On useful knowledge
We are in an era when higher education is increasingly required to demonstrate its utility in vocational and technical rather than social or philosophical terms. In media studies the three different kinds of usefulness are inevitably mixed up, because to understand the media adequately does require attention to all three levels of technical, social and philosophical knowledge. It is in the broadcast, electronic, popular, ‘mass’ media, and here television is still the number one medium in terms of its popular global acceptance, that we can begin to trace the most general and fundamental questions about: how our species makes sense of (a) the world, (b) other people and (c) the self; how humanity uses images and language, stories and sights, genres and forms, discourses and texts. Language, image, communication and sense-making do not take place in an abstract, individualized context, but in a social environment which is subject to historical change. TV studies can help in the effort to understand how the human species makes sense in conditions of (post)modernity, which include:
1. capitalization of entertainment and leisure, and extensive division of labour in textmaking of all types;
2. internationalization of trade in information, communications and entertainment; 3. privatization (domestication and feminization) of the public sphere, and suburbanization
of both family and civic life; 4. virtualization of power – the conversion of governmental power from direct to ‘virtual’,
from armies to information, control of land to control of airwaves.