Saturday, 10 December 2011

Media Magazine 38

MM38 is now out- a Politics special, featuring a top 30 YouTube videos with a political theme from me. You can find the 30 videos here:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Media Magazine Student Conference

An excellent day all round, with good morning presentations from Christine Bell, Steph Hendry and Julian McDougall from the three exam boards. Julian's video here. and a keynote on Media Studies and the riots from David Buckingham:

Around 70 students stayed through lunch to hear about university life from three Higher education students.

In the afternoon, Garth Jennings gave an entertaining and inspiring presentation all about his work, including some footage he shot at the age of 11! And in the final session, Paul Lewis and Babita Sharma gave us all a real insight into the work of journalists in print and TV.

main points from my presentation on improving your production work

Sunday, 16 October 2011

News Reporting in a Year of Big Stories 3

Last time we looked at the newspaper coverage of the riots. In this post, we will look at the role of social media and television and try to relate it to some of the areas of the A2 exam.

There are many videos relating to the riots on youtube, some of which are taken from Sky and BBC coverage, others from bystanders' cameraphones. I was quite interested in some videos from 'Russia Today' which are on there, using footage without commentary, just the occasional fragment of speech.

When TV was covering the riots on a round-the-clock basis, it seemed as always with rolling news that they were desperately trying to keep talking about it all the time too. An endless search for 'experts' (anyone with an opinion) took place and reporters were constantly trying to explain and pin down the meaning of the riots. 'Community leaders' and politicians were called upon to 'condemn' the riots and particularly shocking footage was repeated endlessly. But whenever someone spoke from outside this consensus , however, they tended to be dismissed or even insulted. One clip illustrates this well.

The writer Darcus Howe offers his explanation and rather than listen to what he says, the newsreader keeps interrupting him and misrepresenting his views. She also gets his name wrong and accuses him of having been a rioter. It backfires as he tells her what he thinks of her. Later the BBC had to apologise. Interestingly, the clip has had almost five million views since.

As endless 'experts' were brought out during the week, Newsnight hit probably the lowest point by inviting David Starkey, the historian who had become a household name earlier in the year for his appearance on Jamie's Dream School, onto a panel to give his verdict. This raised a lot of questions about what constitutes an expert, as his area is Tudor History. Clearly he was on to say something controversial, which he duly did.

Starkey complained afterwards that the other panellists kept interrupting him and that he was bullied. I find it very hard to make that reading as he seemed determined to shout down anything they might say. The BBC were told that OFCOM would take no action against them for allowing Starkey's racist views as it was felt that the presenter and panellists challenged him sufficiently, though Owen Jones, the author trying to get a word in, disagreed, calling OFCOM " failing to tackle the out-and-out racism of a discredited historian".

The clips above, along with many of the others on youtube, would form a useful study for media in the online age considering how mainstream, amateur and international coverage of the riots are used online. It is always illuminating to see the discussions that go on around clips in the comments on youtube and to trace the political debate taking place there.

Though TV spent a lot of airtime covering the riots, it was quite controversial that the police demanded that they hand over their footage for it to be used to identify and convict suspects. Taking what has gone on air is one thing, but demanding footage which has been shot but not broadcasted is another and puts the media in a difficult position as in future they are perhaps more likely to be targeted by people they are filming and seen as an instrument of the police. This article from the Guardian talks about the issues raised by this action.

Regulation of the media became a hot topic in relation to social media during the riots, with at least two people jailed for incitement to riot for things they posted on facebook (even though their proposed actions never took place) and twitter quickly being blamed for passing information around. Louise Mensch, a conservative MP, even suggested that in times of crisis, the government and the police should have the power to shut down social media temporarily. Apart from the technical problems of doing this, there are also questions about whether the technology really had the role that was being suggested. Many people argued that twitter acted more as an information source for those who wanted to avoid danger or help clear it up and certainly the idea that it was being used to secretly organise rioting or looting is a bit far fetched as your identity is public as soon as you send a tweet.

Data from Twitter in early August shows how surges in social media occurred after events rather than before. For the topic of WeMedia it would be interesting to consider this as a case study by comparison with some of the coverage of the Arab Spring and claims made about the role of Twitter there.

The Guardian and the London School of Economics have teamed up for a project called 'Reading the Riots' which seeks to understand the whole thing and is well worth looking at.

And finally the topic of collective identity would be ideal for a case study of news coverage of the riots and how young people in particular have been represented.

There are no easy answers to the issues raised by the riots, but there is much food for thought and material for debate.

Monday, 10 October 2011

News Reporting in a year of Big Stories 2

Coverage of the riots on TV in the 1980s was nothing like we had this year. Back in 1981, hard though it is to believe, we only had three channels, there was no breakfast TV, and news was only on in the bulletin slot (6pm, 9pm, 10pm, etc). Technology for news gathering out on the streets was very different too and it was limited to the official news reporting teams- home video cameras were a real rarity at that time and the idea of people capturing the story on their phones was of course unheard of, because the mobile phone didn't even exist. Never mind spreading the story by twitter, facebook, blackberry messenger or the internet...

Over the next two blogs, I'm going to point to a range of examples that you might want to pursue in preparation for the A2 exam topics. The riots could be used as case studies for Collective Identity (how young people and black people in particular were represented), for WeMedia (how significant was social media during the riots and what has been claimed in the aftermath), for media in the online age (how did we find out about what was going on and how did this compare to the past?) and for media regulation (should TV companies have given their footage to the police and does social media need regulating in times of crisis?).

