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What Is Meant By The Media?

'The media' refers to the different channels we use to communicate information in the everyday world. 'Media' is the plural of medium (of communication), and the main media are:

Advertising is also considered a medium, as it is a separate channel of communication of messages within other broadcast, print and online media.

What is Media Studies?

Media Studies is the analysis of the images, sounds and text we experience via the media, and the effects these images, sounds and text have on us, the audience. It involves looking closely at individual media texts (such as movies, YouTube channels, TV shows, mobile phone games, pop songs etc) and applying some of the following ideas:

As well as essays, research, and reports, Media Studies also involves practical work, where you learn the techniques involved for the production of your own media text. Students produce music videos, phone apps, TV commercials, magazine advertisements, computer animation, photo-essays and documentary videos. Media is a 'learn by doing' subject, and you compare your own experiences with what the 'professionals' go through.

Media Studies can be taken as a GCSE, AS or A-level course and many students go on to study it at university. Success in this subject comes from a combination of creativity and understanding. It is a unique fusion of practical and theoretical learning, which, although it can be hard work and very time consuming, is always rewarding. It's also a lot of fun – what other subject deals with your favourite movies, popstars and TV shows?

Why Is It Important?

As we progress into the 21st century, communications are becoming faster and faster and faster. Think of the millions of different media images you are bombarded with every day. It is as important now to be able to read and make sense of those images, as it has been to be able to read ordinary text. If you do not know how to read the messages coming at you from TV, the Internet, your smart phone, advertising etc, then you may become very lost and misled in the 21st century. You also need to have a good idea of how those messages are made, and who is making them, so that you may quickly become aware if someone (or some corporation!) is trying to manipulate your thoughts and feelings.

Media Studies is also about appreciating the skill and creativity which goes into the production of media texts. Just as analysing the different techniques used in the creation of a poem or novel helps you appreciate the talent of the writer, so does learning about media techniques help you appreciate the skill with words and pictures that the creators of a media text have to possess.

Media Studies also deals with the very latest ideas - which is why you need a website to help you study it, rather than relying on textbooks that get out of date very quickly. Although you do need to have some understanding of the history of media (particularly how new technological developments have changed things), the focus of your studies is what is happening right now, buzzing round the airwaves of the globe.

Use the menu on the top right of this page to select the area of the media you want to study further. You will find lots of information on each media form, and a whole range of links to other sites. How easy can research be?

Media Studies Glossary

Here are some of the key terms you may encounter when you begin to study the media:

TermMeaning
Audience The readers of a media text. A great deal of media studies work is concerned with the effects a text may have on an audience. All texts are aimed (targeted) at a specific audience, known as the target audience.
Convention The widely recognised way of doing something – content, style and form e.g. the conventions of music video are
  • it is the same length as the song (around 3-4 minutes)
  • it presents the band, who look as though they are singing
  • it has lots of fast edits

Not all music videos follow these easily recognised conventions but most of them do

Editing The process of selecting and manipulating images and words to make a media text. The editor's job is a very important one whether you are producing a video or a newspaper page - the editor makes the ultimate decision on what goes into the final text, and thus decides what it will all mean to a reader or viewer.
Enigma A question that is not immediately answered and thus draws an audience into a text e.g. a body is discovered at the beginning of a tv detective drama. The killer's identity is an enigma. We watch to find out who the killer is.
Gatekeeping Quite an old-fashioned term to describe the way in which certain key personnel (news editors, newspaper owners mainly) have control over the information that is presented to audiences, and the way in which it is presented (the angle)
Genre A way of categorising a media text according to its form, style and content. This categorisation is useful for producers (who use a genre's conventions) and audiences (who have expectations of the genre) alike.
Narrative The way in which a story, or sequence of events, is put together within a text. All media texts have some sort of narrative, from a single photographic image to a sports report to a feature film. Narrative may be reduced to one simple equation which is equilibrium - disequilibrium - new equilibrium
News Values Ways of categorising and assessing news stories to decide on their newsworthiness
Ownership An important issue in media studies - and a constantly changing one. Who produces and distributes the media texts we read? What effect does their ownership have on content?
Representation The way in which the media "re-presents" the world around us in the form of signs and codes for audiences to read.
StarA person who has become so famous, both for doing their job (actor, sport player) and appearing in many sorts of media, that their image is instantly recognisable as a sign, with a whole range of meanings or significations eg - David Beckham's image represents a whole raft of meanings: England, football, wealth, Posh, success, fashion victim, expertise, sexuality etc... Miley Cyrus is also a star but her image signifies youth, physical fitness, white (+associated stereotypical characteristics), singing, dancing, sexuality, fashion etc... A star's image becomes a readily recognised sign that is used in many different media forms - think of where you have seen pictures of Britney and Becks. Stars can use the fact that their image has meaning by allowing it to be used for advertising purposes.
Stereotype Stereotypes are representations of people that rely on preconceived ideas about the group that person is perceived as belonging to. It is assumed that an individual shares personal characteristics with other members of that group e.g. accountants are all boring. Although using stereotypes saves a lot of explanation within a text, it can be a very lazy method of characterisation. Stereotypes may be considered dangerous, as they encourage audiences to think large groups of people are all the same, and often have the same negative characteristics.
Text All media productions are described as texts, whether they have writing in them or not. A movie is a text, as is a magazine, a billboard ad, a radio jingle and a computer game. They are called texts because we 'read' them to decode their meaning.