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1. In most everyday usage, organizations (such as schools, banks, hospitals, prisons, and broadcasting corporations).

2. (social institutions) (social sciences) A term frequently used loosely to refer to established ways of behaving or, more formally to major social systems or structures which organize the primary social practices, roles, and relationships within a culture. Broadly, there are four main types of social institution: political, economic, cultural, and kinship institutions. Most frequently cited as social institutions are the family, the state, and the law, but social constructionists often refer to language as the foremost social institution. In functionalist approaches, social institutions have been seen as social structures serving to maintain society through meeting social ‘needs’ in their organization of essential activities. For instance, for Malinowski they meet basic and universal individual human biological and psychological needs. In contemporary sociology, functionalist approaches have been overtaken by a more fluid notion of institutions reflecting less clearcut distinctions between institutional structures and functions and less consensus over values. Social institutions offer the psychological value of predictability and stability but they can also be experienced as autonomous forces constraining our options. Although they transcend the lives of individuals, institutions and patterns of behaviour are always in the process of formation, transformation, and decline.

3. A central theme in media studies deriving from sociological and political economy approaches. The primary focus is on mass-media institutions rather than textual analysis or audience research, although Stuart Hall and others have emphasized the interconnectedness of production and regulation with the other elements in the circuit of culture. Key themes include power relations, globalization, concentration of ownership (see media ownership), regulation, and occupational practices and values within media culture. It includes, on the macro-level, the study of media organizations such as production and distribution companies and the relationships between them, and on the micro-level, of groups of media workers such as unions and news teams. Media institutions are seen as shaped by economic and political factors in particular. In the broadcast media, commercial factors are seen as influencing not only commercial broadcasting but also public service broadcasting. The polar opposites in debates about media power are the market model and the manipulative model. While pluralist approaches frame the role of the mass media in terms of a liberal ideology of freedom, Marxist approaches foreground the power of media institutions to determine what appears in the marketplace, where media products are treated as commodities rather than a public good. In relation to film, the primary focus of institutional analysis has been on the studio system of classical Hollywood cinema, foregrounding the socio-historical context, and demonstrating the pervasive influence of the institutional drive for the maximization of profit. Bordwell has argued that the form and content of classical Hollywood films was primarily determined by the institutional context of their production.

Subjects: Media studies

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