Commodity-Image System

At its most basic definition, a commodity is an object that is bought or sold in our society. The commodity image system is referring to the process of advertising of these objects and how advertising processes affect our culture. Sut Jhally is a professor at Amherst who wrote “Image Based Culture” in 1990. He says that the idea of a society based in a commodity image system means that the advertising that we create shows us a better life. It leads us to believe that we can receive self-validation from the things that we buy based on the advertiser’s success in convincing us. The things we buy can give us happiness and a better life. He also explains that “the development of tv ensured that images were our primary commercial mode of communication”.  Advertising has taught us to comprehend these images for their benefit as well. The inclusion of more third world countries has contributed to the spread of this system.  (Jhally 1990). Later Jhally uses this concept to talk about how the resources in our world are affected (Daniel 1999). The example that he uses in the article is of a diamond rings meaning to our portrayal of a relationships value. We have been taught that the diamond is a symbol elizabethof our love for our spouse. However, it is not a natural human concept if not for the advertising that we have created that has taught us that “a diamond is forever.” He highlights the transition from an agrarian society to industrialization which has encouraged the transition in advertising to a commodity image system (Jhally 1990). This transition has created the commodity image system in which we are surrounded by images of our potential future and dreams which can be achieved by buying the products advertised.

References

Daniel, B. (1999). ADVERTISING AND THE END OF THE WORLD Sut Jhally. The Radical Teacher, (57), 34.

Jhally, S. (1990). Image based culture: advertising and pop culture. The World and I. Article 17591. http://www.worldandilibrary.com.

Image attribution: CCO commons, no attribution needed

Written by Elizabeth Bergstrom, 2017

Communications Act of 1934

The Communications Act of 1934 was passed on June 19, 1934, during the presidency ofmax Franklin D. Roosevelt. The means of this Act was for the Government to regulate telephone, telegraph, radio and other broadcasting forms for the public. Through this Act, the United States Government demanded that those licensed to broadcast do so with the intent of, “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” coming directly from the Act (M.G.F 1935). The Communications Act of 1934 also created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which replaced the Federal Radio Commission.

The Communications Act of 1934 is broken down into six main sections. The first section of this Act includes the creation of the FCC, along with the purpose of creating the Act. Quoted from the first section on the Communications Act of 1934, this section is “For the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States…” (United States, 1989). This meant that public information was going to be rapidly spread throughout the United States with the help of the new broadcasting standards implemented.

The second section of the Act deals with the common carrier regulations. This created a set of requirements providers had to abide by when providing telecommunication services, along with a competitive market between providers, making the costs of services lower for consumers. The third section pertains to radio communication and defining wired communication. This gave licensing rights to broadcasting stations from the government. Finally, the last three sections all deal with procedural provisions and penalties for controlled agencies if they do not follow their rules and regulations, as well as miscellaneous information to bring the Communications Act of 1934 to a close (M.G.F. 1935).

max 2Hurwitz (1991) describes just how important the Communications Act of 1934 really is for America. He claims that the Act stayed around through the entire technology revolution, mostly in part to its flexibility. The Act gives power to the Federal Communications Commission, but in very loose terms. For example, the quote, “public interest, convenience, and necessity” has a very broad meaning, which allows them to expand on it, under reasonable terms. Not having a clear definition of this phrase caused courts and other officials to argue that it would be unconstitutional for the government to use its licensing power without a clearly defined definition (Brotman, 2017). This also means that the Act is not constricted in any way, which allowed the document to be amended if need. Creating this Act gave the government a basic outline for later acts to come such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The Communications Act of 1934 played a significant role in American society with the communications networks expanding. While these networks expanded, the Federal Communications Commission’s influence expanded alongside. The largest role that the Communications Act of 1934 played on the American people was accessible media throughout the country, and the rapid spread of it through public broadcasting services, which were overlooked by the government. Lastly, it made media and news affordable to all people by creating competition between service providers, in an effort to not leave anyone out (Brotman, 2017).

