in The Guardian
last week titled, "In Defence of Media Studies" and the 100+ reader comments it received fascinated me. Media studies as such is not an obvious target of derision in the American academy, and I did not know that it apparently is
in the British context. After all, the technologies of communication, otherwise known as the media, have become an omnipresent component of modern life--not to critically understand and interrogate them would be a heinous oversight.
So I don't think any argument against media studies is in principle sustainable, as David Buckingham so elegantly shows in the op-ed. But of course I do find it quite ironic that I am going to one of the UK's premier universities to study what is popularly supposed to be a "Mickey Mouse" subject. Buckingham briefly notes that "there are many academics researching and teaching about the media at Oxford and Cambridge"--and that's only the half of it: In Cambridge's sociology department alone, two out of four of the most senior faculty members specialize in the study of the media, and there are at least two others lower down in the ranks. This focus reproduces itself both by becoming a part of the general knowledge base of the department's students and by attracting PhD candidates already interested in media studies (such as myself).
Yes, sociology is a relatively low-status discipline in the UK; perhaps that makes it easier for sociologists at Cambridge to operate on the boundaries of popular respectability. However, given the way power emanates from the top, and one of power's prerogatives is reproducing itself, it seems likely to me that, if this is how research specialization now looks in Cambridge, that the study of the media is here...and here to stay.