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media, geography of

  The media are usually regarded as those technologies of communication which have, over time, produced a sphere of exchange of information and ideas. They therefore include a bewilderingly large range of activities — books, paintings, radio, cinema, television, multimedia, and so on — and a bewilderingly large array of means of communication — print, images, moving pictures, music etc. Given the undoubted power of the media in the modern world, the rapid growth of media and communication studies, and the fact that space lies at the heart of many questions about the influence of the media, there has been remarkably little direct work on the media in geography. Although it might be argued that earlier works on diffusion (e.g. Pred, 1977) and time-space compression (summarized in Thrift, 1990) were important precursors of a geography of media, the fact remains that the first comprehensive edited collection explicitly directed to the topic was only published in 1985 (Burgess and Gold, 1985).

That said, a geography of the media does now exist, albeit in fragmentary form, built upon five main lines of inquiry. First, there are economic geographies of the various media industries. What these geographies reveal is that the media are now a global industry in their own right, dominated by large combines like Fox, Bertelsmann, and Time Warner which stretch across many different means of communication (Sadler, 1997). Second, there are studies which have considered the cultural impacts of the expansion of the media. As the same texts, figures and sounds circulate around the globe (see globalization), they clearly extend western structures of power, not only because much of the media consists of western products but because the media are often saturated with western mores and values (Shohat and Stam, 1994; Morley and Robins, 1995; see post-colonialism). However, the media can also become a cultural resource, being \'turned\' by local populations into new hybrid meanings (Thrift, 1997). Third, there is work on the way in which texts, images and sounds can produce new geographical sensibilities. Such work can take on a number of forms, from the critical analysis of film and television (Aitken and Zonn, 1994; Clarke, 1998) through the analysis of everyday snapshots (Crang, 1996) to the way that a single satellite image of the globe has been used to foster all kinds of ideas — cultural, political and environmental — that we live in \'one world\' (Cosgrove, 1994). But perhaps the most potent example of this kind of work has built on the legacy of writers like Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin (Caygill, 1998; Gilloch, 1996) and concerns the ways in which our senses of the city have been altered by the media: what we experience in our daily lives is very often mediated. In particular, and fourth, an increasing amount of attention is now being paid to sources other than the visual, most particularly sound (Smith, 1997; Leyshon, Matless and Revill, 1998; cf. music, geography of), but also touch, smell and even taste (after all, it would be possible to argue that many modern restaurant chains have applied media technologies to food; see food, geography of). Then, fifthly, there is work on the new digital media and their possible impacts on geography (see cyberspace; virtual geographies). Much of this work necessarily remains speculative (Robins, 1996), but it has also clearly had important effects, producing new histories of technologies (see Debray, 1996; Plant, 1997), new metaphors (see cyborg), and new phenomenological theories about how we apprehend spaces in which instantaneous communication at a distance becomes the norm (Virilio, 1991). (NJT)

References Aitken, S.C. and Zonn, L.E., eds, 1994: Place, power, situation, and spectacle: a geography of film. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Burgess, J. and Gold, J., eds, 1985: Geography, the media and popular culture. London: Croom Helm. Caygill, H. 1998: Walter Benjamin. The colour of experience. London: Routledge. Clarke, D., ed., 1998: The cinematic city. London: Routledge. Cosgrove, D. 1994: Contested global visions: one world, whole earth, and the Apollo space photographs. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 84: 270-94. Crang, M. 1996: Envisioning urban histories: Bristol as palimpsest, postcards and snapshots. Environment and Planning A 28: 429-53. Debray, R. 1996: Mediologies. London: Verso. Gilloch, G. 1996: Myth and metropolis. Walter Benjamin and the City. Cambridge: Polity Press. Leyshon, A., Matless, D. and Revill, G., eds, 1998: The place of music. New York: Guilford. Mattelart, A. 1996: The invention of communication. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Morley, D. and Robins, K. 1995: Spaces of identity. Global media, electronic landscapes and cultural boundaries. London: Routledge. Plant, S. 1997: Zeros and ones. Digital women and the new technoculture. London: Fourth Estate. Pred, A. 1977: City-systems in advanced economies. London: Hutchinson. Robins, K. 1996: Into the image. Culture and politics in the field of vision. London: Routledge. Shohat, E. and Stam, R. 1994: Unthinking Eurocentrism. Multiculturalism and the media. New York: Routledge. Sadler, D. 1997: The global music business as an information industry: reinterpreting economies of culture. Environment and Planning A 29: 1919-36. Smith, S.J. 1997: Beyond geography\'s visible worlds: a cultural politics of music. Progress in Human Geography 21: 502-29. Thrift, N.J. 1990: Transport and communication, 1730-1914. In R.L. Dodgshon and R.A. Butlin, eds, A new historical geography of England and Wales, 2nd edn. London: Academic Press, 453-86. Virilio, P. 1991: The lost dimension. New York: Semiotext(e).

Suggested Reading Thrift, N.J. 1997: \'Us\' and \'Them\': re-imagining places, re-imagining identities. In H. Mackay, ed., Consumption and everyday life. London: Sage/Open University, 159-212.



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