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A downloadable .pdf of Media Studies Theorists can be found here
New Spec Theorists - here

Media Theorists - Ideas & Arguments

'Practise without theory is empty; theory without practise is blind.' A Theorist.

At A2 (and AS) you can't afford to answer an exam with generalisations, you need some substance to back you up, and if it's not with hard facts and case studies, then you'll need your 'guide to theorists' to help you.

There are a few ways that you can reference a theorist in an exam, you can do this directly by quoting from an article or book of theirs, citing the author, publisher and year of publication; or you can paraphrase.  Paraphrasing allows you to interpret another theorist’s idea in your own words or simplify their point, whilst still giving them credit for the point you've made.  Click on the guide to referencing here if you want to get it right.

Below the theorists have been categorized by Key Concept – but it’s worth looking at links between concepts, especially for debate and theory related Media papers.  I have summarised most theorists’ key ideas or simplified their concept for your benefit.  The list should really be seen as a starting point for your own research and is not a ‘be all and end all’ approach, but hopefully you will discover new ideas and arguments that you can bring into your exam writing. 


There is also a list of miscellaneous theorists at the end, and those specifically referenced to the new specification content September 2017.  Much of this content has been taken and edited from resources spanning several years. Links are provided where possible.


Nicholas Abercrombie - 'the boundaries between genres are shifting and becoming more permeable' we are getting more hybrids and sub-genres as texts cross between categories to maximise audience appeal. He also suggested that ‘We derive pleasure from observing how the conventions of a genre are manipulated’.  Knowing what to expect in a text makes us enjoy the unexpected.


Rick Altman was critical of genre theory.  Here are his main points, some expanded in detail.

  • Genres are defined by the film industry and recognized by the mass audience.

  • Genres have clear, stable identities and borders.

  • Individual films belong wholly and permanently to a single genre.

  • Genres are trans-historical. lifting the production values of the time and setting can strip away differences in which movies/texts can find similarities

  • Genres undergo predictable development. Genres must change, innovate in order to succeed. Yet genres are not free to just go anywhere and most scholars would imply that: “genres are free to move, but only along already laid tracks.”

  • Genres are located in particular topic, structure and corpus. Films are inherently assigned to a corpus and we tend to be able to identify which ones fit that corpus easier than others.

  • Genre films share certain fundamental characteristics. This explains somewhat genres repetitive nature. Some critics say that this diminished audiences’ interest in the film’s end. According to Altman “Pleasure of genre viewing derives more from reaffirmation than from novelty”.

  • Genres have either a ritual or ideological function. Certain critics have argued that certain genres have a purpose.

  • Genre critics are distanced from the practice of genre. Critics pretended to be a more cultured audience capable of inserting meaning in a film than popular audiences were, distancing themselves from the general public. Other critics give the power to the studios and their production schemes to keep genres alive.

All these theories however are cohesive in agreeing that:

  • The film industry, responding to audience desires, initiates clear-cut-genres that endure because of their ability to satisfy basic human needs.

  •  Genres maintain a fundamental sameness both from decade to decade and from production through exhibition to audience consumption

  • Genres sometimes appear to function ritually and others ideologically.

David Bordwell notes, 'any theme may appear in any genre' (Bordwell 1989) ‘One could... argue that no set of necessary and sufficient conditions can mark off genres from other sorts of groupings in ways that all experts or ordinary film-goers would find acceptable' Essentially, genre is hard to classify as pure.


David Buckingham - “Genre is not simply given by the culture, rather, it is in a constant process of negotiation and change.” As society changes, so to do the genres to reflect culture of that time.


G Burton (2000) said genres must contain “The familiar and the unexpected”; something must add to the genre pool.


Chandler (2001) How we define a genre depends on our purposes. Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the notion that they constitute particular conventions of content (such as themes or settings - iconography) and/or form (including structure and style) which are shared by the texts which are regarded as belonging to them.


Jonathan Culler (1978) – generic conventions exist to establish a contract between creator and reader so as to make certain expectations operative, allowing compliance and deviation from the accepted modes of intelligibility. Acts of communication are rendered intelligible only within the context of a shared conventional framework of expression.

Jacques Derrida - “A text cannot belong to no genre, it cannot be without... a genre. Every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text.”


Richard Dyer – in 1973 argued that ‘genres are pleasurable because they offer escapist fantasies into fictional worlds that remove the boredom of reality’.  He sees these worlds as Utopian that offer an abundance of energy, excitement and spontaneity.


Fiske – defines genres as ‘attempts to structure some order into the wide range of texts and meanings that circulate in our culture for the convenience of both producers and audiences.’ He adds, ‘the assignment of a text to a genre influences how the text is read’.  E.g. if you believe a text to be in a certain genre you will interpret according to your expectations of that genre. He also said: ‘Genre constrains the possible ways in which a text is interpreted, guiding readers to a preferred reading’ (see HALL). 

Fowler – ‘one advantage of genres is that they can rely on readers already having knowledge and expectations about the works within a genre’.  This means that producer do not have to explain the conventions of a text as audiences are already familiar. Posters, trailers and reviews should indicate clearly what an audience is about to actively choose to consume.


Andrew Goodwin - conventions that exist within music videos are according to musical genre (performances in rock videos; choreography in pop). Music videos can also link to film genres, this is known as intertextuality. There are frequent references to the notion of looking and the voyeuristic treatment of the female body.  There is a succinct relationship between music and visuals. e.g. either illustrative or amplifying.   The record label which the artist is assigned to tends to have certain demands. They often include the need for lots of close ups of the artist and the artist will have a visual style which recurs across their work.


