Introduction to Agency and Control
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Introduction to Agency and Control

Season
Unit 4 Media
Unit
agency and control
Episode
dynamic and changing relationships

They Live

John Carpenter's 'They Live' (1988)

In Carpenter's 'They Live' (1988), the media landscape is seen as this big, powerful tool being used by evil aliens to subliminally control a weak population. And while we still see some of these ideas of the media being all powerful in theories such as the modern propaganda model, we have an understanding that our relationship with the media is a lot more complicated than this. With the rise of digital platforms and technologies we are more active participants in the media world. We engage with, critically analyse and are involved with media, not simply influenced by it.

That's basically what this area of study is all about - that relationship with audiences, the media and it's institutions and their struggle for agency and control.

A lot of Agency and Control comes down to some basic ideas:

It's now easy for anybody to publish media to a large audience
Audiences have been given an increased agency in their relationship with the media.
Because of this, it is becoming harder to regulate the media in traditional ways.
This struggle to control the media against increased agency can lead to ethical and legal issues

It's now easier for anybody to publish media to a large audience

Before the rise of digital technologies and high speed internet, the media economy was a lot more tightly controlled. To publish media to a large audience was costly. you needed expensive equipment, a large amount of money and a government issued licence to do it. Because of that, there was a lot less media out there, but it had to cater for large audiences to survive.

Now, to be a media producer all you need is a phone. At the press of a button we are all able to go live to the world. There's also just more content at every level of the media. Everyone is a publisher on Youtube, Twitter and TikTok, but there are more TV stations and streaming companies seemingly every day.

Audiences have been given an increased agency in their relationship with the media.

It's this explosion of content that has given more agency to the audience, because ultimately media needs audiences to survive. We still have media that requires a large audience, but increasingly media products are catered for niche audiences, or audiences that have a very specific want or need from their media.

Because of this, it is becoming harder to regulate the media in traditional ways.

In traditional media, it is often easier to control or regulate what is being produced. This is because there were rules and institutions in place to control it. Society has always worried about the effect that so called powerful media can have on what they saw as vulnerable audiences and have made efforts to protect those audiences through industry and government regulatory practices.

With new media, society still worries about the effect of media, but often the traditional ways to regulate media struggle to keep up. It's harder to have industry or government regulation with newer, globalised media organisations and digital media platforms who are reluctant to take responsibility for the content they host.

This struggle to control the media against increased agency can lead to ethical and legal issues

This anxiety about new media and how difficult it can be to control will often lead to ethical and legal issues. At each stage of the production and distribution of media, who is responsible? Do vulnerable audiences to media still exist and is the media as powerful as we thought? Can we expect to control the current media landscape?

Traditional thinking about media issues

Daily Mirror, July 31, 2018
Daily Mirror, July 31, 2018

Often how media issues are reported or discussed in the media is similar to the above example about Fortnite in the Daily Mail, it has been simplified and often have outdated views on how the relationship between the media and audiences work. Often the discourse surrounds how the media is very powerful and that vulnerable audiences need to be protected from it.

Often your job in this Area of Study is to think about this relationship in a variety of different ways. Who does have the power in these relationships? And how has that changed?

Activities and Resources

Activities

Y12 Agency and Control Cook Up Chaos.docx628.4KB
Y12 Agency and Control Can't Stop Won't Stop.docx1250.5KB

Resources

Intro powerpoint

AGENCY AND CONTROL INTRO.pptx11718.2KB

Intro to Agency and Control Heinemann podcast

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge