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Subjects / Science / Science / COMM 2900 / What is the power of media?

What is the power of media?

What is the power of media?


Final Exam Study Guide  

What is the power of media?

Neoliberal subject

∙ Someone who is subject to a neoliberal culture of corporate globalized  capitalism such as societies in the US, Europe and other parts of the world o Victims of mass manufactured culture industry


∙ The process by which people hold and keep false perceptions of other  cultures

o Said found that people depicted places in the “Orient” much in the  same way that they did hundreds of years ago and that depictions of  those places never changed

 Why were people stuck on the same image of a culture they  didn’t know?

o Also known as othering

∙ Concept developed by Edward Said

o Published book called Orientalism

Knowledge vs Knowledges

Social identity, refers to what?

We also discuss several other topics like What is the category of a new product in marketing?

∙ “Knowledges” refer to different worldviews that people can have through the  process of orientalism Don't forget about the age old question of What is the meaning of the poem digging by seamus heaney?

o Distinction also developed by Edward Said

∙ People live in such different realities that they can’t communicate with one  another on the same level


∙ A system by which a dominant nation can “colonize” another not literally, but economically through exploitative practices, trade agreements, or  transnational corporations

Judith Butler

∙ Questioned the distinctions in society between sex and gender o Thought that organizing society based on one biological difference  (sex) was arbitrary and wrong Don't forget about the age old question of Where can dna be found in a plant cell?

∙ Performativity

o The idea that gender isn’t something that one has but something that  one performs/ carries out

Hybridity is the idea that a person can have, what?

o Gender is a mutable attribute that is fluid and societally based Audience studies

∙ Arose from debate over why women enjoy certain books more than others o Developed into a vital media study that people to use to learn how to  best capture your attention If you want to learn more check out What causes problems according to daoism?

∙ Audience attention is now a commodity that’s extremely valuable.

Communications Philosophy Timeline

∙ Kant – 18th century

∙ Marx – 19th century

∙ Frankfurt School – Early 20th century

∙ Jurgen Habermas – 20th century

∙ McChesney – contemporary

Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams

∙ Started up cultural studies in the US

o Largely dealt with race, gender, cultural relations and how they  intersect If you want to learn more check out What are the muscles of respiration?


∙ The being of a person or group of people

o Not just something that you have but something that you do and carry  out

o Often influenced and even shaped by the media


∙ Colonialism helped to start anthropology, the study of identity o colonialism was at its height during Marx and Kant’s lives

 helped shaped their thinking and writings

Different Approaches to Identity

∙ Is identity fixed or mutable (changeable)?

∙ Essentialism vs anti essentialism

o Do identities have essential qualities or are they completely mutable? o Stereotypes tend to come from essentialist ideas

 The quality is essential to the person holding the identity Don't forget about the age old question of What is the nomenclature of benzene?

Identity/Creation of Self

∙ Identity is relational, meaning what you are to one person may not be what  you are to another.

∙ Identity is mutable and changeable

∙ One’s identity can arise through communication with others

o Family

o Peers

o Society

∙ Identities can become rigid under discrimination of them.

o Often identities can be forced or projected on someone

∙ Identities are multidimensional and complex

Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

∙ Very influential French philosopher

o Famous works

 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison

 The Birth of the Clinic

 Madness and Civilization

 History of Sexuality

o Focused on power and how it’s exercised

Power in Foucault’s Work

∙ Foucault focuses on “micro-mechanisms” of power which operate  unperceived in everyday life.  

∙ Power is not merely a physical force but a pervasive human dynamic ∙ Power is not necessarily bad, but can be productive

∙ Power refers to secretive ways that those in power remain in power and exert control

Foucault interested in

∙ Disciplinary technologies of power

∙ The ways technology makes people more controllable

∙ The ways an individual internalizes mechanisms of control

o Self-policing, self-surveillance

o Panopticon – guard tower in the middle of a circular prison that allows  the guards to see all of the prisoners without the prisoners knowing if a guard is there

 Symbolic of a surveillance state

Text, Author and Reader

∙ Traditional literary criticism vs textual analysis

o Traditional criticism says the author is at the center of focus  Analysis is trying to find out what the author meant in their


o Textual analysis  

 Different forms of media are analyzed as text

 No art stands alone without an influence from another art ∙ Relationships with other art disappear when you only

focus on the author

 Intertextuality – the idea that all media (text) is related to  some other media and that no text stands alone

∙ Reader

o After Barthes, focus shifted to the reader

 Focus on effect on reader and what the reader does with it  Context of image in relation to other images

o Polysemy – one thing retaining multiple meanings for different  


o Text  

 Can be almost anything that has any meaning

∙ Book

∙ Song

∙ Commercial

∙ Art

∙ Sculpture

Signifier, Signified, Sign

∙ Signifier – the representation of the actual thing

o Words, pictures, drawings

∙ Signified – the actual thing

o Literally anything

∙ Together, they make a sign

∙ Myth – associated, secondary meanings that come along with a thing  

being signified

o A picture of a gold car’s signified is the gold car, but the myth  around it would be luxury, opulence, wealth, etc.


