Bournemouth Media School - Year 2 Theory Option

The transformation of society in the 21st Century brought about by the proliferation of digital technologies raises fascinating questions about the identity, lifestyle and personal expression. From the niche marketing to social networking, the identification of defined communities of consumers has become a key way in which audiences interact with the media. Moreover, the active nature of contemporary consumer behaviour invites us to think about the way in which the media economy will develop. From the accessibility of domestic creative technologies, to guerrilla campaigns to ambush the charts (and sometimes the high street), the democracy of cultural consumption has never been more hotly contested.

This unit aims to explore how consumer culture has come to frame and shape the ways in which individuals engage and understand their own position in relation to society and culture in the Twenty First Century. Central to this, of course, is the way in which society has become dominated by information technology and community has become more fragmented. In this direction, the tension between Postmodernity as a historical epoch and the playful sensibility of media texts that we define as post-modern will be a key theme. However, emphasis will also be placed upon the sophisticated way in which contemporary identity is reflexively constructed in dialogue with popular culture. In particular the notion that Facebook invites us to construct a shop-window for the self will form the basis of some interesting discussion.

On a broader level, the unit will also consider the wider political implications of the proliferation of Western consumer culture, our relationship with the developing world and the way in which abstract global concepts like ‘terror’ rely upon ownership of the means of cultural production. Conversely attention will also be paid to the way in which interpersonal relations conform to patterns of consumer agency, in a discussion of issues of friendship, romantic attachment and family roles.

From a theoretical perspective this unit offers students the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a number of theorists. This will prove useful not only in the final assessment, but also in preparation for final year dissertations. These include: Marx, Saussure, Adorno, Barthes, Baudrillard, Hebdige, Bourdieu, Jameson, Giddens and encompass issues of capitalism, semiology, mass-culture, authorship, postmodernism, subculture, taste and intimacy. For those students preparing to take on roles in the media industry, it will be useful to explore the tension not only between art, commerce, creativity and the wider economy, but also the blurring of the boundaries between traditional concepts of media production and consumption.

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