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Article

Erica Scharrer and Yuxi Zhou

Media literacy refers to the ability to interact with media from a position of active inquiry, carefully considering media texts, the forces and factors that shape those texts, and the ways in which audiences interpret the texts or otherwise respond. Media access, use, creation, analysis, and evaluation skills are considered essential for citizenship in the contemporary world. Media literacy education encompasses efforts to advance media literacy within a group of individuals and spur their motivation to apply media literacy skills and perspectives in interactions with media. Yet, there are barriers that impede the widespread adoption of media literacy education in various global locations. There is disparity, for instance, in the degree to which local, regional, or national policies support media literacy education in schools as well as in the training, funding, or other resources available to educators. Considerable variability in the assumptions and objectives that scholars and practitioners bring to media literacy education has been identified. Some of that variability reflects differing emphases in Communication and Media Studies paradigms including whether media literacy education should be considered as a means of protecting children and adolescents from the potential for negative effects of media. Sometimes positioned as an alternative to a more protectionist approach, media literacy education can be viewed as a platform from which to encourage young people’s creative self-expression and to emphasize their (and others’) agency rather than vulnerability. The ways in which media literacy education is carried out and how and what is assessed to determine what such education can achieve differs, as well. In spite of these differences, there are overarching commonalities in media literacy conceptualization and empirical evidence that media literacy education can build skills necessary for citizenship in an increasingly media- and information-rich world.

Article

Earlier generations of Western scholars often regarded nonheterosexual desires, identities, and intimacies in Chinese-speaking contexts as marginalized, stigmatized, and silenced, if not completely invisible, in mainstream mediascapes and pop cultural spaces. However, in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone contexts, queer practices, images, and narratives voiced, either explicitly or implicitly, by media producers, performers, and consumers or fans who do not necessarily self-identify as LGBTQ are common and even proliferating. These manifestations of queer Chinese media and pop culture are diverse and widespread in both online and offline spaces. In the new millennium, with the rise of queer Asian, queer Chinese, and queer Sinophone studies, scholars have strived to move away from Euro-American-centric and Japanese-centric queer media studies and theories when examining queer Chinese-language media and cultural productions. In particular, a growing body of scholarship (in fields such as literary studies, cinema and television studies, and fan studies) has explored intersecting ways of reconceptualizing “queerness” and “Chineseness” to examine gender, sexual, and sociocultural minority cultures in Chinese-language public and pop cultural spaces. Some of the literature has usefully traced the history of the concepts “homosexuality” and “tongzhi” (comrade) in modern and contemporary China, as well as the transcultural transmission and mutations of the meanings of the English term “queer” (ku’er) in Chinese media studies. Differentiating these concepts helps clarify the theorization of and scholarly debates surrounding queer Chinese media and pop culture in the 21st century. A number of scholars have also troubled the meaning and the essentialized identity of “Chineseness” through a queer lens while decolonizing and de-Westernizing queer Chinese media and pop cultural studies. In addition, post-2010 scholarship has paid major attention to Chinese media censorship and regulations (with a close focus on the context of mainland China/the People’s Republic of China/PRC) concerning homosexual and queer content production, circulation, and consumption and how these have been circumvented in both traditional and online media spaces.

Article

Queer production studies is a subfield of production studies that specifically considers the significance of queer identity for media producers, particularly as it relates to the creation of LGBTQ content. Its emergence as a named subfield did not occur until 2018, but there have been studies of queer production prior to that. While general production studies scholarship has focused on industrial production, the scope of queer production studies includes not just production spanning commercial, public, and independent domains, but also fan production. Queer production studies often make use of interview and ethnographic methods to investigate how nonnormative gender and sexual expression factor in the work of media producers, and also examines relevant industry documents, media texts, and media paratexts to discuss how LGBTQ media content reinforces or challenges existing norms. It considers how queer media production relates to the degree of integration or marginalization of LGBTQ people and representation within media as well as society more broadly. Currently, almost all research explicitly identified as queer production studies is conducted in U.S.-based or European-based contexts, and there is thus a large gap in scholarship of queer media production occurring elsewhere. Research on queer production in the commercial domain has addressed how LGBTQ workers have shaped the content and marketing of queer media, and the relationship of commercial LGBTQ media to independent queer media and to LGBTQ activism. In commercial print, television, and digital media in the United States, there has been some integration of LGBTQ workers beginning in the 1990s, with mixed results for content diversity and for the injection of resources into independent production, as well as a complex relationship to advancing LGBTQ causes. In national contexts with prominent state-supported media, such as the United Kingdom and various European countries, the presence of LGBTQ workers at public service broadcasters interacts with mandates for diversity and inclusion. This has had mixed outcomes in terms of both work environments and the kinds of media texts produced. In independent queer production, issues of limited resources and viewership are persistent, but the professional trajectories of queer cultural workers show that they may move back and forth between major commercial and low-budget production. Digital media has been transformative for many independent producers, facilitating the creation of more diverse content, although web series still face issues of securing resources and dealing with competition from commercial media. Queer fan production has often occurred in response to deficiencies of representation in canonical (official) media texts, taking the form of narrative works such as music videos as well as paratextual commentary. While queer fan texts typically challenge the heteronormativity of mainstream media, many do not depart significantly from other norms around gender and sex. Some fan-written queer-themed fiction has been adapted into commercial television series in countries such as China, although state censorship has precluded the series from being explicitly queer.

