AESTHETIC CODE   “Aesthetic” means anything to do with the text as a work of art: if you respond to a painting in an aesthetic way you are interested in things like use of colour and form to create a particular emotion. So, with a moving image text, aesthetic codes are elements like makeup, script writing, costume and set design – elements that need some kind of artistic talent and are not purely technical. Be aware that the dividing line between technical and aesthetic codes is not always clear. For example, you need technical skill to operate a camera or edit video, but you also need some sense of which shots work best artistically to create a particular ambience (atmosphere).

AFFORDANCES   Describes opportunities (usually new ones) provided by new forms of technology or online spaces.

AMBIENCE   Background atmosphere.

ANCHORAGE   The ‘pinning down’ of meaning through image being placed in relation to text, or vice versa . The shipping metaphor suggests a wild sea of potential meaning, with the sign (boat) needing to be motivated through grounding.  For example, the film Duel contains several sequences of close-ups indicating that David Mann is physically and emotionally stressed and is having difficulty controlling his car. There is frequent use of scripted voice-over to anchor the meaning of these shots and make it clear exactly what he is thinking – which, without the voice-over, may be open to interpretation.

AUDIENCE    An umbrella term for the person or people reading any media text. Digital technology has led to increasing uncertainty over how we define an audience, with general agreement that the notion of a large group of people, brought together by time, responding to a text, is outdated. Furthermore, advocates of ‘Media 2.0’ claim that the way people engage with culture is now the ‘concept formally known as the audience’. See the journal Participations for contemporary research in this domain.

The social group that the text is aimed at. This can be more or less inclusive, according to how mainstream the text is. Different genres have different ways of making sections of the audience able to understand them. For example, only those who had seen at least some documentaries of rock bands on tour, would able to recognise that This Is Spinal Tap is a spoof. The audience is accustomed to the narrative conventions of this kind of documentary, and also to the way in which only certain types of behaviour are commonly represented within this genre – for example the tantrum over the food provided in the dressing room.

AVATAR   An on-screen icon or representation of the user/ player in a computer game or virtual world. Now in the everyday lexicon as a result of the James Cameron film.


BARB   Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board—responsible for gathering TV viewing figures.

BBFC    British Board of Film Classification.

BINARY   Western thought, it is said, is framed by a tendency for us to think in opposites – for example , old/ new, rather than embrace ambiguity and difference. In digital coding, binary describes the coding of digits as noughts and ones.

BRICOLAGE   The construction of meaning through remixing a combination of elements to make a new style. Ranges from sur-realist work where things are deliberately put out of context to postmodern media where there is no sense of ‘original’ material to worry about as everything new is made up of a bricolage of the old – what was already there.


CENSORSHIP  The practice of ‘cutting’ or preventing access to material.

CITIZENSHIP   The role of a person in a contemporary democracy is described in this way and the critical student of media assesses role of the media in constructing us as modern citizens and in enabling enlightened citizenship (see Cortina 2011).

CLASSIFICATION   Restricting access to material on the grounds of age.

COMPRESSION     Transferring data into less space and sending it from one place to another, through encoding data using fewer units in digital coding

CONNOTATION   Any extra meaning added by techniques of production and post-production. It is very closely related to construction. Some of The Blair Witch Project is shot on a camcorder – which gives an impression (connotation) of intimacy and makes you think that the events are real. The connotation of camcorder footage is: reality captured without very much thought or planning – the moving image equivalent of a snapshot photo. A higher budget, more photographically accurate format like 35mm film is ironically more likely to have connotations of fiction and storytelling: we expect polished, high quality camera work from fictional texts.

CONSTRUCTION   Once the material has been selected for inclusion in the text, the creators need to decide what order to present the information in, and decide on how to use techniques like editing, voice-over and graphics. Anything about how the raw filmed material has been processed after filming (post-production) is an aspect of construction. Although DA Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back may appear to be a window on the world, it has been constructed in a particular order, and things that are placed together (juxtaposed) create meaning by association: the interview with the science student shoots Dylan with either a fairly low angle or an extreme close-up, and there are far more shots of his face included in the edit, thus making his views seem more prominent.

CONTINUITY   In editing, the processes of disguising the construction of the scene by making it appear to ‘flow’ as in real life. The 180 degree rule and the eye line match are crucial to this.

CONVENTIONS   The repeated, normative practices expected within a culture. In the context of Media Studies, we are concerned with the normative elements of a particular type of media text that come to be expected within genres.

