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.
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chapters, and other previously unpublished material, as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.
introduction (January 2011):
haven't really felt the need to update this article
in the past four years, as it still seems straightforward
and speaks for itself.
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
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.
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).
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
own recent contribution, in the book Making
is Connecting, 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):
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
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:
tendency to fetishise 'experts', whose readings of popular culture are seen as
more significant than those of other audience members (with corresponding faith
in faux-expert non-procedures such as semiotics);
tendency to celebrate certain key texts produced by powerful media industries
and celebrated by well-known critics;
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';
belief that students should be taught how to 'read' the media in an appropriate
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;
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);
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
This emergent alternative
to the traditional approach is characterised by a rejection of much of the above:
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;
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;
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;
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;
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;
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';
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.
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).
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
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:
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;
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;
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
by Sonia Livingstone and by David Buckingham, in the past few years, which have
rejected passive models of media consumption;
active participation, such as Campaigns
Wikia, based on the idea that 'If broadcast media brought us broadcast politics,
then participatory media will bring us participatory politics';
Merrin's blog, as mentioned above.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
Anderson, Chris (2006),
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, London:
Buckingham, David, and Bragg,
Sara (2004), Young People, Sex and the Media: The Facts of Life?, Basingstoke:
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
Gauntlett, David (2007),
Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and
audiences, London: Routledge.
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,