Political Economy of the Media

Term: Fall 2011

Subject Code: NMDS

Course Number: 5230

This course studies the relationship between two forms of mediation. The first is work, an activity which is said to mediate between human beings and nature. The second is communication an activity that is preeminently understood as a form of social mediation. According to a commonly held view, these two types of activity refer to two different domains of production. To work is assigned the function of fabrication of objects, to communication the production of social relations. Associated with these notions of production are usually such concepts as “subject and object”, “interiority and exteriority”, “individual and social” etc. The course will argue that these distinctions, and primarily that between work and communication, have been blurred by the development of new forms of production in which the distinction between work and communication is difficult to maintain. This transformation has been called in turn “postindustrialism”, “information society”, “economies of sign and space”, “postfordism”, “network society”, “cognitive capital” etc.. On the one hand work is increasingly characterized by its immateriality, by its knowledge content, and by the communicative network it generates, on the other hand social relations of communication are increasingly inseparable from the material condition of their mediation. For these reasons media are not simply means of communication but have to be seen as productive forces, and their analysis is central to the understanding of late capitalism and of its transformation.

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