Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method. Jennifer Holt and Alisa Perren, eds. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 283 pp.
Offering twenty original scholarly essays, this anthology provides a solid collection of recent surveys of various media industries, melding description, analysis, and even some predictions. Collectively, they provide a sense of how “media industries” is fast becoming a recognized field of study in its own right—along with an idea of some of the work still necessary to make that happen.
The editors teach communication at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and George State University, respectively. They and their cast of contributors (many among them fairly senior scholars with impressive records) demonstrate the value of multidisciplinary studies by applying methods of anthropology, sociology, economics (and more specifically industrial analysis), political economy, cultural and policy studies—and even journalism.
The essays are arranged in four sections. “History” includes six papers on such topics as the problem and development of media historiography (by Michele Hilmes, a key practitioner of the art), archives and media studies, film industry studies, broadcast and cable TV networking, advertising’s role in radio-TV development, and new media and how they transform our concept of media history. A “Theory” section features five essays that turn to an articulation of media political economy, thinking globally rather than simply nationally, in a chapter by Michael Curtin, a film studies professor at Santa Barbara who formerly directed the global studies program at the University of Wisconsin. Latin America is an example of regional media industry study; these authors also examine the concept of nation and media industries, and Mark Dueze of Indiana University writes on the modern convergence culture and media work.
“Methodologies and Models” opens with Philip Napoli’s review of the role of media economics in the study of media industries. John McMurria examines issues in regulation and the law (drawing examples from cable and digital media policymaking), and Toby Miller of the University of California–Riverside applies critical cultural policy studies in a chapter titled “Can Natural Luddites Make Things Explode or Travel Faster? The New Humanities, Cultural Policy Studies, and Creative Industries.” Two concluding essays in the section look at media production studies and media industry operations, and the “moral economy” of Web 2.0.
The final section on “The Future” offers four different visions or approaches: consumer-centered analysis, the role of politics and theory in media industry studies, the concept of change as seen from an industry perspective, and working toward media industries research that synthesizes the work and methods of many researchers.
Each essay in this collection is documented and provides something of a survey of the research literature to date in each specialty. While some of the cited “pioneers” are nothing of the sort (the real pioneering work on media industries dates to the 1940s and 1950s, if not even earlier), the book’s papers collectively provide a very useful stock-taking of where things stand. And the emphasis on the value of a variety of methodological traditions is especially useful.
CHRISTOPHER H. STERLING
George Washington University