Article

Superheroes are a global phenomenon. The superhero genre has been proliferated through modern industrial societies by way of movies, television, comics, and other forms of popular media. Although virtually every nation in the world has heroic myths, the modern superhero, as marked by the inception of recent American comics heroes in 1929, is a uniquely Western invention. Superheroes are “Western” insofar as they embody and exhibit Western civic values, such as democracy, humanism, and retributive justice. These characters have been communicatively incorporated into globalization processes by means of diffusion and thereby enact aspects of cultural imperialism. Even so, superhero figures have been in high demand across many populations for their entertainment value. As superheroes have diffused in non-Western cultures, they have not only been absorbed by new cultures but also refigured and adapted. These non-Western adaptations have had a recursive influence, such as the global popularity of Japanese manga. The recursive relationship between Western superheroes and their non-Western adaptations implies superheroes are an important aspect of cultural fusion in global popular culture.

Article

Juan Llamas-Rodriguez and Viviane Saglier

The postcolonial intellectual tradition has proved crucial to articulating cultural, film, and media formations from the geographical and theoretical perspective of (formerly) colonized people and countries. The object of media studies has expanded significantly beyond the screen in the past decades, including a renewed attention to non-visual media and an emerging attention to the material conditions of possibility for media representations. In this new mediascape, postcolonial theories and concepts potentially repoliticize media theory by questioning Western assumptions about technological progress and innovation. Postcolonial theories of media force a rethink of the tenets of traditional media theories while, at the same time, media theories demonstrate the centrality of media, in all its forms, to understanding the postcolonial condition.

Article

Anamarija Horvat

The relationship between queer memory and cinema is a complex one. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) histories have often been and continue to be systematically and deliberately excluded from the “official” memory narratives of nation-states, whether it be within the context of education or other commemorative projects. In order to counter this erasure, activists and artists have worked to preserve and reimagine LGBTQ pasts, creating archives, undertaking historiographic work, and, finally, reimagining queer histories in film and television. While memory remains an underutilized concept in queer studies, authors working in this nascent area of the field have nonetheless examined how the queer past is being commemorated through national, educational, and cinematic technologies of memory. For example, Scott McKinnon’s work has focused on gay male memories of cinema-going, therein highlighting the role of audience studies for the understanding of gay memory. Like McKinnon, Christopher Castiglia and Christopher Reed have also focused on the gay male community, emphasizing the ways in which film and television can combat the effects of conservative and homonormative politics on how the past is remembered. While Castiglia, Reed, and McKinnon’s work focuses on the memories of gay men, a monograph by the author of this article has analyzed how contemporary film and television represent LGBTQ histories, therein interrogating the role these mediums play in the creation of what can be termed specifically queer memory. Furthermore, while monographs dealing with queer memory are only beginning to appear, a number of single case studies and book chapters have focused on specific cinematic works, and have looked at how they present the LGBTQ past, particularly with respect to activist histories. Authors like Dagmar Brunow have also emphasized the link between queer memory and film preservation, exhibition and distribution, therein pointing toward the ways in which practices of curation shape one’s perception of the past. Taken together, these different approaches to queer filmic memory not only illuminate the relevance of cinema to the ways in which LGBTQ people recall and imagine the past of their own community, but also to the unfixed and continually evolving nature of queer memory itself.

