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SOC 344 Midterm Cheat Sheet by

Media, Culture, and Society


• implies the ways of life associated with a particular society or group.
• Forms and practices of creative and artistic expres­sions associated with a particular society or group
• culture is the second sense is often divided into high and low (popul­ar/­folk) aspects.
• High culture would be types of culture that are more valued.
• What divides high/low is essent­ially who gets to make that defini­tion.
• Comparing high and low culture sometimes comes down to complexity where history plays a role
• Music from video games or movies are not high culture may relate to it being created to be commer­cially sold to consumers.
Sometimes high culture can be rare and are not common­place. On this topic, nobody sets the rules and a lot of what we talk about is arbitrary.

Media Techno­logies

Medium Theories:
Range from techno­logical determ­inism to social constr­uct­ivism
Techno­logical Determ­inism: Tech's properties dictate how it will be used and the effects that it has on society (struc­ture) Social Constr­uct­ivism: Society chooses the roles media play and therefore their effects (Agency)
Struct­ure­/Agency Binary.

Media Tech: Innis and McLuhan

Harold Innis:
•Believed that empires are constr­ained in their growth by the media they employ and their monopolies of knowledge •Two type of media: Time biased and Space biased
•Time biased are heavy, brittle, durable and difficult to transport. They are generally meant to emphasize the eternal. •Space biased media are light, imperm­anent and help tp project power through space.
•Monop­olies of knowledge: Systems that constrain who is able to access and use media techno­logies. THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE

Marshall McLuhan
•The medium is the message: The techno­logies that we use to commun­icate ultimately shape the people using them. In a print culture people become more logical and linear in their thinking, because print is linear and logical
•Content is less important than what the media we do does to us.
•The extensions of man: Techno­logies are merely humans extending our bodies through space
•Media can be Hot or Cool
•Hot media: High inform­ation density and low user partic­ipation (book) •Cool media: Low inform­ation density and high user partic­ipation (saw tv as cool)
Hammer extension of hand. Radio extension of the ear, Tv extension of the sense of touch, computers extensions of the central nervous system.

Two Traditions

Two major traditions in the study of Media Indust­ries: Critical theory and Political Economy.
Both are essent­ially sub branches of Marxist thinking
Critical Theory is most concerned with questions of how media industries as part of the capitalist system maintain control. Political Economy is concerned with question of ownership and the influence it gives.


•Wealth and power are controlled by the bourge­oisie
•The bourge­oisie own the means of production
•They buy labour from the prolet­ariat
•They take the surplus value of labour and turn it into profits
•The prolet­ariat trades their wages for commod­ities like food, shelter & clothing, further enriching the bourge­oisie
•To gain a new political or cultural system the current one must be overthrown
•All instit­utions in capitalism support the circul­ation of its ideology through it the bourge­oisie and therefore must be undone

Political Economy

•Under this model, corpor­ations try to expand as much as possible within a particular sector to control as much of the market as possible.
•A recent example of this in the United States would be the effort by Comcast to purchase Time Warner Cable.
Horizontal Integr­ation:
Movie Studio > Record Label > Video Game Company > Book Publisher > Online Portal
Vertical Integr­ation:
Movie Studio> Flim Distri­buter > Movie Theatre > TV network
•In North America the top six publishers own 60 percent of the non academic book market. All these publishers are a few blocks apart in New York City
•The top three music publis­hers, Warner Music, Sony Music Entert­ainment and Universal Music Group, control 87.9 percent of the market
Concen­tration of Ideas? Simpsons example using fox news as a punch line

