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Media studies

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Media studies

Media studies is a discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history, and effects of various media; in particular, the mass media. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass communication, communication, communication sciences, and communication studies. Researchers may also develop and employ theories and methods from disciplines including cultural studies, rhetoric (including digital rhetoric), philosophy, literary theory, psychology, political science, political economy, economics, sociology, anthropology, social theory, art history and criticism, film theory, feminist theory, and information theory.



Media is studied as a broad subject in most states in Australia, with the state of Victoria being world leaders in curriculum development[1]. Media studies in Australia was first developed as an area of study in Victorian universities in the early 1960s, and in secondary schools in the mid 1960s.

Today, almost all Australian universities teach media studies. According to the Government of Australia's "Excellence in Research for Australia" report, the leading universities in the country for media studies (which were ranked well above World standards by the report's scoring methodology) are Monash University, QUT, RMIT, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and UTS.

In secondary schools, an early film studies course first began being taught as part of the Victorian junior secondary curriculum during the mid 1960s. And, by the early 1970s, an expanded media studies course was being taught. The course became part of the senior secondary curriculum (later known as the Victorian Certificate of Education or "VCE") in the 1980s. It has since become, and continues to be, a strong component of the VCE. Notable figures in the development of the Victorian secondary school curriculum were the long time Rusden College media teacher Peter Greenaway (not the British film director), Trevor Barr (who authored one of the first media text books Reflections of Reality) and later John Murray (who authored The Box in the Corner, In Focus, and 10 Lessons in Film Appreciation).

Today, Australian states and territories that teach media studies at a secondary level are Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Media studies does not appear to be taught in the state of New South Wales at a secondary level.

In Victoria, the VCE media studies course is structured as: Unit 1 - Representation, Technologies of Representation, and New Media; Unit 2 - Media Production, Australian Media Organisations; Unit 3 - Narrative Texts, Production Planning; and Unit 4 - Media Process, Social Values, and Media Influence. Media studies also form a major part of the primary and junior secondary curriculum, and includes areas such as photography, print media and television.

Victoria also hosts the peak media teaching body known as ATOM which publishes Metro and Screen Education magazines.


There are two universities in China that specialize in media studies. Communication University of China, formerly known as the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, that dates back to 1954. CUC has 15,307 full-time students, including 9264 undergraduates, 3512 candidates for doctor and master's degrees and 16780 students in programs of continuing education. The other university known for media studies in China is Zhejiang University of Media and Communications (ZUMC) which has campuses in Hangzhou and Tongxiang. Almost 10,000 full-time students are currently studying in over 50 programs at the 13 Colleges and Schools of ZUMC. Both institutions have produced some of China's brightest broadcasting talents for television as well as leading journalists at magazines and newspapers.


One prominent French media critic is the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who wrote among other books On Television (New Press, 1999). Bourdieu's analysis is that television provides far less autonomy, or freedom, than we think. In his view, the market (which implies the hunt for higher advertising revenue) not only imposes uniformity and banality, but also a form of invisible censorship. When, for example, television producers "pre-interview" participants in news and public affairs programs, to ensure that they will speak in simple, attention-grabbing terms, and when the search for viewers leads to an emphasis on the sensational and the spectacular, people with complex or nuanced views are not allowed a hearing.


In Germany two main branches of media theory or media studies can be identified.

The first major branch of media theory has its roots in the humanities and cultural studies, such as theater studies ("Theaterwissenschaft") and German language and literature studies. This branch has broadened out substantially since the 1990s. And it is on this initial basis that media studies in Germany has primarily developed and established itself.

One of the early publications in this new direction is a volume edited by Helmut Kreuzer, Literature Studies - Media Studies (Literaturwissenschaft – Medienwissenschaft), which summarizes the presentations given at the Düsseldorfer Germanistentag 1976.

The second branch of media studies in Germany is comparable to Communication Studies. Pioneered by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in the 1940s, this branch studies mass media, its institutions and its effects on society and individuals. The German Institute for Media and Communication Policy, founded in 2005 by media scholar Lutz Hachmeister, is one of the few independent research institutions that is dedicated to issues surrounding media and communications policies.

The term Wissenschaft cannot be translated straightforwardly as studies, as it calls to mind both scientific methods and the humanities. Accordingly, German media theory combines philosophy, psychoanalysis, history, and scienctific studies with media-specific research.

Medienwissenschaften is currently one of the most popular courses of study at universities in Germany, with many applicants mistakenly assuming that studying it will automatically lead to a career in TV or other media. This has led to widespread disillusionment, with students blaming the universities for offering highly theoretical course content. The universities maintain that practical journalistic training is not the aim of the academic studies they offer.


The media industry is growing in India at the rate of 20 percent per annum. Together, entertainment and media form the country's sixth biggest industry, with 3.5 million people working in it. Within the next 4–5 years, the industry is expected to gross eighty thousand crores (800 billion rupees) annually.

With a view to making the best use of communication facilities for information, publicity and development, the Government of India in 1962-63 sought the advice of the Ford Foundation/UNESCO team of internationally known mass communication specialists who recommended the setting up of a national institute for training, teaching and research in mass communication.