Gledhill – ‘Genres can be seen as a kind of shorthand, increasing the efficiency of communication’.  This means that because audiences already know what to expect within a genre, it is not necessary to explain all of the details to them, narratives can therefore be condensed

John Hartley notes that 'the same text can belong to different genres in different countries or times' as genres evolve, older texts can be reclassified.  Cultural values position audiences differently also.  ‘Genres are agents of ideological closure; they limit the meaning potential of a given text’ – e.g. classic westerns expected roles of stock characters limits the unexpected developments of the narrative.  Recently genres have been adapted to allow alternative representations – bad cowboys or gay cowboys.


Hodge and Kress – ‘genres are typical forms of texts which links producers, consumers, topic, medium, manner and occasion’.  E.g. a Disney fairytale using computer generated imagery, released in multiplex’s and DVD and internet availability.


Deborah Knight notes that 'satisfaction is guaranteed with genre; the deferral of the inevitable provides the additional pleasure of prolonged anticipation' (1994). She adds, ‘Genre may offer various emotional pleasures such as empathy and escapism’.  We enjoy imagining ourselves living the characters lives. This links to Uses and Gratifications theory PIES.


Christian Metz - Genres go through stages:

  • the Experimental

  • the Classic

  • the Parody

  • the Deconstruction


Jason Mittell (2001) Industries use genre to sell products to audiences by offering:

  • familiar codes and conventions

  • cultural references to society + other texts.


Steve Neale - Identified genres by their use of audience expectations and common conventions. Particular features which are characteristic of a genre are not normally unique to it; it is their relative prominence, combination and functions which are distinctive (Neale, 1980); ‘Genres are instances of repetition and difference‘ (Neale, 1980); ‘Difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre' (Neale, 1980) - Mere repetition would not attract an audience – a USP is needed.


Nick Lacey - considers the 'repertoire of elements' that work in combination to suggest a media text belongs to a particular genre or mix of genres.   Lacey does not see genres as fixed but as dynamic and changing over time.  He breaks a text down into these five areas:

  • Setting

  • Character

  • Narrative

  • Iconography

  • Style


Tom Ryall (1998) says genre has become a cognitive repository of images, sounds, stories, characters, and expectations


Katie Wales - 'genre is... an intertextual concept.‘  This means we make sense of a text through our experiences of other texts and repeated tropes.



Acland  - Argued that representations of delinquent youths help reinforce dominant hegemony.  Referred to as the 'ideology of protection' model. (Deviant Youth, 1995).  'Normal' adult and youth behaviour, contrasted with deviant youth behaviour, allows the state to have more control.   Young people need constant surveillance and monitoring.


Chris Allen – studied the representation Muslims in the media.

Alvarado et al. 1987) ‘Television is... the most rewarding medium to use when teaching representations of class because of the contradictions which involve a mass medium attempting to reach all the parts of its class-differentiated audience simultaneously...’                                                        

John Berger – performance narrative.  Berger’s most famous written work, the 1972 book Ways of Seeing, offered not just an idea but also an invitation to see and know the world differently. He says, “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.” Berger’s idea that looking is a political act, perhaps even a historically constructed process – such that where and when we see something will affect what we see – comes across most powerfully in the second episode of Ways of Seeing, which focused on the male gaze.

Judith Butler: theorist of power, gender, sexuality and identity. She wrote ‘Gender Trouble’.  Butler suggests that gender is not the result of nature but is socially constructed e.g. male and female behavior and roles are not the result of biology but are constructed and reinforced by society through media and culture.  Furthermore, rather than being a fixed attribute in a person, she argues that gender should be seen as a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times. However, the media reinforces and exaggerates stereotypical ‘male’ and ‘female’ behaviour, which we adopt as ‘normal’. In this way, gender becomes a performance, with the media providing the script.

Queer Theory explores and challenges the way in which heterosexuality is constructed as normal and homosexuality as deviant. (Queer Theory isn’t just about homosexuality. It also explores cross-dressing, gender-ambiguity, gender-corrective surgery and intersexual identity).

The media has historically limited the representations of gay men and women. Hollywood films, TV ads, and other mainstream texts often construct images of ‘normal’ happy heterosexual couples, but homosexual couples are often represented in terms of sin, sickness or shame. Thankfully this is changing…

Stanley Cohen defines 'Moral Panic' as "... a mass response to a group, a person or an attitude that becomes defined as a threat to society." He argues that the media, especially news media, often create and/or enforce moral panics in the public. The term 'Folk Devil' is the name given to the object of the moral panic.

Corner, John      Examined the process of realism/verisimilitude within media texts.

Emile Durkheim – Labelling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead the result of the externally-imposed label of "deviant".  It focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and the behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. The theory was prominent during the 1960s and 1970s, and some modified versions of the theory are still popular today .

Erik Erikson – he created an eight stage theory of identity and psychosocial development.  Erikson was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud; he explored three aspects of identity: the ego identity (self), personal identity (the personal idiosyncrasies that distinguish a person from another), social/cultural identity (the collection of social roles a person might play).

Barbara Fredrickson – objectification; she explored the consequences of being female in a culture that sexually objectifies the female body. Objectification theory posits that girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer's perspective as a primary view of their physical selves. This perspective on self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women's opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states.

Giroux  - Focused on youth representations as 'empty categories' because most media representations are constructed by adults.

