The works of most of these media thinkers are discussed in depth in Key Themes in Media Theory. Only the bare minimum of biographical details are included here because what matters is not who these people are/were but what contribution they offered to the long tradition of media thought. And a long tradition it is too… even Plato gets a credit!
Adorno, Theodor (1903-69): German sociologist, critical theorist, classical Marxist, music critic. Along with Max Horkheimer, Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse, he was a pioneering figure in the Frankfurt School of social research during the 1920s/30s. KEY READINGS: (with Horkheimer) Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (1969); The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (1991); Essays on Music (2002). KEY WORDS: standardization, commodity fetishism, pseudo-individualization.
Ang, Ien (1954-): Indonesian/Dutch cultural studies specialist. Best known for her audience research and analysis, she has made an impact on feminist thinking and theories of media consumption. KEY READINGS: Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (1985); Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World (1996). KEY WORDS: ideology of populism, postmodern feminism.
Angell, Norman (1872-1967): British politician, journalist, media commentator. A ‘mass society’ critic, he viewed the tabloid press as a demagogue for the less favourable prejudices of ‘the public mind’. KEY READINGS: The Public Mind: Its Disorders: Its Exploitation (1926); The Press and the Organisation of Society (1922). KEY WORDS: mass society.
Arnheim, Rudolf (1904-2007): German film theorist, perceptual psychologist. Undertook groundbreaking studies of art (especially film) and visual perception, and lesser-known studies of radio and aural perception. KEY READINGS: Film as Art (1958); Radio (1936); Towards a Psychology of Art: Collected Essays (1966). KEY WORDS: visual perception.
Barthes, Roland (1915-80): French literary critic, cultural theorist. His most enduring legacy is to semiotics and structuralist theory. His theory of myth was a precursor of contemporary studies in ideology. KEY READINGS: Mythologies (1957); Image-Music-Text (1977). KEY WORDS: denotation/connotation (v. Ferdinand de Saussure), myth.
Baudrillard, Jean (1929-2007): French sociologist, media and cultural theorist. His work is associated mostly with postmodernism and consumerism, especially the notion of ’saturation’. KEY READINGS: Simulations (1983); The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995). KEY WORDS: simulation, hyperreality.
Becker, Howard S. (1928-): American sociologist, jazz musician. His labelling theory of deviance remains a major interactionist perspective on how public – including media - reaction defines what is socially acceptable and unacceptable. KEY READINGS: Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963); (with M. M. McCall, eds) Symbolic Interaction and Cultural Studies (1990); Art Worlds (1982). KEY WORDS: labelling, collective activity.
Bell, Daniel (1919-): American sociologist, journalist. A founding father of the information society thesis, his work is also associated with post-Marxism, especially his ‘end of ideology’ argument. KEY READINGS: The Coming of Post-industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (1973); The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (1960). KEY WORDS: post-industrialism, cultural conservatism.
Benjamin, Walter (1892-1940): German literary critic, critical theorist. A founding member of the Frankfurt School along with Adorno et al., he was also an influential figure in Bertolt Brecht’s theatre. KEY READINGS: ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ and ‘What is Epic Theatre?’ in Illuminations (1973). KEY WORDS: aura, ritual function/exhibition function.
Bernays, Edward (1891-1995): American public relations pioneer, propagandist. Though critical of most propaganda, he supported and practiced certain forms of it in the belief that ‘good propaganda’ could improve people socially and economically. KEY READINGS: Crystallising Public Opinion (1923); Propaganda (1928).
Blumer, Herbert (1900-87): American sociologist. He coined the term ‘symbolic interactionism’ – but his early research on the influence of Hollywood films on young audiences was distinctly behaviourist in approach. KEY READINGS: Movies and Conduct (1933); Symbolic Interaction: Perspective and Method (1969). KEY WORDS: modelling/imitation.
