This is the version for printing. If you're looking at a monitor, see this version.
Article originally posted by David Gauntlett, 24 February 2007, at the website www.theory.org.uk. Revised, March 2007. Posted with a new introduction, January 2011.
My 'Media Studies 2.0' article was first presented here in February 2007. Then four years later, I added a new introduction which responds to some of the comments that have been made about it. So below you have the new introduction followed by the original article.
Note that there is now a Kindle book, Media Studies 2.0, and Other Battles around the Future of Media Research, published July 2011, which brings together this essay alongside more recent articles, responses and rejoinders. It includes brand new introduction and conclusion chapters, and other previously unpublished material, as well as a lively interview about a range of issues around creativity, participation, and social media.
New introduction (January 2011):
I haven't really felt the need to update this article in the past four years, as it still seems straightforward and speaks for itself.
In particular, I haven't seen any criticisms of 'Media Studies 2.0' which don't accidentally disintegrate themselves on the blunt sword of their own arrogance and complacency.
For example, I have seen it said that traditional 'Media Studies' and 'Cultural Studies' developed a wonderful set of tools, over 50 years, for understanding the media, and that therefore we should just stick with those, not throw them away! This view can be made to sound wise and sensible. Unfortunately, it is lazy and disingenuous nonsense.
Those tools, such as they were, were designed to address an entirely different landscape based on a simple model of broadcasters/publishers and consumers. They just don't work any more. (Okay, to be fair, they work if all you want to do is produce yet another 'analysis' of a film or television programme, or if you want to consider how the industry worked 30 years ago. And the old version of 'Media Studies' is bound to be attractive to the kind of person who wants to shore up their own 'expertise' – although they sit, proud and pompous, on a castle made of sand).
I have also seen it said that 'Media Studies 2.0' as a theory is 'hollow and empty'. That's because it's not a theory as such, it's a way of approaching the subject – although it highlights one set of theoretical tools which are going to be much more useful than the old set.
The critics of 'Media Studies 2.0' seem happy to dismiss or disregard the rise of everyday creativity online, presumably because they are more comfortable with the old models of communication, where media producers were always powerful institutions and so you could wheel out tried-and-tested critical discussions of power. It was easy to demonstrate your progressive credentials in the old days – but that's a pathetic reason for wanting to pretend that nothing has changed. Is it really progressive to cling on to a model which remains true in some cases and is useless in others – and to want to ignore the creativity of previously marginalised people and groups?
Obviously, it was both fun and important to show how those big media barons are evil. And sure, they still are, and are probably getting worse. But if 'Media Studies' is a discipline which can only talk about that, and patronising ideas of 'media literacy' and the boring fruitless notion of 'genre', and – sorry, I'm sure the list goes on, but I'm asleep already – what's the point?
Media Studies should not simply sing in praise of particular kinds of technology, any more than it should always be critical of everything it sees. That's why we need an intelligent and sophisticated Media Studies which helps us to properly and critically understand the media of today. But you don't get that by clinging onto the old models, especially when the very thing you're looking at is changing so much.
For those who say that 'Media Studies 2.0' is little more than a slogan or a couple of blog posts, I would say that – being an orientation to the subject, rather than a single theory – you can find it rich in detail, complex and critical, in a number of books which have started to appear about the relationships between online media, other media, creativity, and everyday life.
My own recent contribution, in the book Making is Connecting (see www.makingisconnecting.org), seeks to link everyday creativity online (and offline) with a number of critical theories and political themes. It's not meant to be 'the book of Media Studies 2.0', but it hopefully shows how this orientation is both critical and relevant today.
Original article (2007):
In a recent interview about the newly popular concept of 'Web 2.0', following a spate of mainstream media coverage of Second Life, Wikipedia, and other collaborative creative phenomena in autumn 2006, I found myself mentioning a possible parallel in a 'Media Studies 2.0'. Although I would not like to be introducing a new bit of pointless jargon, the idea seemed like it might have some value - for highlighting a forward-looking slant which builds on what we have already (in the same way that the idea of 'Web 2.0' is useful, even though it does not describe any kind of sequel to the Web, but rather just an attitude towards it, and which in fact was precisely what the Web's inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, intended for it in the first place).
In this article, I thought it might be worth fleshing out what Media Studies 2.0 means, in contrast to the still-popular traditional model.
