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Media Theory and Criticism
Table of Contents
1 Media Criticism
2 Media Theory
3 Media Culture
Read All About It: The Corporate Takeover of America's Newspapers is an institutional acknowledgement of what many wary readers have known for years: Corporate control is ruining our daily newspapers.
Since both text and graphics and the interaction between the two are used as modes of rhetoric in the context of multimedia, classical rhetoric provides a good basis for a defensive analytical system that allows users to deconstruct websites with poisonous messages. Read more ...
Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, commenting on Hitler's propagandistic use of the radio, note "the gigantic fact that the speech that penetrates everywhere replaces its content,"1 a formula that has been taken one step further by television: On TV, the image dominates, overpowering not only the fact of speech but also its content.
Media criticism is in an undeveloped state, today, largely because the mainstream media allows virtually no open discussion of the subject. Some criticism does get to the public, of course, but most of it is corrupted by the same forces that have turned the rest of the media into a source of manipulation. (By Ken Sanes, http://www.transparencynow.com/)
In an era when the media have grown to be one of the most dominant forms of culture in North American -- so dominant, in fact, that the they can now be seen as the pinnacle of commercial culture -- an explanatory theory of the media becomes paramount. Yet considering the intimate relationship between culture and media and that, for many, the media have become their culture, a theory that views the media outside the context of culture will be afflicted with myopia. Thus, for completeness, a theory of the media requires a firm connection to culture in its every step. Douglas Kellner, in his book Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern, sets out to make these connections.
Roland Barthes, writing in The Pleasure of the Text, has an explanation for a befuddling recurrence: Why so many people, including myself, watch so much bad TV even when we know it is awful. Barthes's answer: pleasure. He elaborates thus:
The sign, the signifier, and the signified are concepts of the school of thought known as structuralism, founded by Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, during lectures he gave between 1907 and 1911 at the University of Geneva. His views revolutionized the study of language and inaugurated modern linguistics. The theory also profoundly influenced other disciplines, especially anthropology, sociology, and literary criticism. The central tenet of structuralism is that the phenomena of human life, whether language or media, are not intelligible except through their network of relationships, making the sign and the system (or structure) in which the sign is embedded primary concepts. As such, a sign -- for instance, a word -- gets its meaning only in relation to or in contrast with other signs in a system of signs.
With a focus on Althusser, Barthes, and Foucault, this essay broadly delineates the theoretical approaches of the three schools in explaining the role of the mass media in society. As I proceed, I enumerate several strengths and weaknesses of each theory and make some comparisons among them.
"The level of connotation of the visual sign, of its contextual reference and positioning in different discursive fields of meaning and association, is the point where already coded signs intersect with the deep semantic codes of a culture and take on additional, more active ideological dimensions," Stuart Hall writes in his essay "Encoding/decoding."1 I almost know what he means.
Relation Between Civic Society and Newspapers in the Writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Robert Putnam
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how Robert Putnam's findings in Making Democracy Work and in a later study he published on civic participation in the United States, "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America," support Tocqueville's views. This will be accomplished in two steps. The first will examine whether the specific views of Tocqueville regarding associations and newspapers and the relations between them are borne out in Putnam's findings. The second step will examine how Putnam's findings support Tocqueville's central hypothesis: That equality is the fundamental condition in a democracy from which others are derived. A final section of the essay will specify several normative implications that may be drawn from Putnam's findings, especially those outlined in "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America."
This film will be more enjoyable for those who see it first and then read this analysis because, like The Sixth Sense or The Crying Game, Fight Club has a secret, which this discussion will reveal.
Bookstore: Books on Media Criticism