An Introduction to Media Studies
The media is about communication, whether that is communicating a great story through a Netflix series or communicating an issue you care passionately about through a piece of journalism.
Studying the media essentially consists of two sets of skills-
- Practical skills around hardware, e.g. cameras, and software such as video, Audio Image, animation, FX, web design software – This is like knowing how to use the tools
- Understanding the communication skills needed to create a powerful message. This lets us see the big picture, e.g. who are the audience, what do they care about, how does the business work, how to structure media for maximum impact.
In this tutorial we will focus on the second of these areas.
Let’s start with Media Language. Think of media language as, exactly that, a language. It has its own versions of words, sentences and grammar. Let’s dive in and learn a few key terms.
- What would you pick out as three dominant signifiers on this poster?
- If dominant signifiers are the words then next we need to think of their meanings. We call these meanings connotations.
- So dominant signifiers and connotations are like the words and meanings from which we create our media. But what about our vocabulary. We all know that if you have a good vocabulary you are a better speaker because you have more choice to express ourselves. This brings us to our final idea – Myth.
- Dominant signifiers are like the words that media use. They are the standout elements of any piece of media. As you can imagine it is pretty important to know your dominant signifiers when creating your own media.
Explain some ways in which this image is playing around with elements from the myth of femininity?
So myth is like the vocabulary we associate with something. So you can see how there is a myth of football, a myth of fashion. When we make a piece of media we can think about all the things we associate with what subject to help us design and produce a powerful piece of media.
- Representation can be thought of as the way the media holds up a mirror to society. To its people (Who), places (Where) and activities (What).
- Just like a fairground mirror the media shows us versions (representations) of our world. They may look different, e.g. fantasy genre representations, but we still recognise them.
Understanding representations is important as it lets us into the minds and hearts of our audiences by understanding what they believe in.Focusing on ‘who’ there are lots of categories we put ourselves and other people into. These are based on things like:-
- Income level
Which groups are represented in the Avengers poster?
How would you describe the female stereotypes here using the terms dominant stereotype and countertype?
Representation – Ideology
- Ideology is a group of ideas or set of values that people believe in. For example a feminist has the ideology of feminism. Some ideologies we may hold without really thinking about it because we have grown up with it. For example 100 years ago, many men (and women) would have believed it was right and proper that men had control over society. That was because the ideology of Patriarchy (male power) was accepted as normal. Over the course of the last 100 years the ideology of patriarchy has been challenged by the counter ideology of feminism. This battle of ideologies is seen in media representations.
- Vogue’s traditional representation showing women as primarily interested in appearance rather than action. Some feminists would say this helps reinforce patriarchal ideology.
- In the Avengers films male heroes dominate the cast. This representation can also be said to reinforce the patriarchal ideology. Black Widow offers a counter ideology a female power(feminism)
- Choose any piece of media you know well, e.g. a favourite children’s film and briefly describe how the characters represent different ideologies.
Knowing your audience is of course essential to any powerful communication, I mean people don’t speak to their mates in the way they speak to their Nan!
- We break the audience down into groups. These groups are based on external factors such as age and gender and internal factors such as personality.
- Demographics – Age/gender/financial status (spending power)
- Psychographics – Personality, hobbies and interests, fandoms
Audiences – Why?
To understand audiences it is useful to have an understanding of why we use media. We make use of things because they serve a purpose; they meet our wants and needs.
- Needs met by media
- Escapism (diversion)
- Role Models (identify)
- To be social (relationship)
- To find things out (surveillance)
This cover offers a lot of surveillance needs, such as how to lose 8kg, double your metabolism etc. Secondly it is offering identity needs, by presenting ways in which to ‘improve’ yourself. It offers Vin Deisel as the role model for identity as it suggests you will have ‘Vin Diesel’s blueprint’. The #SlayWinterBlues promises some relationship through its social media content. Escapism is not really offered as the focus as the magazine is about reflecting on yourself.
Audiences – Explain the wants/needs offered by this cover
- Audience –Media Consumption -How/When/Where
- To understand food we need to understand how, where and when people eat. Similarly to understand media it is useful to understand how audience’s consume media.
As a treat
Little and often (snacking)
While doing something else
With total attention
|With family/friends (Lounge)
On your own (bedroom)
Out and about
In the car/public transport
|Once a week
Once a day
In the morning
In the evening
Throughout the day
In the middle of the night
Write a description of some of your own patterns of media consumption using how/when/where as a guide.
So think of audience like the target of the dart you are aiming at. You’ve got to focus on it, know it, then let that arrow fly.
The media industry is big, and I mean BIG! In the UK alone it is brings in over £100 Billion in revenue. Although people often take media to explore their creative side it is good to know about the business behind the creative industries.
Knowing the industry lets you understand the world in which people who make a living out of media operate. As you can see from the film industry there are many opportunities in many companies. The UK is a world leader in media production. So that’s all folks. If you’ve made it to the end of this and you are still reading, well done. I look forward to seeing you in September.