Firstly, newspaper coverage. A look at the front pages during the week of the riots gives an overview of the way the story was told. As the disturbances on Saturday night happened after the sunday papers had gone to press, the first opportunities for the front pages did not come till monday- which is one reason that rolling news on TV and the instant coverage from social media was so important. here are some of Monday's front pages:

The Mirror and The Guardian go with the image of the burning furniture store in Tottenham, whilst the Sun suggests those involved may be of primary school age. The Telegraph takes the looting angle, with an emphasis almost on the comedy of it (a reference to British 'carry on.'. films) which of course defines the riots in terms of greed rather than anger and had already gained widespread coverage in this footage from Sky News:

On the Tuesday, after trouble had spread much more widely, almost all the papers went with an attempt to personalise the rioting with the iconic hooded figure:

As you can see, mob/yob and anarchy now become the by-words but the images used are strikingly similar, if not identical. The hooded or masked young male (black in most, white in two) strides triumphant in front of a burning vehicle. The exception is The Telegraph's choice of a dramatic shot of a woman jumping from a blazing building, which became another iconic image of the riots.

By Wednesday, with the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson back in the country determined to show themselves in charge, thousands of extra police on the streets and things calming down a bit, the front pages had shifted emphasis:

Now it's all 'fightback' with exaggerated notions of what weapons might be deployed by the police, but also the riot clean up (sweep scum off the streets) which seemed to embody Cameron's 'Big Society' idea. There is also now an emphasis on the individual hero (personalising the riot stories) which develops further from Thursday to saturday, with heroes and villains identified to add to public outrage:

finally, celebrity advice is offered in the shape of the Rooneys, who like Rio Ferdinand claim to know what life is like on poor estates and ask people to stop rioting...

In the next part, we will look at some of the TV coverage and the issues around social media that were raised by some politicians.

Newspaper front pages all taken from

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Amanda Knox appeal case- tabloid attitudes to women

I've been a bit shocked by some of the coverage of this and was pleased when Graham Linehan (writer of Father Ted) tweeted a link to a very well written article from Rolling Stone magazine which explained the whole story in clear unsensationalised terms. You need to read the whole story there as it gives a very different perspective from the one that has dominated the press since the murder.

Even before reading that article, I found so much of the coverage of the case distasteful and vicious. It is clear from the Rolling Stone article that there was a massive bungle on the part of the Italian police in terms of gathering evidence, followed by outrageous assertions from a prosecutor who was already known to be obsessed with the idea of satanist conspiracy. Added to this was the intense bullying of Amanda and her fellow suspect while in custody to force a confession and the desire of the press to wallow in lurid speculation. 'Foxy Knoxy' became her nickname and, is often the case with stories of women accused of crime, allusions to witchcraft and sexual excess were made.

The British tabloids, especially The Daily Mail were particularly keen to view her as guilty, partly because the victim Meredith Kircher was a British student, but also partly because it reinforces their misogynstic world view that a woman who doesn't conform to their expectations must be guilty.

A look at the tabloid front pages for the past two days is quite interesting. Here are today's (Oct 5)

Most feature the same picture of Knox arriving back in the USA, but the headlines are striking. The Mirror and The Mail both take the angle of lack of justice for the victim 'Meredith who?' and 'Give our girl justice too' (even though it seems pretty certain from the evidence that the actual killer is behind bars). The Star tries to suggest that Knox is both greedy and has more to hide by its 'Secret £20m diary' whilst 'The Sun' brings back the sex angle, presumably with classic stereotypical overtones of lesbian aggression: 'Knox's prison sex ordeal'.

The day before, the image captured on so many front pages was of her sobbing on her release:

These front pages come from a very useful site where you can get readership info and front pages from all major UK papers dating back several months.

Again The Mail suggests that she will be making loads of money out of selling her story, with the implication that she is somehow guilty anyway "four years jail for Meredith's murder, now conviction is quashed". Interestingly, the Mail made a massive mistake on the paper's website when the announcement of the appeal verdict was made. In an attempt to get the story up quickly, the paper mistook the verdict on a slander charge as a verdict on the murder charge and put this up on the site:

(screengrab from

Paidcontent report:
"The Mail Online not only mistook the Italian court’s guilty verdict for slander as guilty of everything, it posted a story under the byline Nick Pisa purporting to detail the return journey of Knox and her ex-boyfriend to separate prisons where they would be put on suicide watch. The story also quotes “delighted” prosecutors who said “justice has been done.”

Which just shows how much of a story is written in advance! All made up!

Finally, the way in which media coverage simply seems to have wanted her to be guilty so that the lurid cocktail of sex, murder and satanism could be used in stories is well illustrated by the loathsome low of Tuesday's Channel 5 show 'the Wright Stuff'

Under the headline: 'Foxy Knoxy: would ya?' the panel, bizarrely comprising Christopher Biggins, interior designer Kelly Hoppen and Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten, discussed whether anyone would risk a sexual relationship with Knox now that she is out of jail. On the C5 web page, the segment was previewed with:

"She's innocent. She's also undeniably fit and loves wild sex. Or did. So if you were a guy who'd met her in a bar and she invited you back to hers, would you go?"

Wright pointed out on the show that she had been declared innocent but insisted she is "foxy as hell". He later defended the discussion as 'serious'.

Would coverage like this occur for a man accused and acquitted of murder? I think not. As Graham Linehan noted- hunches, misogyny, puritanism, guesswork- the loathsome tabloid attitudes which they use to sell their papers.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

News Reporting in a Year of Big Stories-1

This has been a remarkable summer for news coverage. Traditionally, the summer is a quiet time as politicians are on holiday and journalists struggle to find enough to interest their viewers, listeners and readers. This year, however, both at home and abroad, there were a number of major news stories which have significant implications for media students. Over the next few weeks, I shall be blogging about these stories and suggesting ways in which they might be used as case studies for your work, particularly at A2 for the exam paper ‘contemporary media debates’. I have been collecting interesting links throughout the summer which I hope will be useful to you.

The riots

I was away on holiday when the riots happened, but, like a lot of people, found it hard to tear myself away from the rolling coverage on the BBC and Sky News channels, as well as from the range of provocative hashtags on twitter like #riots #londonriots #riotcleanup etc. At the time, I found myself feeling a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I kept thinking that this was the inevitable outcome of savage government cuts imposed on the poor and anger at the repressive use of the police force but on the other hand, seeing live on TV the behaviour of the looters and buildings being set ablaze, I felt angry at the damage they were doing in local communities. It was tempting to agree with people who wanted to bring out the army and the watercannons to put a stop to it, but when I stopped watching it on TV and online and started to think about it, I realized that the emotional responses I was having were probably not that far different from the adrenaline rush of those who were involved in it and from those giving it non-stop coverage. Despite the intensity of those emotions, we were not seeing the apocalypse unfold on our streets.