Media Content

Semiology means the science of signs
Signs are made up of signifier and signified
The Signified is the what is being referred to by the sign
The Signifier is that word of symbol that is used to represent the signified The two things together make up the sign.
Denota­tion: The most immediate level of meaning. Eg. A picture of a face denotes a specific person
Connot­ation: Associ­ative meanings, generally more abstract concepts that are invoked by a sign. Eg. A woman on a magazine cover repres­enting the concepts of femininity or sexiness.
Myth: A broad set of cultural assump­tions and beliefs evoked and reinforced by media texts.
Myth of the Coke Bottle: Have to buy to be happy. consuming products makes you happy. Would the message be different if it was a caucasian man with the same everything drinking the bottle of coke. Syntem­ati­cally, everything works together in this ad. Drink coke you can be fit and happy.
SKYY Vodka: meaning of this ad: sex, rich, money. Connotated meaning: implied that classy dude. Drink thi sdrink you will be more popular. Mythol­ogical message: suggest women need to find and rich man, servent, decora­tion.
Paradi­gmatic analysis involves breaking texts into their component elements and analysing how the meaning would be different if alternate signifiers were consid­ered.
Syntag­matic analysis involves analysing how signs work together in context to create a specific message.
Narrative Analysis: focuses on the structures and conven­tions of narrative story telling.
Genre analysis looks at the establ­ishment and operation of conven­tions within a genre.
•Based in large part on the work of Michel Foucault
•Fouca­ult’s work focused in large part on how different uses of language shaped experi­ence.
•For Foucault the ability to shape discourses is power in the sense that it is the ability to include or exclude certain people or ideas from society.
•Discourse analysis seeks to track these discourses and how they are used to shape percep­tion.
•Meant to be more rigorous and scientific than qualit­ative methods like semiology
•Strives for the object­ivity of science rather than subjec­tivity of interp­ret­ation
•Focuses on counting instances of a particular phenomenon in media (i.e. the number of times something violent happens) •Seeks standa­rdized practices so that experi­ments can be repeated across a wide swath of group

Models of Transm­ission

Media as Shaper:
Media has a direct one to one effect on society. Presented in media and goes straight into society. Too simplistic and one direct­ional it is is proble­matic. No sense of agency.

Media as Mirror:
Reverse of above- all the media does is reflect society back at itself. Single influence model where it goes one direction. Doesn't understand what media is. Media is people who are making choices on what gets said.

Circular Model:
Tries to get away from one direct­ional. Acknow­ledges that society can have an impact on media repres­ent­ation, and more media on margin­alized groups creates societies acceptance of those ideolo­gies. Model breaks down have just two boxes, society is more compli­cated then just one homoge­nized unit, and media rep isn't a singular entity either.

Shannon and Weaver's Model of Commun­ica­tion:
Meant to talk about broadcast media: inform­ation source transm­itted to receiver and then heard at a destin­ation. Noise can be interf­erence of this process of unders­tanding as the receiver. Noise can be cultural or ideolo­gical where a message can become distorted. Not the most complex or useful because of its focus on broadcast media.

Who Says What Model:
Broadcast model of the sending a one way message from a sender to a receiver. Not useful in describing multid­ire­ctional commun­ica­tion. Effect is hard to talk about and can create an oversi­mpl­ifi­cation where other factors are ignored that effect individual groups or societies.


• networks of instit­utions, relati­ons­hips, intera­ctions and culture within which individual lives take place
• group of people involved in interp­ersonal relati­ons­hips, or a large social grouping sharing the same geogra­phical or social
territory typically within the same political authority and dominant cultural expect­ations. Human societies are charac­terized by patterns of relati­onships between people who share a distin­ctive culture and instit­utions.

Simplified Model

Simplified Model of the Elements of Media in Socio-­Cul­tural Contexts
differ­ent­iated with more points and will be referenced throughout the course.

Media Content: academics call the text: blogs, podcasts, paintings, etc. Anything that is commun­icating a message. Connection between content and users because people consumer media.

Media industry: most of our culture via large national corps who's business is to entertain and inform with goal of making money. Who controls what can be said? What happens when these corpor­ations control these messages?

Media Techno­logy: What effects does tech have on people in societies: unders­tanding the level of agency people have with regards to tech within media.

Media Users: Us, and society in general that is differ­ent­iat­ed/­fra­gme­nte­d/c­omplex

Broader social and cultural enviro­nment: society, cultural rules/­mor­als­/ta­boos, gov't rules informal and formal, role of regula­tion.

The Culture Industry

•Horkh­eimer and Adorno posit that when culture becomes a sub-branch of industry creativity is stripped away
•Culture becomes like any product coming out of a factory, standa­rdized and meant to be consumed
•Leads to a world where culture lacks complexity and depth
•This type of cultural system creates a system where all culture is produced for profit and not for the betterment of humanity •Art in their view needs to be for its own sake rather than for profit

Culture industry transforms culture into standa­rdized products. Do nothing to challenge or enlighten the audience. Example: two nickleback songs at the same time

•Horkh­eimer and Adorno also see one of the fundam­ental problems of the culture industry and the products it produces as being that they allow people to remain in a state of conten­tment.
•The culture industry for them is a form of control over people that specif­ically is meant to hide the problems of the capitalist system.
•They see the culture industry as ultimately producing a form of false consci­ous­ness.

