What is Media Studies?

Big question.
Consider Stephen Vincent Benét’s long poem John Brown’s Body. At the end of the poem, Benét makes reference to the Industrial Revolution and finishes with these lines:

Say neither, it is blessed nor cursed.
Say only “It is here.”

By thinking about media in this way, that 'It is here', the hope is that we can avoid seeing media in a compartmentalised way and recognise it in a holistic sense. This is not to say we do this without judgement, for the whole focus of our studies is to enable you to grow a 'critical eye and ear'; to decide whether it is 'blessed' or 'cursed' ; to develop skills to read media and draw your own conclusions about the relationships between media and humans; media and society.

Definitions of Media Studies are as varied and as wide as can be imagined. A more useful way of looking at this question is to pose further questions rather than seek definitive answers.

medio-, medi-

(Latin: middle)

media, medium

(Latin: medium is the neuter form of the adjective medius, meaning "middle"; as well as, a neuter noun meaning, "the middle")

The transformation of media and medium over the years

When medium was first borrowed into English late in the sixteenth century, it was used for "something lying in a middle or intermediate position".
Media (the plural of medium) is a transformation of the term "media of communication", referring to those organized means of dissemination of fact, opinion, entertainment, and other information; such as, newspapers, magazines, cinema films, radio, television, the World Wide Web, billboards, books, CDs, DVDs, videocassettes, computer games, and other forms of publishing.
  • Medium was determined by logicians to function as "the middle term of a syllogism" and by mathematicians for "a geometrical or arithmetical mean", but both of these meanings have become archaic.
  • By 1595, medium was used to refer to "a means of effecting or conveying something".
  • It was first applied to the air, as the medium of sight and sound.
  • By the nineteenth century, the word was being broadly applied to "a condition, atmosphere, or environment in which something may function or florish".
  • Early in the seventeenth century another sense had developed: "an intermediate or direct instrumentality or means".
  • By the mid-eighteenth century, the first use of the phrase medium of exchange for "something commonly accepted as the instrument of commercial transactions" was being used.
  • In 1919, A.J. Wolfe, in his Theory and Practice of International Commerce, was writing about the "media of communication"; such as, telegraphs, cables, telephones, and the post.
  • The term mass media for "the means of communication (as newspapers, radio, and films) designed to reach the mass of the people" dates from 1923, while news media is attested from about 1946.
  • In the middle of the nineteenth century, there was another application in an entirely different field: "an individual through whom other persons seek to communicate with the spirits of the dead".
  • Whether to pluralize medium as media or mediums has disturbed some writers.
  • The Latin plural has been used for all senses except the spiritualist sense, where mediums is firmly entrenched.
  • Since the 1920s, there has been a trend of using media as a singular count noun, a usage which seems to have originated in advertising jargon.
  • The usage has since extended to other fields, and such phrases as "a suitable media", "one media", "a new recording media", and "an optical disc media" have been seen in recent publications.
  • The Latin medius is also the source of the English words medial and median, both referring to "being in the middle".
  • The verb mediate, "to interpose between two parites in order to reconcile them", was formed from the Latin mediatus, the past participle of the verb mediare, a Late Latin derivative of medius.
  • Our words intermediate, intermediary, and immediate can also be traced back to the Latin medius.

The Mei Ecosystem?

Watch this linked video that is created from Post-Its and is called a 'Post-It Presentation:

There is some new language in this clip that is particularly useful in understandign the fundamental shift that has, and is, taking place in the media ecosystem; from 'media in the online age' to 'me in the online age'; such as:


Effect on values? choices?

Me - A personal Internet ethnography..?

If you are in doubt about the impact of the current revolution in media and communication have a peek at this 'prosumer'

Media Literacy

Media literacy is rather a complex idea and is defined in many ways and in many cultures. So, maybe this is the starting point. To realise that even the definition of media litracy is bound contextually by both culture, race and gender. Have a look at what the Canadians say about media literacy and then have a look at what New Zealandsays about media literacy.

The 'divisions' here are absolutely arbirtary. In other words, the divides between mediums are not as clear and distinct as they ever used to be. Convergence is one of the forces that is breaking down these walls. It is important to keep this in mind as you study. A holisitic understanding is really more desirable.

Social Media

Social media is only one arm of the media around us and, given the way the landscape of media is changing, and how rapidly, this term may only have a short life as technology allows playful humans to adopt and adapt new ways of communicating with each other in new communities.

Film in Media Studies

The main thrust in media studies in studying film is both critical analysis - reading film and critically viewing the messages, values, representations and cinematography that the text conveys AND producing/creating film.