Hall, Stuart – Reception theory and Mediation is the process by which all media products are read by audiences.  Theories of representation are linked to encoding and decoding.  Hall says there are three ways the audience decodes (reads) texts:

  1. The audience fully accepts the preferred meaning, showing they agree with dominant values.

  2. The audience takes a negotiated position, meaning that they only agree with some-not all of the preferred meaning.

  3. The audience takes an oppositional position, whereby they understand the preferred meaning but decide to reject this and make their own interpretation

  4. An extension of this is a fourth reading called the aberrant reading, where a completely unintentional meaning is taken away by audiences.

Hebdige (1979) Studied British youth subcultures (Late 1970’s) He focused on the reality of youth cultures.  Subcultures = Youths to express themselves and to challenge hegemony (Mostly through style).  By looking at this theory we are able to see that the media in society tends to ignore the good and the hard working and focuses on the fun and the trouble. This therefore makes adults believe that all Youths behave in this manner.

Kaplan  - Feminism - defined women as a distinct group in two approaches - essentialist approach and anti-essentialist approach (women constructed by male society).

Douglas Kellner Cultural Studies and the 3 part approach to analysing media texts.

Kilbourne – Suggests women are more often shown “dismembered” (just parts of their bodies shown), associated with products, shown as smaller than a man, engaged in various forms of ritualized subordination, prostrate or recumbent, bent or leaning back, infantilized (with finger coyly in their mouth, standing pigeon-toed, wearing little girl clothes, sucking on lollipops, etc.) and looking dreamy and introverted, overcome with emotions, or symbolically silenced with hand over the mouth.

Lippmann – representation theory.  He tried to explain how pictures that arise spontaneously in people’s minds come to be—a simplification of his theory is that we live in second-hand worlds. Because we are aware of much more than we have personally experienced our own experience is mainly indirect. Lippmann felt that the only feeling that anyone can have about an event, that they did not experience, is the feeling aroused by their mental image of that event.

Meehan - conducted a Study of feminist representation in the 1970s - useful to contrast to modern day studies.

Mulvey, Laura:  Feminist Theory - the concept of women as objects in media and men as subjects.  Contested in some modern films/adverts of today.  In her 1973 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema she argued that classic Hollywood cinema puts the spectator in a masculine position, with the figure of the woman on screen as the object of desire.

Because the viewer is gendered as male (even if she’s a woman!) the woman on the screen is ‘controlled’ and made an ‘object’ of male desire. "In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female"

  • Historic power roles: directors tend to be male, thus presenting a ‘male’ representation of their subject. Therefore, even if you’re a woman, you’re seeing the world of the film through a man’s eyes.

  • Viewers are encouraged to identify with the protagonist of the film who, more often than not, is a man. Therefore, even if you’re a woman, you’re identifying with a man’s view of the cinematic world.

In both these examples, the ‘male’ is active (the one doing the looking) and the ‘female’ is passive (the one being looked at). Male characters may also be looked at, but it is still a male viewpoint. Mulvey believes that women take on the male gaze because they view media from the perspective of men – they then view other women the way men would and objectify them in the same way.  She believes that the female gaze is negated, or ‘drowned out’ by the dominant male gaze.

Nakamura - defines cybertyping as the distinctive ways that the internet propagates, disseminates, and commodities images of race and racism.

Perkins - counter argument that the use of stereotypes can be good, that stereotypes can change and even be positive (1979).  Perkins also argues that stereotypes are not simplistic, they contain complex understanding of roles in society. Not always negative and often contain truth.

Jonathan Schroeder - Viewing such recorded images gives the viewer's gaze a voyeuristic dimension., 'to gaze implies more than to look at - it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze' (Schroeder 1998, 208).

Carol Vernallis describes how verbal, musical, and visual codes combine in music video to create defining representations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and performance.  "In video our attention to the song shapes the way we perceive the image, but to an equal extent what we attend to in the image helps determine how we hear the music".


Ien Ang detailed that media producers have an imaginary entity in mind before the construction of a media product. "Audiences only exist as an imaginary entity, an abstraction, constructed from the vantage point of institution, in the interest of the institution." Ang also adds that 'audience-hood is becoming an even more multifaceted, fragmented and diversified repertoire of practices and experiences' There is a lot more to audience – it’s not just about their demographics such as gender, age and social class but rather it’s about the psychographics such as the audience’s hobbies, habits and interests. Audience is not a big lump of the same people – it’s made up of different individuals

Allen – ‘Any text requires what is called ‘cultural capital’ on the part of its audience to make sense of it’. E.g. they bring their past experience of a genre to help them understand it.

Blumer & Katz -  Uses and Gratifications Theory the media have a limited effect on their audiences because audiences are able to exercise control over their media consumption.  Four key reasons why audiences choose to consume media (PIES).

Branston & Stafford – argue that ‘Media have produced a potential for profit that has inspired the development of some of the most renowned and successful conglomerations such as News Corporation, Time Warner, and Disney (link to Industry pages). To these and other industry moguls, increasing profit margin means increasing the size of their audience – that is, the number of viewers, readers, listeners, etc. In turn, media companies have sought to produce accurate representations of their audiences in an attempt to discover the qualifications for the most consumable media products (Branston and Stafford 268-270). Without audiences, there is no money to make media.

Branston and Stafford also explain the framework of the uses and gratifications model of audience that supposes the “individual consumer of media” is the authority in the media/consumer relationship (274). This approach theorizes that the audience members control media content through their demands to meet certain personal needs.

