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The scope of media anthropology

December 26, 2009

メディア人類学の射程(<特集>マスメディア・人類学・異文化表象)  [in Japanese]

The Scope of Media Anthropology (<Special Theme>Mass media, Anthropology and Representation of Other Cultures)  [in Japanese]

原 友章 HARA Tomoaki


The concern with “media” has greatly increased over the last decade in Anglo-American anthropology. This growing interest in media has opened the way for “media anthropology”, an emergent sub-field of sociocultural anthropology. This paper first examines the concept of media, and then critically reviews the two prevalent kinds of Anglo-American media anthropology. The purpose of the paper is to clarify the scope of media anthropology and to provide a new framework for future studies. Chapter two takes up the concept of “media”. First, I examine the concept of media and define it broadly as “something people use as a means of encoding, transmitting, decoding, storing, or converting socially significant information”. Secondly, I focus on “mass media”, that is, newspapers, TV, radio, and other print and electronic media, because in Anglo-American anthropology, and for that matter in Japanese anthropology, the recent concern has been almost exclusively with mass media. Most Anglo-American anthropologists equate the word “media” with the term “mass media”; I would, however, like to make a distinction between the two, as stated above, and to take into consideration forms of media other than mass media. Broadly speaking, media theorists recognize four major forms of media : oral language, written symbol systems, print media, and electronic media. As a sub-field of the discipline with perspectives on the history of humankind, media anthropology should take all these major forms into consideration and recognize the particular characteristics of each of these forms, even if the focus is on mass media. Thirdly, I introduce the model of social communication proposed by Toshiro TAKEUCHI to clarify the scope of media anthropology. TAKEUCHI provides four ideal types of social communication in terms of anonymity of participants in communication: interpersonal communication, club (or small group) communication, organizational communication, and public communication.


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