Boorstin, Daniel (1914-2004): American cultural historian. His main contribution to media theory is his analysis of how the communications revolution in visual media, advertising and public relations led to a phony age of romanticism, spectacle and celebrity. KEY READING: The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America (1961). KEY WORDS: pseudo-event.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1930-2002): French sociologist, literary critic. His concepts of ‘habitus’ and ‘field’, as they relate to structure (cultural consumption) and agency (cultural production) respectively, have been widely applied in media and cultural studies. KEY READINGS: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1984); The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (1993); On Television and Journalism (1996). KEY WORDS: cultural capital, social capital.
Cantril, Hadley (1906-69): American behavioural and social psychologist. Best known for work on public opinion and the psychology of radio, especially his analysis of audience reaction to the famous 1938 Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds. KEY READINGS: The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic (1940); (with Gordon Allport) The Psychology of Radio (1935); Gauging Public Opinion (1947). KEY WORDS: mass panic.
Carey, James W. (1935-2006): American communication and cultural studies specialist. His argument about how the electric telegraph transformed ’communication’, separating the term from its association with ‘transportation’, remains noteworthy. KEY READING: Communication as Culture (1989). KEY WORDS: technology and ideology.
Castells, Manuel (1942-): Spanish sociologist. His work what he calls ‘the network society’ is an important rejoinder to advocates of the information society thesis. KEY READINGS: The Rise of the Network Society (1996); The Internet Galaxy (2001). KEY WORDS: informational city, the space of flows.
Chomsky, Noam (1928-): American linguist, political commentator, media theorist. His media analysis cuts across theories of political economy, propaganda, hegemony and globalisation. KEY READINGS: (with Edward Herman) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media (1988); Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (1997). KEY WORDS: the propaganda model.
Cohen, Stanley (unknown): South African sociologist, criminologist. His seminal work on deviance and the manufacture of news is still widely discussed. KEY READINGS: Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (1972); (ed) Images of Deviance (1971); (with Jock Young, eds) The Manufacture of News: Social Problems, Deviance and the Mass Media (1974). KEY WORDS: moral panic.
Curran, James (unknown): British communications theorist, media historian. A prolific author, his astute analysis of rival narratives in media history is now a standard reference point. KEY READINGS: Media and Power (2002); (with Jean Seaton) Power Without Responsibility (2010, 7th edn). KEY WORDS: liberal narrative/feminist narrative/populist narrative/nationalist narrative/libertarian narrative/radical narrative/technological determinist narrative.
Debord, Guy (1931-94): French social theorist, Marxist. His argument about how the media-fuelled, spectacular society of advanced capitalist economies disseminates false appearances and expectations of happiness, success and so on, still remains persuasive. KEY READING: The Society of the Spectacle (1967). KEY WORDS: the spectacle.
Debray, Regis (1940-): French mediologist, journalist, Marxist. Rejecting semiotics and post-structuralism, his theory of mediology shows how images and technologies transmit cultural meanings in ways akin to religious artefacts – not merely through shared linguistic codes a la semiotics. KEY READINGS: Transmitting Culture (2000); Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms (1996). KEY WORDS: mediology, technological transmission.
Deleuze, Giles (1925-95): French philosopher, film theorist. His ideas about cinema and its different types of movement-image (v. Charles S. Pierce) have grown in significance in recent times. KEY READING: Deleuze on Cinema (Ronald Bogue) (2003). KEY WORDS: perception-image/affection-image/impulse-image/action-image/reflection-image/relation-image.
Fiske, John (1939-): British media and communication specialist. A proponent of active audiences and popular cultural resistance, especially as applied to television studies. KEY READINGS: Television Culture (1987); Understanding Popular Culture (1989); Reading the Popular (1989). KEY WORDS: consumer resistance.
Foucault, Michel (1926-84): French social historian, sociologist. In media theory, his ideas about discursive formations, discipline and panopticon-like surveillance are particularly influential. KEY READINGS: The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972); Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975). KEY WORDS: discourse, surveillance.
Gerbner, George (1919-2005): American communication theorist. Noted for his cultivation theory – an attempt to analyse the gradual, long-term effects of television on social conceptions of the real world. KEY READING: ‘Living with Television: The Dynamics of the Cultivation Process’ in Perspectives on Media Effects (eds J. Bryant and D. Zillmann) (1986). KEY WORDS: cultivation, mainstreaming.