CONVERGENCE   Hardware and software coming together across media, and companies coming together across similar boundaries, to make the distinction between different types of media and different media industries increasingly dubious. Also, the way that media access is now multi -modal – for example, watching TV on an iPhone, and the means that social media affords us new opportunities to be creative and/ or participative – is described by Henry Jenkins as ‘Convergence Culture’.

COPYRIGHT   The owned rights of creative or intellectual property.

CRITICAL   Asking questions, not taking things for granted, seeking to analyse the reasons for seemingly ‘common sense’ ideas about people and the world.

CROSS-CUTTING   Editing between two scenes that are happening at the same time—manipulating space for the audience.

CULTIVATION   The notion that over time , media images grow ideas in our minds about groups of people. We don’t directly think of ourselves as influenced by these but there may be a subconscious effect on, for example,  ideas regarding women’s body image or young black males wearing ‘hoodies’.

CULTURAL CAPITAL   From Bourdieu and Passeron (1990). Symbolic acquisition that can be exchanged, including qualifications, knowledge, family background, taste, values and other non-material forms of status.

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM   Within broader discussions of globalization, the practice of dominant groups and nations imposing their cultural preferences and claims to legitimate knowledge on other people and nations. Hollywood is the classic example.


DECONSTRUCTION   At its simplest, taking apart texts at the ‘micro’ level to see how they work to make ‘macro’ meaning. At the more complex level, students investigate intertextuality and ways in which texts can only be understood in relation to other texts.

DEMOCRACY   Society founded on equality, in which the decision-making powers are elected and are thus representative and accountable. Whether the media is democratic is a very different question, as we do not elect newspaper owners such as Rupert Murdoch or powerful producers such as Simon Cowell, for example.

DENOTATION   Simply what is there in front of you and what you are hearing on the soundtrack. Very closely related to selection.  The denotation of many of the scenes in The Blair Witch Project consists of a handheld POV (Point Of View) shot simulating someone running through dark woods, with the voice of an agitated person and heavy breathing on the soundtrack.

DEMOGRAPHIC  Breaking down society or a sample of people by characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, income and socio-economic status (quantitative means).

DIALECTICAL   An exchange of points of view, or propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in the creation of new ideas, which are then new propositions to be countered (a such dialectical thinking is infinite).

DIASPORA   The process by which people who are dispersed around the world take elements of their culture with them so that the cultural imperialism model is disrupted by people using media in relation to hybrid identities. See Ruddock (2007).

DIEGESIS   Describes what is present in the world of a text, as opposed to the extra bits (such as soundtrack or voice-over) that exist only for the audience.  Any part of a text that is part of the world of the film, and could be really there, is a diegetic element. So any dialogue or sound emerging from the natural surroundings would be a diegetic element. Anything added in post-production to change the meaning of what you are seeing on the screen, is a non-diegetic element. So the use of a musical soundtrack where you can’t see any musicians is a non-diegetic element.  A scripted, recorded voice-over is a non-diegetic element because the person saying it is not really there and is therefore outside the real world of the film you are watching.

DIGITAL NATIVES   From Prensky (2010), the idea that young people, being born into a digital world, are ‘at home’ there, local to it, whereas the older generation are ‘migrants’. DISCOURSE A coherent system of speaking, thinking and understanding, in language. Systematically organized ways of using language to order the world, from Foucault (1988).

DISCOURSE   A way of speaking, thinking and understanding, that becomes powerful and appears ‘natural’.  The ways in which we come to understand the world through ways of talking, thinking and writing that become dominant.

DOWNLOAD   The practice of selecting and receiving digital information from an online source on a computer, as opposed to sending it by upload.


EFFECTS   The idea that the media have influence over people and can play a role in changing their behaviour. The suggestion that people’s behaviour is influenced or altered (either directly or indirectly) as a result of exposure to media is described in terms of ‘media effects’.

ELLIPSIS  What is left out of a narrative, but remains in the story.

EMANCIPATION  Freedom from oppression. In Media Studies, new technologies – if they seem to offer an enhancement to democracy and access to the public sphere, can be hailed as ‘emancipatory’. In some ways, Media Studies itself is seen this way – challenging the media hegemony through critical media literacy.

ENIGMA   A question left unanswered to create intrigue or suspense.

ESTABLISHING SHOT   A shot which serves to either introduce the audience to a location and context, or remind them of it.

ETHICS  Issues of morality (always up for grabs). Often different to legal considerations, an important distinction.

ETHNOGRAPHY    A research method that involves spending time in the specific situation the research participants operate in, so the ‘data’ is grounded in their real experience rather than being observed from the outside.


FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS   Marxist term describing a state of being in which individuals are happily distracted from the truth (by ideology) and are thus convinced, or at least prepared to accept, that things are as they have to be.

FEMINISM   Often misunderstood as an ‘extreme’, militant politics, feminism is nothing more outrageous than the belief that we should oppose media texts that represent women as inequal to men, or as mere unthinking objects for male scrutiny. There are a wide range of types of feminism with more political, symbolic or textual approaches.

FLOW   A state of mind that happens when we are involved in activity that is at once challenging and pleasurable and incrementally more difficult. Associated with videogames especially.

FOUCAULTIAN   An approach influenced by the work of Michel Foucault – seeking to analyse discourse and how language ‘delimits’ ways of thinking about ourselves and the world around us, to understand ‘the technology of the self’.

FRANKFURT SCHOOL   Marxist school of thought, featuring Adorno, concerned mainly with ideology and the role of mass media (the culture industry) in reinforcing hegemony and manufacturing consensus.

FRIVOLITY   Playful behaviour, where things are not taken seriously and thus challenged and subverted.


GATEKEEPING   The role played by editors, producers, owners and regulators in opening and closing, to greater and lesser extents, the flow of media information through processes of selection and construction.

GENRE   A French term for ‘type’, widely used in subjects that analyse texts to describe categories of texts and their shared properties (conventions).  The type of text, and which technical and aesthetic elements are typical of this kind of text.  For example which narrative conventions and technical codes are most typical of soap operas or TV advertisements? Is a high budget Hollywood horror movie or a low budget British independently made social drama more likely to make frequent use of stereotypes?

GLOBALIZATION   The idea that a proliferation of digital technology, deregulation and convergence combine to allow multinational and cross-cultural media production and consumption within a global economic system founded on the free market. A contested idea.

GLOCAL   Global media adapted to suit a local context. The global and the local working together.

GRAND NARRATIVES   These are belief systems that provide their followers with a whole overarching sense of the meaning of life or a manifesto for change. Religions, philosophies and political movements can be understood as grand narratives or, in other words, ‘big stories’.


HARDWARE   The actual equipment used for media production, storage and consumption.

HEGEMONY   A process by which people in power create the impression that their view of the world is neutral and the most ‘common sense’ view to take.

HTML   Hyper Text Mark-up Language. A structuring language for electronic text, interfaced with links to other supplementary texts, for websites.

HYBRID  A fusion of more than one media form or a mixing of global and local or a mixing of identities.

HYPERREALITY   A state in which images, and simulations, take on more reality than the state they represent, so that the distinction between reality and representation is no longer sustainable. From Baudrillard (1998). See also virtual and postmodern.


ICON   A sign which directly resembles what it represents.

ICONOGRAPHY   The use of visual signs or symbols to set up patterns of meaning within the text; for example, using costume to indicate the moral make-up of characters – frequently used in science fiction and horror.  Characters who have a dirty appearance are often morally dubious. Iconography is strongly linked to representation and ideology.

IDENTITY   Culture and discourse construct subjects (from Foucault 1988), so for Media Studies the task is not so much to consider the relationship between texts and identities taken on by individuals as to analyse the plurality of identities that subjects play with and the ways in which these are mediated and increasingly virtual.

IDEOLOGY   A dominant set of ideas presenting itself as common sense or truth. Power relations are reinforced through ideology. Marx, Althusser, Gramsci and Chomsky are key writers in this area.

What the creators of the media text want you to think or want you to believe in. It has to do with factors like religion, politics and sexuality. For example, a romantic comedy may promote the idea that the only thing that is important in life is to be in a relationship with a soul-mate, and that once this happens all your other problems will be put into perspective. But a less mainstream, independent film (not affiliated to a studio with a pre-planned, binding financial deal) may offer a more complex view of human psychology and may even represent characters in a way that some members of the audience find alienating. Think about the representation of the central character in Memento and how his behaviour should be seen from an ideological perspective.

IMMERSION   Used in analysis of videogames, in two ways. Firstly, perceptual (the senses are dominated by the experience of the game) and secondly, psychological (the player is drawn into the game in the imagination).

