Citizenship

The relationship between media and citizenship is contradictory and evolving. Since the rise of mass media, social scientists and critics have worried about its deleterious impact on democracy. Such concerns typically hinge on the assumption that commercial media trade on trivial pleasures, emotions, and consumer values that inhibit public participation in political affairs. However, mass media have also been understood as “citizen machines” (McCarthy 2010) that can be harnessed to guide and shape the citizenry (or segments of it) for democracy and public life—an agenda that gave rise to twentieth-century national public broadcasting systems (Ouellette 2002). The proliferation, fragmentation, and globalization of media culture in recent decades, and the development of new conceptual frameworks (such as cultural studies) to analyze it, have required a critical reevaluation of citizenship. While the marginalized and degraded state of “serious” news and public information remains a pressing concern for many, …

Gender

Looking back from the vantage point of the twenty-first century, early analysis of gender and media is notable for the extraordinary confidence of the analyses produced. Reviewing a decade of studies in the late 1970s, Gaye Tuchman (1978b) unequivocally titled her article “The Symbolic Annihilation of Women by the Mass Media” and wrote of how women were being destroyed by a combination of “absence,” “trivialization,” and “condemnation.” Such clear evaluations were not unique and were often accompanied by similarly robust calls to action—whether voiced as demands for more women in the industry, campaigns for “positive images,” or “guerrilla interventions” into billboard advertisements. Writing about this period of research on gender and the media, Angela McRobbie (1999) characterized it as one of “angry repudiation.”

By the late 1980s, this angry certainty had largely given way to something more equivocal and complex. As Myra Macdonald (1995) noted, one reason was that media …

Identity

Identity is an intriguing concept with a plurality of applications and meanings that make it attractive but also contested. Associated with questions such as “Who am I?” all the way to “Would I sacrifice for my community?” identity reflects multiple associations and dissociations, including, while not limited to, ethnicity, nationality, social class, gender, sexuality, and religion. One of the most influential concepts across social sciences and the humanities, identity has particular resonance to media and communications, especially as it raises important questions about media power: Is identity reflected or shaped in the media? What are the implications of media representations for different groups and their identities? Do media enhance understanding or hatred toward others? These questions have enduring relevance, but answering them has become increasingly complex, especially as media diversify, exposure to proximate and distant others expands, and digital connections—asymmetrically but effectively—manage spaces of belonging within and across physical boundaries.…

Labor

In its most common uses, the term “labor” refers to either an organized system of exploitation or a personal source of pleasure. “Slave labor” relies on unfree populations forced into servitude, while a “labor of love” is a gift that an individual freely gives. These two usages are frequently conjoined, conflated, or compared to simply “work.” The orthodoxies that insist on using the word “labor” over “work” are less important than ways in which the word is deployed in these seemingly contradictory ways to explain centuries of media production and their producers.

On the one hand, media labor refers to a human productive capacity. The ability to communicate, while universal to all, has a special aura in relation to media industries and their specialized technologies. Beyond simply the application of skills, media labor implies a process of self-actualization for workers to construct particular kinds of identities in society (Mayer

Queer

Queer media is an emergent category acknowledging that media forms, from film and television to an ever expanding digital sphere, are no longer just “playing to Peoria” (and the many Peorias since established) as the standard of demographic normalcy and desirability. The early 2000s saw the emergence of LGBTQ-focused programming on cable networks like Logo, and gave rise to Bravo as the unofficial home for queer programming ever since it turned queer eyes to straight guys. More recently, queer methods for storytelling have come to prominence on streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix (which launched queer shows like Transparent), and social media sites like YouTube and Instagram, which provide platforms for queer and transgender people to auto-document their lives, struggles, and transitions. In short, queer niches have sprouted up across the media landscape since the beginning of the new millennium, even as LGBTQ characters have become more prevalent on …

Race

Race is a legal, social, and cultural invention rather than given in nature, and the knowledge of race and its deployment are exercises of power expressed in the encounter among groups for control over resources. The social construction of race trains our focus on the practices of race, including the terms of its creation, deployment, and enforcement as a mode of group subordination and regulation. Race as a technique of power identifies arbitrary differences such as skin color, hair texture, nose and eye shapes, and thinness of lips as sites of knowledge (classification, hierarchy, and value) about variations in human intelligence, capacity, creativity, development, indeed what it means to be human (Goldberg 2009; Wynter 2003). Constructionism provides an indispensable critical beginning (rather than endpoint) for thinking about the nature of racial knowledge taking shape today.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century racial projects depended on social and cultural inventions as …

Space

Space means “denoting time or duration” and “area or extension” (Oxford English Dictionary). Media are often credited with the annihilation of space in both of these senses through their collapse of time/duration and compression of distance (Harvey 1989). Yet, media also constitute and produce space, symbolically and materially. Media are fundamentally disorienting and orienting—dislodging us, helping us navigate, and producing space simultaneously.

The possibility to transcend time/space was an early promise of mass media. Newspapers emerged amid the desire to bridge distances to bring news from colonies to ensure the success of the imperial mission (Warner 1990). Television too promised a “window to the world,” providing increasingly suburbanized audiences what Raymond Williams (1974) called “mobile privatization,” or the ability to both travel and stay put. Today, we are enjoined to view the Internet, mobile phones, and social media as creating a global world of …

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