Cohen, S - Coined the term moral panic in 1972 - Media was often seen as the trigger for a decline in moral standards in society. Also came up with the concept of 'folk devils'.

Defleur - Development of the hypodermic needle effect - he stated that it was dependent on the psychology of the individual (psychodynamic)

Fiske     Stated that there are 5 factors that determine the social position of an audience.  Fiske's Theory suggests that people naturally categorise events that take place in their reality in reference to texts they have experienced in the past: intertextual referencing

Hall - Reception theory (see Representation). The meaning of a "text" is not inherent within the text itself, hence audiences must use their own cultural experiences to determine how a media text is read.

Gauntlett - He challenged the effects model on audiences and has investigated the impact of web 2.0 on identity and audiences.  He also came up with 10 sound arguments why the ‘effects model’ is flawed.

Gerbner - Studied the effects of television on people’s perception of crime - linked to ‘cultivation theory’ and 'mean world syndrome'. Sociologists Gerbner & Gross were concerned about long term exposure to media texts, especially violent TV in US (circa 1976). This links to the work of the Bandura Bobo Doll experiment (Media Effects Theory).

Grossman - Examined the effect of video games on audiences

Hartley, John - The idea that there is a 360 degree consumption/saturation of the media for modern audiences.  He also determined that seven Factors can affect audience interpretation of a text.  

John Hartley also says that "institutions are obliged not to only speak about an audience, but - crucially, for them - to talk to one as well; they need not only to represent audiences but to enter into relation with them".

Katz and Lazarsfeld - Concept: ideas flow from mass media to opinion leaders, and from them to the less active sections of the population (Two Step Flow). People tend to be much more affected in their decision making process by face to face encounters with influential peers than by the mass media.  Audiences become opinion followers rather than passive audiences.

Maslow - created a hierarchy of needs (pyramid with 5 descriptors originally although developed), useful when examining advertising and appeals to audiences at different levels.

Morley’s Research concluded that: Women tend to watch something whilst doing something else and they watch soaps etc. Men put full focus onto watching a film, sports and news. Sounds a bit dated now. Morley also stated that the position and interpellation of media groups affects how texts are decoded

Julian McDougall suggests that in the online age it is getting harder to conceive a media audience as a stable, identifiable group.

McQuail describes audience as a 'temporary collective'.  The 'online age' is made up of mainly young adults who share common identity and who follow trends; eventually, the trends change and the young adults grow up, find other interests and move on. Therefore, the audience is temporary and definitely not stable. He also developed models of society out of Marxist theory.  Claimed there are 4 methods for measuring audiences.

Vance Packard, author of the 50s shock exposé of advertising and social control, identified eight hidden needs that we all have. Emotional security - we all keep seeking it; Reassurance of worth - In a connected world we can lose sense of who we are and what we are worth. Celebrities are also used when they effectively say 'you will be admired and valued like me'; Ego gratification - we want to be congratulated and praised, much as we needed to be valued and praised as a child; Creative outlets - Many jobs have little creative content, leaving this need unfulfilled. We thus seek creative opportunity in other parts of our life; Love objects - They need something to love and if they do not have something they will buy or make one; Sense of power - when we are in control we have a sense of ability to choose and perhaps possess power over others; Roots - we seek roots but in seeking to satisfy other needs we make ourselves rootless; Immortality – we seek to create meaning in our lives so we may live beyond death.

Turow - His basic premise is that audience segmentation, and especially the pinpoint targeting that is theoretically possible with new media technology, reinforces suspicion, alienation, and lack of empathy among people of different groups because they have lost the shared consumer experience that the old mass media audience system provided.

Young and Rubicam – Cross Culturalization model is used by advertising agency to categorize its audiences – uses the MARS and MRS EARS techniques.


Barthes – says texts may be 'open' (i.e. unravelled in a lot of different ways) or 'closed' (there is only one obvious thread to pull on). Barthes also decided that the threads that you pull on to try and unravel meaning are called narrative codes.

Action Code: (proairetic code) advance the narrative – they drive it forwards. The Proairetic Code also builds tension as it sets the reader guessing what will happen next. For example, a gunslinger draws his gun and we wonder what the resolution will be. We wait to see if he kills his opponent or is wounded himself. Often action codes allow characters the chance to resolve a problem through action, often violent action (gun fights/ car chases). Action codes are seen to appeal particularly to men and are more prominent in some genres than others.

Enigma Code: (hermeneutic code) refers to any element of the story that is not fully explained and hence becomes a mystery to the reader. Enigmas are puzzles, questions the audience wants answered. Enigma codes are created by the producer controlling the amount of information released to the audience and determining at what stage certain bits of information will be given. The purpose of the author in this is typically to keep the audience guessing, arresting the enigma, until the final scenes when all is revealed and all loose ends are tied off and closure is achieved.

Semantic Code (denotation and connotation): This code refers to connotation within the story that gives additional meaning over the basic denotative meaning of the word. It is by the use of these extended meanings that authors can paint rich pictures with relatively limited set of signifiers.

Symbolic Code: This is very similar to the Semantic Code, but acts at a wider level, organizing meanings into broader and deeper sets of meaning. This is typically done through the use of binary opposites, where new meaning arises out of opposing and conflicting ideas.

Cultural Code: (referential code) Something that is read with understanding due to cultural awareness (e.g. youth culture use certain words that are understood by that culture; a British film may well show schools, pubs and landmarks that British audiences recognize). The cultural codes tend to point to our shared knowledge about the way the world works. These elements give the text plausibility with its audience.

