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Media & Society (63059)

University of Western Sydney, Australia (kangaroo)

Aim: To develop an understanding of some topic areas of significance in the study of media and society and to situate oneself in relation to these topics.

Content: 1. The news and social control. 2. Advertising and the seductions of consumerism. 3. Community media and empowerment.

Staff: Peter McGregor, Hart Cohen, Ning Ma and Shane Hersey.

Week 1. Introduction: Discussion of lectures, assignments and screenings.

Readings: Introduction to Nightmare...and the spectacle...and cartoons.

Recommended: Cunningham, S. & Turner, G. (1997) Media in Australia.


Week 2. A political economy of the media: Question - Discuss Megalomedia's critique of where/how the media have gone wrong and McQueen's critique of the news in particular.

Readings: McQueen, H. (1997) Off the Press. Predator (1997) Cyberactivism.

Week 3. News values and agenda setting. Examine their operation in Mediawatch and Frontline.

Readings: definitions of news values and agenda setting. Jellie, D. (1998) 'Crime Time'.

Week 4. Propaganda model and doublespeak. Explain Herman & Chomsky's propaganda model. What may be meant by Carey by "taking the risk out of democracy"?

Readings: Schudson, M. (1991) Sociology of News Production Revisited. Carey, A. (1995) Taking the Risk out of Democracy.

Week 5. Construction of deviancy and systematically distorted communication. Discuss why crime can be considered the archetypal news story ('Crime Time'). How do Blue Murder and McCulloch challenge the archetype? Explore what may be "the fifth filter" (propaganda model) for domestic stories.

Readings: McCulloch, J. (1997) Behind the Headlines. Curtin, J. (1998) Blue Murder.


Week 6. Culture as the Ideal Commodity. Explain what it is that advertising agencies sell. What is meant by the notion that "culture is the ideal commodity"? Discuss Max Headroom as an example.

Readings: culture as the ideal commodity + ads in films; merchandising paradise and sport sponsorship.

Week 7. Needs and identities - the organisation of appearance. Explain Leiss' model of formats and frames. Discuss whether advertising creates needs (referring to Ways of Seeing).

Readings: Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. Leiss, W. et al (1990) Social Communication in Advertising.

Week 8. Age of Happiness. Explain what Vaneigem means by "the age of happiness" and of human relations as something more than exchange.

Readings: Vaneigem, R. (1967) 'The Age of Happiness' and 'Exchange and Gift'.

Week 9. Spectacle as separation perfected...What does Debord mean when he says that the spectacle is "a social relation among people, mediated by images", and that the "unification" it achieves is "nothing but an official language of generalised separation"? (perhaps refer to Are you in a Bad State and or Midge and Cindy or a specific spectacle such as The Olympic Games.

Readings: Debord, G. (1967) Separation Perfected. + Midge and Cindy Cartoon. Atwood, A. (1977) Football Crazy.


Week 10. Media as commodity versus communication. Discuss and compare Martin's case for abandoning the mass media and Brecht's exploration of media as two-way communication.

Readings: Martin, B. (1994) Beyond Mass Media. Brecht, B. (1930) Radio as a Means of Communication.

Week 11. Beyond spectatorship. Discuss the "politics of representation" (Langton) of Babakiueria with reference to Nigg and Wade's concepts of access, participation and intervention.

Readings: Nigg, H. & Wade, W. (1980) Community Media. Langton, M. (1993) Politics of Aboriginal Representation.

Week 12. Beyond sociology of domination. Discuss the significance of acknowledging diversity (Cunningham & Miller) as expressed in Lousy Little Sixpence, for the process of reconciliation (Bringing Them Home).

Readings: Cunningham, S. & Miller, T. (1994) Community TV and Diversity. HREOC (1997) Bringing Them Home.

Week 13. Construction of community and of community media. Discuss Cunningham's account of the construction of community (of the social capital that is generated in the telling-of-one's-own-story (Turner) through, for instance, Eddie Mabo.

Readings: Cunningham, S. (1997) Community Broadcasting and Civil Society. Turner, N. The Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjara Media Association.