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Review of SOCG111 Media and Society

Posted on 13 Sep 2017

Lee Junhui (BSocSc Class of 2017)

If you have been following American politics recently you might have heard the term “fake news” mentioned in passing. You might even have asked yourself how the American press, once lauded as agents of change and justice (think of the award-winning film Spotlight), could have ended up in its current state. Although it is not a main aim of Media and Society to give you the answers to the above questions, Prof Gao Yang’s module does provide several theoretical tools that might shed light on these issues.

“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” - Alan W. Watts

Central to the theme of Media and Society, the module explores the different facets of mass media communications and how it relates to culture and society. From the perspective of the producer, you will learn how different forces such as industry structure and available technologies mould and shape the content that is distributed to us. From the audience’s perspective, you’ll learn that the media we consume tends to do more than entertain – it also has an uncanny way of shaping the realities of the world around us. More importantly though, is the appreciation that you’ll gain for the complex relationships that consumers, producers, society, and media objects have with each other.

Although some of the prescribed readings are theoretically dense and relatively difficult to read, Prof Yang does a wonderful job in cultivating an environment of discussion. The depth of discussion found in the class often goes beyond the typical “ask a question you can find the answers for in the textbook” level, although your mileage may vary depending on how engaged the rest of the class is. Through the spirited debates and helpful clarifications, I came to have a better understanding of not just the theoretical content, but also how it relates to the world around us.

Beyond encouraging the students to expand their depth of understanding through extended discussions, Prof Yang has also designed the module to go beyond the instructional design of “lectures, lectures, lectures”. Highlights of this semester’s class include watching an episode of Black Mirror in class and having a discussion on how the theoretical frameworks we learned apply to it. Guest speakers were also invited to talk about the reporting of news in Singapore, giving us first-hand insight into the institutional pressures faced by local media producers. The result then is a module that is defined more by flexibility than rigidity, where every class is always different, and where your level of learning varies with the amount of effort you put in.

And you will learn, just as I did, that language has strength. Words hold meaning and have consequences that go beyond the individual. The same objective phenomena can be reported ten different ways, and the narrative structure of each report can determine the beliefs society holds about the subject, culminating in a reality shaped by those beliefs. Media and Society has in many ways taught me to be more discerning in the way I consume media. It has provided me with the tools to better understand how and why the entertainment we consume is both reflective of, and able to shape reality.

Just as how an avid sports fan and a non-sports fan watching the same sport on TV may consume the event differently, Media and Society will provide you the tools needed to appreciate today’s phenomena of mass media communications like a true subject matter expert.

Last updated on 13 Sep 2017 .