Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Intro to Media Studies

Looking back on the posts I’ve put up, I realized that very few of them are about media studies, which struck me as odd considering that’s what I actually do.  I suppose this may be attributed to the fact that media studies fall into the category of “Things I’m Not Supposed to Forget” and therefore not directly in line with the past tense focus of my blog’s title.  At the same time, I could probably use a refresher on some of the things that came up in the second Media Studies class I ever took—MDST 201- Introduction to Media Studies—and hopefully it’ll give the rest of you a bit more context on what it is I study.

Media Studies is actually the less established of two main schools of thought surrounding academic exploration of the media.  It is grounded in humanities and qualitative research methods and tends to be interpretive.  Media Studies, according to my professor, looks at communication as a “practice”.  This means that Media Studies theorists are interested in what people do with and because of media.  They ask questions like “What is going on here?” and believe everyone views the world and the media in their own individual way.  For instance, exploring how fans of a series like Star Trek create works that expand upon the world of the official series and movies would be a Media Studies based project, because it is interested in that specific group and how they interact with media.

In contrast to this, the other main school of thought, Mass Communication, is grounded in empirical social and behavioral science work.  Mass Comm theorists are “largely interested in producing research that depends on measurable and generalizable data”, according to my notes.  These scholars tend to look for theories and research that can be applied to larger groups and are interested in communication as a “process”.  This means that they want to know how a message is transmitted from point A to point B and what happens along the way.  Research into video games and aggression is one example of this type of work.

Looking back on these notes actually made me realize why my department here in Michigan is called “Communication Studies”.  The faculty and students are very much divided between these two schools of thought, with many practicing humanities research and just as many engaging in social or behavioral science work.  Therefore, calling it Communication Studies recognizes all these contributions.  I knew I could still learn something by looking back on this stuff I’m supposed to know still.

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