When I thought about it, I realized that like any news story, the riots were constructed for us and with our collusion as audience members; of course, the events happened, and pretty awful they were too, but our understanding of them was very much mediated by the web, the radio, the newspapers and particularly TV. We can ask all kinds of questions about why they happened, why people got involved and who was right and who was wrong, but the sense we made of them was determined by how they were reported.

People blamed social media for a lot of what happened, arguing that gangs orchestrated looting and violence through twitter and facebook and particularly blackberry messenger. They also argued that twitter played a heroic role in the cleanup with volunteers emerging as a result of requests for support there. I would argue that television was much more significant, however. However unpalateable it might be to say, the live coverage made it seem very exciting, with blazing buildings, confrontations with police and people nicking stuff and appearing to get away with it. It actually looked like the police and the politicians were no longer in control and that power had shifted to the youth. Scary for many of us watching, but surely exciting enough for some people to want to go out and have a piece of the action.

The riots make an ideal case study in many respects and there is a real archive of material to be had online. Youtube is packed with videos of some of the key moments and several newspaper archives look really useful to go back through.

Paul Lewis, of The Guardian was on the ground reporting throughout the riots and his tweets gave a vivid account of what was happening. He is a really good person to follow on twitter and regularly tweets links to interesting and useful online articles from the paper and other sources, especially on the riots and their aftermath. He summarises the role of twitter for journalism in relation to the riots very well here.

One of his tweets alerted me to this fantastic resource: a social media timeline of the London Riots, by Anthony DeRosa, from Reuters news agency.

Scrolling through this resource shows the story unfolding,mainly through twitter, but also shows some of the false leads and the ways in which rumours can easily get out of hand. For example, this image of the London Eye, supposedly on fire and careering down the Thames:

This was an extreme example, but there were plenty of other stories circulating at the time which led to minor panics. But perhaps the biggest panic of them all is what is known as a moral panic, which is what the riots became. Elsewhere on petesmediablog, we have looked at how young people have been demonised through media coverage over the years. As the riots spread and saturation media coverage occurred, a lot of what was being said started to take on the form of a moral panic and indeed when the Prime Minister made speeches about the incidents, he described them in such terms.

These articles demonstrate how the 2011 'riots' and the response to them seem to fit in a long tradition of such panics. The Jakarta Globe analyses the image of the hoodie from afar and The Economist systematically works through the parallels between 2011 and other 'moments' of civil disturbance in the UK.

In the next blog, we'll have a look at some of the coverage on TV and in the tabloids, as well as considering the extreme reaction in the aftermath.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Evaluation for OCR coursework

This is the final part of my guide to coursework and how to make the most of it. This guide to evaluation largely only applies to OCR work, so if you think you are doing AQA or WJEC, it is important that you check with your teachers about how evaluation needs to be done, as it is very different.

The key principles for OCR are that there are a number of questions which must be specifically addressed in the evaluation and that you should think of it as a creative reflection task rather than a written essay. The evaluation has to be presented digitally, but it can take a number of different forms and you are actively encouraged to be experimental with this. It may be that your school or college restricts the options you can use but you should note that the best marks go to those who really try to engage with digital formats as enthusiastically as possible!

It is important to note that the evaluation element is worth 20 marks, which is a fifth of the marks for coursework overall, so it is important that you take it seriously and do it well.

So what are the questions?

At AS there are seven:

1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? (i.e. of film openings)

2. How does your media product represent particular social groups ?

3. What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?

4. Who would be the audience for your media product?

5. How did you attract/address your audience?

6. What have you learnt about technologies from the process of constructing this product?

7. Looking back at your preliminary task (the continuity editing task), what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to full product?

and at A2 there are four, which as you can see, contain some overlap with AS, but for which there is an expectation of a greater level of sophistication.

1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products ?

2. How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts?

3. What have you learned from your audience feedback?

4.How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

The evaluation can make use of any digital format, but in order to get top marks, will need to really engage with the potential of the medium, so if it is on a blog, we would expect to see lots of use of pictures, links and video, for example. If it is on a powerpoint, the same would apply, but we would probably see even less written text, as we would expect the powerpoint to be presented by someone, so any writing would be just there as prompts. If the evaluation were all to appear on a DVD, the likelihood is that much of it would be in video form. I am going to suggest some ways of approaching each of the questions as tasks, which make them more creative and more fun to do, but which also involves more planning and thought than a straight written answer would involve.

For both AS and A2, question 1 is the same- it's about forms and conventions of media texts. A lot of students have had great success using something we 'nicked' from, which we referenced in the blog on film openings.This involves selecting nine frames from your opening and presenting them as a grid, just like they use on artofthetitle to illustrate openings. In this case, however, each of your frames has to represent a different aspect of the film you have made.

So you might select nine frames, each of which represents one of the following:

The title of the film
Costumes and props
Camerawork and editing
Title font and style
Story and how the opening sets it up
Genre and how the opening suggests it
How characters are introduced
Special effects

here is an example by Tom

Having chosen these frames and put them in a grid using photoshop, Tom now has to do a brief analysis of each to justify his choices. This could be done through bullet points on his blog, though he has opted for full sentences.

"This is our contact sheet for our opening sequence. The first frame is of our main title. We decided to have the main title at this point as it enters dramatically. This is because the music changes and gets louder, also the picture changes from black to the panning shot. We chose the title ‘Retribution’ meaning “punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved”. This title would be typical of an action thriller.