Outline of Media Studies 1.0
This traditional approach to Media Studies, which is still dominant in a lot (but not all) of school and university teaching, and textbooks, is characterised by:
- A tendency to fetishise 'experts', whose readings of popular culture are seen as more significant than those of other audience members (with corresponding faith in fake-expert non-procedures such as semiotics);
- A tendency to celebrate certain key texts produced by powerful media industries and celebrated by well-known critics;
- The optional extra of giving attention to famous 'avant garde' works produced by artists recognised in the traditional sense, and which are seen as especially 'challenging';
- A belief that students should be taught how to 'read' the media in an appropriate 'critical' style;
- A focus on traditional media produced by major Western broadcasters, publishers, and movie studios, accompanied (ironically) by a critical resistance to big media institutions, such as Rupert Murdoch's News International, but no particular idea about what the alternatives might be;
- Vague recognition of the internet and new digital media, as an 'add on' to the traditional media (to be dealt with in one self-contained segment tacked on to a Media Studies teaching module, book or degree);
- A preference for conventional research methods where most people are treated as non-expert audience 'receivers', or, if they are part of the formal media industries, as expert 'producers'.Outline of Media Studies 2.0
This emergent alternative to the traditional approach is characterised by a rejection of much of the above:
- The fetishisation of 'expert' readings of media texts is replaced with a focus on the everyday meanings produced by the diverse array of audience members, accompanied by an interest in new qualitative research techniques;
- The tendency to celebrate certain 'classic' conventional and/or 'avant garde' texts, and the focus on traditional media in general, is replaced with - or at least joined by - an interest in the massive 'long tail' of independent media projects such as those found on YouTube and many other websites, mobile devices, and other forms of DIY media;
- The focus on primarily Western media is replaced with an attempt to embrace the truly international dimensions of Media Studies - including a recognition not only of the processes of globalization, but also of the diverse perspectives on media and society being worked on around the world;
- The view of the internet and new digital media as an 'optional extra' is correspondingly replaced with recognition that they have fundamentally changed the ways in which we engage with all media;
- The patronising belief that students should be taught how to 'read' the media is replaced by the recognition that media audiences in general are already extremely capable interpreters of media content, with a critical eye and an understanding of contemporary media techniques, thanks in large part to the large amount of coverage of this in popular media itself;
- Conventional research methods are replaced - or at least supplemented - by new methods which recognise and make use of people's own creativity, and brush aside the outmoded notions of 'receiver' audiences and elite 'producers';
- Conventional concerns with power and politics are reworked in recognition of these points, so that the notion of super-powerful media industries invading the minds of a relatively passive population is compelled to recognise and address the context of more widespread creation and participation.Clearly, we do not want to throw away all previous perspectives and research; but we need to take the best of previous approaches and rework them to fit a changing environment, and develop new tools as well.History and emergence of 'Media Studies 2.0'
Media Studies 2.0 is not brand new and has been hinted at by a range of commentators, and connects with a range of phenomena that have been happening for some time. The above attempt to specify 'Media Studies 1.0' and '2.0' is merely an attempt to clarify this shift. Its emergence was suggested, for instance, by comments I made in the introductions to the two different editions of Web Studies, back in 2000 and 2004. In the first edition, under the heading 'Media studies was nearly dead: Long live new media studies', I said:
By the end of the twentieth century, Media Studies research within developed Western societies had entered a middle-aged, stodgy period and wasn't really sure what it could say about things any more. Thank goodness the Web came along.
I argued that Media Studies had become characterised by contrived 'readings' of media texts, an inability to identify the real impact of the media, and a black hole left by the failure of vacuous US-style 'communications science' quantitative research, plus an absence of much imaginative qualitative research. In particular, I said, media studies was looking weak and rather pointless in the face of media producers and stars, including media-savvy politicians, who were already so knowing about media and communications that academic critics were looking increasingly redundant. (The full texts are available at www.newmediastudies.com). I concluded:
Media studies, then, needed something interesting to do, and fast. Happily, new media is vibrant, exploding and developing… New good ideas and new bad ideas appear every week, and we don't know how it's going to pan out. Even better, academics and students can participate in the new media explosion, not just watch from the sidelines - and we can argue that they have a responsibility to do so. So it's an exciting time again.
In the 2004 edition I reviewed these earlier arguments and noted that:
Most of these things are still true: you wouldn't expect old-school media studies to reinvent itself within three years. But the arrival of new media within the mainstream has had an impact, bringing vitality and creativity to the whole area, as well as whole new areas for exploration (especially around the idea of 'interactivity'). In particular, the fact that it is quite easy for media students to be reasonably slick media producers in the online environment, means that we are all more actively engaged with questions of creation, distribution and audience.
Soon after this book was published, the phrase 'Web 2.0' was coined by Tim O'Reilly. 'Web 2.0' is, as mentioned above, not a replacement for the Web that we know and love, but rather a way of using existing systems in a 'new' way: to bring people together creatively. O'Reilly has described it as 'harnessing collective intelligence'. The spirit of 'Web 2.0' is that individuals should open themselves to collaborative projects instead of seeking to make and protect their 'own' material. The 'ultimate' example at the moment is perhaps Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia created collectively by its millions of visitors. (Other examples include craigslist, del.icio.us, and Flickr).