Gitlin, Todd (1943-): American sociologist. His research on the Hollywood television industry is a classic insider account of media economics and politics. KEY READINGS: The Whole World is Watching: Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (1980); Inside Prime Time (1983); Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (2002). KEY WORDS: social management.
Goffman, Erving (1922-82): Canadian sociologist. Associated with the Chicago School of sociology and criminology, his theories of self-presentation – originally focused on face-to-face social interaction – were later developed to encompass mediated interaction rituals and contexts. KEY READINGS: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959); Gender Advertisements (1979); Forms of Talk (1981). KEY WORDS: front/back region, gender display.
Habermas, Jurgen (1929-): German sociologist. A second-generation Frankfurt School scholar, notable for his historical analysis of the declining, culture-debating (bourgeois) public sphere in the face of a culture-consuming, mass-mediated one. KEY READING: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962). KEY WORDS: public sphere.
Hall, Stuart (1932-): British sociologist, cultural theorist. A founding father of post-war British cultural studies and director of the Birmingham School of Contemporary Cultural Studies during its most productive period (1968-79), his encoding/decoding model of television discourse/communication is a touchstone in the media theory canon. KEY READINGS: (with Dorothy Hobson et al., eds) Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79 (1980); (ed) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997). KEY WORDS: encoding/decoding, grammar of race.
Hoggart, Richard (1918-): British literary and cultural critic. Following his autobiographical account of the rise of mass literacy/mass media within working-class culture, he made a major impact on British broadcasting and educational policy. KEY READINGS: The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of a Working-class Life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments (1958); Only Connect: On Culture and Communication (1972). KEY WORDS: cultural classlessness.
Innis, Harold A. (1894-1952): Canadian communication theorist, political economist. A key influence on McLuhan‘s medium theory, he argued that, historically, media communications have played a fundamental political role in determining how information is disseminated in societies by rulers to ruled. KEY READINGS: The Bias of Communication (1951); Empire and Communications (1986). KEY WORDS: space-biased media/time-biased media.
Jameson, Fredric (1934-): American literary critic, cultural theorist, Marxist. Most notable for his work on postmodernism, he argues that the expansion of mass media and culture has brought about the disappearance of artistic originality in the contemporary era. KEY READINGS: Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991); The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern 1983-98 (1998). KEY WORDS: pastiche, intertextuality.
Jenkins, Henry (1958-): American media specialist. Well-known for his work on fan cultures and convergence, his argument in favour of consumer/audience power places him in the cultural optimism (as opposed to cultural pessimism) camp. KEY READINGS: Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (1992). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006). KEY WORDS: participatory culture, fan art.
Katz, Elihu (1926-): Israeli-American sociologist. He has contributed to a rich array of theoretical inquiry including the two-step flow model, uses and gratifications, cultural imperialism/resistance and media events. KEY READINGS: (with Lazarsfeld) Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications (1955); (with Jay Blumler, eds) The Uses of Mass Communications: Current Perspectives on Gratifications Research (1974); (with Tamar Liebes) The Export of Meaning: Cross-cultural Readings of Dallas (1990); (with Daniel Dayan) Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (1992). KEY WORDS: two-step flow, uses and gratifications.
Kittler, Friedrich (1943-2011): German media philosopher, literary critic, historian of science. A mathematician of music and sound, he argues that technological inventions and innovations generate profound material changes in meaning, regardless of whether these changes fall within the realm of human sensory perception. KEY READINGS: Optical Media (2010); Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1999). KEY WORDS: time-axis manipulation, discourse analysis.
Kracauer, Siegfried (1889-1966): German film theorist, cultural critic, journalist. A realist film theorist who analysed the material content of a film rather than its form or style, he shared much the same Marxist outlook and cultural pessimism as his friend Adorno. KEY READINGS: The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (1963); Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (1960). KEY WORDS: melange, mass ornament.
