21L.015   Introduction to Media StudiesSyllabus | Classes | Labs | Papers | Resources


  1. Most critics speak of "popular culture" as appealing to the lowest common denominator -- "one size fits all." In most cases, however, popular series attract a coalition of multiple audience segments who like the shows for their own reasons.
  2. Historically, the concept of culture was primarily hierarchical, referring to the "best that man has created," and seen as separate from the realm of everyday experience. More recent work has seen culture as the totality of human experience, as part of everyday life.
  3. Media audiences are active user, not passive consumers of television content. They often translate watching television into other kinds of social and cultural activities.
  4. Watching television is a skill-based activity, just like watching the ballet or appreciating fine art. We often, however, devalue the skills and knowledges involved in making sense of popular culture.
  5. Since watching television is part of domestic life, it is experienced differently by different members of the household, depending upon their domestic responsibilities. The shows chosen by men and women or adults and children reflect their characteristic ways of watching and thinking about television.
  6. The appeal of a new program or a new communication technology is at least partially determined by the social context into which it operates. Marketing can accent but not create demands. Rather, products sell if they fit comfortably into the lifestyle of their potential consumers.
  7. Watching television is a meaningful activity, part of the ways that people make sense of their lives and the world around them, part of the material they use to connect with other people. However formulaic television may seem, differences and particular details matter.
  8. Watching television is often a meaningless activity, with the process of viewing more important than the content of what is being viewed.