The notion of 'Web 2.0' inspired me to write the above sections defining Media Studies 1.0 and 2.0. Soon afterwards, I checked Google to see if anyone else had tacked '2.0' onto 'Media Studies' to create the same phrase. This revealed an excellent blog produced by William Merrin, a lecturer in Media Studies at University of Wales, Swansea, called 'Media Studies 2.0' and started in November 2006. The blog mostly contains useful posts about new media developments. The first post on the blog, however, makes an excellent argument that Media Studies lecturers need to catch up with their students in the digital world.
Examples of Media Studies 2.0 in practice
Inevitably my own experiences spring to mind, as I have attempted to find new ways of exploring people's contemporary media experiences by encouraging creative responses. This began in 1995 when I handed children video cameras to make films about their responses to the environment, instead of just interviewing them (Gauntlett, 1997), and has continued through various projects, culminating most recently in the book Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences (2007), which describes - amongst other things - my study in which people were invited to build metaphorical models of their identities in Lego.
Other instances of Media Studies 2.0 would include:
- The title of the journal Participations (launched 2003), an 'audience studies' journal that manages to avoid calling them 'audiences' - in its main title at least, although the subtitle 'Journal of Audience and Reception Studies' offers a perhaps inevitable translation into the language we are trying to get away from;
- The forthcoming conference Transforming Audiences, which seeks to undermine its own title by questioning the traditional approach to people who 'produce' media and people who 'use' media (www.transformingaudiences.org.uk);
- Joke Hermes's book Reading Women's Magazines (1995), one of the first texts to demonstrate that Media Studies tended to over-emphasise its own consumption models;
- Studies by Sonia Livingstone and by David Buckingham, in the past few years, which have rejected passive models of media consumption;
- More active participation, such as Campaigns Wikia (campaigns.wikia.com), based on the idea that 'If broadcast media brought us broadcast politics, then participatory media will bring us participatory politics';
- William Merrin's blog, mentioned above: see http://mediastudies2point0.blogspot.com.
I would be very glad to hear of other examples of Media Studies 2.0 practice. Please email email@example.com with 'Media Studies 2.0' in the subject line.
- A couple of critics have said that the Media Studies 2.0 model that I proposed above is primarily concerned with 'audience and reception studies'. But my argument is precisely that the whole idea of media 'reception' is rapidly collapsing around our ears (and was always rather patronising). If I was not able to make this clear, I suggest this excellent article: Blogging and the Emerging Media Ecosystem by John Naughton. Naughton shows that, even if you are not interested in media audiences / users / participants (or whatever you want to call them), the changing nature of engagement with media - where more and more people can and do make their own - forces the whole system to adapt. So some changes on the audience/user side of things (people making their own stuff as well as consuming material made by traditional media companies, and other individuals) leads to a change in the whole 'ecosystem'.
- See 20th Century Politics meets 21st Century Media by Graham Meikle of Macquarie University, Sydney, which draws a similar distinction between '20th century' and '21st century' media and media studies.
- Watch Epic 2015, an 8-minute Flash movie by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson which shows a speculative 'history' of new media up to the year 2015. This revised version was released at the start of 2005. Further info about it appears in this Wikipedia article.
> Got comments? Join the Media Studies 2.0 discussion forum at http://twopointzeroforum.blogspot.com.
Anderson, Chris (2006), The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, London: Hyperion.
Buckingham, David, and Bragg, Sara (2004), Young People, Sex and the Media: The Facts of Life?, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hermes, Joke (1995), Reading Women's Magazines: An Analysis of Everyday Media Use, Cambridge: Polity.
Gauntlett, David (1997), Video Critical: Children, The Environment and Media Power, London: John Libbey. Online version at http://www.artlab.org.uk/videocritical.
Gauntlett, David (2000), 'Web Studies: A User's Guide', in Gauntlett, David, ed., Web.Studies: Rewiring Media Studies for the Digital Age, London: Arnold. Also available at http://www.newmediastudies.com/intro2000.htm.
Gauntlett, David (2004), 'Web Studies: What's New', in Gauntlett, David and Horsley, Ross, eds, Web.Studies, 2nd edition, London: Arnold. Also available at http://www.newmediastudies.com/intro2004.htm.
Gauntlett, David (2005), Moving Experiences, Second edition: Media Effects and Beyond, London: John Libbey.
Gauntlett, David (2007), Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences, London: Routledge.
Gauntlett, David (2011), Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0, Cambridge: Polity.
Lievrouw, Leah A., and Livingstone, Sonia, eds (2006), The Handbook of New Media: Updated Student Edition, London: Sage.
> Return to www.theory.org.uk.