References

Brotman, S. N. (2017). Revisiting the broadcast public interest standard in communications law and regulation. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/revisiting-the-broadcast-public-interest-standard-in-communications-law-and-regulation/

Hurwitz, L. (1991). The Journal of American History, 77(4), 1469-1470. doi:10.2307/2078442

M. G. F. (1935). Communications Act of 1934. Virginia Law Review, 21(3), 318-325. doi:10.2307/1067097

United States. (1989). Compilation of the Communications Act of 1934 and related provisions of law: including Communications Act of 1934, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, selected provisions from the United States Code. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.: For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain

Written by Max Hammond, 2017

Conflict-Orientated Journalism

Conflict oriented journalism is a term that exists through the continuous evolution of newspapers. Conflict oriented journalism is one of 8 approaches to journalism used in today’s newspapers. It is more of a modern journalistic approach that is more commonly used in today’s newspapers. This type of journalism is defined as front-page news that is often defined primarily as events, issues, or experiences that deviate from social norms (Campbell 2017). Conflict journalism differs from consensus journalism because consensus focuses more on local news, and presents information on issues that are not as big or worthy of national attention. Under conflict oriented journalism, journalist see their role not merely as natural fact gathers but also as observes who monitor their city’s institutions and problems (Campbell 2017).

Conflict oriented journalism is only found in regional and national newspapers. This is the front-page news that deviates from social norms because this type of journalism talks about events and issues that can have an impact on everyone in a region, or is a topic that is large enough that can have a significant effect on a whole nation. For example, major news companies such as The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, The LA Times, and the Post-Gazette are all newspapers companies that cover large, significant events and issues that deviate from social norms. These newspaper companies publish articles that are usually more important to society. For example, conflict oriented journalism articles will discuss major political news, natural disasters, and even the major sports stories. There will not be many articles on local school stories, local roads, or stories about events that are taken place in a small community. Conflict oriented journalism, as modern newspapers, believe their role in large cities is to keep a wary eye fixed on recent local and state intrigue and events (Campbell 2017).

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This photo by Matt York was taken on Oct. 1, which shows members of the 49ners kneeling before their game against the Arizona Cardinals

Conflict oriented journalism is found in major newspaper companies, but the journalist who make up these articles are journalist who aim at presenting an issue to the public, and allow them to pick a side in whatever the issue is. The journalist in conflicted oriented journalism disengage themselves and leave out their opinion on the specific matter. This results in allowing a reader to choose how he or she would like to pick what they believe is right. Conflict oriented journalism is so wide spread because it shares and discusses national and international coverage. By having the ability to share events and issues on national and international news suggests that there are only a small group of these major newspaper companies that have this type of popularity.

Conflict oriented journalism is seen in Liam Dillon’s article called, “Majority of Californians disagree with President Trump’s handling of NFL protests”. Dillion’s article talks about the protests that have been occurring during the national anthem before NFL games by African American players. The NFL protest was started by Colin Kaepernick over a year ago, who is a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

The issue that is being highlighted by Dillion is that NFL players want to have freedom to protest and fight for racial inequality and police brutality. On the other side, Dillion (2017) shares President Trump feelings about NFL players protesting. These two sides of the issue portray conflict oriented journalism because the journalist talks about the two different viewpoints, and allows the reader to choose which one they believe in. For NFL players, kneeling during the national anthem is bigger than football. For players, it’s about equality, and stopping police brutality on African Americans. According to a poll, it found 38% opposed and 33% supported (Dillon 2017). The poll highlights that many people were against players kneeling during the anthem. These same people feel the players are showing disrespect to the American flag. Players have announced that kneeling has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag, but kneel to support the campaign against social injustices (Dillon 2017).

Kaepernick, along with other players, feel there is no point in standing if Americans don’t go by what the lyrics in the national anthem say. For players, it’s all about justice and equality for African Americans. President Donald Trump had a different approach to the protest. He made it clear that he completely opposed NFL players kneeling during the national anthem before games. President Trump took to twitter, and elevated this issue during a political rally when he called on the NFL commissioner to fire any player who didn’t stand during the anthem, arguing the protests were offensive (Dillon 2017). Trumps comments on the protest caused a major divided between blacks and some whites. Bob Shrum, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said blacks feel very strongly about this. Republicans have taken the lead from Trump and they feel strongly about it. And overall, you have people very much divided (Dillon 2017). President Trump had not only bashed NFL players for protesting, but he also divided the country by leading republicans to believe what he thought was right.

