Media theory: beyond the dualities of form & content, critical & enthusiastic, real & fake

13Dec11

Posted on December 7th, 2011 by Alan N. Shapiro
On January 26, 2012, I will give a lecture in the Speakers’ Series of the Centre for the Study of Theory, Culture and Politics at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Trent University Centre for the Study of Theory, Culture and Politics

My topic is: “Media theory: beyond the dualities of form and content, critical and enthusiastic, real and fake.”

Here are some excerpts from my notes for this lecture:

The critique of binary oppositions or dualisms articulated by Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction and by Buddhism has important implications for media theory and its future. Media studies has operated with a binary opposition between deep thinkers like Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard who disparaged content and believed that “the medium is the message” and ordinary practitioners who wrote about content but in a way rather uninformed by theory.

A second major binary opposition is that between the study of the so-called “entertainment” media (like film and TV shows) and the so-called “news” media (politics and current events).

A third major binary opposition is that between taking a critical attitude towards popular media and mass culture – as did the thinkers of the Frankfurt School of Critical Social Theory like Theodor W. Adorno – and a purely enthusiastic attitude, as do almost all of the technology and media commentators within the mainstream culture.

A fourth major binary opposition is that between real and fake. In order to address the heart of the matter of this “real versus fake” epistemological problem, one would have to talk about something like sex chat rooms. Personally I have had very little experience in sex chat rooms. As a sociologist, I believe in the participant-observation research method. Since I have not done that systematically in sex chat rooms, I cannot draw any legitimate scientific conclusions. My impression is that the people in these chat rooms and online virtual worlds like Second Life can be divided into two groups, with respect to the question of real and fake. Read the rest at http://tinyurl.com/6mhgwzy .

About Alan Shapiro: http://www.alan-shapiro.com/about/

Comment: It is entirely erroneous to suggest that either Harold Innis or Marshall McLuhan “disparaged content” just because of McLuhan’s much misunderstood aphorism that “the medium is the message”. As a lifelong Professor of English Literature and Cambridge student of I.A. Richards and F.R. Leavis, that would have been entirely against the grain. Content is what we read books for and why we watch, listen to and interact with electronic media. However, over time it is the cumulative transformational effects of media, more than any of the content they carry, that change the world. That is what McLuhan is getting at in his phrase, which neither negates content or considers it to be of no importance……AlexK

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