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An Introduction to Postmodern Media Theory

Stephen Hill | Monday July 13, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Other Topics

Fig 1 Telephone Adverts 1970 and 2008

In theory, the proliferation of web 2.0 user- generated content and the appropriation of creative technologies by media audiences challenges the role of the media professional. In a very real sense it would seem that YouTube, Blogs and Myspace etc, not to mention the affordability of digital editing software and other home studio facilities, embody the collapse of the distinction between the real and the simulated that Jean Baudrillard suggests is characteristic of post-modernity (The Consumer Society, 1970). More so than ever, audiences are now the producers of the text, as opposed to passively consuming the professional output of the media industry.

In the logic of Pierre Bourdieu (Distinction, 1979), it would seem that these changes reflect the wider deregulation of ‘cultural capital’: the proclamation of taste, which had previously been very contingent upon the acquisition of the capital of consecration (education), now rests upon access to creative technology. Put more simply: you no longer have to be a media professional to be media producer; and potentially this poses a very real threat to the integrity of industry. 

With video diary style footage on YouTubechannels’ regularly clocking you in excess of a million views what hope is there for the careers of those employed by its terrestrial forebears? This article looks at the ways in which theory can help budding media professionals understand the interactive potential of the audience in a digital age.

Fig 2 French Cultural Theorists – Jean Baudrillard and Pierre Bourdieu


KEY FIGURE 1: Jean Baudrillard (1929 to present)

KEY IDEA: The proliferation of information technology alienates man from real lived social existence, forcing him to enter a new media induced reality known as hyper-reality: hyper-reality is characterised by the collapse of the distinction between the real and the simulated and the predominance of the...


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