My Media Studies

David Hesmondhalgh, Head of the Institute of Communications Studies and Professor of Media and Music Industries, University of Leeds

The media studies that I like have some or all of the following features, and they share these features with most of the contemporary writing I like.

A sensitivity to change and an interest in it, but a refusal to parade one’s immer- sion in the new in order to grab the attention of publishers, grant givers, and the lower echelons of political power.

A deep skepticism toward moralizing, but a clear desire to forefront and explain the normative positions on which they are grounded, in the interests of transparency and dialogue.

An underlying sense of shock and awe at the political defeats of the past thirty years.

An awareness that simplistic invocations of terms such as neoliberalism will be insufficient to explain those political defeats and that neoliberalism is a necessary component of any historical understanding of them.

A willingness to try and do something to reverse those defeats, without making it sound as though everyone else is just sitting on their arses (U.S.:asses) doing nothing.

A deep sense of the value of beauty and truth in art,journalism,and symbol making.

Elegant writing—or at least well-constructed sentences.

An internationalist understanding of the importance of nation.

A tussle with the remarkable legacy of poststructuralism.

A respect for science and analytical philosophy,and a total unwillingness to make sweeping statements about the effects of Enlightenment or about Cartesian dualism.

The odd joke or witty comment here and there.

An awareness of the injuries of class, and an amazement at how hidden these sometimes injuries seem to be, when they should be so clearly apparent to anyone with eyes and ears.

Analysis that combines the social with the subjective, the public with the private, the political with the affective.

A teacherly sense that what we take for granted needs most clearly explaining, even at the risk of seeming simplistic to those who equate opacity with depth.

A knowledge that the media are a key feature of modern life but not the whole show.

A pleasure in abstraction, but an ability to keep it under control.

A nerdish interest in historical detail, but a sense of overarching narrative or argument.

A secularist understanding of why religion is so important to people.

Outrage at the state of democracy, but also some sadness too.

A bit of anger and passion, but directed appropriately.

A liking for Foucault and Deleuze, and a suspicion of Foucauldians and Deleuzians.

A vivid that marketization and bad populism are enemies of beauty and of truth and of critical academic work.

A very limited number of references to the author’s own previous work.

A willingness to believe that there is something called capitalism and that addressing economic factors is not in itself an act of economic reductionism.

Proper proofreading.

A sense of the importance of public policy and yet also a sense that it usually isn’t as important as some policy makers believe.

A view that serious discussion of methods is not a positivistic fetish but a necessary basis for the craft of enquiry.

Evidence of a love of books and of a life beyond them.

A fascination with empirical material based on how strange and sometimes disturbing the media can be.

A determination not to make accusations of ethnocentrism without a really good basis—precisely because it’s such an important accusation to make.

A strong sense of humans as social and embodied creatures, without ever using the phrase “the body.”

A repulsion against violence, even that of the relatively powerless.

Statistics that actually prove something.

A respect for labor, but a knowledge that some labor serves humans badly.

A good bibliography (available here).

This piece originally appeared as a short article in Television and New Media vol. 10, no. 1, 2009 in response to a call by the journal’s editor at the time, Toby Miller, to 50 media studies academics to write a short article on ‘My media studies’. To my surprise, several people contacted me asking for the ‘good bibliography’ referred to, and the list is what I came up with in response.

1 Comment

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  1. Steve Dawkins says:

    This is beautiful. Pinned up on my wall already to remind me of why we do this. well done David!

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