Some disagreed with President Trumps handling on the protests. However, others in America agreed with his tactics. Dillion (2017) explained how 57 percent of those surveyed believed Trump should have never acted this way towards NFL players. Only 18% of Americans supported President Trumps beliefs in calling out NFL players (Dillon 2017). This poll suggests that no matter what he says, Trump will always have a following behind him. Throughout the 2017-18 NFL season, players have continuously protested the national anthem, with an increase in white players kneeling as well. However, there has still been a significant divide between President Trump and NFL players. Dillon presents the facts and issues, explaining President Trumps side, and the NFL players side. Conflict oriented journalism is so important because it allows readers to choose which side of an issue they want to take, without having the personal opinions of the journalist.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. 251-286. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Dillon, L. (2017, November 12). Majority of Californians disagree with President Trump’s handling of NFL protests. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-nfl-protests-poll-20171112-story.html

Image Attribution: The image used in this post is from Matt York and the Associated Press.

Written by G. Austin Allen, 2017

Consensus-Orientated Journalism

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Chestertown, Maryland’s local newspaper

Consensus oriented journalism is generally found in smaller local newspapers. This particular type of journalism in usually found in small communities, newspapers that promote social and economic harmony by providing community calendars, and meeting notices (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Forbes 2017). Also, some of these articles talk about local schools, social events, town government, property crimes, and zoning issues (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Forbes 2017). Similar to an earlier time in American History, small newspapers are sometimes owned by business leaders who may also serve as local politicians (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Forbes 2017). Consensus oriented journalism papers have a small advertising base, so they are generally careful not to offend local advertisers (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Forbes 2017). They do not want to offend the local advertisers, because they finance a lot of the costs for these papers. The goal of these papers is to foster a sense of community, but at their worst, they overlook or downplay discord and problems.

For example, in an article written by the Chestertown Spy titled “Dickens of a Christmas” (Spy Desk 2017) The article talks about the excitement of bringing Victorian London and the spirit of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale, “A Christmas Carol”. This article would be considered consensus oriented journalism, because it is in a local newspaper, the topic is on a social event, and the article brings social harmony and excitement to the community.

shane 2

UMD’s campus newspaper

Furthermore, in an article titled “UMD Graduate Student Government elects new president after impeaching the last one” in the Diamondback Newspaper, which is University of Maryland’s newspaper (Fortson 2017). They talk about a meeting that took place in order to find a new president, after the first president was caught misusing the funds. They student government body elected Michael Goodman a second-year doctorate student as their new president. This would be considered consensus oriented journalism because the article is in a relatively small newspaper. Also, because the article talks about meeting that was held, and everyone in the meeting agreed that there had to be a new president put in place immediately.

In conclusion, consensus oriented journalism is generally found in small local newspapers that promote social and economic harmony. Usually, these articles support their advertisers’ beliefs because they do not want to lose the funding that is coming into the newspaper, so it is not shut down. Sometimes these newspapers are also owned by business leaders, therefore, the beliefs of the owners are also taken into consideration when it comes to writing an article. The goal of these articles is to come up with a general consensus on a topic and write a positive article regarding it. These articles also are typically written about local schools, sporting events, town meetings, zoning issues, town government, and also property crimes. Consensus oriented journalism is a good way to get the majorities opinion across to an entire community, and to let people know what is happening in the community.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & culture: mass communication in a digital age. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, Macmillan Learning.

“Dickens of a Christmas” Brings Victorian Fun Dec. 1-3. (n.d.). Retrieved December 05, 2017, from http://chestertownspy.org/2017/12/01/dickens-of-a-christmas-brings-victorian-fun-dec-1-3/

Noah Fortson “UMD Graduate Student Government elects new president after impeaching the last one.” Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://www.dbknews.com/2017/12/04/umd-gsg-president-new-impeach-elect/

Image Attribution: Both images used in this post are in the Public Domain

Written by Shane Silk, 2017

Critical Race Media Studies

Critical race media studies is defined as the interventionist research frame, with methodological variability, that examines the intersections of culture, race, law, and power in the media. The creation of Critical Race Media Studies comes from the combination of Critical Race Theory and Media Studies.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power (Gordon 2006). CRT began in the 1980’s by the early work of Alan Freeman and Derrick Bell as a response to critical legal studies, a critical theory school whose beliefs were that laws are used to maintain society’s power structures and class systems (Oremus 2012). CRT has a complete understanding that racism is built in the system of American culture and society (Gordon 2006). The goal of those who work with CRT is to expose the roots and preservation of white supremacy and employ in social justice.