INDEPENDENT   A media organisation or activity that is not connected to a major company.

INSTITUTION  Any issue to with the commercial situation (context) in which the text was produced. Is it simply intended to make money, or does it have more complex moral and artistic agendas? The issue of how a film develops cult status is largely related to institution. A film that originally was made on a low budget for pure artistic expression, may subsequently become an unexpected commercial success. Or, a film made on a high budget may be commercially unsuccessful but then be adopted by a restricted section of the audience many years later.

INTERACTIVE   Media texts which offer audiences the opportunity to shape the text in some way. Not necessarily the same as democratic (see Turner 2010).

INTERPELLATION   The misrecognition of oneself in a media text (from Althusser 1977) – for example, women or men recognizing, in magazines or advertising, an idea of their gender which was not their construction.

INTERTEXTUAL   The chain of signification, in which texts always make overt or more subtle references to one another. All language is intertextual, and as all experience in culture is languaged, hence reality becomes intertextual by nature.


JUXTAPOSITION   Placing one thing alongside another, and very often changing the meaning of the text by doing that. This applies in film editing, where an event is seen to lead to another simply by introducing a cut so that there appears to be a connection between the two events. In reality, the two scenes may have been filmed months apart, but the technical code of editing creates a juxtaposition whereby narrative emerges. Intercutting is a form of juxtaposition where two situations can be linked by having them alternate on the screen. A car chase would be a simple example of this.


LIFEWORLD  The network of experiences of families, hobbies, social gatherings, leading to culturally transmitted ways of understanding the world.

LINEAR      Moving in one direction in a clear and logical order.

LITERACY      The ability to read and write. Media literacy extends this to include all forms of writing (for example, taking photographs) and all forms of reading (for example, listening to music), and activities which may combine them (e.g. playing a computer game).

LONG TAIL   Chris Anderson’s idea (2006) that the large amount of niche markets are now worth as much as the smaller amount of big markets.

LUDOLOGY   The study of play.


MALE GAZE   From Laura Mulvey (1975), an analysis of media images that suggests that the camera represents a male perspective, and as such casts men as subjects and women as objects.

MARGINALIZATION   A process by which groups of people are excluded from mainstream discussion or representation. Not direct prejudice but a more subtle form of marking people out as ‘different’ or ‘other’.

MACRO   Big broad themes, issues and debates. Critical media students need to relate ‘micro’ examples to these big, broad ‘macro’ themes.

MARKET FORCES   This idea likens the ‘natural’ flow of competition leading to consumer choice and selection, and hence the survival of the fittest, to the laws of nature.

MARXIST  All theory derived from the works of Marx, founded on a belief that the ruling classes in any time and place maintain their economic and systematic power through controlling not only the means of production but also culture and ideology.  Marxist theory, traditionally, seeks to expose the falsity of dominant ideology and reveal the truth previously obscured, and as such it has empowerment of the alienated as its primary objective.

MEDIA ACCESS   Describes the degree of ease with which citizens can be seen and/ or heard in the media and respond to the media and be provided with a dialogue with institutions, and the amount of opportunities evident for people to produce media texts themselves and for them to be distributed – clearly this is greatly increased by social media but not necessarily by reality TV – see Turner (2010). Linked to audience.  It’s basically about who is able to understand the text and get anything from it. So, it could be argued that an advertisement for computer games, containing technical terminology, is relatively limited in terms of media access. A more general issue related to media access is the extent to which UK broadcast fiction represents an ethnically wide range of social groups. Are there any sections of the population which are rarely or never represented on television?

MEDIA LANGUAGE   An umbrella term to describe the ways in which audiences read media texts through understanding formal and conventional structures (for example, the grammar of film editing). So media literacy describes our ability to read and write in this extended sense of language.

MEDIASPHERE   John Hartley used this term to describes a 360-degree environment for media consumption, which fundamentally changes how we need to think about media audiences.

MEDIA STUDIES 2.0   A response to Web 2.0, proposed by Will Merrin (2006) and then by David Gauntlett (2007), in which the role of online user generated content and sharing is seen as fundamental to how we understand media audiences. This makes it mandatory for Media Studies to change how it operates. The subject of a ‘heated debate’ and by no means a generally accepted idea among media teachers and academics.

MEDIATION   The idea that our everyday lives are so woven together with media that our existence is ‘mediated’ – we cannot separate ‘the media’ from ‘life’.

