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Bridging gaps: ten crosscurrents in media studies
Linköpings universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9419-4883
2008 (English)In: Media Culture and Society, ISSN 0163-4437, E-ISSN 1460-3675, Vol. 30, no 1, 895-905 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Once upon a time, it was popular to declare war between opposing camps in media studies. The struggle between “critical theory” and “mass communications” or later between “cultural studies” and “political economy” in UK and US media research was one such example. In other parts of the world, those polarities were much less dominant, and today many old gaps seem to have been bridged. Several old and new issues are still contested and need to be worked through, but I do not think that this should be done in terms of gaps and divides. When a field is divided by deep clefts, a productive strategy is often to seek third positions from where to mediate the two and see how they offer models of understanding that may enrich and supplement each other, if dialectically reinterpreted from a less reductive standpoint. Today, even that may be an outdated mode of reasoning, since one may argue that there is not any longer two firm and distinct camps in media studies, but rather a dynamically interweaving set of currents that sometimes reinforce, sometimes contradict each other.

I will here outline five pair of trends that have been particularly influential and inspiring during the last decades, and that are par­ti­cularly re­lev­ant to the future directions of media research. None of them is a real turn, implying any total change in all of media studies. Instead, they form double streams that may run in parallel, feed into each other, or become crosscurrents whose intersections create tensions and contradictions. Each pair is in some sense paradoxical and contradictory, pointing out key ambivalences and contradictions in the present situ­ation. This is therefore an alternative to thinking in terms of gaps or borders. As for gaps, I do not believe there is anymore one dominant dichotomy that divides the field. It is more relevant to talk of borders and not least of hybrid borderlands, but these pairs are too complexly intertwined to even make such a term useful. Each current has been contested and is deeply ambiguous, and any precise dating is difficult since they have developed in steps that differ between countries.[i]

My point here is threefold. A first goal is to lift up ten trends that, though contestable, all deserve to be taken seriously as impulses to renew and revitalize media studies. Secondly, I will argue that great surplus insights for media studies are to be won by reading them in relation to each other, acknowledging their intersections instead of isolating them from each other. While each current may be familiar, they are rarely sufficiently juxtaposed, though there are important interrelations between these media studies discourses. Taken together, it becomes clear how much they mutually constitute each other and offer a richer understanding of the challenges that lie ahead, by posing challenging questions concerning the scope and definition of media and media studies. Third, this dialogic exercise indicates that the usual divides are increasingly less relevant in the new media landscape and intellectual scene, both being characterized by fluidity and hybridization.

[i] These currents were first outlined in a brief presentation at the interdisciplinary workshop on ‘Bridging Methodology Gaps, Building Institutional Bridges’, organized by the European Science Foundation (ESF) at the University of London, UK, 10-12 December 2007.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: SAGE Publications , 2008. Vol. 30, no 1, 895-905 p.
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-4492DOI: 10.1177/0163443708096811ISI: 000260424800008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-4492DiVA: diva2:360498
Available from: 2010-11-03 Created: 2010-11-03 Last updated: 2014-06-17Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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