The second frame we chose is of the setting. It is a fade between the building and the skyline panning shot. It has an urban feel and suggest industrial trading. The purpose of the the purpose of the building is to show that the opening is set in a run down, secluded area. These types of shots are typical of openings as they put the audience in the right frame of mind for the film.

The third frame is to represent our costumes and props. It is of the petrol being poured over the hostage character. It shows the murderer character in a suit costume and the gerry can which is being used to poor petrol on the victim. We put our murderer character in a suit as it makes him look more important and higher up to the hostage. It is also a typical thing for openings to do because it helps the audience to understand who is who.

The fourth frame is to show our font. The font that we chose was called ‘Dirty Ego’. We found it on We chose this font because the style of the font looks rough, dirty and it has a stencil like appearance."

Another approach which works very well is this one from Lucy

As you can see, they have integrated some shots from their video into a sort of mini director commentary. Ideally, any bits where you talk about your work will feel more natural and less scripted, but nonetheless this is a really good start for doing some creative reflection on the work.

Question 2 at AS asks about how social groups are represented. A good way of expressing this is to do a bit of comparison between the way you have represented a character and how mainstream media has done it. So for example, if you are doing the magazine task, you might set a screengrab from your work alongside one from a real magazine, as in this example from Romany here:

"The postures of both men are similar in the sense that they’ve both got their hands in their pockets. They also share similar facial expressions – both serious and staring straight at the camera, although Andrew’s eyes are hidden by his aviator sunglasses. In addition to this, both men are wearing similar costumes – jeans and a t-shirt layered with a shirt on top. As well as this, the background setting is very similar – both pictures were taken outside on a field with trees in the distance. However, the lighting used in the photos is different with one displaying a much brighter blue sky and the other a more overcast grey outlook. Also, they have different hairstyles – Andrew’s is longer, darker and covering his face more, whereas the man from Rinoa has shorter, lighter gelled up hair. Overall I think that these elements of the photos represent a normal young social group and that my magazine reflects this throughout – the people featured in my magazine are quite normal looking – there’s nothing extreme or obscure about their appearances."

For question 3 at AS, the emphasis is on the role of media institutions, which should have been an area of your research, so that you have a good understanding of how distribution of films or magazines works. One way of approaching this is to do an audiodub director's commentary which just focuses on this aspect.

Yasmin and Tilly's work here is a good example:

You could easily think of a parallel task for magazines, such as a video walk through of your magazine where you might do a similar voiceover and then embed it on your blog.

Questions 4 and 5 look at the audience from slightly different perspectives. A simple way to approach question 4, which you can build in to your research early on, is to do what the media industries do and profile a typical audience member. Here is an image of the ideal viewer for Yasmin and Tilly's film and their description of her likely tastes:

"This is Shanelle Goodwin. She is 15 years and 7 months old, and lives in the suburbs of Leeds.
she dresses fairly straight forwardly - just jeans and a top. She enjoys sleepovers with her friends, and shopping at the weekends with her pocket money. She shops in places like H&M and River Island, Jane Norman, New Look, and Topshop.
She enjoys films like Mean Girls, Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging, House Bunny, St Trinians, Sex and the City, Mumma Mia, she enjoys watching them at the cinema and also buying them later on DVD and watching them with her friends, and jelly and icecream.
They would watch Hollyoaks, Friends, Scrubs, Family Guy, X Factor, America's Next Top Model, One Tree Hill. The main channels would be Channel 4; E4; Living Tv; ITV; BBC Three; Comedy Central.
The music this girl would listen to would be anything in the charts, varying from pop, hiphop. r 'n' b, indie music - not really a 'rock' or 'classical' or 'dub-step'. Listens to Kiss FM and Radio 1 for the 'chart hits'.
I think our film would appeal to this girl as she is a stereotypical girly girl who enjoys typical girly things, therefore, if this film was shown at her local cinema, this may appeal to her, as it's similar to other films she likes, such as Mean Girls, House Bunny, and Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging and St Trinians."

Romany's video for question 5 on magazines is a good way to approach it:

Another excellent option is to use the youtube tagging function which allows you to show precisely how the audience is addressed and to link to other texts online, as in Sven and Jahmal's here:

At A2, the question about the links between the main and ancillary products can easily be addressed by making putting in cutaways to the print work where video is the main task:

and the audience and conventions tasks could be variants on those we have seen from AS.
At AS, the question on preliminary task v final project could be looked at using some screengrab comparisons, but hopefully you will think of something more inventive!

Finally, the question about technologies allows you to bring together your understanding of software, hardware and online tools and how they might all interact in your project. This can be very reflective in relation to your own skills development and like several of the other tasks can be used to build up evidence towards the A2 exam, where for question 1a you are asked about your development across the course. Good visual examples of this reflection on technology are here:

So my advice is to use some of this work as a starting point and hunt around for other examples, but to really go for it and be inventive with what you do. What we DON'T want to see is essays on blogs or powerpoint slides. If it is so dull, you wouldn't read it, then take it from me, no-one else would either!

To see the whole evaluations from some of the students featured here:

Finally, try Elliott's epic video which covers all the questions in one elaborate sweep!

Evaluation- Elliott from cmdiploma on Vimeo.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

WeMedia and Democracy Exam questions

As we saw last Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

How far can the media in 2010 be considered to be democratic?
Assess the claim that the media is becoming more democratic.
Discuss the meanings of the term ‘we media.’
Explore the claim that the ‘new’ media are more democratic than the ‘old’ media.
What is ‘we media’ and what difference does it make to citizens?
‘We get the media we deserve.’ Discuss, in relation to the role of media in a democracy.

So as you can see, several previous questions focus on old media v new media, some on what might be defined as wemedia and some very specifically on notions of democracy.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to relate them to the questions set so far:

• What are ‘We Media’?
• Where / how has ‘We Media’ emerged?
• In what way are the contemporary media more democratic than before?
• In what ways are the contemporary media less democratic than before?