MEME   An idea, or creative item, that is passed on virally from person to person to the point where lots of people know about it and are talking about it.

METALANGUAGE    When we are able to step outside of language to analyse meaning rather than just using language to make meaning, we have a metalanguage. This is an advanced form of literacy.

METAPHOR  Closely linked to subtext, but more to do with how individual parts of the text can stand for other things. What does the truck driver in Duel represent? The use of androids in much sci-fi film fiction has a lot to do with how we see ourselves as parents. The child grows to be independent of its creator, and even comes to hate it’s creator, wanting some kind of explanation about why it has been brought into the world. Conversely, the creator wants a duty of respect and obedience from the child. So, the use of androids as a social group in sci-fi is a metaphor for the generation gap.

METONYMY   Using part of something to mean all of it. Often used as a narrative convention. For example, a scream may be used to indicate that a murder has taken place. You would expect frequent use of metonymy in compressed narrative forms like trailers and advertisements.

MICRO  A small, specific example.

MICROPOLITICS   The way that small, seemingly insignificant decisions and interactions amount to outcomes that impact on people’s lives.

MISE-EN-SCÈNE   Everything that is put into the frame (essentially considering the paused moving image as a still image).  Includes set design, location, costume, actors and make-up, non-verbal communication, colour and contrast, lighting and filter. Primarily an aesthetic practice.   How the director composes individual shots; what he or she has chosen to put in the camera frame – similar to the concept of composition in art or photography. How a director composes shots is a very important marker of their style. It also encompasses things like lighting, costume, props, make-up, camera focus, use of colour, choice of location and use of special effects. One interesting mise-en-scène issue in modern film making is whether a director chooses to use CGI to realise special effects, or whether they use more traditional methods. The Kill Bill films are notable for having no CGI at all.

MMORPG  Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. For example, World of Warcraft and Club Penguin. MODE OF ADDRESS How a text, in any media, speaks to its audience.

MODE OF ADDRESS   How a text, in any medium, speaks to its audience.

MORAL PANIC   Exaggerated media response to the behaviour of a social group. A phrase coined by Stanley Cohen in 1972, this refers to overstated reactions to seemingly deviant aspects of popular culture, usually mobilised by the mass media. More recently, videogames have been the subject of widespread moral panics and they are often blamed for declining moral standards in general as well as specific cases of violent behaviour and tragedy. Social networking is also the subject of a moral panic.

MULTILAYERED   Meaning that can be interpreted on many different levels. All media is multi-layered, when we drill down to the detail, but the term commonly describes texts which have been explicitly constructed with different readings or more and less complex interpretations as an intention.

MULTIMEDIA   A text created in a variety of media.

MULTIMODAL   A form of semiotics, multimodal theory attempts to understand the way that human communication mixes together a variety of forms and how it simultaneously represents, orientates and organizes by establishing relations between people. Has in recent years influenced the field of ‘new literacies’.

MYTH   From Roland Barthes, who analysed the way that dominant ideas in a culture take on the status of myth, so they appear natural and neutral. In semiotics, signs and symbols when added together amount to a system of myths.


NARRATIVE   Storytelling and how the story is structured. The plot can be linear, or contain frequent time jumps (most often into the past). There can also be only one narrative thread with one group of characters, or multiple threads which sometimes interact. Todorov’s is the stability-threat-resolution model, and most narratives conform to this to a greater or lesser extent. How long it is before the threat (or “enigma” – mystery) emerges can be an indicator of the genre. For example, in a horror movie the threat might emerge very near the start, but in a romantic comedy it might take longer. Propp’s model analyses folk tales in terms of heroes, villains, battles and journeys.  Be aware that you need to use your judgment about how to decide who the heroes and villains are and what constitutes a battle. Also remember that non-fiction texts like documentaries have narrative structure to the same extent as fictional ones.

NARRATOLOGY   The study of videogames as stories – usually seen as in conflict with ludology, which foregrounds the study of games as play.

NEWS AGENDA   The observation that a particular news provider will select and construct news within a framework influenced by political, corporate , cultural and commercial objectives. Brought very much to public attention in the UK in 2011 by the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. THE ‘OTHER’ Through marginalisation, exclusion or representation, a group of people are marked out as exotic, alien or different to ‘the norm’.


