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The Mediated World: A New Approach to Mass Communication and Culture

A new textbook from Rowman & Littlefield that engages students in a discussion of media studies, history,  concepts, and practices.


The Mediated World: Teaching Preface

We write and teach under the shadow of a staggering truth: Almost every fact can be looked up online. Given that, it is useful to ask, what value can a textbook add to the lives of wired students? With this question in mind, I have tried to eliminate many names and dates that often clutter mass communication textbooks. In their place, I have inserted concepts and stories and a focus on representation, media literacy, how communication evolves over time, and how we as 21st-century humans can survive and thrive awash in a tsunami of media.


This book, while keeping a similar table of contents as standard textbooks, offers a new approach: 


First, it is more conceptual than the others. Part of my aim is to stay rooted in history, and that gives the book a timeless quality, even though many examples come from the 2010s.


Second, the book is not a cheerleader for industry; it takes a critical, analytical approach. It doesn’t bash industry, but it does use sociology, anthropology, history, and psychology in ways that some other textbooks do not. Although it is not negative about the various media fields—TV, advertising, and public relations, to name three—it does provide a critical lens to both criticize and appreciate them.


Third, many mass communication textbooks focus on mainstream media; I do too, but I spend a lot of time talking about how minority groups vie to be heard and seen.  


Fourth, young people today are engulfed by media forces that are more persistent than those faced by their parents and grandparents.  This book addresses those forces and seeks to educate readers in what is broadly called “media literacy.” But because today’s readers are surrounded by media from the time they wake to the time they fall asleep every day, this book addresses this issue in a personal way. This all gives the book an intimate feel, something that the many facts and figures of the internet can’t provide.    

The book’s organization and features

Most chapters open with an example from recent times and then provide historical context, narrative anecdotes, and broader societal implications of different media and forms of communication. This book also links classic communication theories—such as uses and gratifications, agenda setting, and cultivation theory—with applications of these theories to real life. Core theories, facts, and studies are explained further by using examples from current journalism, historical documents, and various contemporary media, such as TV shows and social media platforms.


The first two chapters (Chapters 1 and 2) lay the groundwork for students to actively consider the ubiquity and importance of media in society and in their own lives.

Next, the book covers the development of and the science behind two fundamental forms of communication that underpin mass media: orality and literacy (Chapter 3). The next chapter describes the evolution of printing and the development of the mass public and mass private (Chapter 4).

The following three chapters each focus on a particular medium: newspapers (Chapter 5), the telegraph (Chapter 6), and magazines (Chapter 7). Although the entire textbook is concerned with minority representation, we devote Chapter 8 to covering that topic exclusively.

The next five chapters examine media that have been radically changed by the digital revolution: music/radio (Chapter 9), photography (Chapter 10), movies (Chapter 11), TV and video (Chapter 12), and video games (Chapter 13).


The next two chapters delve into the fields of advertising (Chapter 14) and public relations (Chapter 15), followed by a discussion of media law and ethics (Chapter 16) and the media’s role in agenda setting and politics (Chapter 17).


Finally, the last chapter (Chapter 18) examines our digital revolution and looks to the future, prompting students to imagine a world where technological advances, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, fundamentally change how humans communicate and tell stories.


The book can be used in order from beginning to end throughout a semester (some chapters are shorter and work well together and so can easily be assigned together for one week), but instructors can also use the chapters as stand-alone in-depth texts on a particular topic.


The book has many features that allow students to engage with the content on a deeper level and that also help teachers easily incorporate this textbook into their curriculums through providing opportunities for discussion and assessment:


  • Each chapter starts with key learning objectives and ends with a summary that helps students identify what is most important and synthesize the main points.

  • Discussion questions at the end of each chapter can be used to stimulate classroom conversation and can also be used as essay prompts for students to think critically about the material and to apply it beyond the classroom.

  • Marginal glossary entries provide definitions of key terms in the text and can be used as part of assessment of factual knowledge acquisition.

  • To illustrate the concepts or to delve deeper into a topic, “Application” sidebars suggest practical activities for students beyond the core text and can be used as assignments.

  • “Now and Then” sidebars allow students to understand societal developments over time and the role of media in society throughout history.  

  • “Reflection” sidebars ask students to think critically about their own media use and more broadly to consider the relationship between media and society.


New to the Second Edition


The second edition of this book departs from the first edition in significant ways:

  • While the first edition uses historical examples to open most of the chapters, this edition uses modern examples, generally from the 2020s.

  • In the five years since the first edition was published, the media world has changed dramatically, pushed in part by the worldwide pandemic. Phones have become even more ubiquitous. Streaming video is way up, and theatergoing is way down. Different times call for a new book.

  • We have added a new chapter on video games (Chapter 13).

  • The first edition of the book was one of the most diverse books in the field. But the so-called great racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 has informed every chapter in this new edition. The second edition adds a new chapter on diverse representation (Chapter 8).

  • Throughout the book, many examples from the 2000s and 2010s have been replaced with examples from the 2020s.


Finally, I should say this is a textbook that offers a new approach to an evolving topic. If you would like to contact me with questions or suggestions for future editions, please send me an email. Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing from you!

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