As the world constantly makes new advancements in technology and creative endeavors, media continues to have positive and negative effects on race. It is a social construction that is incorrectly thought of as a universal or essential category of biology. Media does an excellent job of producing meanings of race and structuring the way the world understands race, whether positive or negative.

Impacts of Media on Race

While some see her as a complete detriment to the image of women of color and the success of black culture, Beyoncé Knowles (American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress) has become an icon and has arguably had one of the largest effects on race through the media she produces. Throughout her career, Knowles has released numerous projects that have inspired the minds of African Americans and boosted the integrity of black culture. “When Beyoncé speaks, people listen” said Washington Post markreporter Andrea Peterson when discussing Beyoncé’s powerful effect on the Black Lives Matter movement (Peterson 2016). Beyoncé’s online presence has incredible results. Her Instagram account has 77 million followers and she uses the social media platform to address constant dilemmas with racial inequalities in America. (Peterson 2016). One of her latest music videos titled “Formation” was filled with inspirational messages and themes that deal with overcoming racial discriminations (Wortham Morris Caramanica 2016). New York Times titled their review of the music video “Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both?” (2016).

Black Twitter is another example of a media that has a positive effect on race. Black Twitter is a cultural identity on Twitter, and social media platform, that focuses on issues in the black community. One of the most recent examples of Black Twitter’s effect on race is the response to the announcement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement. Meghan Markle will become the first African American to join the Royal family. After the news, Black Twitter immediately expressed its enthusiasm and positivity towards the engagement (Fischer 2017). This link shows several posts and reactions towards the engagement.

Media has had an incredibly large effect on the preservation of stereotypes that exists in modern day America. Since the 1990’s, shows such as “In Living Color” and “Martin” have had many negative effects to race and the stereotypes that exists in America. While they have proven to be entertaining and popular during their times, these shows confuse ignorant viewers on certain aspects of race. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Derrick Adams, African American artists on black culture, claims that “There’s nothing wrong with featuring so many over-the-top personalities, but for some people watching these shows, that’s the only representation of black people they have. These characters become representations of the black personality” (Frank 2016). Shows such as these, that deal with over exaggerated African American characters, reinforce stereotypes of black culture that have the ability to negatively affect race relations and the overall goal of racial equality.

References

Caramanica, J Morris, W and Wortham, J (2016, February 06). Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both? Retrieved December 6, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/arts/music/beyonce-formation-super-bowl-video.html

Fischer,M (2017, November 28th) Twitter is already celebrating its Black ‘princess’ Meghan Markle.  Retrieved December 5, 2017, from http://www.revelist.com/internet/black-princess-meghan-markle/10619

Frank, P. (2016, June 16). Artist Explores The Vibrant, Complex History Of Blackness On Television. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/artist-explores-the-vibrant-complex-history-of-blackness-on-television_us_5761be5ee4b09c926cfe1423

Gordon, L. (2006, August 26). Backup of A Short History of the ‘Critical’ in Critical Race Theory. Retrieved December 05, 2017, from https://web.archive.org/web/20120301005859/http://www.habermas.org/critraceth01bk.htm

Oremus, W. (2012, March 09). How Radical Was that Law Professor Obama Hugged? Retrieved December 6, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/03/derrick_bell_
controversy_what_s_critical_race_theory_and_is_it_radical_.html

Peterson, A. (2016, July 10). Beyoncé is a powerful voice for Black Lives Matter. Some people hate her for it. Retrieved December 05, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/07/10/beyonce-is-a-powerful-voice-for-black-lives-matter-some-people-hate-her-for-it/?utm_term=.2bed192c08d9

Race & Ethnicity. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.criticalmediaproject.org/cml/topicbackground/race-ethnicity/

Image Attribution: The image used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Mark Christie, 2017

Cult Media

Cult media is a term that exists through the continuous evolution of its own definition. Although there exists no one fixed definition of cult media, several influential scholars have defined sets of criteria that function as a working definition of cult, which include the overlapping categories of audiences (Jenkins 1992, Janvocivh 2002), knowledge/trivia (Hills 2003, Hunt 2003), reception and practice (Hills 2002 and 2007, Jancovich and Hunt 2004, Sconce 1995), identification (Eco 1985, Jenkins 1992, Telotte 1991), and taste cultures (Bourdieu 1973 and 1984, Thornton 1996).

