understanding media

Week 5

Vehicle Strand: Representations
In this first part of the class we look at the question of representation in media texts. We initially consider the partial nature of representations, drawing on semiotic themes from Week 2, as well as concerns about the nature and inevitability of stereotypes. We look in particular at representations of gender, including the 'good housewife' depicted in 1950s and 1960s advertising, and then move on to arguments for and against 'post-feminist' representations of women, illustrated by Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha in Sex and the City.
Required Reading: Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 4: 'Representations'.

Environment Strand: Virtual Identities and Discarnate Man
In this second part of the class we look at the issue of online identities. Beginning with McLuhan's reservations about 'discarnate man', we then consider Daniel Chandler's discussion of the construction of identities through personal homepages. We examine the dynamic, empowering aspect of blogs, MySpace and Facebook, and the construction of a 'virtual self' by means of online publishing. We close by looking at the authenticity and advantages of online identities, and the benefits to dogs of communicating online.
Optional Reading: McLuhan, 1978.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 5.

Module Forum
Topics under discussion in the Module Forum this week include the inevitability of stereotypes, the key characters in Sex and the City, the representation of women in The Matrix, in Charlie's Angels, and in Desperate Housewives, online identity and discarnate immorality, Socrates' worries about writing, deceitful identities online, multiplayer gaming, and the recurring theme of underpants.
For more information on the Module Forum see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Case Studies
If you choose to write a Case Study using the concepts drawn from this week's vehicle strand you will need to concentrate on some aspect of representations within the media. You could analyse the stereotypes depicted within a novel, computer game or television programme, or the range of different ways in which a single group is represented, e.g. women in Desperate Housewives or the elderly in Eastenders. Alternatively you might examine the groups that seem to have been omitted from a film or newspaper report, and consider why this has been the case.
Useful Reading: Branston and Stafford, 2010, Ch. 5; O'Sullivan, Dutton and Rayner, 2003, Ch. 4; O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2008, Ch. 5, pp. 228-36, 245-51; O'Sullivan and Jewkes, 1997; Gauntlett, 2002; Gill, 2007; Brunsdon, 1997; Dyer, 2002; Lippmann, 1997, Ch. 6; Lawrence, 2004, Ch. 7; Storey, 1998, Ch. 6; Lupton and Miller, 1996b; Lupton and Miller, 1996c; Newbold et al., 2002, Ch. 6; Hinton, 2000.
If you would rather make use of McLuhan's discussion of 'disincarnate man', and address the question of online identity, you might like to choose some internet communication technology - email, home pages, blogs, forums, instant messenger, chat rooms, virtual environments, Active Worlds, games, et al. - and explore its implications for the construction of identities. Or perhaps you could examine the changing relationship between a particular group - men, teenagers, the elderly, et al. - and their representation, or self-presentation, using a particular online medium.
Useful Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 5; Marchand, 1998, pp. 249-50; McLuhan, 1978; Chandler, 1998; Lister et al., 2003, pp. 244-60; Turkle, 1997; Turkle, 2005; Gackenbach, 2006; Suler, 1996-2000; Spender, 1995, Ch. 7; Baggini, 2005; Turkle, 1996a; Jaffe et al, 1995; Danet, 2001; Ben-Ze'ev, 2004; Buckingham, 2007.
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.

For Next Week You Need To...
(1) Read Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 14: 'From 'Audience' to 'Users''.
(2) Complete your contributions to the Module Forum (see the Module Handbook for details of this assignment).

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