Anna University is the first university to take up the idea of India's University Grants Commission (UGC) to start Master of Science in Electronic Media programmes. It offers a five-year integrated programme and a two-year programme in Electronic Media. The Department of Media Sciences was started in January 2002, branching off from the UGC's Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC). National Institute of Open Schooling, the world's largest open schooling system, offers Mass Communication as a subject of studies at senior secondary level.


In the Netherlands, media studies are split into several academic courses such as (applied) communication sciences, communication- and information sciences, communication and media, media and culture or theater, film and television sciences. Whereas communication sciences focuses on the way people communicate, be it mediated or unmediated, media studies tends to narrow the communication down to just mediated communication. However, it would be a mistake to consider media studies a specialism of communication sciences, since media make up just a small portion of the overall course. Indeed, both studies tend to borrow elements from one another.

Communication sciences (or a derivative thereof) can be studied at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Radboud University, Tilburg University, University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen, University of Twente, Roosevelt Academy, University of Utrecht, VU University Amsterdam and Wageningen University and Research Centre.

Media studies (or something similar) can be studied at the University of Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Groningen and the University of Utrecht.

New Zealand

Media Studies in New Zealand is very healthy, especially due to renewed activity in the NZ film industry and is taught at both secondary and tertiary education institutes. Media Studies in NZ can be regarded as a singular success, with the subject well-established in the tertiary sector (such as Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato; Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington; Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland; Media Studies, Massey University; Communication Studies, University of Otago). Different Media Studies courses can offer students a range of specialisations- such as cultural studies, media theory and analysis, practical film-making, journalism and communications studies. But what makes the case of New Zealand particularly significant in respect of Media Studies is that for more than a decade it has been a nationally-mandated and very popular subject in secondary (high) schools, taught across three years in a very structured and developmental fashion, with Scholarship in Media Studies available for academically gifted students. According the New Zealand Ministry of Education Subject Enrolment figures 229 New Zealand schools offered Media Studies as a subject in 2016, representing more than 14,000 students.


Media Studies Program is offered in Pakistan by Karachi University Karachi university, Pakistan this was formerly known as Mass communication. Riphah International University Islamabad is also offering Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree programs in Media Studies, Mass Communications and Media Production. Riphah International University also have its own broadcast facilities such as FM 102.2. Kinnaird College, Lahore and Szabist University also offers undergraduate program Szabist University in various cities across Pakistan, Dubai and UAE.


In Switzerland, media and communication studies are offered by several higher education institutions including the International University in Geneva, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, University of Lugano, University of Fribourg and others.


In the UK, media studies developed in the 1960s from the academic study of English, and from literary criticism more broadly. The key date, according to Andrew Crisell, is 1959:

When Joseph Trenaman left the BBC's Further Education Unit to become the first holder of the Granada Research Fellowship in Television at Leeds University. Soon after in 1966, the Centre for Mass Communication Research was founded at Leicester University, and degree programmes in media studies began to sprout at polytechnics and other universities during the 1970s and 1980s.

James Halloran at Leicester University is credited with much influence in the development of media studies and communication studies, as the head of the university's Centre for Mass Communication Research, and founder of the International Association for Media and Communication Research. Media Studies is now taught all over the UK. It is taught at Key Stages 1– 3, Entry Level, GCSE and at A level and the Scottish Qualifications Authority offers formal qualifications at a number of different levels. It is offered through a large area of exam boards including AQA and WJEC.

Much research in the field of news media studies has been led by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Details of the research projects and results are published in the RISJ annual report.

United States

Mass communication, Communication studies or simply 'Communication' may be more popular names than “media studies” for academic departments in the United States. However, the focus of such programs sometimes excludes certain media—film, book publishing, video games, etc. The title “media studies” may be used alone, to designate film studies and rhetorical or critical theory, or it may appear in combinations like “media studies and communication” to join two fields or emphasize a different focus.

In 1999, the MIT Comparative Media Studies program started under the leadership of Henry Jenkins, since growing into a graduate program, MIT's largest humanities major, and, following a 2012 merger with the Writing and Humanistic Studies program, a roster of twenty faculty, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, games scholar T. L. Taylor, and media scholars William Uricchio (a CMS co-founder), Edward Schiappa, and Heather Hendershot. Now named Comparative Media Studies/Writing, the department places an emphasis on what Jenkins and colleagues had termed "applied humanities": it hosts several research groups for civic media, digital humanities, games, computational media, documentary, and mobile design, and these groups are used to provide graduate students with research assistantships to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses. The incorporation of Writing and Humanistic Studies also placed MIT's Science Writing program, Writing Across the Curriculum, and Writing and Communications Center under the same roof.

Formerly an interdisciplinary major at the University of Virginia the Department of Media Studies was officially established in 2001 and has quickly grown to wide recognition. This is partly thanks to the acquisition of Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, a cultural historian and media scholar, as well as the Inaugural Verklin Media Policy and Ethics Conference, endowed by the CEO of Canoe Ventures and UVA alumnus David Verklin. In 2010, a group of undergraduate students in the Media Studies Department established the Movable Type Academic Journal, the first ever undergraduate academic journal of its kind. The department is expanding rapidly and doubled in size in 2011.

Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York, has been offering graduate studies in television and media since 1961. Currently, the Department of Television and Radio administers an MS in Media Studies, and hosts the Center for the Study of World Television.

The University of Southern California has three distinct centers for media studies: the Center for Visual Anthropology (founded in 1984), the Institute for Media Literacy at the School of Cinematic Arts (founded in 1998) and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (founded in 1971).

University of California, Irvine had in Mark Poster one of the first and foremost theorists of media culture in the US, and can boast a strong Department of Film & Media Studies. University of California, Berkeley has three institutional structures within which media studies can take place: the department of Film and Media (formerly Film Studies Program), including famous theorists as Mary Ann Doane and Linda Williams, the Center for New Media, and a long established interdisciplinary program formerly titled Mass Communications, which recently changed its name to Media Studies, dropping any connotations which accompany the term “Mass” in the former title. Until recently, Radford University in Virginia used the title "media studies" for a department that taught practitioner-oriented major concentrations in journalism, advertising, broadcast production and Web design. In 2008, those programs were combined with a previous department of communication (speech and public relations) to create a School of Communication. (A media studies major at Radford still means someone concentrating on journalism, broadcasting, advertising or Web production.)

The University of Denver has a renowned program for digital media studies. It is an interdisciplinary program combining Communications, Computer Science, and the arts.


In Canada, media studies and communication studies are incorporated in the same departments and cover a wide range of approaches (from critical theory to organizations to research-creation and political economy, for example). Over time, research developed to employ theories and methods from cultural studies, philosophy, political economy, gender, sexuality and race theory, management, rhetoric, film theory, sociology, and anthropology. Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan are famous Canadian scholars for their contributions to the fields of media ecology and political economy in the 20th century. They were both important members of the Toronto School of Communication at the time. More recently, the School of Montreal and its founder James R. Taylor significantly contributed to the field of organizational communication by focusing on the ontological processes of organizations.

Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario, 1945 and 1946 prospectively, created Journalism specific programs or schools. A Journalism specific program was also created at Ryerson in 1950. The first communication programs in Canada were started at Ryerson and Concordia Universities. The Radio and Television Arts program at Ryerson were started in the 1950s, while the Film, Media Studies/Media Arts, and Photography programs also originated from programs started in the 1950s. The Communication studies department at Concordia was created in the late 1960s. Ryerson's Radio and Television, Film, Media and Photography programs were renowned by the mid 1970s, and its programs were being copied by other colleges and universities nationally and Internationally.

Today, most universities offer undergraduate degrees in Media and Communication Studies, and many Canadian scholars actively contribute to the field, among which: Brian Massumi (philosophy, cultural studies), Kim Sawchuk (cultural studies, feminist, ageing studies), Carrie Rentschler (feminist theory), and François Cooren (organizational communication).

In his book “Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man”, media theorist Marshall McLuhan suggested that "the medium is the message", and that all human artefacts and technologies are media. His book introduced the usage of terms such as “media” into our language along with other precepts, among them “global village” and “Age of Information”. A medium is anything that mediates our interaction with the world or other humans. Given this perspective, media study is not restricted to just media of communications but all forms of technology. Media and their users form an ecosystem and the study of this ecosystem is known as media ecology.

McLuhan says that the “technique of fragmentation that is the essence of machine technology” shaped the restructuring of human work and association and “the essence of automation technology is the opposite”. He uses an example of the electric light to make this connection and to explain “the medium is the message”. The electric light is pure information and it is a medium without a message unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or a name. The characteristic of all media means the “content” of any medium is always another medium. For example, the content of writing is speech, the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph. The change that the medium or technology introduces into human affairs is the “message”. If the electric light is used for Friday night football or to light up your desk you could argue that the content of the electric light is these activities. The fact that it is the medium that shapes and controls the form of human association and action makes it the message. The electric light is over looked as a communication medium because it doesn’t have any content. It is not until the electric light is used to spell a brand name that it is recognized as medium. Similar to radio and other mass media electric light eliminates time and space factors in human association creating deeper involvement. McLuhan compared the “content” to a juicy piece of meat being carried by a burglar to distract the “watchdog of the mind”. The effect of the medium is made strong because it is given another media “content”. The content of a movie is a book, play or maybe even an opera.

McLuhan talks about media being “hot” or “cold” and touches on the principle that distinguishes them from one another. A hot medium (i.e., radio or Movie) extends a single sense in “high definition”. High definition means the state of being well filled with data. A cool medium (i.e., Telephone and TV) is considered “low definition” because a small amount of data/information is given and has to be filled in. Hot media are low in participation and cool media are high in participation. Hot media are low in participation because it is giving most of the information and it excludes. Cool media are high in participation because it gives you information but you have to fill in the blanks and it is inclusive. He used lecturing as an example for hot media and seminars as an example for low media. If you use a hot medium in a hot or cool culture makes a difference.


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