Media Ecology Career
By— Dr. Pradeep Nair
Media Ecology is the study of information environments. It is concerned with understanding how technologies and techniques of communication control the form, quantity, speed, distribution and direction of information and how, in turn, such information configurations or biases affect people’s perceptions, values and attitudes.
Media Ecology transcends several subjects of wider acceptance like Psychology and Sociology, as it assumes that the psychology of people and their methods of social organization are, in large measure, a product of a culture’s characteristic information patterns.
As a new metadiscipline, Media Ecology helps us to extend our understanding of media and media environments. It provides us an opportunity to study the role of various media technologies and techniques, information and communication codes in day-to-day human affairs.
In media ecology, rather than seeing the printed word or television image as instruments making things easier for us, we consider them as environments-like language itself, symbolic environments-within which we discover, fashion, and express our humanity in particular ways.
As a new perspective or emerging metadiscipline, media ecology has been considered as the study of complex communication systems as ‘environments’ and is concerned with the interactions of communications media, technology, technique, and processes with human feeling, thought, value and behaviour. Thus, media ecology is a pre paradigmatic science.
Scope and Areas of Work
Quite multidisciplinary in nature, media ecology practices diverse theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of media environments, including philosophical, aesthetic, literary, historical, psychological, sociological, anthropological, political, economic and scientific investigations, as well as, applied, professional and pedagogical perspectives.
Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival.
In media ecology, we study about media environments, their structure, content, and impact on people. Media environment is a complex message system which affects the thinking, feeling and behaving of human beings in certain ways. It structures what we can see and say and, therefore, do. It assigns role to us and insists on our playing them. It specifies what we are permitted to do and what we are not.
While studying media environments like radio, film, television, etc., generally the specifications are more often implicit and informal, half concealed by our assumption that what we are dealing with is not an environment but merely a machine.
Media ecology provides an opportunity to study these specifications more explicit in nature. It provides a scope to find out what roles media force us to play, how media structure what we are seeing, why media make us feel and act as we do.
Now a days, media ecology occupies a strange disciplinary place as it seeks to understand the effects of media on the world. With a predominantly sociological background, media ecology studies the impacts of different media on human beings.
Media ecology provides an excellent opportunity to young media scholars to understand media not just as neutral conduits for information, but as how each media form alters information in fundamental ways. In media ecology, we study that each media has particular and discoverable biases built into it that shapes the way that media will be experienced. Media ecology further explores that due to its non-neutral nature and its biases, media creates certain effects on people due to its use.
Nature of the Job
Having a Degree in Media Ecology or a formal training in media studies can offer you a range of communication activities to work. From research point of view, media ecology offers a lot of opportunity to scholars having a degree in communication and social sciences to study and investigate media more seriously as new influential forms of communication are now expanding frequently. A perfect case study is the rise of social networking websites like Twitter and micro-blogging. These social networking sites and blogs are creating a sense of “ambient intimacy” for its users by providing, an always, on channel of social information streaming in and out of consciousness, which is an interesting area of study in itself.
As a media ecologist, you can expand both the sociological and communication areas into a systematic analysis that is broader and more interconnected in scope. Thus media ecology is a complex field, and is the study of connections between actors and processes in media systems at various scales.
Usually, in communication studies, when we consider media we think about content, and how that content affects humans, and potentially how those affected humans can then take action to influence social systems. While, media ecology opens up thinking about other scales of system to that of content. Here we try to look the affordances of the systems of production used to manufacture the hardware which creates, distributes and plays the content. The discipline opens new avenues to study the current hegemony of digitally created and distributed media content, the software systems used to mediate between the hardware devices and the human producers and the consumers of the digital media.
Presently, a lot of debate has been taking place on media ecology to find out that whether the digital media systems are value neutral or does the method of producing softwares, the algorithms, language choices, code, interface designs and licensing systems employed produce certain values.