Eco (1985) produced the foundational cult classification system, outlining the baseline criteria functioning to transform a text into a cult text. First, the text must provide a fully developed world, allowing audiences the ability to quote pieces of that world, developing trivia games as an expression of their knowledge around the text. Secondly, the narrative and characters in the text should demonstrate some type of archetypal appeal, which allows for various levels of identification and association among audiences. Thirdly, the text should contain some level of imperfection, which lends itself to an alternate type of valuation.

Fourth, the text should have the ability to be broken apart, allowing for pieces to become unhinged from the whole. Audiences can then utilize those pieces as a type of selective memory around the text, and they can also use them as the building blocks for additional, and personalized, engagement. And lastly, the text should display a multitude of ideas, exhibiting a messy coherence, which can extend beyond its ideology to its actual production. From this basic matrix, Eco works to construct a type of classification system for texts who verge on cult status, as well as providing a framework for further theoretical development.

Le Guern (2004) takes this classification system and refocuses it to highlight the importance of the audience in the cult making process, and the affirmation that to assign anything as ‘cult’ automatically expresses a value judgment. This judgment is underscored by the privileged position granted to oppositional readings, as well as through the expression of cultural preference activated by placing the text into the cult

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The adoration heaped on Ed Wood’s classically terrible film Plan 9 From Outer Space is an example of  Telotte’s concept of cultists rebelling against mainstream taste culture.

canon (Telotte 1991). This positions cult texts as pleasurable transgressions against normative taste cultures.

It is specifically this transgressive appreciation as an act of independence against established taste cultures that works to draw audiences to cult media products. He says: “Cultists might well be said to love such differences, for to them they suggest something unusual, noteworthy, and valuable not just about the movies, but about their own character, too” (Telotte, 1991: 5). This demonstrates how cult audiences draw pleasure not only from transgressing traditional tastes cultures, but also by utilizing them as markers of identity creation.

This is valuation of transgression as an expression of the cultural capital of both the text and its audiences is a key factor in the epistemology of cult (Le Guern 2004). What differs between Eco and Le Guern is the latter’s focus on the role of the audience, rather than on the formal aspects of the text, which create it as cult. This audience based emphasis will become a critical component for contemporary iterations of the idea of cult texts.

Jenkins is perhaps the most well-known scholar to take up the mantle of audience empowerment and participation. Jenkins (1992) focuses on the participation of audiences as fans. Participation is what works to define media as cult; simply, it is what the fans do with the text that defines said texts as cult or not (Jenkins 1992). What they ‘do’ can be defined across a wide spectrum, but all of their actions rest on some kind of participation within a broader fan community. This emphasis on audience participation, both physical, emotional, and psychological, is the deciding factor on creating cult for theorists like Le Guern and Jenkins.

Matt Hills (2002) continues the exploration of the role of the audience in creating cult texts. Hills determines that cult status is often linked to an overly romanticized ideology, which views cult status through the lens of ‘uniqueness’ or ‘art’ (via auteur appreciation), which echoes Telotte and Le Guern’s claims of value (Hills 2002). In line with Eco, he sees a text’s messy coherence, which he defines as an endlessly deferred narrative, as critical to establishing something as cult. The endlessly deferred narrative allows for continued and uninterrupted fan participation and affect, creating and recreating the cult object.

References

Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (R. Nice, Trans.) New York and London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. (1973) Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction. In R. Brown (Ed.), Knowledge, Education, and Cultural Change (71-99). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Eco, U. (1985) Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage. SubStance, 14:2, 3-12.

Hills, M.. (2007). Para-Paracinema: The Friday the 13th Film Series as Other to Trash and Legitimate Film Cultures. In J. Sconce (Ed.), Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics (219-239). Durham: Duke University Press.

Hills, M. (2002). Fan Cultures. London and New York: Routledge.

Hills, M. (2003). Star Wars in Fandom, Film Theory, and the Museum: The Cultural Status of the Cult Blockbuster. In J. Stringer (Ed.), Movie Blockbusters (178-189). London and New York: Routledge.

Hunt, N. (2003). The Importance of Trivia: Ownership, Exclusion, and Authority in Science Fiction Fandom.” In M. Jancovich, A. Lázaro Reboll and A. Willis (Eds.), Defining Cult Movies: The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Taste (185-201). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Jancovich, M. (2002). Cult Fictions: Cult Movies, Subcultural Capital and the Production of Cultural Distinctions. Cultural Studies, 16:2, 306-322.