∙ Representation – Lisa Henderson

o The world is unavailable to us except through language  Words are representations that allow us to understand our  


∙ Reality – Greg M Smith

o Reality is distorted by the media, or whatever lens that you view  it through, and the more degrees of separation you view it  

through, the more distorted reality is.  

∙ Text – Jonathan Gray

o A text is anything that can communicate meaning

 Texts can never have distinct, unchangeable, concrete  


o Media studies now focus on how audiences relate to texts rather  

than what the author meant.

 This shift came with Roland Barthes, Stanley Fish, Wolfgang

Iser and Michel De Certeau

o Intertextuality is the idea that all texts rely on each other for  

meaning and no text has its own meaning

∙ Author – Cynthia Chris

o Generally, communication studies focuses on the effect on the  

audience and not the author

o “Nothing has a single author” – most forms of media today were  

created and influenced by several people

∙ Stereotype – Ellen Seiter

o Stereotypes are insidious when they become a way for powerful  

groups to demean marginalized groups

 Can reduce a person to a negative characteristic  

o Stereotypes result from an “economy of effort” to belittle the  marginalized group and feel better for it.

Texts and Representations

∙ “reality” – the world as we know it is unavailable to us except through  symbolic systems

o Ex. Language ‘

o Symbolic systems are arbitrary and require shared understanding  Concepts of Ferdinand Saussure

∙ Mediated reality

o Reality that is colored through a media’s lens/ mediated to consumers ∙ Saussure

o Signifier – representation of the thing  

o Signified – meaning of the thing

o Together they form a sign

∙ There’s never a concrete meaning in language

o There can never be a 1 to 1, innate comparison through language  where something in the real world innately means a certain word. All  language is arbitrarily “agreed upon” in its significance

 One of the main arguments of poststructuralism

 “There is nothing outside the text” – Derrido


∙ The study of everything that can be used for communication

∙ Important names

o Ferdinand Saussure

o Charles Sanders Peirce

∙ Smallest unit of meaning in semiotics is called the sign

o Sign  

 Made up of signifier, signified and referent

 Signifier – representation of the thing the sign refers to  

 Signified – the subjective meaning of the signifier to whomever  interprets it

 Referent – the actual literal thing the sign refers to

o Different types of signs

 Iconic signs – resembles the thing that it refers to

∙ Ex. Picture

 Indexical signs – don’t resemble the thing that it refers to

∙ Ex. Word

o Arbitrary nature of the sign

 The signified and the signifier have no relationship beyond  

arbitrary language that connects the word with the meaning

∙ Roland Barthes

o Famous work – Mythologies

o Said that there were three levels of signs

 Denotation – the literal meaning of something  

 Connotation – the associated meaning of something

 Myth – cultural meaning of something  

Tough Guise

∙ The culture of violence in our society is rampant and it’s largely the result of  “toxic masculinity”

o Violence over emotion, and force over reason, is a societal part of  “being a man”

Myria Georogiou on Identity

∙ Identity is something that people carry out and put forward, not just  something that they are.

∙ Reflexivity

o Reflexivity is the capacity to reflect on what one’s identity is ∙ Hybridity

o The idea that a person can have two or more different identities that  may come into play throughout their lives

 Ex. WEB Du Bois: “an American, a Negro”

∙ Performativity

o the idea that identity is something that one carries out, not just  something that one does

 idea was developed by Judith Butler

Crossley on Identity

∙ Social Identity

o Refers to identity that links one to a broader social grouping, such as  “women” or “the working class”

∙ Personal Identity

o Refers to how someone defines themselves as a unique person with a  unique body, background and situation

 Focuses on differentiating an individual from a group by focusing on elements of difference

∙ We carry out our identities differently in different contexts

o Identity is always relational

∙ No social movement can exist without identity work

o Relating to people based on their identity helps to reach out to people  and create a sense of “we”

o Creates a system called identity politics in which people choose issues  and positions based on their own identity.

Crossley on Power

∙ Power is defined as the ability to secure given outcomes  

∙ How vs Who

o Foucault- how

 Says that everyone has power and that it’s too basic to split  society up into powerful and powerless

 Power plays itself out through everyday interactions, such as the conversation between the husband and wife

 People internalize surveillance through self-policing

∙ “micro-mechanisms of power”

o Lukes – who  

 Central Questions

∙ Who can adversely affect the interests of whom?

