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Critical Theories of Mass Media
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"This is a welcome critical corrective to complacent mainstream accounts of the media's cultural impact". Prof. Slavoj Zizek, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London "A powerful and highly engaging re-assessment of past critical thinkers (including those not normally thought of as critical) in the light of today's mediascape". Jorge Reina Schement, Distinguished Professor of Communications, Penn State University With the exception of occasional moral panics about the coarsening of public discourse, and the impact of advertising and television violence upon children, mass media tend to be viewed as a largely neutral or benign part of contemporary life. Even when criticisms are voiced, the media chooses how and when to discuss its own inadequacies. More radical external critiques are often excluded and media theorists are frequently more optimistic than realistic about the negative aspects of mass culture. This book reassesses this situation in the light of both early and contemporary critical scholarship and explores the intimate relationship between the mass media and the dis-empowering nature of commodity culture. The authors cast a fresh perspective on contemporary mass culture by comparing past and present critiques. They: Outline the key criticisms of mass culture from past critical thinkers Reassess past critical thought in the changed circumstances of today Evaluate the significance of new critical thinkers for today's mass culture The book begins by introducing the critical insights from major theorists from the past - Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Theodor Adorno, Marshall McLuhan and Guy Debord. Paul Taylor and Jan Harris then apply these insights to recent provocative writers such as Jean Baudrillard and Slavoj A iA ek, and discuss the links between such otherwise apparently unrelated contemporary events as the Iraqi Abu Ghraib controversy and the rise of reality television. Critical Theories of Mass Media is a key text for students of cultural studies, communications and media studies, and sociology.
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Table of Contents

Chapter outlines Acknowledgements IntroductionPart 1 Then Walter Benjamin's `Work of Art' essay Siegfried Kracauer's mass ornament Theodor Adorno and the culture industry Marshall McLuhan's understanding of media Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle Part 2 Now Introduction to Part 2 The culture of celebrity Banality TV: the democratization of celebrity The politics of banality: the ob-scene as the mis-en-scene Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Paul A. Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Communications Theory, University of Leeds, UK. Jan Ll. Harris is an independent scholar.

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