The kinds of thing you might use as case studies include:
‘homegrown’, local, organic and potentially counter- cultural media
(eg blogging and digital film uploading and sharing)
You could compare potentially alternative / progressive ‘we media’ examples with other examples of more orthodox production and ownership models
you should know a bit about the history of such media before the web (fanzines, pamphlets, radical documentaries, etc)

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

For this topic, since a lot of what you look at is likely to be online, a comparison between online media and any form of traditional media (newspapers, broadcast news, film) would ensure you quickly meet the criteria for no.1

For no.2, the main thing is to ensure you have a majority of material from the past five years. This really should not be a problem when using online media, and to be honest I think you could use material from the last few months to construct a really good answer!

And for no.3 you should have a range of writers that you could use- for example Dan Gillmor who coined the term 'We Media'or sceptics of the power of social media such as Evgeny Morozov or some of the advocates of people power through social media such as Clay Shirky

There are points on my post about doing the online age option in the exam which would be quite useful here too and if you look at the posts I did previously such as this one on fans or this one on music or this on video games you might find them useful. In all cases, you should be looking for case studies which raise questions about how much the web and social media appear to offer more democratic options for the audience than what was there before. The work of Graeme Turner is quite useful for offering a critique of many assumptions about democracy and new media. You can preview his book here.

For this topic, it is likely you will look at news and citizen journalism, but you could also look at media such as reality TV and shows where ordinary people get to be stars through public participation (the 'democracy of texting'). You could also look at the creative options open to ordinary people such as youtube and how far this really does represent a change. David Gauntlett's work on creativity would be useful here.

Postmodernism exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

What is meant by ‘postmodern media’?
Why are some media products described as ‘postmodern’?
Explain how certain kinds of media can be defined as postmodern.
Explain why the idea of ‘postmodern media’ might be considered controversial
“Postmodern media blur the boundary between reality and representation.” Discuss this idea with reference to media texts that you have studied.
Discuss why some people are not convinced by the idea of postmodern media.

So as you will notice, the questions may focus on what postmodernism is and how you apply ideas about it to examples, but also to why there is an argument about the term itself. I suspect if you have studied this topic, you will have been introduced to the debates around it and have the ability to apply definitions to examples, but I'll point you in the direction of some useful material here too.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to relate them to the questions set so far:

• What are the different versions of post-modernism (historical period, style, theoretical approach)? (first and fourth questions above)
• What are the arguments for and against understanding some forms of media as post-modern? (possibly all six questions!)
• How do post-modern media texts challenge traditional text-reader relations and the concept of representation? (first, second, third and fifth questions)
• In what ways do media audiences and industries operate differently in a post-modern world? (quite a hard one, maybe a bit of the third and fifth ones)

The kinds of thing you might use as case studies include:

How post-modern media relate to genre and narrative
computer / video games, virtual worlds, augmented reality and and new forms of representation,
post-modern cinema,
interactive media,
social media and social networking,
reality TV,
music video,
post-modern audience theories,
aspects of globalisation,
parody and pastiche in media texts or a range of other applications of post-modern media theory.

It is pretty open in terms of what you might have studied, so I would expect answers to draw upon very different case study material.

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

So for 1. you might compare and contrast examples from film and TV or from games and the web.

For 2. the main thing is to ensure you have a majority of material from the past five years. There were a number of answers last year which were dominated by older examples, so beware of this if you are writing about games or the web, you can be pretty up to date, but the same is true of examples from TV, music video or cinema. This is not to stop you referring to historical examples, just encouraging an emphasis on recent ones. For the point about the future, you could say something about how as we all live more of our lives online, more and more texts take on elements of postmodernism.

For 3. You will hopefully have been introduced to some theory and your teachers will have tried to make it accessible- some key names are Baudrillard and Lyotard and their ideas are summarised quite neatly here

Media Magazine published an excellent article in MM22 about postmodernist texts a couple of years back by Richard Smith. I've uploaded the pdf so you can find it easily here

Have a read of it and then try a little exercise using the resources my colleague Nick Potamitis created here - the postmodernist advent calendar!

Click on each picture in turn and identify what the media text actually is; each one has at some time been described as 'postmodern'. Using Smith's article, work out what it is about the text that makes it postmodern. Then find three CONTEMPORARY examples of your own and do the same thing.

By the way, if you don't know what some of the 30 examples on the calendar are, I'll be posting the answers on slideshare!

Oh and here's a great example of postmodernism in action...

Later today: final exam advice- WeMedia and Democracy

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Media in the Online Age exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

“The impact of the internet on the media is revolutionary”. Discuss.
“For media audiences, the internet has changed everything.” Discuss
“The impact of the internet on the media is exaggerated”. Discuss.
Discuss the extent to which the distribution and consumption of media have been transformed by the internet
Explain the extent to which online media exist alongside older methods of distribution in 2010.
Evaluate the opportunities and the threats offered to media producers by the internet.

Questions tend to focus on what difference the internet has made ('revolutionary', 'changed everything', 'exaggerated', 'transformed''opportunities and threats') but also looking at audiences and producers. So long as you read the question carefully to see which angle it is looking for, you shouldn't have a problem. However, this focus on 'difference' does mean you have to be thinking about what the media was like pre-internet.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to see what kinds of question can come up:

• How have online media developed? (change from the past)
• What has been the impact of the internet on media production? (does it allow more people to produce their own media? what effect has it had on mainstream media?)
• How is consumer behaviour and audience response transformed by online media, in relation to the past? (audiences and the difference the internet has made)
• To what extent has convergence transformed the media? (technology's impact- mobile devices, tv online, etc)

the kinds of thing you could talk about would include:
music downloading and distribution,
the film industry and the internet,
online television,
online gaming and virtual worlds,
online news provision,
various forms of online media production by the public or a range of other online / social media forms.

It is pretty open in terms of what you might have studied, so I would expect answers to draw upon very different case study material.

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

So for 1. Different types of media online count, so the fact that you are talking about say, music downloading and people making youtube videos would tick the boxes for two media, even though they are both online.

