understanding media

Week 10

Vehicle Strand: The News and Power
In this first part of the class we consider Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave', and how it relates to The Matrix. We examine the concept of ideology and then look at how it has been taken up by Media Studies. Finally, we consider Noam Chomsky's understanding of the power and control exerted by the media, and examine the front page of The Times newspaper in both broadsheet and compact format.
Required Reading: Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 6: 'Ideologies and Discourses'.

Environment Strand: Everyone a Publisher
In this second part of the class we look at the question of the control of information online. Starting from McLuhan's suggestion that "the Xerox makes everyone a publisher" (1977, p. 178), we go on to examine ideological gatekeeping, focusing principally on Dan Gillmor's book We the Media, as well as the limitations imposed by forms of economic gatekeeping. We close by discussing Levinson's suggestion that the avalanche of potentially poor-quality information online is handled not by filtration but by evaluation, exemplified by Google and Amazon.
Optional Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 8, 25, 68, 88, 123, 150.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch.10.

Module Forum
Topics under discussion in the Module Forum this week include Plato's prisoners, Marx's critique of society, Chomsky's assessment of the role of sport and popular entertainment, film classification, different versions of The Times, and McLuhan on photocopiers.

Case Study
If you choose to write a Case Study using the concepts drawn from this week's vehicle strand you will need to address the question of ideology in the media. You might look at the way in which a media text - a newspaper or magazine article, a current affairs programme, a documentary, an advert, etc - presents a partial representation of the world, and at the way in which this benefits some groups at the expense of others. Or you might look in more detail at the work of Noam Chomsky, and apply his 'propaganda model' of media analysis to some aspect of the news: you could examine how consent is being 'manufactured'.
Useful Reading: Branston and Stafford, 2010, Ch. 6; Allan (2004); Harrison (2006); Starkey (2007); Thussu (2008); Storey, 1998, pp. 101-30; Thwaites et al., 2002, Ch. 8; O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2008, Ch. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18; Watson, 2003, Ch. 5; Achbar, 1994; Achbar and Wintonick, 1993; Plato, 1888, Book 7, §7; Lawrence, 2004, pp. 4-6; Lupton and Miller, 1996e.
If you would rather look at the question of gatekeeping online, you could examine the extent to which some part of the internet - a news site, a fan site, a blog, an online store, etc - has bypassed traditional forms of gatekeeping. You will need to assess the ways in which the questions of filtering and evalutation are dealt with, or perhaps ignored.
Useful Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 10; Gillmor, 2004; Berger, 1995, pp. 64-65.
Whatever you choose, you will probably want to arrange a tutorial with the Module Tutor. For more information on the Case Study see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Before the Next Class You Need To...
(1) Read Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 11: 'Debating Advertising, Branding and Celebrity'.

If you're stuck or confused, post your problem on the Module Forum or .