•Adorno and Horkheimer suggest that in the system of the culture industry people are made to work even when they are engaged in leisure.
•This view essent­ially concludes that what is being sold is not the cultural product, but in fact the audience.
•Marxists consider what is being sold in a capitalist economy to be not so much good as the surplus value of people’s labour. Basically it is the work of people that creates value in capitalist economies.
•The audience is being sold as a commodity to advert­isers who want their money and even their leisure time becomes a commodity that can be made profitable

•Walter Benjamin argues that what makes a work of art special is its unique aura
•When art can be reproduced by mechanical means, ultimately it looses that specia­lness and is reduced. Example: seeing the Mona Lisa everywhere makes it less special. Same with a piece of music after the phonog­raph.

Media Tech: Postman and Mander

Neil Postman:
•Media Ecology: Philosophy that treats media systems in the same way as biological ecosys­tems.
•Changes are ecological not additive.
•Telev­ision is a total disclosure medium. Everyone sees the same things
•Print is a medium that build different levels of compet­ence, therefore inform­ation can be slowly trickled out when it is deemed to be approp­riate
•Postman sees democracy as arising from the age of print and wonders if it can survive in the age of television Postman 5 things we need to know about techno­logical change

First, that we always pay a price for techno­logy; the greater the techno­logy, the greater the price. Impact that writing had on memory. Once written, human memory doesn't have to be as precise.

Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners. Ex) google and newspapers

Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an episte­mol­ogical, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not.

Fourth, techno­logical change is not additive; it is ecolog­ical, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates.

Fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us. .... When a technology become mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily suscep­tible to modifi­cation or control.

Jerry Mander
Arguments for the Elimin­ation of Television in a nutshell
1.While television may seem useful, intere­sting, and worthw­hile, at the same time it further boxes people into a physical and mental condition approp­riate for the emergence of autocratic control.
2.It is inevitable that the present powers­-th­at-be (or contro­llers) use and expand using television so that no other contro­llers are permitted.
3.Tele­vision affects individual human bodies and minds in a manner which fit the purposes of the people who control the medium.
4.Tele­vision has no democratic potential. The technology itself places absolute limits on what may pass through it. The medium, in effect, chooses its own content from a very narrow field of possib­ili­ties. The effect is to drasti­cally confine all human unders­tanding within a rigid channel.
Source: Wikipedia

Tech in a social context

The Tool does not determine its use
Use depends on the context and motivation of the user
Tools are not the driver of human needs but a response to them
techno­logies are constr­ained by their afford­ances
afford­ances are the technical limits the dictate what a technology can or cannot do (shovel can't cut grass)
The circuit of Culture: diagram in textbook
Tech doesn't have pre given meaning, enters social setting and it becomes complex. Creating of meaning from numerous different nodes. Lin Speigal book.
One laptop per child.
DIY Culture:
Youtube, etc. Liberal democratic view of new techno­logies. People have ability to produce content that sells, more voices can occur.
Is the internaet really free and open?
Where how we access our content is controlled by few companies. Is it dangerous. Edward Snowden.
Evgeny Morozov RDA video.
Looking back at the simplified model: media technology will depend on your philos­ophy. techno­logical determ­inist or social constr­uct­ivist.

Limits on Media Industries

•Adver­tising Revenue (magaz­ines, newspa­pers, televi­sion)
•Direct Audience payments (including subscr­iption fees: Services like Pandora, Spotify, Xbox Music, Netflix etc...) •Licensing of content and formats
•Why does so much television resemble other programs that came before it?
•Why do only certain channels such as HBO, AMC and Showtime tend to have all of the ‘innov­ative programs’
•Can we think of broadcast television (CTV, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX) as simply manufa­cturing the next hit television series?
Access restri­ctions
•Typically come in the form of fees or licensing restri­ctions
•More acute with media that use “public” property such as airwaves
•Much more heavily utilized in Europe and Canada than in the United States
•Has become increa­singly proble­matic as forms like cable and internet have appeared which do not utilize public resources
•Generally ownership restri­ctions limit not who can own media, but how much of it they can own
•Often there are restri­ctions within a specific industry. So that no company could own more than a certain percentage of newspapers in a given country
•Often limits the ability of a media company in one market to expand horizo­ntally into another. i.e. a company that owns a local newspaper may not own a local television station
•Either for ‘morality purposes” certain themes are limited using government censorship schemes or to protect national culture
•A famous example of a morality codes was the Motion Pictures Production Code (also called the Hays code) which used a panel of censors to judge Hollywood films from 1934-1968
Gov't and Regulation
National Content Regulation
protect canadian culture to invest in canadian artist and programs. Little to stop companies to fill schedule with US content.
protect media assets from stealing or use for profit.


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