Lacan, Jacques (1901-81): French literary theorist, Freudian psychoanalyst. His famous theory of ‘the mirror stage’ set the agenda for studies of identity and identification, particularly in relation to cinema/film. KEY READING: Ecrits: A Selection (1966). KEY WORDS: mirror stage, jouissance.
Lasswell, Harold D. (1902-78): American political and communication theorist. His famous ‘formula’ - ’Who, says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect?’ – is a linchpin of media studies. He also developed the method of content analysis as a means of reading propaganda. KEY READINGS: ‘The Structure and Function of Communication in Society’ in The Processes and Effects of Mass Communication (eds Schramm and Roberts) (1971); Propaganda Technique in World War 1 (1971). KEY WORDS: chain of communication.
Lazarsfeld, Paul (1901-76): Austrian-American sociologist. As well as his pioneering study of interpersonal influence with Katz, he co-wrote (with Merton) an essay on the social functions of media that sowed the seeds of agenda-setting research. In contrast to this essay, Lazarsfeld’s radio research – deploying the focus-group interview method which he pioneered – identified limited media effects on audiences. KEY READINGS: Radio and the Printed Page: An Introduction to the Study of Radio and Its Role in the Communication of Ideas (1940); (with Merton) ‘Mass Communication, Popular Taste, and Organised Social Action’ in The Communication of Ideas (1948); (with Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet) The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign (1944). KEY WORDS: ‘status conferral’, ‘enforcement of social norms’, ‘narcotising dysfunction’.
Leavis, F. R. (1895-1978): British literary and cultural critic. Alongside his wife Q. D. and in sympathy with T. S. Eliot, Leavis was an elitist who argued that mass media and culture had a detrimental effect on society – and needed to be counteracted by a minority culture of great art and literature. KEY READINGS: (with Denys Thompson) Culture and Environment: The Training of Critical Awareness (1933); Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture (1930). KEY WORDS: scrutiny, minority culture.
Lippmann, Walter (1889-1974): American political commentator, journalist. A pioneer in the analysis of public opinion, he was a keen libertarian who valued the freedom of the press – despite its power over people’s minds. KEY READINGS: Public Opinion (1922); Liberty and the News (1920); The Phantom Public (1925). KEY WORDS: stereotype, public opinion.
McChesney, Robert W. (unknown): American political economist of communications, media critic, broadcaster. An anti-capitalist media commentator, he argues that government and multinational corporations conspire to deter competition from alternative media provision. KEY READINGS: Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (2000); (with Edward S. Herman) The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism (1997). KEY WORDS: political economy.
McLuhan, Marshall (1911-80): Canadian literary critic and media theorist. His famous phrase – ‘The medium is the message’ (my emphasis) - asserted that the form/properties of any given communication technology determine their impact on society, not their content (i.e. message). KEY READINGS: Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964); The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962). KEY WORDS: hot/cold media, retribalisation.
McRobbie, Angela (1951-): British cultural theorist. Affiliated with the Birmingham School under Hall‘s directorship, she is a well-known commentator on feminism and gender, postmodernism, popular music and the cultural industries. KEY READINGS: Feminism and Youth Culture (1991); Postmodernism and Popular Culture (1994); The Uses of Cultural Studies (2005). KEY WORDS: gender, structuralist feminism.
Mander, Jerry (unknown): American media commentator, advertising executive. He wrote a powerful polemic against television, especially advertising on television, arguing that the medium has inherent effects akin to autocratic control over the minds of its viewers. KEY READING: Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978). KEY WORDS: media effects.
Merton, Robert K. (1910-2003): American sociologist. In addition to his essay on the social functions of media (with Lazarsfeld), he wrote a seminal book on the social psychology of mass persuasion,which evaluated the power of a radio celebrity on her audience. KEY READING: Mass Persuasion: The Social Psychology of a War Bond Drive (1946). KEY WORDS: persuasion, anomie, role model.
