A brief introduction to media studies

The 27th September marks one month of my and my fellow classmates’ media studies. Paradoxically feels like we’re diving too deep and like we’re spiraling in directions away from the core of our future trade.

Of course, the multi-dimensional positions we’re taking are very much relative. Some of us are going to specialize in sound, others in pictures. Some are directors, others obsessed with the online world. The baby steps of the trade are taken together, even if our destinations will be mighty different.

What do we know so far?

What is media?

Ranging between advertisement to motion pictures, from Foley artists to Instagram business, media is the production of content. It’s also the maintenance of it, and apparently it’s not that easy.

Have you heard of Plato, Baudrillard and McLuhan?

We have. Some would argue that we’re heard too much.

Plato is probably a staple of general education. The ancient Greek philosopher still inspires thousands of discussions on ethics and politics. He’s also influential in the discussion about reality, and what we perceive and accept as reality. Is his allegory about the cave familiar?

Baudrillard was a stuck-up Frenchman who decided to go the hard way, making generations of students feel incompetent and amoebic. His text Simulacra and Simulation will haunt the nightmares of many. It’s an opus on perceived reality, written with arabesque sentences and words that induce migraines. It’s also immensely interesting.

He too discusses the parameters of reality, diving further into details on how and why it’s structured the way it is (or is it?). Marshall McLuhen taps into these now to us familiar themes, but focuses more on what we’re saying, not how or why.

All in all, very interesting. It’s also painfully detailed and immaculate. Much like pulp fiction, dadaism and ballet, it’s not for everybody.

Good thing media is such a broad topic, yeah?

Storytelling

Whether the great philosophers that are staring unblinkingly over our shoulders would agree or not, we’re also told en masse that media is all about the stories, about they way we tell them. (Maybe McLuhen was onto something?) Whatever story you have, you must keep in mind the way you’re going to broadcast it to the world. Is it going to be an indie movie, a blog post, an e-book? What are you really trying to say?

Whatever and however you decide to tell, you must tell it well, or no one will listen; content is not automatically quality content.

More or less against our wills, we’re preoccupied with the construction of stories. With the beginning, with the tension-building middle and with the dreaded point of no return, with the fateful ending. We’re guided into archetypes, construction of characters and balanced parlance.

In storytelling we mainly learn one thing over and over again: that every detail matters.

How about ‘em studies?

When studying at a higher collegiate level, the nature of your studies will mostly stay the same. As a student, you have responsibility for your own actions and studies; if you want to get stuff done, you have to do them yourself. There aren’t shortcuts to meeting deadlines and plowing through the ocean of information and assignments poured at you.

The loose schedules and independent studying and assignments might seem like you can take it easier, but if you want to examine within a reasonable amount of time, you’re going to have to do some organizing.

The good news is that if you don’t want to go the extra mile, you generally can get away with less work. You don’t have to edit your essays for as many days as you planned it, and you don’t have to do extensive research (unless specifically required). You just have to do what you’re told.

However, if you want to get a little more out of your studies, you can. Most universities offer a variety of classes; they usually have a more than decent library; and you’re studying alongside possible future co-workers, so you can stretch your social muscles with grace.

Personally, I recommend you should feel just the right amount of uncomfortable in your studies. You shouldn’t be too uncomfortable; keep one eye on your personal limits and ethics and don’t do anything you’re not okay with. On the other hand, you shouldn’t be too comfortable, either. If you don’t push yourself, you don’t learn and grow. That’s why you’re there, right?

(Need tips from an avid organizer? The studying 101-pdf is at your service.)

We’re here to get better. Let’s.

So, what do I know one month into media studies?

As content producers broadcasting in different forms of media, we’re responsible for the content we publish. Media is effectively shaping our reality and our surroundings, and as any other decision we make, we should think them through before acting on them. Questions like how, why and when should always be considered before publishing anything. With social media so readily available though, most users forget this responsibility.

Whether you’re aware of the philosophical theories behind practical media use and technology, or have mastered the art of storytelling, you’re responsible for the images, words and energy you put out in this world. You must consider the consequences for your actions, online as well as in real life.

This is true for professionals and laymen alike.

It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s a line we must try to balance at all times.

On a daily basis, I’m introduced to one more level, another perspective, a new shade of something familiar. With information comes context, and personally, I’m loving it. I’m not an advocate for bliss through ignorance.

Still, at a collegiate level, we’re not here to (only) dick around; we’re here for an education. The end game is getting a job. Although all this theory is interesting, does it improve my chances of earning a living as a writer and blogger?

After a day of drafting essays, doing research on media theories, planning fictive story-telling, laying the grounds for manuscripts, I’m still happy to sit down and draft a couple blog post on 1000 words.

Writing can very much be a full-time job. I’ve yet to find a shape of writing I don’t love, though.

One month down, 30-something to go.

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