Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sun Ho's Questions - Week 2

Q1 and 2. [Economism, ownership and control of the media ]

“The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it.” (Marx & Engels, page 9)

The base/superstructure model of Marx and Engels sees the “economic base” of a society as a determinant of cultural, legal, political, and other forms of life. Using their idea of economism, the commercial media of our age can be seen as distributing ideas or "false consciousness" of their choice in order to maximize their audience and ad revenue. But to what extent is it applicable to the news media, especially when it comes to hard news? In what ways and to what extent does the ownership influence news content in the U.S.?

Q3 and 4. [Counter-hegemonic values and the media ]

“The press is the most dynamic part of this ideological structure, but not the only one. Everything which influences or is able to influence public opinion, directly or indirectly, belongs to it: libraries, schools, associations and clubs of various kinds, even architecture and the layout and names of streets.” (Gramsci, page 16)

Gramsci’s point of view differs from those of Marx and Engels in that he sees the media having a relative autonomy from the economic base. Instead, he emphasized that a social group dominates by obtaining the “consent” of the majority and that ideological structure can be maintained by the press. Although today’s media still has an important role in developing “popular beliefs”, they sometimes promote counter-hegemonic values such as feminism. How can this be explained by Gramsci’s theory? How do the media retain hegemony/promote counter-hegemony?

Q5. [Media text as the determinant of audience response]

“In order to grasp what follows, it is essential to realize that both he who is writing these lines and the reader who reads them are themselves subjects, and therefore ideological subjects (a tautological proposition), i.e. that the author and the reader of these lines both live “spontaneously” or “naturally” ideology in the sense in which I have said that “man is an ideological animal by nature.” (Althusser, page 84)

Althusser rejected Marxist economism and supported his theory of interpellation. According to his theory, mass media texts interpellate the readers and viewers considering both of them as subjects. According to some theorists, he tends to see the text as the determinant of our response. This view grants more active roles to audiences than those of Marxists, but can texts be the sole determinant of our response?

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