Meyrowitz, Joshua (unknown): American communication specialist. An exponent of McLuhan’s medium theory and Goffman’s self-presentation theory, he combined the two theories in his well-known study of media in a placeless society. KEY READING: No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behaviour (1985). KEY WORDS: placelessness, middle-region behaviour.
Miller, Mark Crispin (unknown): American media critic, political activist. Not unlike McChesney, he argues that US media are anti-democratic in the way they toe the line of government and dominant political interests. KEY READINGS: Boxed In: The Culture of Television (1988); Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (2005). KEY WORDS: democratic reform.
Milton, John (1608-74): English poet, political activist. Puritanical and republican in his beliefs, Milton was a vocal critic of censorship as it was imposed by the monarch prior to the English Revolution. He is therefore lauded as an early campaigner for press freedom. KEY READINGS: Areopagitica (1644). KEY WORDS: freedom of speech.
Modleski, Tania (unknown): American feminist, literary critic. Best-known for her feminist criticism of popular television drama, she has identified a lack of positive female roles in prime-time soaps. KEY READING: Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-producced Fantasies for Women (1990). KEY WORDS: the ideal reader.
Morley, David (unknown): British media and cultural studies specialist. His groundbreaking work on domestic television consumption has made a major contribution to media audience studies. KEY READINGS: (with Charlotte Brunsdon) The Nationwide Television Studies (1999); Television, Audiences and Cultural Studies (1992). KEY WORDS: encoding/decoding, genre theory.
Mulvey, Laura (1941-): British film theorist. Combining Lacan with post-structuralist ideas, she wrote a seminal essay on the ‘male gaze’ in Hollywood narrative cinema. KEY READING: ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ in Visual and Other Pleasures (1989): KEY WORDS: the male gaze.
Packard, Vance (1914-96): American consumer psychologist, journalist. He was an influential analyst of the subliminal ploys used by media promoters and advertisers to influence consumer behaviour. KEY READINGS: The Hidden Persuaders (1957); The Naked Society (1970). KEY WORDS: the depth approach, manipulation.
Park, Robert E. (1864-1944): American sociologist, journalist. Founder of the Chicago School of sociology and criminology, his best-known media analysis was of how foreign-language newspapers helped (and hindered) immigrant assimilation into urban US communities. KEY READINGS: The Immigrant Press and Its Control (1922); Race and Culture (1950). KEY WORDS: assimilation, race.
Plato (428 BC-348 BC): Classical Greek Philosopher. His dialogues on rhetoric remain an important reference point for theories of persuasive communication as well as the relationship between media and memory (see McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy). Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has been used to understand the relationship between reality and (media) representations of reality, not least by Lippmann. KEY READINGS: ‘Phaedrus’ in Plato: Complete Works (ed. John M. Cooper) (1997). KEY WORDS: Plato’s Cave.
Poster, Mark (1941-): American media and critical theorist. His work on postmodernism (especially Baudrillard) and new media is particularly noteworthy. KEY READING: The Second Media Age (1995); What’s the Matter With the Internet (2001). KEY WORDS: the second media age.
Postman, Neil (1931-2003): American media theorist, cultural critic. He argued that the historical shift from print media to audiovisual forms (especially television) led to a deterioration in learning and cultural appreciation. KEY READINGS: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1987); Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1993). KEY WORDS: Age of Exposition (versus Age of Show Business).
Riesman, David (1909-2002): American sociologist. Notable for his analysis of popular music among other cultural forms, he argued that mass media had come to replace parents/teachers as ‘tutors’ for the young. KEY READINGS: (with N. Glazer and R. Denney) The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (1950); ‘Listening to Popular Music’ in On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word (eds. Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin) (1990). KEY WORDS: other-direction / other-directed character.
Rogers, Everett (1931-2004): American communication specialist. His diffusion of innovations theory is a key model in understanding societal adoption of new technologies. KEY READING: Diffusion of Innovations (1962). KEY WORDS: innovator/early adopter/early majority/late majority/laggard.