Article

Michael Koliska

Transparency is the most recently established ethical principle for professional journalists, even though its roots stretch back almost a century. The emergence of transparency as a core journalistic ethic and value has been fueled mainly by three distinct yet interdependent developments. First, sociocultural advances in society have gradually increased the availability and demand for more information, including in areas such as politics and business. This development instilled an expectation of the “right to know,” also impacting the journalistic institution. Second, the introduction of digital media technologies has provided more means to disclose information, interact with journalists, and witness news production. Third, ethical and normative discussions by journalists and scholars have promoted more openness about journalism. Transparency has frequently been advocated as an effective way to combat the ongoing decline of trust and credibility in the news media. A central rationale supporting information disclosure and providing direct access to journalists and news organizations is that the audience will be able to ascertain which journalism it can trust to be true or which journalism may be superior. Specifically, in times when the news media is being labeled as fake or lying to the public, transparency may indeed be an important mechanism for the audience to hold journalism accountable. Yet, while the promise of transparency is an enticing prospect for the journalistic institution, empirical research has not quite been able to support all the claims that transparency will indeed improve credibility and trust in the news media. However, transparency is a nascent ethic and practice in journalism, and has only recently been officially recognized. Journalists and news organizations are still in the process of finding new ways to openly engage with the public, showing them the journalistic production process and building relationships with their communities. After all, building trust takes time and may only be achieved in a continuous effort to engage in an open, honest, and personal dialogue with the people.

Article

A celebrity is a well-known person who commands public recognition and fascination. Although the celebrity may have existed for hundreds of years, the emergence of influencers gives rise to a new breed of celebrities on social media, who are ordinary-people-turned-experts in an area of interest (e.g., lifestyle). Together, the traditional celebrity and influencer illustrate the industry- and socially-constructed star-making processes. On the one hand, traditional celebrities’ path to fame is supported by networked media and the entertainment system. On the other hand, influencers create contents that netizens can pick and choose to like and follow, making their path to fame a socially-constructed process. Nevertheless, the star-making industries in the 21st century are embracing big data, AI, and machine-learning algorithms to “design” and “manufacture” celebrities. In so doing, they usher in a “new” industry-constructed process that has “created” K-pop stars and virtual influencers. Given the prevailing consumption culture, both the celebrity and influencer often engage in brand endorsement practices. The major strands of celebrity endorsement (CE) research highlight the celebrity, consumer, and endorsed brand. In addition to factors that can be traced directly to the celebrity (e.g., trustworthiness, attractiveness, images), CE research discusses how the celebrity’s match with a product or brand and how the celebrity’s relationship with consumers (both fans and the general public) offers important contingency factors that impact the effects of CE. Meanwhile, influencer-marketers are passionate about their area of expertise. They share their personal brand usage experiences with and provide contextualized recommendations to consumers. Their relationship with consumers is characterized by trust, intimacy, and dialogue. Without the traditional celebrity’s glamour, they use “authentic” and “similar” strategies in their self-branding efforts. These practices allow them to address the consumer’s instrumental and relational needs when making purchase decisions, an act that a traditional celebrity is less effective in making happen. Armed with big data and the like, the current star-making industries has the power and control at an unprecedented scale. The K-pop stars and virtual influencers thus created and managed have been successful. However, their path to fame raises concerns over institutional governance, regulatory control, and ethics of the celebrity and endorsement businesses as well as the means of cultural production. These issues together render celebrity studies and endorsement research a discipline both interesting and challenging to pursue.

Article

Kalyani Chadha and Sachin Arya

Since the late 1990s, the news media landscape in India has experienced widespread and arguably transformative shifts that are manifest in the explosive growth of media outlets and consumption at both national and regional levels. As of 2021, the country has over 100,000 registered periodicals and newspapers, with 17,000 dailies that report a combined circulation of over 240 million copies according to government data, as well as an estimated 400 news and current affairs channels and numerous news-related websites. Yet despite the existence of a seemingly dynamic and expansive news landscape, many observers have expressed significant concerns about the independence of the Fourth Estate in the world’s largest democracy. According to the annual World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the media watchdog group Reporters without Borders, India has experienced a steady decline in press freedom since 2015, slipping from a position of 135/180 in 2015 to 140/180 in 2019, and 142 in the 2020 report. At present, India ranks behind most of its neighbors, including Afghanistan (122), Bhutan (67), Nepal (112), and Sri Lanka (127). Thus, even though the writers of India’s constitution clearly recognized the right to the freedom of the press as an essential part of the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and this right has generally been upheld in court, the space for the free expression of views and critique by the press—widely recognized as crucial to democratic functioning—has been shrinking consistently in the Indian context due to a variety of threats ranging from physical violence and intimidation of journalists, and government pressure on news outlets to structural economic forces.

Article

New Zealand has high global measures for press freedom, democracy, and wealth. Historically, if a country has had strong index rankings for press freedom, democracy, and wealth, they also have a robust independent media system. However, that has not been the case in New Zealand where the independent media is lacking, despite the fact the country ranks extremely highly for press freedom, democracy, and wealth. The lack of a robust independent media in New Zealand may be due to five unique reasons: the small size of the country, the reliance on international news, a wariness toward the entire media landscape, the reserved culture of New Zealand, and the flood of content online.