Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Cultural Studies: Media, Power and Truly Educated Person

Short Lessons on Cultural Studies

It is nearly impossible to define Cultural Studies in definite terms. It is difficult because the concept of Culture itself has been made ambiguous. The pendulum of the definition of Culture ranges from Matthew Arnold's idea of "perfecting what was best thought and said" on one extreme to Raymond Williams and the likes of poststructuralist who would love to define it as "everyday life as really lived by one and all, including common-men".

The second problem with Cultural Studies is its scope of study. As it aims to transcend all disciplines and breaks the difference between the high and the low, the elite and the popular culture, it encompasses almost everything under its umbrella. This makes it confusing and the student / teacher with lesser ability to dig deeper in the artefacts to connect it with the 'discourse', sometimes, fails Cultural Studies.

Thirdly, as Cultural Studies reads 'power' with critical insights, it makes the students / scholars 'politically incorrect'. This also makes it difficult for CS to survive in the academia where 'political correct' and 'right-wingers' are in majority.

However, it is but sure that the study of Cultural Studies in incomplete without the study of 'Power'. In addition, as in our times, 'Media' is the tool to control the perceptions and the subject, the Power makes extensive use of Media. All forms of media. Print, radio, TV, electronic, digital, social.

Moreever, the critique of Media studied under Cultural Studies gives an opportunity to provoke our thoughts to understand the how power makes use of media. Here we will see What is Power and how power makes use of media. Watching these videos may help us read power, understand media and thus make us truly educated person.

First of all, let us understand 'POWER':



This video help us understand where power comes from, how it is exercised and how can one read and write power.

Secondly,let us see what Noam Chomsky has to say about Mass Media. He gives “Five Filters.” 
1. Media Ownership
2. Advertising
3. Media Elite
4. Flack
5. The Common Enemy

One must read these filters in detail to understand how power makes use of mass media to create the illusion of Democracy. Click here to read about it in details.

Chomsky and Herman’s book offers a surgical analysis of the ways corporate mass media “manufactures consent” for a status quo the majority of people do not actually want. Yet for all of the recent agonizing over mass media failure and complicity, we don’t often hear references to Manufacturing Consent these days. 

This videos explains this - 'Manufacturing Consent'. 




It seems that the media theory and criticism like Chomsky’s, or the work of Marshall McLuhan, Theodor Adorno, or Jean Baudrillard (all thought provoking critics of Culture), has fallen out of favor in a 140-character world. Never-the-less, we can understand our times in a better way with their cultural lenses.

Well, if this interests you and if you are hungry to know more, watch this amazing debate between Michael Foucault and Noam Chomsky on 'Human Nature and Power' (1971):



In ’71, at the height of the Vietnam War, the American linguist and French historian/social theorist appeared on Dutch TV to debate a fundamental question: Is there such a thing as innate human nature? Or are we shaped by experiences and the power of cultural and social institutions around us?
40 years later, you can find the classic debate on YouTube. If you need subtitles, make sure you turn on the captions function at the bottom of the video. Thanks Open Culture for this.
Lastly, Cultural Studies makes one truly educated person as the students cultivate the habit of questioning one discipline with the findings of another discipline; as the student unlearn what specific disciplines taught, and more importantly, it it teaches controversies.
However, it is enriching to listen what Noam Chomsky thinks about truly educated person. Watch this video:



Here is the highlights of what he said in this video:

  • The core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively, independently, without external controls.
  • A true education opens a door to human intellectual freedom and creative autonomy.
  • It’s not important what we cover in the class; it’s important what you discover.
  • To be truly educated means to be resourceful, to be able to “formulate serious questions” and “question standard doctrine, if that’s appropriate”…. It means to “find your own way.
Thus to conclude, in this series of short lessons on Cultural Studies, it seems this is enough to understand Power, Media and what it is to be Truly Educated person.