The Science of the History of Media: Approaches and Concepts

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The article examines media studies from a historical perspective, proving the necessity of using an interdisciplinary approach including media evolution, history, anthropology, and archeology. There are a lot of versions of media development presented in various formats and contexts — from listing the names of inventors and technological devices to describing economic, cultural and social practices — but each contains presumptions, arguments in favor of the significance of media for people’s communication and the reasons for historical changes. The author also analyses the interpretation of the term ‘media history’ proposed by Lisa Gitelman, one of the most respected experts in this area.

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 Abstract: The article considers the problem of media studies in a historical perspective. It is argued that the interdisciplinary approach includes media evolution, history and archeology among others. There exists a variety of versions of media history, in which the media development is described in different formats and contexts — from dropping names of the inventors and devices up to analysis of economic, social and cultural practices, but in each case the significance of media in human communication is emphasized. Speaking about the content of media it is necessary to take into consideration the channels of its distribution. Lisa Gitelman’s treatment of media history is presented in detail. She argues that media history should be comprised of separate cases — studies of specific media developments in a definite context — both local and temporal.

Gitelman puts forward the idea to treat communication as a cultural practice and media history and media as unique and complex historical objects, socially significant communication structures including technological forms and corresponding protocols. If the term “history” is understood as something that happened in the past, then the media is historical on different levels. First, media themselves originate from the past. Even the newest of the new media have their sources — from a social demand to a drawing board. Moreover, media are historical because they remind us of the past: people not only regularly confront the past by means of media representations — in books, films, etc., but also media use itself implicitly includes the contact with the past which produced this representation. If media are regarded as sites for forming meanings, in their analysis it is necessary to consider, to what degree meaning and their perception is defined or limited by technological specifications, how they are influenced by the culture industry, combined interests of studios, publishers, Internet providers and a growing number of multinational conglomerates. Unlike static rigid and unchanging technology, every new communication medium in its evolution undergoes a string of innovations, replacements, and obsolescence.


About the authors

Gennady P Bakulev

Всероссийский государственный институт кинематографии им. С.А. Герасимова

Author for correspondence.

Russian Federation

Professor, Doctor (Philology), Professor, Department of Russian and Foreign Languages, VGIK.


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Abstract - 54

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