For 2. the main thing is to ensure you have a majority of material from the past five years. I'd urge you to make it even more recent than that- say the time you have been doing the course, as the web changes so fast. Talking about the future for this topic is easy- you can speculate about how your chosen examples might develop in the future- what next after facebook? what can you see happening with mobile media? how will traditional media cope with further spread of fast wireless connections? Some good speculation on this you could use is here

For 3. you need some critics/writers who have developed ideas about online media. I'll be recommending some below.

Over the past two years, I've blogged a lot about media in the online age, with a huge range of examples on which you could draw.

Alan Partridge's web series is a good case study of how TV might adapt for the web and it would make a good comparison with Dub Plate drama, designed specifically with the web in mind, with its alternative endings which could be voted for via TV or MySpace. there is a further blog on microseries here. If you used these in an answer, you'd need a second case study which linked with a different medium, perhaps something like Twitter.A second piece on Twitter is here.

For theorists, I blogged last year to introduce some useful writers, Find them here. A useful revision activity would be to watch the BBC Virtual revolutions series, which I blogged about here. I've also posted stuff about changing technology here and on how audiences are collaborating to make videos online here and on Michael Wesch's analysis of online production and internet memes.

So there is plenty of material! The main thing is to narrow down what you intend to use and to have some arguments to make around it. Look at the previous questions and decide which of the examples you want to draw upon would work with them and what kind of argument you would want to make.

Oh and here is the story behind a great bit of up to date online age stuff!

Lady gaga

Good article about claims that the internet is like the Wild west

Tomorrow: Postmodernism!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Collective Identity Exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

Analyse the ways in which the media represent any one group of people that you have studied.
With reference to any one group of people that you have studied, discuss how their identity has been ‘mediated’.
Analyse the ways in which the media represent groups of people.
“The media do not construct collective identity; they merely reflect it”. Discuss.
“Media representations are complex, not simple and straightforward”. How far do you agree with this statement in relation to any one group of people that you have studied?
What is collective identity and how is it mediated?

So as you will notice, the questions may focus on how representations are constructed (or how the media mediate representation/identity) but you also need to consider how people read or make sense of those representations and how groups of people might construct their own identity (e.g. online through social media). The last two questions above essentially cover the same territory, but ask you to reflect upon it in a slightly different way- a quote in a question usually means here is something you can argue with- and you should. I would argue that the media never simply 'reflect' reality but construct a representation of it, so there would be something to really get your teeth into! And a look at contrasting representations of a particular group would allow you to explore the complexity, as indicated in the last question.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to relate them to the questions set so far:

• How do the contemporary media represent nations, regions and ethnic / social / collective groups of people in different ways?
• How does contemporary representation compare to previous time periods?
• What are the social implications of different media representations of groups of people?
• To what extent is human identity increasingly ‘mediated’?

The kinds of thing you might use as case studies include:

national cinema,
television representations,
magazines and gender,
representations of youth and youth culture,
representations of different ethnic and cultural groups
sexuality, gender, disability

It is pretty open in terms of what you might have studied, so I would expect answers to draw upon very different case study material.

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

So for 1. you might compare and contrast examples from film and TV or from newspapers and social media.

For 2. the main thing is to ensure you have a majority of material from the past five years. There were a number of answers last year which were dominated by older films, so beware of this!

For 3. you need some critics/writers who have developed ideas about representation and identity. In previous posts on this topic, I referred to several useful theorists in relation to youth as a case study. Have a look at those posts as you should find plenty of use!

You can't cover everything in this exam, as you only have an hour, so you need to be selective and very systematic in your answer. Have case study examples which really illustrate the kinds of points you want to make.

The ultimate best link for this topic is Dave's Collective identity Blog, which is terrific for a case study of Youth.

Tomorrow: Media in the online Age

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Global Media exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

What impact does the increase in global media have on media audiences?
What impact does the increase in global media have on media production?
What impact does the increase in global media have on local identity?
To what extent are the media now more global than local or national?
Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalisation of the media.
Discuss the idea that the media is becoming increasingly global.

As you can see, though there is some variation between questions, some have very similar wording. However, don't get a shock if the wording is different in the exam this summer! There is a limit to how many questions can be on 'impact'!

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to see what kinds of question can come up:

• What kinds of media are increasingly global in terms of production and distribution? (production question above)
• How have global media developed, in historical terms, and how inclusive is this trend in reality? (questions on audiences and local identity above)
• What kinds of audience behaviour and consumption are increasingly global? (audiences above)
• What are the arguments for and against global media, in relation to content, access,
representation and identity? (probably the last three above)

the kinds of thing you are expected to know about would include:
film: debates around cultural imperialism- why do countries need their own cinema rather than just US products?
television and national versus imported broadcasting- what difference does having your own national tv stations make?
national press in relation to global news provision- do you get different stories or different versions of stories in local national media?
media marketing aimed at cross- national territories- how media products are global
examples of media that contradict theories of globalisation
other examples of global media practices.

It is pretty open in terms of what you might have studied, so I would expect answers to draw upon very different case study material.

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

So for 1. you might have one online case study example and one about cinema, or one about news in the press and one about news on TV.

For 2. the main thing is to ensure you have a majority of material from the past five years. If you are stuck for this, have a look at the Cuba Tweets case study below. For some reference to the future, you could talk about how globalisation is likely to continue as more and more material goes online and connections get faster and more countries have wider web access and speculate a little about what this might mean.

For 3. you need some critics/writers who have developed ideas about global media- there are a lot of people you could draw upon, so hopefully you have studied some with your teachers.

You can't cover everything in this exam, as you only have an hour, so you need to be selective and very systematic in your answer. You need to ask yourself what you do and don't understand and to concentrate on improving those areas you are going to write about and having examples to back up your points.