Barthes also proclaimed the ‘death of the author’ – he meant that the producers of texts and texts themselves are essentially meaningless and texts only become meaningful in the process of consumption by audiences. Meaning can only be discovered by exploring how audiences interpret texts.

Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots is a long book detailing seven common narratives seen across books and across film.

Josephy Campbell – based on years of research, he proposed the idea of ‘universal monomyth’ that is essentially the condensed, basic hero narrative that forms the basis for every myth and legend in the world and is, therefore, common to all cultures:

  1. Ordinary World – the ordered world that the hero will choose (or be forced) to abandon.

  2. Call To Adventure – a problem or challenge arises.

  3. Refusal Of The Call – fear or reluctance may strike the hero.

  4. Meeting With The Mentor – the mentor is a key character.

  5. Crossing The First Threshold – the hero commits to the adventure.

  6. Test, Allies, Enemies – the hero must learn the rules that will govern his quest.

  7. Approach To The Innermost Cave – the most dangerous confrontation yet, perhaps the location of the treasure, or the object of the quest.

  8. Ordeal – the hero must face his fear or mortal enemy who will seem more powerful. Mental or physical torture may occur.

  9. Reward (Seizing The Sword) – the hero can celebrate the victory.

  10. The Road Back – vengeful forces controlled by the villain are unleashed.

  11. Resurrection – perhaps a final confrontation with death.

  12. Return With The Elixir – return to the ordinary world with some wisdom, knowledge or something else gained from the adventure.

Noel Carroll - Traditional 3 part structure for horror: ‘Onset phase’ where a disorder is created, ‘Discovery phase’, where characters discover the disorder, ‘Disruption phase’ where characters destroy the source and restore normality.

Pam Cook (1985), the standard Hollywood narrative structure should have:

  1. Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolution.

  2. A high degree of narrative closure.

  3. A fictional world that contains verisimilitude especially governed by spatial and temporal coherence.

Jonathan Culler (2001) describes narratology as comprising many strands “implicitly united in the recognition that narrative theory requires a distinction between story, a sequence of actions or events conceived as independent of their manifestation, and discourse, the discursive presentation or narration of events.”

Kate Domaille (2001) every story ever told can be fitted into one of eight narrative types. Each of these narrative types has a source, an original story upon which the others are based. These stories are as follows:

  1. Achilles: The fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless, or almost flawless, person, e.g. Superman, Fatal Attraction.

  2. Candide: The indomitable hero who cannot be put down, e.g. Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky etc.

  3. Cinderella: The dream comes true, e.g. Pretty Woman.

  4. Circe: The Chase, the spider and the fly, the innocent and the victim e.g. The Terminator.

  5. Faust: Selling your soul to the devil may bring riches but eventually your soul belongs to him, e.g. Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street.

  6. Orpheus: The loss of something personal, the gift that is taken away, the tragedy of loss or the journey which follows the loss, e.g. The Sixth Sense, Born On the Fourth Of July.

  7. Romeo And Juliet: The love story, e.g. Titanic.

  8. Tristan and Iseult: The love triangle. Man loves woman…unfortunately one or both of them are  already spoken for, or a third party intervenes, e.g. Casablanca.

Fiske et al (1983) - "Story is the irreducible substance of a story (A meets B, something happens, order returns), while narrative is the way the story is related (Once upon a time there was a princess...)"

Syd Field – American Screenwriter came up with a formulaic approach to film structure in three acts. 1> the set up 2> confrontation 3> resolution

Tim O’Sullivan (1998) argues that all media texts tell us some kind of story.  Media texts offer a way of telling stories about ourselves – not usually our own personal stories, but the story of us as a culture or set of cultures.

Propp, V - Examined the importance of character within narrative after studying classic folk tales - 32 character profiles.  He identifies 8 ‘types’ of characters common in stories:

  • Hero (protagonist) has a mission of quest to complete  (e.g.Luke Skywalker)

  • Villain (antagonist) tries to stop the hero                      (Darth Vader)

  • Princess love interest and/or object of the quest       (Princess Leia)

  • Father person with knowledge                                                          (Leia)

  • Dispatcher sends the hero off                                                            (Obi Wan)

  • Donor gives the hero something to help him                                (Obi Wan)

  • Sidekick the helper (not as handsome as hero) –poss. comic relief (C3P0+)

  • False hero villain that pretends to be good in order to trick the hero

Levi Strauss - believed that the way we understand certain words depends not so much on any meaning they themselves directly contain, but by our understanding of the difference between the word and its 'opposite' or, as he called it 'binary opposite'.  He looks at opposites as a key way of structuring and driving narrative.  Jacques Derrida argued that the binary opposites are never equal and audiences are positioned to favour one over another.

Todorov, T - Identified 5 stages of narrative/story and the notion that plots have a circular narrative. 

Equilibrium: (sets the scene) Everyday Life – established what life is like for the main characters before anything happens

Disruption: (complication) Something happens to alter the equilibrium – there may be a series of disrupting events throughout the story

Recognition of Disruption: (climax) Key characters realise a disruption has occurred

Repair of Disruption: Characters struggle to deal with the disruption and restore equilibrium

New Equilibrium/ Re-Equilibrium/ Second Equilibrium: (satisfactory end) Back to normal, peace restored (but never the same)- a new normality! May be better, similar of worse than the original equilibrium.

Robert McKee (alternative to Todorov) – still five stages but as follows:

  • Inciting Incident: An event happens that sets the story going

  • Progressive Complications: For a key character, things just keep getting worse

  • Crisis: Things get even worse – it looks like it’s all over for the hero

  • Climax: Things are now so bad, drastic action is called for

  • Resolution: Whatever the problem was is sorted out and all is well again.




