This book explores how issues of power, form and subjectivity feature at the core of all serious thinking about the media, including appreciations of their creativity as well as anxiety about the risks they pose. Drawing widely on an interdisciplinary literature, the author connects his exposition to examples from film, television, radio, photography, painting, web practice, music and writing in order to bring in topics as diverse as reporting the war in Afghanistan, the televising of football, documentary portrayals of 9/11, reality television, the diversity of taste in the arts and the construction of civic identity. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, three big chapters on each of the key notions provide an interconnected discussion of the media activities opened up for exploration and the debates they have provoked. The second part presents examples, arguments and analysis drawing on the author's previous work around the core themes, with notes placing them in the context of the whole book. The book brings together concepts both from Social Studies and the Arts and Humanities, addressing a readership wider than the sub-specialisms of media research. It refreshes ideas about why the media matter, and how understanding them better remains a key aim of cultural inquiry and a continuing requirement for public policy.
This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is the power, form and subjectivity of the media, explaining that the term theorising is used in the book to indicate the activity of trying to reach adequate conceptual terms for understanding media structures and processes. This book is divided into two parts. The first part explores the three aspects or dimensions of media structure and process that are central to any understanding of how the media work, and the second consists of a number of more-focused analytic commentaries and case studies, which both draw upon and contribute to conceptual discussion and development regarding these aspects.
This chapter explores a selection of issues directly or indirectly related to the power of the media. It differentiates the most important aspects of thinking about media power, including those strands of work that serve to connect ideas about power to specific, researched instances and examples, as well as to broader theorisations about social and political organisation. The chapter evaluates the extent to which media power is seen to be ‘bad’. The recurrent themes are that media power is power without responsibility, and the perception of media power as being in various degrees of alignment or disjunction with other agencies and institutions of power in society. The chapter also discusses the structural and discursive deficits of the media.
This chapter considers formal issues that are pivotal for research on media forms. It argues in support of the view that a continuing address to concepts and methods for analysing the forms of media is of the utmost importance for progress in understanding how the media work. The chapter looks at how form figures in the broader context of media theory and research, particularly in regard to ideas of medium and of content. It considers the higher-level descriptive/analytic categories of narrative and genre, in which different formal elements are active, including varieties of those modes of representation designated as realist. The chapter also discusses the varieties of realism and the comparative formal relations among sound, image and writing.
This chapter analyses the subjectivity of the media. It discusses some of the ways in which media and media research bear on the various dimensions of subjectivity, and looks at the general positioning of the media in relation to questions of subjectivity in order to establish a framework within which more specific topics can be coherently addressed. The chapter also presents case studies that look at the question of cultural taste as a long-standing issue in discussion of how the media work to reflect and construct sensibility, and examines the idea of the political self or the civic self, which is recognised as a highly media-dependent aspect of consciousness and action.
This chapter analyses the idea of propaganda in relation to the media. It looks briefly at the history of propaganda as a word applied to the political realm, and establishes some connections of propaganda with classical precepts and dispute concerning norms for political speaking. The chapter examines how notions of propaganda and the propagandistic are positioned within the complex and controversial field of mediated political culture. It explains how politics is conducted as a business of publicity and mediation in the broader social and cultural settings of a routine promotionalism, and also argues that the notion of propaganda is by itself inadequate to the needs of analysis.
This chapter re-examines the debate about ideology, with a focus on argument in the 1990s. It analyses the books Ideology and Modern Culture by John B. Thompson and Ideology by Teun A. van Dijk, and Mark Edmundson's article on the problems of cultural criticism. The analysis suggests that, around the idea of ideology, there is no coherent theoretical scheme that can effectively guide the analysis of the ways in which meanings and values relate to material interests.
This chapter examines the linkages and tensions between public knowledge and popular culture, and between the media and cultural studies, describing the flows and forms of public knowledge and highlighting the case of British television as an example. It suggests that the flows and the spaces of the dominant popular culture frequently shape the contexts in which versions of the public as a communicational principle with entailments for knowledge production, circulation and exchange are now defined and operated. The chapter also argues that the terms upon which the popular is constructed are not beyond the possibility of crisis, and certainly contain internal contradictions.