Access

“Access” is usually understood to refer to the opportunity, ability, or right to gain entry to a space or possession of a thing. One of the most common formulations is to have access to a given object, action, or context. Discussions of media access have followed this usage, in terms of gaining access to the means of production, granting access to positive or realistic representations, enabling access to telecommunications networks and mass media content. Typically, media access is prioritized in matters related to news, politics, and economics, while it is less commonly made relevant to discussions of entertainment or social media.

“Access” has a positive and positivist bent; each of the examples above presupposes that it is beneficial for people to have access, and that access is a discrete state that can be identified and achieved. Given these tendencies, it is unsurprising that the use of “access” in media policies …

Aesthetics

The most common meaning of “aesthetics” today associates it with beauty. We use this term to refer to principles and techniques to make something beautiful, and to our experiences of that beauty. It comes from the ancient Greek aisthetikos, which meant “esthetic, sensitive, sentient, pertaining to sense perception”; that word was derived from aisthanesthai, meaning “I perceive, feel, sense.”

Many human cultures developed explicit principles and rules to be used in order to achieve beauty. Such principles may concern proportion, symmetry, harmony, composition, use of colors, narrative organization, and so on. In between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in the West, many philosophers developed theories of aesthetic experience, while art academies were teaching artists the practical principles to make beautiful artworks. In the twentieth century, such prescriptive aesthetic systems became less important, but some principles remain widely used (such as Euclid’s golden ratio). Modernist photographers, artists, and architects …

Affect

The concept of affect has opened up the study of media practices and technologies as carriers and mechanisms that articulate, direct, intensify, and orient feeling within context-specific social and political configurations. Affect theory provides a way into these configurations, by rethinking and privileging the felt aspects of everyday life, social change, and durable structures of power, in their (in some cases) nonrepresentational aspects. In studying affect, scholars aim to analyze what is not typically accounted for in media studies: how things feel, for whom, and with what potential. As Terri Senft (forthcoming) puts it, the concerns of affect theory exceed what can easily be located in the traditional study of meaning, representation, symbols, and signs.

In The Affect Theory Reader, Melissa Gregg and Greg Seigworth define affect as “what arises in the midst of inbetweenness, in the capacities to act and be acted upon.” It is the term …

Appropriation

When everyday people talk about appropriation, they use words such as “theft” and “rape”—often speaking about how their favorite artist was pirated. These same terms are used to describe the dilemma of intellectual property—downloading and hook snatching reminiscent of a time not so long ago, when those who paid homage (the Beatles) and those who didn’t (Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones) were endemic to how entertainment industries operated. Scandals such as payola in radio, voice-overs in film, black music video exclusion in cable, and reality television in general link to greed but also tie directly to the undergirding notion that if you do not have the means or foresight to copyright your work, or an audience valued by advertisers to protest, your work becomes an unintended category of fair use. Moreover, even when the work is protected, some lives, cultural producers, and cultures appear to matter …

Assemblage

“Assemblage” is the common English translation of the French term agencement, used by philosopher Gilles Deleuze and radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari to theorize the arrangement and organization of a variety of heterogeneous elements (1975/1986, 1980/1987). The concept of assemblage has proved generative in media studies in its articulation of both the discursive and material aspects of media, and in its consideration of media as arrangements of humans and nonhumans.

It is important to note that Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to philosophy is one that emphasizes immanence over transcendence, multiplicity over individuality, and becoming over being. Assemblages are not static structures but events and multiplicities; they do not reproduce or represent particular forms but rather forms are expressed and each expression is the emergence of something creative and new.

Assemblages have four dimensions. Along one axis the assemblage stratifies or articulates what Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) call collective assemblages of …

Audience

As Kate Lacey has observed, there is “an inescapable collectivity suggested by the word ‘audience’” (2013, 13–14). Indeed, Raymond Williams’s Keywords, despite not including the term, analyzes what might be meant by the audience within an entry on “masses,” conveying the cultural and political ambivalences that have historically surrounded the mass audience. The “masses,” we are told, can be “a term of contempt in much conservative thought, but a positive term in much socialist thought” (Williams 1976/1983, 192). Where the former has often viewed mass audiences as lacking in good taste, rationality, and expertise, the latter has instead thought of the mass as standing in for “the people” and the “popular,” that is, acting as a force for democracy. Sonia Livingstone argues that “in audience research, both meanings of audience retain some purchase” (2005, 23)—sometimes audiences represent a problem to be criticized, and sometimes they are a force to …

Author

By some measures, media studies has not had a strong tradition of foregrounding authorship, in comparison to literary and film studies’ robust and even contentious traditions. At times, those traditions have influenced media scholarship. But in analyses of television, video games, social media, transmedia, and other forms, some media scholars have set aside the preoccupation with singular authors that is commonplace throughout literary and film studies. In doing so, we have regularly instead made visible the interplay of corporate imprimatur, creative and technical personnel, and active audiences. And yet other media scholars have engaged with author theories in a limited manner, adapting them to television’s mode of production, and focusing on a small set of individual auteurs. Why is the author so categorically emphasized in regard to some media texts and products—and not others? That is, why is an author? Why has media studies taken approaches that differ …

Brand

The brand is typically understood as the cultural and emotional domain of a commercial product, or the cultural expression of a company or corporation (and increasingly of traditionally noncommercial entities, such as religious and nonprofit organizations). The brand is the recognizable, regularized, and standardized “message” of a company, the result of a complex “branding strategy” (often called marketing). The success of a brand often depends on its stability, and ability to maintain over time a coherent narrative and recognizable expression. In more economic terms, the brand is a way for a company or corporation to distinguish itself from the competition, a way of standing out in a clutter of advertising, marketing, and products. In the contemporary cultural context, branding is not limited to products, but ideologies, feelings, and the self are also branded (Banet-Weiser 2012).

While the brand is often associated with the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of mass …

Celebrity

By the time Caitlyn Jenner’s reality program, I Am Cait, premiered in the summer of 2015 featuring the athlete-cum-reality show star, she had already helped to instigate a national conversation about transgender lives. The celebrity phenomenon surrounding Jenner, which arguably mainstreamed the issue of transgender rights in ways that had not been done before, testifies to the cataclysmic reach of the celebrity platform, the increasingly convergent nature of media celebrity, and the imperative to grapple with how a proliferation of “no-holds-barred” access to stars has transformed the notion of twenty-first-century celebrity from earlier models.

The study of stardom and celebrity maintains a distinct but not fully integrated position in media studies, despite the centrality of fame to the production, distribution, and consumption of all media forms. Though scholarly accounts of stardom emerged almost as early as the discipline of film studies, the first scholarly journal devoted to the subject …

Censorship

For as long as humans and societies have communicated using media technologies, there have been measures to regulate media content. At their strongest, such controls have constituted censorship, defined as the restriction, suppression, or prohibition of forms of speech and media content deemed to be contrary to the common good. The word comes from the Latin censor, which referred to the officials in the Roman Empire who took the public census, and whose role was also to supervise public behavior and morals. While governments are not the only institutions that can engage in censorship, it has generally been connected to the government of social conduct and the security and protection of the state (M. Dean 2010).

The development of the printing press in the fifteenth century enabled the dissemination of printed works on a large scale. As this challenged the monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church over the production …

Pages · 1 2 3 6