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Social Sci LibreTexts

3.7: Political Ecologies of Media

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    • 465px-Elvis_Presley_promoting_Jailhouse_Rock.jpg
    • Contributed by Media Hack Team
    • Hack-a-thon at University of Otago and others
    • Published by Creative Commons

    At the outset of this chapter, we defined political economy as the study of production, and subsequently considered what it means to study the production of media. Then we looked at how production reveals a set of political relationships which are far from ideologically neutral by looking at a range of issues pertaining to ownership, intellectual property, relationships to government, and funding mechanism. This was especially via advertising, and we considered in some detail how these factors can be understood to influence the content and messages commonly encountered within media texts. However, understanding the production of media and the political issues which arise from media to be limited to the ways in which meanings are generated by the texts which can be thought of as the outputs of media, neglects what could be considered a range of ethical and political issues which relate to the production, consumption and disposal of the technologies which are necessary for media systems to function.

    Considering issues which arise from the design, production and sustainability of hardware systems has traditionally been considered outside the bounds of media studies as a discipline, which situated within the humanities has been focussed upon the cultural impacts of symbols and messages, rather than exploring the ethics of mining the metals and minerals needed to make cameras and computers, tablets and telephones. Indeed, early approaches to media and ecology explicitly stated that their goal was:

    To make people more conscious of the fact that human beings live in two different kinds of environments. One is the natural environment and consists of things like air, trees, rivers, and caterpillars. The other is the media environment, which consists of language, numbers, images, holograms, and all of the other symbols, techniques, and machinery that make us what we are. Postman 2000:11