So, media ecology is an innovative way of approaching media studies and practices. As a media ecologist, you can rethink technological determinism in media studies.
Where to Study and the Eligibility
Media Ecology is a new subject for Indian media schools, hence a particular course in Media Ecology is not offered by any Indian University. But as an intellectual tradition, media ecology is being taught in many universities as a core component in Anthropological and Sociological studies. Some institutes like Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, University of Mumabi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Symbiosis University, Pune have one or two specific modules on media ecology as a part of their regular media programmes.
Central Universities like Pondicherry, Hyderabad, Jamia Millia Islamia encourage interdisciplinary research and interaction in media ecology. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development of New York University; School of Communication and Journalism of University of Maine; School of Journalism and Communication of Wuhan University, China; School of Media Studies of University of Ottawa, Canada; School of Law and Media Studies of Yale University are some good learning centers to promote, sustain and recognize excellence in media ecology scholarship, research, criticism, application and artistic practices.
The Media Ecology Association (MEA) is also dedicated to promote new studies, research and application of media ecology in industrial and educational sector and encourages open exchange of ideas, information and research among media institutions and organizations. The association provides a number of fellowships to scholars working on contemporary issues of media ecology for their professional growth and development.
Where to Look for the Job
Traditional approaches to media have tended to examine media texts as objects, which in the context of a film, a novel, a newspaper article or a radio broadcast seemed to make sense because you were largely dealing with a fixed text which proliferated from a central point, be it a printer or broadcast centre. When we look at the contemporary media ecology, we see a lot of media forms which don’t resemble traditional media objects. Whether we are looking at Wikipedia, World of Warcraft, Facebook or Twitter, what we see are multiple of media forms which are more likely evolutionary processes than objects. These media types are dynamic, open systems, sustained through the attention of both the programmers who are constantly updating the platform itself, as well as the users who are constantly producing an ever changing series of encounters. When we look for conceptual tools with which to analyse the way these processes evolve, there seems to be some quite productive homologies in using some of the tools that are used to analyse other registers of ecology, as the form of the distributed network and the patterns of emergent behaviours and feedback loops are common to these types of network at all scales.
As a media ecologist you can work with organizations dealing with the hardware, software, media materiality and ethical affairs. You can also work with global hardware production houses, with macro and micro networking companies to address the complexity of ethical and political problems faced in an increasingly globalized information society without neglecting the local concerns.
The salary in media ecology sector depends on your qualification and experience, your expertise in media and industry issues and on your communication skills. Having a degree or diploma in communication studies along with a good understanding of ecological aspects of media can help you to earn Rs. 30,000 to 40,000 at entry level positions. A Master’s or Doctoral degree in communication studies with a formal education/specialization in media ecology is recommended for more opportunities. Reputed Media Firms and Consultancies can offer good remuneration to media ecology professionals for their different projects/programmes. Global hardware and software companies dealing with the production and distribution of media contents offer good positions for people having a good understanding of cross-cutting support in media ecological research. A strong leadership, team development and networking skills may promise you a high position in media and networking sectors.
Excelling your Skills
To understand media systems as a media ecologist, you require an ability to develop new approaches to media studies. You have to develop a method of working to study in depth the new media technologies, softwares, standards, protocols, users, designers and the social and environmental contexts within which the media systems exist. You need a sense to understand the complex relationship between media technology and nature.
You need to have a very good understanding of emerging issues and themes of the entertainment and creative industries including innovation and policy development, legal and ethical issues related to internet protocol, economic and social involvement of community and industry partners in creative industries and the problems of young people working as content creators for different media.
Understanding the media’s effect on artistic expression, its effect on human interaction, media’s value to humanity, can help young scholars to determine the effective use of media for human development.
* Dr. Pradeep Nair is the Coordinator of Doctoral Program (Ph.D.) at Anwar Jamal Kidwai – Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia (A Central University), Jamia Nagar, New Delhi – 110025, e-mail Id: nairdevcom@yahoo. co.in
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