Both sides of our windows on the world

The Media and Globalization. First edition - Media and Society
May 27, 2005

Theorising the relationship between the media and societies and the media and globalisation is a daunting task. Here we have two texts that take it on, both with undergraduates in mind. Terhi Rantanen provides a short, provocative, occasionally flawed addition to globalisation literature. She opens with a brief overview of some key writers, including Anthony Giddens, John B. Thompson and Arjun Appadurai. From the latter she develops her own methodology, which she calls global mediagraphy.

Rantanen studies four generations of three families and their “mediated globalisation”. This involves interviewing and historical research alongside “introspection and reflection”. The bulk of the book is constructed around historical and biographical passages, including reference to the media in the lives of the families, linked with “introspection” and selected photographic images of the people under investigation, from Finland, China, Latvia and Israel.

Some interesting and revealing narratives are constructed. Our sense of time, space, place and belonging are explored, with due acknowledgement to their theoretical and conceptual forbears. Her main contribution, for me, is her emphasis on the need to de-territorialise, to share a global space and move beyond narrow nationalisms.

Rantanen wanted to put big overarching theories together with small individual life histories. She reminds us, in the integrity of her writing, that people do indeed matter when we consider the media and globalisation. Her thinking is perhaps less convincing as she tries to see whether things “fit together”. To answer that question, one may turn to Graeme Burton’s work.
Burton is an experienced and highly competent writer of introductory texts. In his book, he demonstrates a lucid grasp of key issues that have informed theory and debate in the field of media studies. Questions are used judiciously to provide an excellent guide to the nature of critical pedagogy and its relevance for students.

Burton is not shy about taking a provocative position on issues or theories, but his attitude to critical education is best summed up in his words: “It is important to me as the writer that you as readers take on different views, and think through your own beliefs for yourselves. It is indeed part of the development of critical skills not only to evaluate the validity of arguments, but to be able to hold in one’s head a variety of arguments and ideas, all of which may have some merit, and all of which may stand in some relationship to one another.”

The chapters cover topics and themes such as media institutions, media texts and media audiences, followed by engagements with issues including the media and violence, popular music, film, the new technologies and globalisation. It is an accessible, well laid-out, up-to-date and challenging text that repays serious study. Good for students and good for their teachers.

Robert Ferguson is course leader in the MA in media culture and communication, Institute of Education, University of London.

The Media and Globalization. First edition

Author - Terhi Rantanen
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 180
Price - £60.00 and £18.99
ISBN - 0 7619 7312 5 and 7313 3

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