Althusser - Suggests that 'ideological state apparatus' is enforced by media, education, religion and family who maintain hegemony and enforce dominant values across society.

Chris Anderson – The Long Tail; If you add up all the revenue from Niche market films the profit can be greater than or equal to the profit from one blockbuster or best-selling product.  Pre broadband Niche products were hard to find and expensive to buy, now online shopping/sharing makes it easy to cater for everyone's taste.

Coates - Examined that there are 4 ways to understand a society (linked to ideology)

Dutton - Developed an extension of Galtung & Ruge's news values - 12 most significant

The Frankfurt School theorised in the 1920s and 30s that the mass media acted to restrict and control audiences to the benefit of corporate capitalism and governments.   “Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is uniform as a whole and in every part… are one in their enthusiastic obedience to the rhythm of the iron system…any trace of spontaneity from the public in official broadcasting is controlled and absorbed by talent scouts, studio competitions and official programs of every kind selected by professionals.” How true is this now.

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944)

Michael Foucault – power and classes - He is one of the few writers on power who recognise that power is not just a negative, coercive or repressive thing that forces us to do things against our wishes, but can also be a necessary, productive and positive force in society. Taken from (Gaventa 2003: 2)

Galtung & Ruge - Identified a process of gatekeeping and news values - to define how editorial choices are made when filtering news to the public.

Gramsci – Suggested that dominant ideologies can change over time, moving away from heritage and tradition if enough audiences/groups enforce their own discourse (We media)

Marxist - The idea that Media and mass communication supports the ruling class/governments by reinforcing their ideology.  Ideals and cultures can be enforced upon the masses.

McLennon - Developed theory of ideology and that 3 conditions needed to be present.

O'Brien, W - Conducted a study into the development of 3rd generation gaming through historical commentary.

Raymond Williams: The Media is always dominated by the rich and powerful in society (Marxist Perspective)


Tim Berners Lee (creator of internet) ‘Openness empowers People.'; ‘By design, the Web has no centre, anyone can create….'; ‘Censorship on the web...directly attacks freedom of expression.'

Axel Bruns – Bruns defines the gatewatching practice as ‘observing the many gates through which a steady stream of information passes from these sources, and of highlighting from this stream that information which is of most relevance to one’s own personal interests or to the interests of one’s wider community.’

Nicholas Carr states in The Glass Cage, “The prevailing methods of computerized communication and coordination pretty much ensure that the role of people will go on shrinking. We’ve designed a system that discards us.”

Net neutrality – Adam Conover is an advocate and Youtuber, not the inventor of the term. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.  This is under review and effectively a BIG issue to watch.

Gillmor -  Highlighted the notion of audience revolution in the construction of their own media products (we media)

Tim O'Reilly - inventor of term 'Web 2.0'.  He states that it is 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. 

Gauntlett -  His name comes up a few times in terms of how technology influences our identity but also notably for identifying the following about the role of media studies and the impact the web is having on audiences and institutions:

Media 1.0

  • Fetishises 'experts‘ -   A world ruled by Media Gods, thus celebrates key texts produced by media moguls and conglomerates.

  • A belief that students should be taught how to 'read' the media in an appropriate 'critical' style

  • A focus on Western mainstream traditional media

  • Vague recognition of internet and new digital media, as an 'add on' to the traditional media

  • A 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'.

Media 2.0

  • Focus on everyday meanings produced by the diverse array of audience members

  • Interest in the massive 'long tail’ (Anderson) of independent media projects such as those found on YouTube and many other websites, mobile devices, and other forms of DIY media

  • 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

  • recognition that internet and digital media have fundamentally changed the ways in which we engage with all media

  • media audiences are seen as 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

  • 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. (this contrasts with Keen’s ideas).


Key quotes: “Web 2.0 allows us to become producers as well as consumers of the Internet”; “Web 2.0 allows us to collaborate and participate with each other”

  • The internet is empowering for people who like to make things, share ideas, and learn together.

  • An ocean of interesting, creative things, regardless of their professionalism or audience size, is always better than a small box of popular, smartly-finished things’

  • People doing things because they want to is always better than people watching things because they are there.

  • The distribution and funding possibilities of the internet are better than the traditional models.

  • Small steps into a changed world are better than no steps.

  • Cultures can be seen as huge networks of individuals drawing upon and interacting with the vast amount of material in these ‘external storage systems’ of books, films, and archives.

  • The internet is the most extraordinary of these external storage systems, offering access to a vast array of information, text and audio-visual material, and giving people a platform to share and exchange ideas, and to collaborate on projects together.

Jeff Howe – Crowd Sourcing.  This is when someone puts their intent out onto the internet and then gets free support/information/ideas/labour from other people on the internet.

Jaron Larier – Cyber Dystopia - In his book You Are Not a Gadget (2010), Lanier criticizes what he perceives as the hive mind of Web 2.0 (wisdom of the crowd) and describes the open source and open content expropriation of intellectual production as a form of "Digital Maoism". Lanier argues that Web 2.0 developments have retarded progress and innovation and glorified the collective at the expense of the individual.  In his book Who Owns the Future? (2013), Lanier posits that the middle class is increasingly disenfranchised from online economies. By convincing users to give away valuable information about themselves in exchange for free services, firms can accrue large amounts of data at virtually no cost. Lanier calls these firms “Siren Servers,” alluding to the Sirens of Ulysses. Instead of paying each individual for their contribution to the data pool, the Siren Servers concentrate wealth in the hands of the few who control the data centres.