Jancovich, M. and N. Hunt. (2004). The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV. In S. Gwenllian-Jones and R. Pearson (Eds.), Cult Television (27-44). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. London and New York: Routledge.

Le Guern, P. (2004). Toward a Constructivist Approach to Media Cults. In S. Gwenllian-Jones and R. Pearson (Eds.), Cult Television (3-25). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sconce, J. (1995). Trashing the Academy: Taste, Excess, and an Emerging Politics of Cinematic Style. Screen, 36:4, 371-392.

Telotte, J.P. (1991). Beyond All Reason: The Nature of the Cult. In J.P. Telotte (Ed.), The Cult Film Experience: Beyond All Reason (5-17). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Thornton, S. (1996) Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press.

Image Attribution: The image used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Dr. Alicia Kozma, 2017.

Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies is an academic discipline stemming from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Cultural Studies has its roots in post-World War II Britain, beginning with the Centre’s formation in 1963 (Murphy, 1992).  Under a definition provided by the Center itself in early literature, Cultural Studies can be defined as “an interdisciplinary field which deals with all aspects of culture in relation to social, political and historical development and change” (Murphy, 1992, p. 35).

Patrick 1

University of Birmingham

According to academic Karma R. Chávez (2009), the Centre was established at the University of Birmingham, England under Raymond Williams and director Richard Hoggart, eventually to be succeeded by the Stuart Hall. Hall is often considered one of the most influential names within the field, as Chávez notes, “Under Hall’s leadership, the CCCS shifted its focus from ‘everyday’ cultures to an emphasis on the mass media and the ideological functions and effects of the media” (p. 2). Because of the political dynamic, as broadened and emphasized by Hall, Cultural Studies has continued to be a distinctly interventionist and political academic field, with critics like Frederic Jameson (1993) noting, “the Right seems to have understood that the project and the slogan of Cultural Studies (whatever that may be) constitutes a crucial target in its campaign and virtually a synonym for ‘political correctness’” (p. 17).

Cultural Studies as academic tradition “develops in direct relationship to the history of Marxism” as well as being greatly informed by “structuralist and poststructuralist” (Murphy, 1992, p. 33). The primarily functional means through which Cultural Studies engages with media is through what is known was textual analysis. As Chávez (2009) puts it, “in cultural studies, a text can refer to a written text, but it is more often used to refer to any artifact that requires reading or interpretation” (p. 4). As opposed to literary analysis, a text open for textual analysis can be any piece of media, from a musical album to a video game, but with the emphasis being placed primarily on pop cultural artifacts. Through textual analysis, questions of identities like class, gender, sexuality, and race can all be engaged with through a wide array of media.

Patrick 2Similarly, in a manner influenced by the fields sociological history, Cultural Studies can also encompass broader analysis of media trends. An example of this kind of Cultural Studies can be seen in Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. In Subculture, Hebdige (1979) presents ways for looking at the political power of youth subcultures in England by observing communities like Black immigrants and white working-class punks, contextualizing their relationships within Marxist and sociological frameworks.

The methodological flexibility of Cultural Studies has, however, often been a point of criticism in other academic disciplines. Critics of the field like physicist Alan Sokal and literary critic Harold Bloom have criticized Cultural Studies as lacking a defined methodological approach and instead functioning as detrimental to other fields, like literary studies (Chávez, 2009). Even within Cultural Studies, academics like Marxist critic Frederic Jameson (1993) have to some degree criticized the emphasis on the theoretical as opposed to the practical within the field.  However, as Jameson also writes, if Cultural Studies is to “be seen as the expression of a projected alliance between various social groups, then its rigorous formulation as an intellectual or pedagogical enterprise may not be quite so important as some of its adherents feel,” as that the sense of shared dialectical purpose eclipses the necessity for uniformity (p.17). Cultural Studies remains an expanding interdisciplinary undertaking united by shared purpose rather than shared methodology, both to praise and detraction, externally and internally.

References

Chávez, K. (2009) Cultural studies. In S.W. Littlejohn and K.A. Foss (eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, 1-8. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The meaning of style. London: Routledge.

Jameson, F. (1993). On “cultural studies”. Social Text, (34), 17-52. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/466353

Murphy, P. (1992). Cultural studies as praxis: a working paper. College Literature, 19(2), 31-43. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25111965

Image Attribution: Image 1 is in the public domain; Image 2 “The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies” by Diane Griffiths, CC BY 2.0

Written by Patrick Lindsay, 2018