Cuba Tweets Case study- over the past few weeks, Julian McDougall has been tweeting useful links which could be used in a case study in the exam for Global media (although WeMedia and Online Age would probably work too). Follow him on twitter to catch them all, but here are some of his links- no need to use them all, but you'll learn a lot just by reading/watching it all!:

Cuban Media tweet-study starting point = Democracy:
Cuban Media tweet-study: Rough Guide on Media in Cuba:
Cuban Media tweet-study: Richard Gott on Cuba + US:
Cuban Media tweet study - Granma (state controlled newspaper):
Cuban Media tweet study - Accessible Chomsky to 'apply' to contemporary Cuba:
Cuban Media tweet study - Internet in Cuba:
Cuban Media tweet study: Strawberry and Chocolate: Important film for Cuba, identity, tolerance.
Cuban Media tweet study: Cuba Va (young Cubans, self-representation, identity - 1990s).
Cuban Media tweet study - state use of internet:
Cuban Media tweet study: Castro on Wikileaks + recommend Jose Bell Lara's work for gobalisation / Cuba.
Cuban Media tweet study - more 'global' context:
Cuban Media tweet study - Generacion Y blog: Acclaimed 'citizen journalist' from Cuba.
Cuban Media tweet study - Venegas, recommended:
Cuban Media tweet study: Classic theory to 'apply':
Cuban Media tweet study: Literacy levels in Cuba (important context for global media etc):
Cuban Media tweet study: Cuban film, ideology, history:
Cuban Media tweet study: Guerilla Radio (the Cuban Hip Hop "struggle under Castro"):
Cuban Media tweet study: Wendy Chun 'Control + Freedom' - good framework to apply to Cuban internet:
Cuban Media tweet study: Elian - article on 'virtualisation':
Cuban Media tweet study: telenovellas (soaps) as springboard for public debate -
Cuban Media tweet study: re Generacion Y (see previous tweet)
TOMORROW: Collective identity

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Contemporary Media Regulation exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

How effectively can contemporary media be regulated?
To what extent is contemporary media regulation more or less effective than in previous times?
Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media
How far do changes to the regulation of media reflect broader social changes?
Discuss the need for media regulation
To what extent can the media be regulated in the digital age?

As you can see, though there is some variation between questions, you should not have a shock when you turn up for the exam! Two of the previous questions refer to 'effectiveness' - in other words, does regulation work? A third asks something very similar- 'to what extent can it be regulated?' and two of them ask you to look at the arguments around regulation- why do people believe it is needed and 'for and against'.

One way or another, this summer's questions should be in similar territory. Even if you get something which appears to go off at a tangent- like the question of how far it 'reflects social changes', you should be able to adapt your response based on the material you have studied.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to see what kinds of question can come up:

• What is the nature of contemporary media regulation compared with previous practices? (Past v Present)
• What are the arguments for and against specific forms of contemporary media regulation? (what do people say- note this is not asking for your opinion, but for you to weigh up the arguments of others!)
• How effective are regulatory practices? (does it work?)
• What are the wider social issues relating to media regulation? (put regulation in the wider context of society)

So we can see, all those areas have come up already and will come up again! As you have a choice of two questions, there should be nothing to panic about regarding what might come up!

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

For regulation, this should be perfectly possible. For point 1 You could choose to write about:

Film censorship/classification
The regulation of advertising
Newspaper regulation
Computer / video game classification,
The regulation of online media, social networking and virtual worlds
Contemporary broadcasting (TV and/or Radio)

Any two of these compared and contrasted, with some knowledge of what the rules are, who does the regulating, how it works and what the arguments are with close reference to specific examples will give you most of what you need! It will then just be a matter of answering the specific question. BUT make sure you do refer to TWO! It doesn't need to be absolutely balanced, but if you only refer to one medium, like film, it will cost you a lot of marks. I'd say go for an answer which is between 60-40 and 50-50 balanced between reference to your two media. If you write about three media, then either one third on each or 40% each on two, 20% on the third will give you time and space to do a good job.

For point 2, the main danger is spending too much time writing about the past, which many candidates have a tendency to do; the topic is CONTEMPORARY Media regulation, which means NOW, so that is where your emphasis should be. If you write about online media or newspapers, that should be easy to do, as there are some fantastic case studies around this year! But even writing about film should be possible with recent examples. If you don't know any, go to the BBFC student site for some tips! The BBFC even has an app for your phone now...

The tricky bit to get to the top of the mark range is FUTURE media, but that need not be a big deal. Just makes sure you say something about where the evidence is pointing for the future- I'd suggest, for example, that as we become more 'digital' it is harder to control what people do online so a key thing for the future is education so that audiences understand the implications of what they may access and what they can say. I'll give an example of this later, referring to Twitter.

Finally for point 3, you need some relevant writers/critics/theorists to reference in relation to your examples and answer. Don't just write the history of media effects, hypodermic syringe theories or all that stuff, but reference people who are relevant to the argument you are making. So, for example, if you are talking about anxieties about children's media consumption in the digital era, the research by Tanya Byron and Sonia Livingstone's EU Kids online project would be particularly relevant.

Current Case study: Twitter

The row this week over the Ryan Giggs case is a perfect example of the problem of regulation in the digital age. As you may know, a number of celebrities have taken out injunctions against newspapers, preventing them from printing stories about them (usually to do with some kind of sexual indiscretions/extra-marital relationships. These injunctions have an additional clause which turns them into what is known as 'superinjunctions' in that not only can the newspapers (or broadcasters) not report about the celebrity's affair, but they can't even mention that there is an injunction at all.

Sometimes, newspapers or broadcasters in other territories might decide to report the case as the injunction does not apply overseas. In such instances, it is not that hard, via google, to find out the details, but there may still only be a limited number of people who bother to do this; social media have of course changed all this, as it is very easy for messages to spread on a site like facebook. Twitter, with its instant messaging and hashtags, has taken this considerably further.

