Quick notes – Lecture on Media Institutions

Who’s talking to you?

This was the title of the lecture on media institutions in 105MC. (Lecture notes available here and here)

It started off with an advertisement for a Chanel perfume. The question was: who’s talking to you? Is it the actress, is it the television?

The answer: the brand is talking to you. The advert is crafted – it has an art director, copywriters, directors, editors…

Even though we are watching a certain TV channel, most of the productions are not made by the broadcasters. So a lot of voices are talking to us.

‘Why does media content get made?’, was the next question. – Money, was the answer. Media businesses exist to make profit. Content is made so that people watch it, while in the meantime some brands advertise there and pay the bills.

So, the questions continued, if the brand is paying and the people are watching, which is the product? One might argue the brand’s perfumes are the products, and the customers are the people that are watching. This is only true in the shop. But when it comes to media, the brand is the one that’s paying – so the brand is the consumer. The brand is buying people’s attention – which means the people are the product.

In the lecture, 3 eras of cultural production were cited (according to Raymond Williams):

  1. patronage
    preindustrial; working for the rich and powerful (church, aristocrat portraits, etc.)
  2. market production
    19th century, beginning of mass market and art market; factory systems, cities, international trade.
  3. corporate production
    20th century; large scale productions and organisations.
  4. (maybe a new addition to the theory?) the digital world
    the end of scarcity; everyone can produce media;
    Digital – harder to control; harder to charge for content.

In the 19th century there were two ways to consume music:

  • go to a concert
  • learn to play yourself

In the 20th century, mechanical means of recording were introduced.

Since then, the production processes have become more sophisticated. We were introduced to the taxonomy of media workers:

  • primary creatives
    people with ideas; writers, actors
  • technical craft workers
    skilled workers, technology professionals
  • creative managers
    people that make stuff happen; producers
  • owners and executives
    big business organisations
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