PARADIGM   A framework of understanding scientific or cultural phenomenon. All messages, of any kind, are selected from paradigms. A ‘paradigm shift’ describes the point at which the usual ways of comprehending culture become outdated. PARODY A text which does not simply imitate the style of another (pastiche) but instead is transformative in that it either mocks or shifts in some way the original text’s conventions.

PARODY  A text which does not simply imitate the style of another (a pastiche), but instead is transformative because it either mocks or shifts in some way the original text’s conventions.

PEER TO PEER   The sharing of media material between two parties in an equal relationship

PIRACY    Distribution of media material that infringes copyright law.

PLAYBACK   ‘Prosumer’ media being viewed online, sometimes with comments as a ‘feedback loop’ among peers.

PLURALITY   The degree to which there is space for a broad range of perspectives to be heard and a broad range of groups have access to media and can represent themselves in media. In a democracy, plurality of media ownership and access should be evident.

PLOT   The parts of a narrative that we actually see or hear, as opposed to the overall story, much of which we imagine or infer.

PODCAST   Uploading an MP3 file over the internet for others to access through subscription.

POINT OF VIEW SHOT    (POV)  When the camera takes the place of a character’s eyes.

POLYSEMY   This describes a plural range of possible meanings that audiences can interpret from texts. The more abstract and open-ended, the more polysemic the text is said to be. However, all media texts are open to interpretation and active reading so we might argue that all media meaning is polysemic.

POPULAR CULTURE   Culture which is consumed by a wide range of people, as opposed to a smaller group, configured in some way as an elite, tends to be described as popular and this implies a derogatory view of tastes.

POSTMODERN    Media that refers to itself, is transparent in its construction and blurs the boundaries between reality and representation.  Describes an approach to culture which sees all texts as being intertextual and meaning as mediated, rather than representative of a state of original reality.

Postmodernists believe that it is no longer sensible to describe media texts in terms of how they represent real life or events, but instead we should see reality as increasingly mediated, so the boundaries between reality and media-reality are blurred. The most famous postmodern philosophers are Jean-François Lyotard who described ‘the postmodern condition’ and Jean Baudrillard who wrote about this blurring of reality and simulation, which he called ‘hyperreality’.

POST-PRODUCTION   The editing stage, where material is manipulated using software and transformed into a finished media product.

PRE-PRODUCTION   All forms of idea generation, planning and research in response to a brief.

PROLIFERATION   A significant and sustained increase in something.

PROMOTION   An aspect of distribution that creates audience interest in a media product.

PROPAGANDA   The deliberate use of information to persuade large groups of people of the legitimacy of political or military action. Associated with totalitarian governments who use media and other information providers to manipulate public opinion.

PROSUMER   The consumer becomes the producer.

PROTECTIONIST   An approach to media which sees it as having harmful effects, against which people should be protected either through regulation or education. Media literacy is sometimes presented as a protectionist strategy.

PUBLIC SERVICE   Founded on principles of democracy as opposed to profit. Avoid overstating binary oppositions between public service and commercial media, however.


REALISM   A variety of ideas about the degree to which, and the variety of ways in which, media texts represent an idea of reality. There are a range of ‘realisms’: social realism, classical narrative realism, neo-realism, magical realism.

READINGS   An oppositional reading is where the audience rejects all of the values (ideology) that the text is trying to put across, and can gain no access to it. A preferred reading is where the audience accepts all of these ideological frameworks. For example, a preferred reading of Titanic would be that you are uplifted by a story of courage and love in the face of adversity, but saddened by the fact that sometimes people have to sacrifice their lives to save others. A negotiated reading is where the audience accepts some of the ideological content of the text, but opposes other parts of it.

RECEPTION   Contemporary audience theory is concerned with audience response and reaction and subsequently our understanding of a text’s meanings emerge more from attention to audience interpretation than producer intent.

REGULATION   The surveillance and the threat of action by organizations – sometimes governmental, sometimes from industry – leading to a degree of self-regulation on the part of media institutions and actual punitive measures in response to self-regulation breaking down. Regulation is sometimes economic, sometimes cultural and always political. There are always calls for more or less media regulation.