Charles Leadbeater (from the book We Think) explores the ways in which mass collaboration is dramatically reshaping our approach to work, play, and communication. Society is no longer based on mass consumption but on mass participation. He proposed a question to our generation: why not use technology for innovation and creativity instead of consumption? Quote: "We think therefore we are, we share what we are".

Andrew Keen - argues that, on balance, the Internet has had a disastrous impact on all our lives. Key arguments include: Web 2.0 has created cultural chaos; a “cult of the amateur” which devalues the professional; Expertise is devalued; Internet Oligarchs are replacing Old Media Oligarchs; and the removal of gatekeepers will devalue genuine talent and expertise.

Kevin Kelly – ‘better than free’ analysed the impact of the internet on information and concluded: When copies are super abundant, they become worthless; When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.  Institutions therefore have to examine ways to make money in a copying age – Kelly developed 8 concepts.

Lev Manovich – Database media ‘Software takes Command’ Automation Decreases “human intentionality” in the creative process. EG: Photoshop filters; Blurs lines between professional and amateur. Database Logic: “The Internet, which can be thought of as one huge distributed media database, also crystallized the basic condition of the new information society: overabundance of information of all kinds… The emergence of new media coincides with the second stage of a media society, now concerned as much with accessing and re-using existing media as with creating new one”.  New media (like flickr) “give rise to many different versions. And rather than being created completely by a human author, these versions are often in part automatically assembled by a computer” You enter information about yourself and then the automated software creates a personalized interface to the database just for you.


Marshall McLuhan - Electronic age (The Global Village) Many of his ideas were developed way before the internet arrived; he was a visionary.  McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence": when electronic media would replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base." McLuhan's coinage for this new social organization is the global village.

Quote: “We have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man. the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society.” Technology is an extension of man.

He famously stated that “..The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

‘…men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves’  (McLuhan, The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis 1964)

John McMuria - A participatory culture is not necessarily a diverse culture.   Minorities are grossly under-represented - the most heavily viewed videos on YouTube tend to come from white middle class males.   If we want to see a more "democratic" culture, we need to explore what mechanisms might have encouraged greater diversity in who participates, whose work gets seen, and what gets valued within the new participatory culture.

B J Mendelson (supports Keen’s idea) said “Those who shout loudest will be heard most” celebs with mass following (bought / ordered online)– taken from book social media is bullsh*t

Evgeny Morozov – dystopian view – Slacktivism.  ‘The Net is NOT inherently liberating; its liberating potential may shrink or grow depending on the circumstances.'

Nielsen – Lean Forward ‘On the Web, users are engaged and want to go places and get things done. The Web is an active medium. While watching TV, viewers want to be entertained. They are in relaxation mode and vegging out; they don't want to make choices. TV is a passive medium.’

Lean Back 2.0 develops the theory and says that the digital age provides a richer lean back experience than before.

Henry Jenkins -  Participatory culture. Key quotes:

  • “Everyone is a producer of Media, the desire to create and share is great and we can now communicate across geographical barriers”

  • “...Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk.”

  • “Our focus should not be on emerging technologies, but on emerging cultural practices.”

  • “If old consumers were assumed to be passive, then new consumers are active. If old consumers were predictable and stayed where you told them, then new consumers are migratory, showing a declining loyalty to networks or media. If old consumers were isolated individuals, then new consumers are more socially connected. If the work of media consumers was once silent and invisible, then new consumers are now noisy and public.”

  • “In this emerging media system, …consumers are transformed into participants who are expected to interact with each other ...each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information we have extracted from the ongoing flow of media around us and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives.”

  • “Because there is more information out there …than we can store in our heads, there is an added incentive for us to talk amongst ourselves about the media we consume. …Consumption has become a collective process... None of us can know everything; each of us knows something; we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources …. Collective intelligence can be seen as an alternative source of media power.”

David Nye (2007) presented the idea of cyber-dystopia, which envisions a world made worse by technological advancements.  Cyber dystopias centre around the principles of the individual losing control, becoming dependent and being unable to stop change. Nye describes a society where the elite use technology to oppress and control mass groups of people. He also presents technology as a form of false hope; promising success and change, but causing pain and inconvenience when that goal is not reached.

Prensky – games/intellectual “Digital games are now being used to teach babies the alphabet, to help kids monitor their diabetes and overcome ADD, to teach both practical and tactical skills to the military, to teach financial derivatives to auditors and to teach CAD software to engineers, among many other things. And this is just the beginning — ANYTHING can be taught more effectively through Digital Game-Based Learning.”

Douglas Rushkoff sings the praises of Web 2.0 by stating, “The Internet’s ability to network human beings is its very life’s blood. It fosters communication, collaboration, sharing, helpfulness, and community… The ideas, information, and applications now launching on Web sites around the world capitalize on the transparency, usability, and accessibility that the internet was born to deliver.”

Clay Shirky - The internet is run on love (people offering time, resources and knowledge to get stuff done) from ‘Here Comes Everybody’.  He also suggests that people are organizing great things without the need for organisations.   He also wrote greatly about the role of audiences in a digital age, stating that the idea of a 'powerful consumer' is an oxymoron.

Tapscott & Williams - Linked Web 2.0 to a new strand of economics (wikinomics, 2006) they said that ‘audiences command and control the web’.