On 8 May, a twitter user set up a false account and posted details of six alleged superinjunctions. It was covered on BBC News and it only took me a quick search on twitter via #superinjunction to find them, by which stage lots of people had been re-tweeting them. One of the six made headlines with a denial, but the other five have, as far as I am aware, remained quiet. The Sun made several attempts to get the superinjunction for one of the celebrities overturned (the footballer) as his name was being repeated across social media quite a bit yet newspapers were not allowed to print it; the footballer then took out a writ against twitter to get the name of the person who tweeted the information. Last week, this led to massive retweeting of his name and it spread so much that it was even being chanted by Man City supporters on sunday. Finally an MP took advantage of what is known as parliamentary privilege (freedom from prosecution if done inside Parliament) to name Ryan Giggs, so the newspapers could then report it.

This case shows how impossible it is to control social media in the way that mass media can be regulated; if a newspaper faces an injunction and breaks it, then the editor or owner could go to prison or the paper face a massive fine (hardly worth it for a story about a footballer and a Big Brother contestant, though maybe if it's a major state secret or political scandal). On Twitter, once one person tweets, it is possible, as in this case, that thousands more will follow. So how do you catch the first one and do you prosecute everyone? There are a lot of interesting articles around in the papers and and online about this at the moment, so I would expect to see some good answers in the exam!

here's a couple of links for now:

Good article on claims that the internet is like the Wild west

Guardian writer asking for screening of all twitter messages !
Peter Preston on the legal implications
and also an hilarious tale of a twitter spoof by Graham linehan about Bin Laden's TV viewing and how quickly people believe it

finally if you want one of your mates to appear in the media with a superinjunction, try this (it's just for fun)

Tomorrow: Global Media

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How to prepare for question 1b

In Sunday’s post, I listed all questions which have been set in previous sessions:

Analyse media representation in one of your coursework productions.
Analyse one of your coursework productions in relation to genre
Apply theories of narrative to one of your coursework productions.

You will notice that each of these questions is quite short and fits a common formula. You can be assured that the same thing will apply this summer. You will be asked to apply ONE concept to one of your productions. This is a quite different task from question 1a, where you write about all of your work and your skills, as this one involves some reference to theory and only the one piece of work, as well as asking you to step back from it and think about it almost as if someone else had made it- what is known as ‘critical distance’.

There are five possible concepts which can come up

Media Language

If you look through those questions above, you will see that the first three have all already come up, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means that it must be one of the other two this time- exams don’t always work that predictably! It would be far too risky just to bank on that happening and not prepare for the others! In any case, preparing for them all will help you understand things better and there are areas of overlap which you can use across the concepts.

So, how do you get started preparing and revising this stuff? First of all, you need to decide which project you would be most confident analysing in the exam. I believe that any of the five can be applied to moving image work, so if you did a film opening at AS, a music video, short film or trailer at A2, that would be the safest choice. Print work is more tricky to write about in relation to narrative, but the other four areas would all work well for it, so it is up to you, but to be honest, I’d prepare in advance of the exam as you don’t want to be deciding what to use during your precious half hour! What you certainly need is a copy of the project itself to look at as part of your revision, to remind yourself in detail of how it works.


If you take a video you have made for your coursework, you will almost certainly have people in it. If the topic is representation, then your task is to look at how those representations work in your video. You could apply some of the ideas used in the AS TV Drama exam here- how does your video construct a representation of gender, ethnicity or age for example? You need also to refer to some critics who have written about representation or theories of media representation and attempt to apply those (or argue with them). So who could you use? Interesting writers on representation and identity include Richard Dyer, Angela McRobbie and David Gauntlett. See what they say...


If you’ve made a music magazine at AS level, an analysis of the magazine would need to set it in relation to the forms and conventions shown in such magazines, particularly for specific types of music. But it would not simply comprise a list of those conventions. There are a whole host of theories of genre and writers with different approaches. Some of it could be used to inform your writing about your production piece. Some you could try are: Altman, Grant and Neale- all are cited in the wikipedia page here


A film opening or trailer will be ideal for this, as they both depend upon ideas about narrative in order to function. An opening must set up some of the issues that the rest of the film’s narrative will deal with, but must not give too much away, since it is only an opening and you would want the audience to carry on watching! Likewise a trailer must draw upon some elements of the film’s imaginary complete narrative in order to entice the viewer to watch it, again without giving too much away. If you made a short film, you will have been capturing a complete narrative, which gives you something complete to analyse. If you did a music video, the chances are that it was more performance based, maybe interspersed with some fragments of narrative. In all these cases, there is enough about narrative in the product to make it worth analysis. The chances are you have been introduced to a number of theories about narrative, but just in case, here’s a link to a PDF by Andrea Joyce, which summarises four of them, including Propp and Todorov.


Every media product has to have an audience, otherwise in both a business sense and probably an artistic sense too it would be judged a failure. In your projects, you will undoubtedly have been looking at the idea of a target audience- who you are aiming it at and why; you should also have taken feedback from a real audience in some way at the end of the project for your digital evaluation, which involves finding out how the audience really ‘read’ what you had made. You were also asked at AS to consider how your product addressed your audience- what was it about it that particularly worked to ‘speak’ to them? All this is effectively linked to audience theory which you then need to reference and apply. Here are some links to some starting points for theories:

general intro

presentation on reception theory

Media Language

A lot of people have assumed this is going to be the most difficult concept to apply, but I don’t think it need be. If you think back to the AS TV Drama exam, when you had to look at the technical codes and how they operate, that was an exercise in applying media language analysis, so for the A2 exam if this one comes up, I’d see it as pretty similar. For moving image, the language of film and television is defined by how camera, editing, sound and mise-en-scene create meaning. Likewise an analysis of print work would involve looking at how fonts, layout, combinations of text and image as well as the actual words chosen creates meaning. Useful theory here might be Roland Barthes on semiotics- denotation and connotation and for moving image work Bordwell and Thompson

So what do you do in the exam?

You need to state which project you are using and briefly describe it
You then need to analyse it using whichever concept appears in the question, making reference to relevant theory throughout
Keep being specific in your use of examples from the project

Here is a link to a good answer to q1a and 1b from the January session.

Tomorrow we will start to look at the section B topics, with Contemporary media regulation