REPRESENTATION   Media do not offer a transparent ‘window’ to reality but offer instead a mediated representation of it. The processes by which audience members come to understand media texts in terms of how they seem to relate to people, ideas, events, themes and places.  The processes of selection and construction make you see people and issues in a specific way. So, a fictional film about the future might be trying to tell us what might happen if we keep pursuing technological advancement without thinking about the consequences. If the film were to invent a fictional group, and call them androids or robots, the way these robots are treated by the society of the future is meant to tell us something about the way we treat each other now. The “replicants” in Blade Runner are feared by humans – but is that only because we don’t understand them? Representation in a media text looks at issues like race and religion, and at social groups like the police, homeless people and students – they are represented (portrayed) in a way that is trying to make some kind of point.


SELECTION   A moving image media text shows things from the real world. The parts of the real world which are chosen to be included in the media text, are aspects of selection. For example, Martin Bashir’s Michael Jackson documentary made a very careful selection of material for inclusion in the final edit, so that the audience received a particular impression of Michael Jackson’s lifestyle.

SEMIOTICS   The science of signs and symbols from linguistics and structuralism. The analysis of ‘units of meaning’ (signs) in terms of their connotations within cultural myth systems.

SIMULATION  The artificial imitation of an experience or a process with the intention of making the imitation as close as possible to the ‘real thing’. Baudrillard and Zizek are key thinkers. See virtual.

SOCIO-CULTURAL   Describes considerations of how our social experiences and cultural choices combine and how meanings are constructed by audiences through experience as much as through any fixed, intended, preferred messages from producers’ points of view.

SOFTWARE    Programmes used on computers.

SPECTATORSHIP   How a reader of moving images behaves, which will be culturally specific. So watching a film is not a practice that can be described as though it is a universal experience.

STEREOTYPE   This is an exaggerated social type, which a large section of the audience are going to recognise. A stereotypical representation will not aim for subtlety, but will include only very easily recognisable features; for example, the stereotypical hardened, cynical cop in Blade Runner. Where the exploration of the social group or issue is aiming for subtlety, the text will make fewer references to stereotypes. All texts access stereotypes to some extent, but texts in the mainstream of popular culture will access them more frequently – for example, soap operas and advertisements.

SUBTEXT   Any hidden messages in the text, which are not immediately obvious to the viewer; ways in which the text can be read other than entirely literally. For example, Duel could be seen as an exploration of the more instinctive, less civilised side of human nature battling against the civilised, psychologically and sexually repressed modern man. Subtextual readings often involve the discussion of metaphors.

STRUCTURALISM   An academic approach to analysing meaning as structured like language. Semiotics and narrative theory are two areas of Media Studies that are informed largely by structuralism. SYMBIOSIS Two forms arranged in an interactive, organic relationship. Used to describe relationships between different media products.

SYNERGY   Interconnected marketing and distribution of media products across a range of platforms and sectors.


TECHNICAL CODE   A code is any way of creating meaning in a media text, which the audience understands. Technical codes can only be achieved with the use of technology specific to the medium. So, in film, use of black and white photography is a technical code which has come to be associated with (have connotations of) memory and reliving past experiences – as with the black and white sections in Memento.

TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM    When technology is seen as in itself the reason for a development.

TEXT   Texts carry meaning that is constructed and Media Studies looks at texts in order to deconstruct them. All media products are texts. But we can extend this term to include people, ourselves and others – anything that is made up of a range of signs that are decoded and interpreted by people.

TRANSGRESSIVE   A practice which transcends conventional approaches, and either subverts these existing ways of working, or challenges their value.

TRANSMEDIA   See Jenkins (2010) – an approach to studying and making media that recognizes convergence and sees media production as being ‘spread out’ across different types of media forms.


VERISIMILITUDE   The logical, seemingly authentic world of a text. Not the same as ‘realist’, because every text has a logical, sensible world constructed through continuity, detail and recognition. Harry Potter has verisimilitude but is not claiming to mirror our social reality.

VIRTUAL   A simulation of the real. Whether we can any longer distinguish the real from the virtual and whether experience is the new reality, is an important question in contemporary Media Studies.


WEB 2.0   The term is from Tim O’Reilly and it describes the second phase of the Internet where the focus shifts from people receiving information and services to people creating and sharing material. Defined by collaboration, social networking and the democratic development and distribution of content by ordinary people.

WE MEDIA   An adaptation of Gillmor’s We, the Media (2004 ). Describes members of the public creating media that challenge the mainstream media hegemony. For Gillmor, the best example is ‘citizen journalism’.

WIKINOMICS  Tapscott and Williams (2006) coined this term to describe the impact of Web 2.0 on economics as well as media.