format of the Icon Books INTRODUCING series (a series which on the whole is a wonderful set of primers on important thinkers, ideas and issues, past and present) seems to preclude anything like a formal table of contents (even if there is a half-assed index). So it might be worth listing what topics and themes the volume does treat (its examples tend to be heavily UK ones, hence not always readily familiar to North American audiences). Here is a 20-item ad hoc chapterization. Teachers (high school or post-secondary) seeking an entertaining beginner-level book for media studies might find it useful to have students do a pick-and-choose from items below. (I for one plan to purchase the book for use in the "media unit" of my senior high school English classes, if for no other reason than to whet their appetites for the Icon Books INTRODUCING series.)
(a) introduction [5-11]
(b) the "Sunny Delight" affair [12-15]
(c) media as big business [16-20]
(d) a mock UK History Channel "Evolution of Media Studies" [21-38]
(e) a primer on semiotics and some corresponding key vocabulary [39-49]
(f) media as a political tool [50-60]
(g) the notion of audience, centering on the TV show DALLAS [61-70]
(h) two competing models of "representation," `hegemonic' vs. `pluralistic' [71-75]
(i) stereotyping, esp. race and gender [76-88]
(j) the "news story" [89-100]
(k) comics and animation [101-104]
(l) radio [105-106]
(m) advertising [107-111]
(n) television & film & its production method [112-131]
(o) critical understanding of film [132-141]
(p) "foreign" & "alternative" film [142- 153]
(q) the newer technologies [154-58]
(r) media mega-corporations and "synergy" [159-166]
(s) fame & celebrity [166-169]
(t) conclusion re "the future" plus reading list [170-75]
2 out of 5 stars Too scattered, July 31, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from virtual
This book spends too much time trying to decide what it wants to do. Is it a history of media studies? A state of the field report? A technical manual of film terms? A primer on media and culture? How can you do all those things *clearly* in 173 pages of illustrated material? You can't. The result is a jumbled mess, filled with unhelpful pictures.
The presentation is uneven and unamusing. Some valuable information about the state of the discipline is included (who knew that "Uses and Gratifications" was dead?) but so much more is left out. What's really missing here are pointers to more information. For example, p. 123, the *one page* on arguments against television, Neil Postman's perspective is presented but he is not accredited (nor is anyone else). You'd want to be able to follow up on these sort of insights. Media studes is one field where there are too many opinions to rely on only a few sources, especially if you can't follow the insights back to the originator.
Strengths include a cultural studies perspective, expecially with respect to groups stereotyped /marginalized in media portrayals, as well as a few criticisms of the world wide web.