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Media Studies Reader

O'Sullivan, Tim; Jewkes, Yvonne (ed.)
Publisher:  Arnold, New York, USA
Year Published:  1997  
Pages:  461pp   Price:  $46.95   ISBN:  0-340-64547-4

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How have the dramatic changes in mass communications technology affected the way we understand every aspect of our world? This is the question posed, in a multitude of guises, by many of the contributors to The Media Studies Reader. The need to understand the impact of media on our lives has affected every academic discipline, from philosophy to sociology, political science to literature. An interdisciplinary approach, loosely labeled as media studies or cultural studies, has slowly taken shape, and its formative texts and tenets make their appearances in this formidable text, definitely aimed at the student. Articles close with questions for discussion and reflection, a particularly valuable addition for some of the more impenetrable material.

Our relationship to mass communications vehicles has changed drastically over the past decades. This is demonstrated vividly by one of the first articles in The Reader, "The Invasion From Mars". Originally published in 1940, this piece takes a sober look at the hysteria following the 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War of The Worlds. The widespread belief in the infallibility of the mass media is starkly illustrated by the implicit faith many listeners had in the veracity of the reports of Martian invasions. The discussion question poses an interesting thought, comparing this event to the current common categorization of television as a "dangerous medium". Could the War of the Worlds panic reoccur? Or is the modern media consuming audience too sophisticated? Perhaps we are heirs to that panic in the intense media fervour that surrounds such created "news" as the O.J. Simpson trial and the death of Princess Diana.

A contrast with the 1930s War of the Worlds listener is provided in a later section with "Looking at the Sun: Into the Nineties with a Tabloid and its Readers." The sophistication of readers of the British tabloid The Sun emerges from this paper. According to its author, many of those enjoying the right-wing, puerile Thatcherism of The Sun are in fact interacting with it on a multitude of levels, including an articulate and conscious one of irony and mockery.

The Media Studies Reader takes on the formidable task of providing an overview of thought produced in one of academia's most prolific new fields. By ranging across time as well as subject matter, The Reader manages to achieve its goal quite admirably. Not only an examination of the most stylish thought of the day, but also a look back at the founding principles that have helped modern media critics and analysts understand something of the often unacknowledged power which the media hold in all our lives. By tackling local and global manifestations of the power of the media, as well as its permutations in the areas of race, gender and that strength of British publications, class, The Media Studies Reader provides a balanced look at an exciting discipline. It is hardly an easy read. Although many of the articles are surprisingly accessible, the bulk are clearly best explored in a classroom setting. The discussion questions appended to every reading, and the grouping of the pieces into thematic clusters do help the reader grapple with them. A commitment to the study of media or a love of theory is a prerequisite for this text, but it will make a long-lasting and valuable contribution to the appropriate bookshelf.

[Review by Kirsten Cowan]


Table of Contents


Part I: The Media and Modern Life
1. The Invasion from Mars
2. Mass and Masses
3. Mass Communication and Modern Culture
4. The Separation of Social Space from Physical Place
5. Communications and Constitution of Modernity
6. Public Service Broadcasting and Modern Public Life

Part II: Stereotypes and Representations
7. Rethinking Stereotypes
8. The Lost World of Stereotypes
9. The Power of Popular Television: The Case of Cosby
10. Mapping the Mythical: A Geopolitics of National Sporting Stereotypes
11. Approaches to 'the North': Common Myths and Assumptions
12. Crippling Images
13. Moral Panics
14. The Most Repeated, Most Read Messages of the Cult: 1949-74
15. The Social Role of Advertising
16. Television's 'Personality System'

Part III: Audiences and Reception
17. On Alcohol and the Mystique of Media Effects
18. The Television and Delinquency Debate
19. In Defence of 'Video Nasties'
20. Looking at The Sun: Into the Nineties with a Tabloid and its Readers
21. Technology in the Domestic Environment
22. Satellite TV as Cultural Sign
23. Critical Perspectives within Audience Research

Part IV: Producers and Production
24. The Missing Dimensions - New Media and the Management of Social Change
25. The Problems of Making Political Television: A Practitioner's Perspective
26. Keepers of the Castle: Producers, Programmers and Music Selection
27. Priorities and Prejudice: 'Artist and Repertoire' and the Acquisition of Artists
28. How are Television Soaps Produced?
29. Film Production in the Information Age
30. Video Diaries: What's Up Doc?
31. Riding with Ambulances: Television and its Uses

Part V: Global Media and New Media
32. The Poisoned Chalice? International Television and the Idea of Dominance
33. Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era
34. Where the Global Meets the Local: Notes from the Sitting Room
35. The Roots of the Information Society Idea
36. Disinformocracy
37. Postmodernism and Popular Culture
38. Higher Education, Training and Cultural Industries: A Working Partnership
39. Media Studies and the 'Knowledge Problem'


Subject Headings

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