Michael Wesch – examines digital anthropology (man’s history with web technology) and concludes that new Media creates new ways of knowing each other and of knowing ourselves; We live in an MTV generation – narcissism, materialism, short attention spans – a product of web 2.0.

Dan Gillmor - For years ‘Big Media’ (corporations such as Sky, Google and the BBC) have had control over who produces and shares media, and the information that people get. The people who own these large corporations are not representative of the diversity of society.

The internet has allowed for the freedom of citizen journalism. The audience is now the producer.  We are a nation of Netizens and prosumers.

Evidence based research/Economics/Everything else

Eisenstein - Developed the form of film with his use of montage (Media Language); Tudor Defined and categorised the types of montage used by Eisenstein

Goffman (1972) - In the portrayal of men and women, advertising often uses the following codes and conventions:

  • Dismemberment: On females, parts of the body such as legs, chest, etc., are used, rather than the full body. This is to accentuate the parts of their body which will attract a male audience.

  • Superiority, Domination & Body Language: Men are shown in dominant positions; appear to be reflective of thought and intelligence. Women are physically portrayed in sexual or reclining poses with blank or inviting expressions.

  • The Voice-Over Authority: In moving image advertisements, male voices are used as voice-overs in commercials rather than females.

Advertising: "Commercial photographs," Goffman points out, "involve carefully performed poses presented in the style of being 'only natural'." (84)

Alan Kirby - says postmodernism is dead and buried. In its place comes a new paradigm of authority and knowledge formed under the pressure of new technologies and contemporary social forces.

Neil Henry - Technology has caused a crisis in professional journalism. Citizen journalism is prone to unethical practises. Ethical professional journalism is essential to an informed, free and democratic society.

Kutner & Olsen Conducted research into the effects of video

Martin Baker – regulation theory – researcher against media regulation of film – he argued that we need to see violence because it is part of society.

Leiss, Kline & Jhally - Developed 4 formats for advertising

Lyotard, JF - Developed concept of postmodernism, explaining that Media texts are self-aware, independent from modernism and able to pick and mix meaning from real life and vice versa.

Marshall - Examined the changing relationship between games and movies (2004)

McShane - Highlighted 5 points/methods that journalists follow

Saris - The term ‘Auteur Theory’ originated from Andrews Sarris’s essay ‘Notes on the Auteur Theory’ in 1962.  Auteur theory draws on the work of cinema enthusiasts who wrote ‘Cahiers du Cinema’ and argued that a directors vision should be reflected in their films. According to Andrew Sarris in his ‘Notes on the Auteur Theory’, a director must accomplish technical competence in their technique, personal style in terms of how the movie looks and feels, and interior meaning.

Alexandre Astruc’s concept of the ‘caméra-stylo’ (camera pen) promotes directors to wield cameras as writers use pens and to guard against the obstacles of traditional storytelling.  Truffaut expressed that directors should use the mise-en-scène to imprint their vision on their work.    Andre Bazin and Roger Leenhardt also expressed that the director brings the film to life and uses it to express their feelings on the subject matter.  An auteur can also use lighting, setting, staging, and editing to add to their vision.

Starting in the 1960s film critics began to criticise the auteur theory’s focus on the authorial role of the director.   One reason for this is the collaborative aspect of film making.  Aljean Harmetz argued that the auteur theory “collapses against the reality of the studio system”.  The New Critics argued that speculation about an author’s intention was secondary to the words on the page as the basis of the experience of reading literature.

Saussure - Concept of semiotics and language (linguistics) 1974 - the extended connotations of within a cultural system.

  • THE SIGNIFIER – The sign: a word, colour or image (i.e. the colour BLUE)

  • THE SIGNIFIED – The concept/ meaning/associations that the sign refers to (i.e. BLUE is often associated with sadness or the sea etc.)

Williams - Identified 3 core characteristics in Drama and also categorised 9 forms of the TV programme.

Creativity Theory

  • “The making of the new and the rearranging of the old” (Bentley, 1997).

  • creativity has been defined as the ability to bring something new into existence’   Anthony Storr

  • ‘…through making things, and sharing them with others, we feel a greater connection with the world…’ David Gauntlett

  • To promote creativity, you need to be able to play and take risks. Ken Robinson

  • Spontaneity takes practice - Csikszentmihalyi (or a theorist)

  • Creativity takes Courage – Henri Matisse

  1. Ken Robinson identified creative habits of mind:  Flexibility – alternate ways of thinking; Willingness - to think the impossible; Confidence - to try things out; Ability - to handle uncertainty - perseverance in adversity

Creativity definitions:



The new specifications from 2017 are very specific about the theorists that students need to have an understanding of.  Each theorist has published ideas and arguments around key media industries and concepts relating to them.  Some of the definitions are explained above; the list is presented below. 

Theories of Media Language:

  • Semiotics: Barthes  

  • narratology, including Todorov  

  • genre theory, including Neale.

  • structuralism, including Lévi-Strauss

  • postmodernism, including Baudrillard


  • theories of representation including Hall

  • theories of identity including Gauntlett

  • feminist theories including bell hooks and Van Zoonen

  • theories of gender performativity including Butler

  • theories around ethnicity and postcolonial theory including Gilroy.


  • power and media industries, including Curran and Seaton.

  • theories of regulation including those of Livingstone and Lunt

  • theories of cultural industries including those of Hesmondhalgh.


  • media effects, including Bandura

  • cultivation theory, including Gerbner

  • reception theory, including Hall

  • theories of fandom, including Jenkins

  • theories of ‘end of audience’, including Shirky.

Online age
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