∙ Who can control whom?

∙ Who can secure the achievement of collective goods?

 Problems with Other two-dimensional and one-dimensional  


∙ One-dimensional approaches only focus on decisions that  

are being made and who’s making decisions.

∙ Two-dimensional approaches also take into account  

potential decisions that don’t make it onto the decision  

maker’s agenda.

 Lukes 3-Dimensional Approach

∙ Takes into account opinions that aren’t even aired or  

options that are non-observable

o Argues that in power analysis this is ok to do

o Cites a pollution study where people where the  

polluters also had a good reputation in their city  

didn’t protest

Couldry on Power

∙ Difference between “power to” and “power over”

o You can have the power to run or speak or write an essay or you can  have power over someone by speaking better or running faster

∙ Media Power

o Symbolic Power

 John Thompson’s approach – symbolic power is the “capacity to  intervene in the course of events, to influence the actions of  

others and indeed to create events by the means of the  

production and transmission of symbolic forms”

∙ Media companies create shows, websites and ads as  

symbolic forms and by that they have symbolic power

∙ Couldry argues this doesn’t go far enough

 Pierre Bourdieu’s approach – “symbolic power is the power of  constructing reality”

∙ He means that media companies can use their stature  

and perceived legitimacy through the “symbolic  

forms”(shows, websites, ads) that Thomson mentioned to  

create a political or social reality for millions of people  

that may not be actual reality.  

 Manuel Castell’s approach – What makes symbolic/media power  complex is the complex networks of communication that we  

have today. Power isn’t just located in one place and not  


∙ Media power combines

o The power to make symbols (images, content,  

websites, platforms, films)

o Economic power needed to invest in design and  


o Social power to maintain people’s attention

o The political power to block or directly censor  

symbolic content

o The power whereby symbolic power makes a  

difference in our lives

∙ Television’s “colonization of leisure” and social media’s  

“colonization of our social imagination”

Crossley on Power/Knowledge

∙ Power/knowledge is intended to designate how specific forms of power and  specific forms of knowledge interact in a mutually reinforcing manner o Idea developed by Foucault

o Wanted to trace the history of scientific thought

 Gave the example of how insane people first came under  

scientific study when they became a problem for organized  


 Locking them up for scientific study also functioned as a  

technology of power in which to gain knowledge about them.

o Foucault said that power works by making individuals visible such that  they can be corrected when they step out of line (surveillance)

 The idea behind the panopticon prison


∙ A discourse is the type of rhetorical devices, phrases and vocabulary used to  frame a discussion

o to refer to ‘medical discourse’ or ‘racist discourse’ is to point out the  sets of norms, meanings and assumptions these conversations use to  communicate

∙ Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas

o Two influential figures in advancing discourse theory  

o Foucault

 Uses discourse as a noun with the definition above

o Habermas

 Says discourse is the act of calling key assumptions into  


∙ Basically analysis

 Also says that the role of discourse can be undermined if the  public sphere is eroded

∙ Micro- and macro- textual approaches

o Macro-textual approaches use a broader meaning of text, basically as  any representation of meaning

 Places the focus on meaning communicated through language  and not on language itself

o Micro-textual approaches use text’s literal meaning and places all of  the focus on the text and language itself

∙ Micro- and macro- contextual approaches

o Micro-contextual approaches -- focus on the social context of a  discourse, such as the conditions of both the people speaking to each  other, social relations, class positions and situational rules

o Macro- contextual approaches – focus on how discourse is circulated  within a social group, paying less attention to local settings

Media Industry

∙ Originated with Adorno and Horkheimer’s treatise called “The Culture  Industry” (1944)

o The term was meant as an oxymoron to indicate that creativity  couldn’t exist within commercially driven goals

∙ Media industry studies range from the implications of international political  economy on the operation of media companies at the most macro level to  focus on individual productions at the most micro level

Public Sphere

∙ The public sphere denotes a space, real or virtual, in which individuals who  otherwise live private lives come together to discuss common issues and  work things out.  

o The public sphere is the intermediary for bringing problems to the  state in a democracy

∙ Jurgen Habermas

o Wrote that when the state becomes too out of touch with the public  sphere, they don’t represent the people and might be overthrown


∙ Commodification is the process by which people, objects, services and ideas  are transformed into goods for sale.

o signals the expansion of capitalism into other parts of people’s lives ∙ Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and the Frankfurt School

o Big names  

∙ Commodities have specific use value, but also market value in exchange for  other items.  

∙ Centralized, mass produced culture drowns out individual creative expression.

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