Introduction to Media Studies

As our daily lives are transformed by digital media and networked public spaces, it is becoming increasingly important that we are literate in a vast array of media. While literacy is something that we might have once associated with skills in subjects like maths and English, the notion of literacy is rapidly expanding to include new forms of entertainment media, news media, digital media communications and social media. We all know that technology changes fast. According to Moore’s Law the rate of technological growth is exponential. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the many and complex forms of information, entertainment and communication technologies that surround us.

What is media?

‘Media’ is a plural of medium. Traditional media or ‘mass media’ generally refers to systems of communication such as radio, television, newspapers, ma gazines, that reach or influence people widely.

‘Digital media’ are any media that are encoded in a machine-readable format. Digital media can be created, viewed, distributed, modified and preserved on computers.

Social Media and Participatory Culture

Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in all aspects of social, cultural and political life and has rapidly grown in importance as forums for leisure, community, education, commerce, artistic expression, personal communication, social inclusion, activism and collective forms of cultural participation in different forms.

It is important to understand that social media sites are a new kind of community which we call networked publics. Networked publics are “a linked set of social, cultural, and technological developments that have accompanied the growing engagement with digitally networked media,” which essentially means that it is spaces and audiences bound together through technological networks (see Boyd, 2007).

Participatory culture has been enabled by these new forms of networked publics. According to Henry Jenkins a participatory culture is one with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement; with strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others; with some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices; where members believe that their contributions matter; where members feel some degree of social connection with one another or at least they care what other people think about what they have created.

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture. MIT Press.

Why Media Literacy Matters

As our daily lives are transformed by digital media and networked public spaces, it is becoming increasingly important that we are literate in a vast array of media. While literacy is something that we might have once associated with skills in subjects like maths and English, the notion of literacy is rapidly expanding to include new forms of entertainment media, news media, digital media communications and social media. We all know that technology changes fast. According to Moore’s Law the rate of technological growth is exponential. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the many and complex forms of information, entertainment and communication technologies that surround us.

Media literacy is the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze and produce mediated messages.” (National Association for Media Literacy Education)

Understanding how to receive and transmit messages in traditional and new media formats — in other words, being media literate — is not only an essential skill you will need to succeed in this course, It is vital knowledge required of anyone wishing to be a responsible citizen of the 21st century and productive worker in the creative media industries.

The diagram below outlines some of the fundamental concepts of media literacy. This unit helps you see the validity of these concepts, and most importantly, guides your use of this knowledge so that you can produce and consume media in more meaningful and informed ways.

What You Will Learn in CIU 210 Media Studies

This unit will provide you with the analytical skills necessary for the critical consumption and production of mediated information and entertainment and the ability to create and distribute our own media messages.

If you’re willing to put in the effort there’s much to gain from this course.

  • You will gain insight into contrasting perspectives, which will be explored through online lessons, classroom dialogues, online discussions, in the prescribed reading/viewing materials.
  • You will gain insight into contrasting perspectives, which will be explored through classroom and online discussions, in the prescribed reading and viewing materials and of course, via your engagement with the weekly online lessons.
  • You will examine common models, structures and function of media products and how you might best apply this knowledge to your own creative media practices.
  • You will learn best practices of individual digital participation and collective participatory culture.
  • You will gain an understanding of the practicalities of various media industries and the scope and influence of mass media.
  • You will be introduced to a range of media theories regarding modes of consumption, production and effect, and learn how to identify these in action.
  • You will learn how to decode media messages, unpack the explicit conventions of media formats and understand how they shape our society and culture.
  • You will learn to recognise what the media makers want us to believe or do and name the techniques of persuasion used; identify bias, spin, misinformation, and lies; and discover the parts of the story that are not being told.

The best way to become media literate is to study the media technologies we use, the media texts we read, watch, play and listen to; the institutions that control media content; our target audiences and the audiences we belong to; and the socio-cultural milieu within which all of this operates. The diagram below outlines the field of media studies and highlights the relationship between technologies, texts, institutions, audiences and societies.

In CIU 210, we will be examining each aspect of media in detail and looking at the following weekly topic overview, we hope you’ll agree that we’re also going to have a lot of fun at the same time.

With what you learn in CIU 210 you may decide that some media texts or parts of your media industry kind of suck and if given the chance, there’s much you could improve on. You may very well decide that you not only want to make better media but also advocate for better media systems in the future.

If you had the power, what would you do differently? 

📢 TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Post your response in the comments box located on this week’s Campus Online Lesson page.

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