Media studies is an academic field that deals with all media's history and content, focusing on mass media. The introductory course gives students an insight into the various analytical perspectives and issues relating to critical concepts such as ideological critique, formal analysis, audience studies, etc. In an age where the multimedia environment is developing at a geometric pace, students of theatre and cinema need to understand better so they can be better consumers and producers. The course adopts an interdisciplinary approach analyzing different media forms with historical and comparative lenses.
Media refers to the different tools and communication outlets for storing and delivering data or information. This covers all the communications industry components, including advertisements, publishing, prints media, photography, gaming, news media, cinema, online media, and broadcasting both on television and radio. It encompasses all the channels of information, communication, and entertainment in society. Four features characterize this industry:
- It is information-driven,
- It focuses on mass production,
- It targets a wide audience,
Technological developments drive its growth and evolution.
Media studies closely analyze all these mass media formats and equip students with the techniques required to create their own media works.
The significance of media studies as an academic discipline is traced to the need to understand the purpose of the information communicated through these media outlets and how they are made. In contemporary times that we live in, a proliferation of media content continually rocks the society like a strong wave. Technology has made the control mechanisms available to validate and endorse media content obsolete. New media has created new challenges, and it is now the consumers' responsibility to verify and ensure the credibility of the media contents they are continually exposed to. In such an age and time, media studies have become more important for developing information literacy, thereby improving consumers' ability to assess and evaluate all information they get.
Media studies explore the history of media, its functions, transformations, and the institutions that define the place of media in our society. The course explores the media's power and the role and how it influences beliefs, identities, behaviors, and values. Several theories explain how media can have this significant influence, and each would be properly analyzed during the duration of the course.
Media studies further give students the opportunity to analyze different media texts and how social factors such as politics, gender, class, race, etc. influence media production and reception. The analysis of changes that happen when a specific narrative is adapted into multiple media forms is further explored. This is why critical thinking is essential for the course. It proposes making students informed citizens who understand the media and properly analyzing its contents to distort or manipulate information.
This course seeks to achieve three primary goals which are:
- To make students understand how crucial media and information literacy is, especially in the current century, with its media saturation.
- To explain the basic media processes.
- To introduce students to research and theories that will help better understand the traditional and new media and their influence on society.
Audience studies is a subset of media studies that focuses on the audience and their process of reception. It is a multifaceted field of study that covers different theoretical perspectives and systematic approaches that investigate and seek to understand why the audience engages with media and the political, economic, social, or cultural implications of such media-audience relationships.
There are diverse opinions on the methodical and theoretical approaches to audience studies on various issues such as the extent to which the audience can interpret media texts in an oppositional or alternative manner to what the creator of such media contents intended; as well as the relative advantages of using either quantitative or qualitative approaches for audience research.
The origin of audience studies can be traced to as far back as ancient Greek rhetoricians who use their understanding of the audience as part of their effective dialogue and discourse tools. However, it wasn't until the early 20th century that it fully became a field of research. This was due to the growth of commercial mass media at this point and the quest of emerging media industries such as the motion picture industry, newspaper industry, broadcast industry, to understand who their consumers were, why they chose to consume their products and, in certain cases, how the consumers were reacting to the products. This leads to academic researchers, those involved in film and television studies, cultural studies, and communications to investigate the questions, either independently or in conjunction with the media companies. (Oxford Bibliographies)
Audience studies focuses on explaining or at least seeking to explain the relationship between media content, technologies, organizations, and media audiences. Sometimes, the research aims to answer questions that will further improve the media industries' functionality and performance, and other times, it takes a more critical approach. The development of new technologies, which also means new forms of media, has led to news patterns of audience behavior, which has also led to further research questions on the relationship between the audience and the media.
This is a peculiar form of visual description that seeks to explain the visual structure of work by explaining the arrangement and function of different visual elements within a media consumption. (Write About Art)
Media studies are not only analytical but also critical of their approaches. One of its critical concepts is an ideological critique, a rhetorical criticism method that focuses on critiquing media texts' dominant ideology while silencing contrary or opposing doctrines. This form of criticism's primary goal is to discover and make the prevalent idea or ideas in a media text the only visible one while muting all others.
The critical concepts of media offer us diverse perspectives to understanding the effects of media on society and its relationship with the audience.
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