Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Introducing Media Practice: The Essential Guide

Introducing Media Practice started life back in 2012 just after I had finished my previous book The Holiday and British Film (2012). This is the first text book that myself and my co-author Georgia Stone have written, so along the way we have learned quite a lot about the process of writing a textbook and how this differs to writing a book as a result of academic research (such as The Holiday and British Film). Two of the main priorities were to make it user-friendly and to ensure that the exercises included in the book are something that the reader will be inspired to do.

The finished result is a study guide that should appeal to lecturers as well as students to help explain the connection between media practice and media theory. There are twelve chapters with themes such as audience research, scripting, mise-en-scene, editing, and project evaluation.

The book is aimed at media students who are on courses that have a mix of theory and practice and helps to make links between these two approaches. By reading this book and carrying out some of the recommended exercises, students will find that an understanding of the purpose of their practical work can be improved by referring to theory, and conversely, an understanding of critical analysis can be enhanced, by putting it into practice. An understanding of cultural contexts, audiences, meanings and effects will produce graduates who are more desirable to future employers, over prospective employees who only have technical skills.

The introduction to the book explains this concept. In it we quote Professor Guy Starkey who says that ‘in the analysis of media texts, reception alone can be an insufficient approach’, and that ‘active learning’ can be ‘achieved by encoding as well as decoding’ (Starkey, 2000). In other words, producing media texts can enable students to understand how meaning is constructed at the production stage of the communication process, as well as at the reception stage.

Our book includes some elements of instruction – it would not be a textbook if instructions were not included – but Georgia and I are primarily interested in getting students to think about the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how to’ aspects of their projects. For example, we want them to ask themselves why a character should wear a particular costume, what the effect is of a particular setting on the rest of the story, and what significance age and gender has when used in a voiceover.

For students who have previously been resistant to theory, we hope that by applying it to their practical work, they will experience a series of ‘eureka’ moments, and identify the connections between practice and theory on their courses! This will help them to enjoy developing skills and confidence in media analysis and ultimately make them a more successful media student… and graduate.

You can find more details about the book here:

Starkey, Guy, 2000, ‘Taking on the Tabloids: A Rationale for the Teaching of Media Practice’, paper given at the AMPE conference, Bournemouth, September.

‘An indispensable resource for students and lecturers alike. This book helps readers link their media practice degrees to careers in the industry while also underlining the importance of critical thinking and theoretical foundations.’
Michael Wayne, Brunel University London
‘A much needed and valuable book, full of excellent advice and guidance. It will become an essential text for both students and instructors in media studies.’

James Newton, Canterbury Christ Church University

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Pebble Gifts at the Seaside

On a recent holiday in Cromer my brother and I left stones that we had decorated on benches near the sea front for other holidaymakers to find.

This is something I first did a few years ago after walking along the beach and finding unusual stones that looked like faces and animals.

Why don't you have a go next time you are at a seaside resort that has a pebbly beach? Arm yourself with some Sharpies to add character to the stones and then plant them where people will find them.

Return to the locations later to see if the stones have been picked up. 

On this latest occasion a large stone cat managed to make its way from a seat overlooking the Rocket Cafe to a bench further up the coastal path! I wonder... did it walk there itself?

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Rather Grand Beach Hut: Brighton Royal Pavilion

If you think that Brighton has become an overpriced suburb of London, accommodated by Hipsters and bright young things then blame Dr Richard Russell and the Prince Regent in the late 18th and early 19th century. Seawater as a restorative cure for all ills had resulted in seaside towns superseding the English spas, particularly after the Prince Regent made it fashionable at Brighton to follow the advice of Dr Russell whose Dissertation Concerning the Use of Sea-Water in Diseases of the Glands had been published in English in 1754 (Walvin, 1978: 16, and Hassan, 2003: 6).

Dr Russell recommended the health-inducing effects of dipping oneself into the sea, hence the invention of the bathing machine for seaside dippers. This was an altogether more palatable way of enjoying the medicinal qualities of seawater than drinking it! Once Prince George made Brighton fashionable, the upper- and mercantile classes followed in his place. 

Prince George's (subsequently King George IV) original Marine Pavilion was not grand enough for him to entertain his aristocratic guests in the lavish style he desired and so in 1815 he commissioned John Nash to transform the house into an ornate oriental palace. The grandest seaside residence ever designed. Rob Shields says that a growing sense of ‘spectacle’ in the mid nineteenth century, alongside a growing number of visitors to Brighton subsequently contributed to the town’s transition from a place of ritualised health-pursuits into a location for fun and social mixing (2002: 81).

However, when Victoria became Queen she was unhappy with the association that the Pavilion had with George IV's extravagant lifestyle and sold the house to the town. Visitors to Brighton can now enjoy the spectacle of the Royal Pavilion for themselves. 

An idea of what Prince / King George IV's lavish banquets were like might also be gleaned from Minnelli's 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Some scenes for the film were shot in the Pavilion itself, as studio sets would not have been able to match the opulence of the palace itself.

Further reading:

Hassan, John, 2003, The Seaside, Health and the Environment in England and Wales Since 1800, Hampshire: Ashgate.

Shields, Rob, 2002, Places on the Margin, Alternative Geographies of Modernity, London: Routledge.

Walvin, John, 1978, Beside The Seaside, A Social History of the Popular Seaside Holiday, London: Allen Lane.