Reading Media Theory: Thinkers, Approaches and Contexts

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Nonspecific Binding
  • Copyright: 2012-05-10
  • Publisher: Routledge

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What does the Frankfurt School have to say about the creative industries? Does the spread of Google prove we now live in an information society? How is Madonna an example of postmodernism? How new is new media? Does the power of Facebook mean we're all media makers now?

Author Biography

Brett Mills is Head of the School of Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Television Sitcom (British Film Institute, 2005) and The Sitcom (Edinburgh University Press, 2009).


David Barlow was Lecturer in Media, Culture and Communication in the Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Glamorgan and Director of the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations. He is a joint author (with Philip Mitchell and Tom O’Malley) of The Media in Wales: Voices of a Small Nation (UWP, 2005) and co-editor (with Vian Bakir) of Communication in the Age of Suspicion: Trust and the Media (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Table of Contents

1    Introduction                                                                                                        

Part I  Reading theory

2    What is theory?                                                                                                   

3    What is reading?                                                                                                 

Part II Key thinkers and schools of thought

4    Liberal press theory                                                                                           

Reading: Mill, J.S. (1997 [1859]) ‘Of the liberty of thought and discussion’, in Bromley, M. and O’Malley, T. (eds) A Journalism Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 22-6.

5    F.R. Leavis                                                                                                          

Reading: Leavis, F.R. (1930) Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture, Cambridge: Minority Press.

6    The Frankfurt school                                                                                          

Reading: Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. (2002 [1944]) Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical fragments, translated by Jephcott, E. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Excerpt from Chapter 4, ‘The culture industry: enlightenment as mass deception’, pp. 94–8.

7    Harold D. Lasswell                                                                                             

Reading: Lasswell, H.D. (1948) ‘The structure and function of communication in society’, in Bryson, L. (ed.) The Communication of Ideas, New York: Harper and Brothers, pp. 37-51.

8    The Columbia school                                                                                          

Reading: Lazarsfeld, P.F. and Merton, R.K. (1948) ‘Mass communication, popular taste and organized social action’, in Bryson, L (ed.) The Communication of Ideas, New York: Harper and Brothers, pp. 95–118.

9    C. Wright Mills: Mass society theory                                                                

Reading: Mills, C.W. (1956) ‘The mass society’, in Mills, C.W. (ed.) The Power Elite, London: Oxford University Press, pp. 298-324.

10  The Toronto school                                                                                            

Reading: Innis, H.A. (1951a) ‘The bias of communication’, in The Bias of Communication, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 33–60.

11  The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies                                                

Reading: Hall, S. (1980c) ‘Encoding/Decoding’, in Culture, Media, Language: Working papers in cultural studies, 1972–9, Hall, S., Hobson, D., Lowe, A. and Willis, P. (eds), London: Hutchinson, pp. 128–38.

Part III  Approaches to media theory

12  Political economy                                                                                                

Reading: Herman, E.S. (1995) ‘Media in the US political economy’, in Downing, J., Mohammadi, A. and Sreberny-Mohammadi, A. (eds) Questioning the Media: A critical introduction, 2nd edition, London: Sage, pp. 77-93.

13  Public sphere                                                                                                      

Reading: Habermas, J. (1974 [1964]) ‘The public sphere: an encyclopedia article’, New German Critique 3 (1): 49–55.

14  Media effects                                                                                                      

Reading: Gauntlett, D. (2005) ‘Ten things wrong with the media ‘effects’ model’, Theory.org.uk: the Media Theory Site, www.theory.org.uk/tenthings.html.

15  Structuralism                                                                                                       

Reading: Todorov, T. (1990 [1978]) Genres in Discourse, translated by Porter, C., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 27–38.

16  Feminist media theory                                                                                        

Reading: van Zoonen, L. (1994) Feminist Media Studies, London: Sage, pp. 11–18, 21–8.

17  Cultural theory                                                                                                    

Reading: Williams, R. (1961) The Long Revolution, Orchard Park: Broadview Press, pp. 57–70.

18  New Media

Reading: Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide, New York and London: New York University Press, pp. 2-10.

19  Postmodernism                                                                                                   

Reading: Baudrillard, J. (1994 [1981]) ‘The implosion of meaning in the media’, in Simulacra and Simulation, translated by Glaser, S.F., Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 79–86.

20  The information society                                                                                      

Reading: Webster, F. (2002) Theories of the Information Society, 2nd edition, London: Routledge, pp. 8–21.

Part IV            Media theory in context

21  Production                                                                                                           

Reading: Hesmondhalgh, D. (2007) The Cultural Industries, 2nd edition, London: Sage, pp. 3–8.

22  Texts                                                                                                                   

Reading: Barthes, R. (1977 [1967]) ‘The death of the author’, in Image Music Text, translated by Heath, S., London: Fontana, pp. 142–8.

23  Audiences                                                                                                           

Reading: Ang, I. (1991) ‘Audience-as-market and audience-as-public’, in Desperately Seeking the Audience, London: Routledge, pp. 26–32.

24  Audiences as producers                                                                                     

Reading: Shirky, C. (2008) Here Comes Everybody: How change happens when people come together, London: Penguin, pp. 55-66.


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