The historical study of the mass media pioneered in the 19th century by historians of the press. It is an approach which emphasizes the importance of the specific sociohistorical contexts within which media technologies evolved, offering the prospect of tracing the role of the media in the making of modern society, and exploring the relationship between social and technological factors from a stance of critical distance. However, the British media researcher James Curran noted in 2002 that ‘press and broadcasting historians tend to focus on institutional development, while film historians tend to concentrate on the content of films—mostly within very limited periods of time.’ A focus on media technologies tends towards technological determinism; rival narratives variously focus on such unifying themes as popular empowerment, elite control, nation-building, and the rise of consumerism (according to political perspectives). Such grand narratives are rejected by postmodernists, who stress discontinuities.
Subjects: Media Studies.