Media studies: Finding an identity
University of Queensland
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
This paper argues that, from the beginning, Media Studies — at least in Australian schools and universities — did not display the usual organising principles of an academic subject. Media Studies in both Australian secondary schools and universities has traditionally been organised to include the written alongside the oral and practical, to integrate theory with practice, to focus on the application — often at the expense of the abstraction of knowledge. At the school level, this theory/production integration has been justified and promoted under the rubric that students ‘learn by doing’. At university level, much of the same rhetoric is used but at the tertiary level media production classes also cater for the students who see — or hope to see — that a degree in Media Studies is an entrée into the media industries. This approach, the integration of training in media production with education in media theory and criticism, produces tensions, apparent contradictions and misalignments that are obvious to teachers and students alike. Drawing from post-modernist critiques and sociologies of subject knowledge, the study uses interviews with school teachers, students, academics and observations of lessons at school and university level to describe the issues and concerns from multiple perspectives.