Another year and the same old question resurfaces; why exactly is studying the media important?
Manuel Alvarado, one of the early supporters of media in education, said it best when he essentially said that we should study the media simply because it exists. How many people do you know that haven’t ever read a newspaper, watched a television show/film or been on the internet? It is something that is heavily integrated in to all of our lives.
There are, however, many other more “academic” reasons for studying the media. The first main reason is that we can learn a lot about society because the media is in some ways a reflection of society. We created the media in its many forms and we therefore put a part of ourselves within it. It is a record of our civilisation now as it is (and has been) and also of how we perceive the world. It is a time capsule of sorts; only one we don’t have to wait to dig up.
The media is also not only a reflection of the society which creates it but also a tool for propaganda and control of that society. From early in history world leaders knew this and used it to their advantage. For example; propaganda film: “The Eternal Jew” in Nazi Germany or even the earliest considered propaganda the Behistun Inscription (c. 515 bc). It is important in this respect to learn about the media because then we can learn to make a distinction between propaganda and “truth”.
It could also be argued that without the media civil rights movements past and present would go absolutely no where. Take a look, for example, at the “Arab Spring” and “Occupy” protests currently happening. The world is changing and the media is at the forefront of this revolution. Through this new form of social media these ideas spread and people were able to form their own versions of these movements locally. It can be argued that the government, the police and the corporations are at the top of our society. Social media gives us a new platform to criticise and analyse their behaviour. For example; police brutality has been well documented on youtube and blogging platforms. Both sides of the picture are now being shown.
On the other side of the coin traditional media is still clinging to its old ways. The Occupy protests originally were not covered in great detail, if mentioned at all. There was for some time a media blackout surrounding them. This shows so clearly the power of the few (those who own the media corporations) have over the majority. One such clear example is that of Rupert Murdoch and his huge media empire. He has often been accused of undermining British Democracy and criticised for close relationships with PM’s and MP’s alike. Without the general population knowing how this works nothing can be changed. After all this is supposed to be a democracy.
Above all the media has revolutionised our lives. Nothing will ever be the same again.
And finally; if that doesn’t convince you maybe this will. Media studies contains: history, geography, civics, literature, business, language, science and technology, philosophy, psychology, art and politics.