Said, Edward (1935-2003): Palestinian-American literary theorist, cultural critic. A major figure in postcolonial thought, Said argued that non-Western cultures (‘the Orient’) have been largely misrepresented and negatively stereotyped by dominant Western discourses, including those of Western media. KEY READINGS: Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978); Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (1981). KEY WORDS: orientalism.
Schiller, Herbert (1919-2000): American sociologist, media and cultural critic. Advocate of the media/cultural imperialism thesis, his scathing analysis of the corporate capitalist economics of US mass media is rarely been matched. KEY READINGS: Mass Communications and American Empire (1969); Culture, Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression (1989). KEY WORDS: cultural imperialism, cultural homogenisation.
Shannon, Claude (1916-2001): American mathematician, information theorist, communication theorist. His mathematical model of the communication process – source-transmitter-signal (and noise)-receiver-destination – inspired research in the communication sciences. KEY READINGS: (with Warren Weaver) The Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949). KEY WORDS: noise, redundancy, entropy.
Silverstone, Roger (1945-2006): British sociologist, media theorist. His work on media consumption in everyday life, as well as his earlier ethnographic accounts of television production, remain standard reference points. KEY READINGS: Television and Everyday Life (1994); Why Study the Media? (1999). KEY WORDS: cycle of consumption.
Smythe, Dallas (1907-92): Canadian political economist of communications. His most notable work conceived media audiences as commodities, reduced to mere statistical facts by commercial broadcasters as a means of selling their advertising space. KEY READINGS: ‘Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism’ in Counterclockwise: Perspectives on Communication (1994); Dependency Road: Communications, Capitalism, Consciousness and Canada (1981). KEY WORDS: audience as commodity.
Thompson, John B. (unknown): British sociologist, publisher. He wrote an important theoretical account of mass-mediated communication, placing emphasis on the value of interactionist sociological perspectives. KEY READINGS: The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media (1995); Political Scandal: Power and Visibility in the Media Age (2000). KEY WORDS: mediated quasi-interaction.
Todorov, Tzvetan (1939-): Bulgarian literary theorist. His concept of ‘equilibrium’ is central to narrative theory. KEY READING: The Poetics of Prose (1971). KEY WORDS: equilibrium, disruption, recognition.
Tunstall, Jeremy (unknown): British sociologist, media critic. Renowned for his ideas on media/cultural imperialism, Tunstall has argued that Anglo-American media dominate the global market for news, television drama, films, etc. – though he has subsequently revised his original thesis. KEY READINGS: The Media Are American: Anglo-American Media in the World (1977); Communications Deregulation: The Unleashing of America’s Communications Industry (1986); The Media Were American: US Mass Media in Decline (2007). KEY WORDS: cultural imperialism, deregulation.
Turkle, Sherry (1948-): American sociologist of technology. Well-known commentator on the psychological effects of computer technologies, including gaming and the internet. KEY READINGS: The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984); Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995). KEY WORDS: sociable robots.
Virilio, Paul (1932-): French cultural theorist. Notable for his work on war and media, and the relationship between technology, speed and power. KEY READING: War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (1989). KEY WORDS: the war model, newshound.
Williams, Raymond (1921-88): British literary and cultural critic. Although not principally a media scholar, Williams is arguably the most influential media theorist of modern times. His social histories of culture and communications, criticism of technological determinism, and ideas about television ‘flow’ and ‘mobile privatisation’, are stand-out contributions and evidence his interdisciplinary prowess. KEY READINGS: Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1974); Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976); Communications (1966). KEY WORDS: (see Williams’s Keywords).
Williamson, Judith (unknown): British media critic. She wrote a seminal semiotic analysis of advertising in which she argued that the ideology of ads is to appeal to ‘you’ as ‘someone special’ – when in truth all ads are designed for mass appeal. KEY READING: Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising (1978); Consuming Passions: The Dynamics of Popular Culture (1988). KEY WORDS: referent system.
Zizek, Slavoj (1949-): Slovenian cultural theorist, film critic. Following Lacan, he applies psychoanalytic theory to a range of film and popular cultural phenomena. KEY READING: Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out (2007). KEY WORDS: theoretical psychoanalysis.