Media Language – Background and Theory

In part, Media Studies is the study of ‘media language’.

Any given media text (form) is a series of codes or signs which communicate meaning.

A sign, according to media language theory, is made up of two parts:

  1. A signifier. That is, ‘Something in a media text which carries meaning’.
  2. The signified. That is, ‘The meaning carried by that something’.

Your job as a media student it to identify the signifiers and analyse / argue what they signify.

Here’s Mr G explaining:

Here is slideshow which tries to explain – the last few slides give you an approach to your text.


Complete a detailed media language analysis of one of your media products.

You should use this document to help you cover the key ideas.


Here is an example essay

Final Advice for PM + Stranger Things

If you watch this, then there might be something in this article that you might want to include in a postmodern essay.  Remember, it is classed as TV so you would have to other media in the essay to talk about too.  Article attached.

Also, remember The Simpsons may be a little overused and dated, if you can, try and find a more relevant example of challenging grand narratives/absolute truths etc. to illustrate Lyotard’s ideas.

Quotes, buzz phrases are always good so listen to the videos we have uploaded, borrow some ideas from Brand, Curtis, Brooker etc.

Finally, always bring in the higher order ideas about postmodernism into whatever question you do and in particular the ‘General, what is PM question’. So try and weave in how it blurs reality and representation, how it challenges the conventional text and audience relationship and how it distorts time and space and is considered controversial.




This is a debate that we a couple of years ago for revision. We won’t be doing it again this year but why not listen to it and see if there is anything in it for you?  Here are some of the obligatory selfies taken of our narcissistic postmodern selves!  The debate in full is also embedded so listen back to it and find some golden nuggets, buzz phrases, descriptions, explanations that you might be able to use.

pomo debate 1   pomo debate 5

Apologies for the dreadful framing!  It’s all Elliot’s fault!

Narrative Essay (Timed)

Hand write this essay in times conditions (30 minutes or 37.5 minutes)

‘Describe how you used and applied conventional or experimental narrative theories in one of your products’. 

Narrative Essay Structure suggestion

You can choose your music video if it has a suitable narrative or your thriller, which might be easier to dissect.

Link to exemplar answer by a candidate on narrative in their music video.

Example Essays

It would be best to handwrite it in timed conditions but you can type it and submit it too, so that you can redraft it more easily.  Again, try and type it though in 30 minutes after 5 minutes planning.

Mrs Cobb would prefer typed ones submitted through the classroom post.

Good Luck.

Narrative & The Music Video

Narrative definition:  The contents (events, action) and the way these are structured together form the basis of any narrative. A story can be relayed using any combination of communication i.e. visuals, words, drama etc.

If narrative comes up in the exam, you can choose which product to talk about – think carefully about whether your music video or thriller ‘tells’ a story that can be analysed.

This framework is useful for nailing down the specific moments in your thriller or music video narrative where you can apply the terms and theories.

Conventions – Skills -LAST SKILLS ESSAY

Explain how far your understanding of the conventions of existing media influenced the way you created your own media products. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how this understanding developed over time. (25 marks).’

As Conventions is a fairly odd ‘skill’, the way we suggest you tackle this is slightly different to the other Skills. As the conventions for the different projects are all different, it might be easier to analyse how your development of skills in using conventions is documented in terms of how you learnt to USE, DEVELOP AND CHALLENGE THEM.

In other words trace your journey from knowing nothing of the importance or use of conventions to your knowledge and understanding of conventions at the end of the course, when you understood the importance of conventions but also had the ability to challenge and subvert them for creative purposes.

So we recommend you tackle this CHRONOLOGICALLY, from Product to Product.

You also need to remember some specific real professional texts that you can cite as inspiration and vehicles that inspired your understanding of conventions and specifically how they IMPACTED/INFLUENCED  YOUR PRODUCTS.

Fill in your Skills Template with some Conventions stories – you will need to add Thriller as it is missing.

You should also review your Conventions evaluation questions on the blog for the Thriller and Music Video/Digipak to refresh your memory on how you used, developed, challenged conventions.



You will be completing this in timed conditions on Friday so get prepping.


Skills Exam Preparation



Suitable language to use



In the next few lessons, you will be doing reviewing and redrafting your skills essays and ensuring your skills template is complete. We will be doing the final Skill, Conventions, as a timed essay in class at the end of the week.

These are advice tweets we received from the Chief Examiners a couple of years ago as a reminder about Section A.


Section 1a1a1a3






  • Be specific and be chronological.
  • It is about the process, the decisions you made and the impact on the outcome.
  • Introduce with a general introduction as to what you understanding about
    • Digital Technology
    • Research and PLannning
    • Conventions from Real Media
    • Post Production
  • Always conclude with your final product and how much more skilled you are and how your improved skills have affected your final product.


Assessment Level Descriptors

Remember, use T + E + E (explain instead of A – analyse) and S (particularly if creativity is involved).

  • T = skill
  • E = when and how
  • A = how did it help and improve the product
  • S = how much more creative, original, unique, new, inventive did you or the product become.


You could use synonyms for ‘process’ and ‘decisions’ and keep these in mind when writing the essay and keep mentioning them in relation to your examples.

This is a celebration of your learning journey and the decisions you made and how they helped you improve.

  • Intro;  what skill are you talking about and what do you understand it to encompass – i.e. what is C, DT, R + P and PP – very short. and briefly outline which  projects you did i.e. preliminary, thriller, swede, music video (title of song and performer) and print products + very, very short overview of the type of skills, tasks, exercises, techniques, conventions or documents you used in AS and A2 in that particular Skill area. If time is an issue – scrap this in preference for the stories below.
  • (Skills Story 1)should pick up on one of the specific skills listed above and suggest something about your starting point with it –  give an example of how this progressed from start to finish and probably how it affected your creativity as a media student.
  • (Skills Story 2) choose another one of the skills listed and do the same as above – use examples.
  • (Skills Story 3) choose another one of the skills listed and do the same as above – use examples.
  • (Skills Story 4) choose another one of the skills listed and do the same as above – use examples.
  • Conclusion; short conclusion of how your skills have improved (and how your creativity has developed if appropriate but to be hones, it’s relevant even if it isn’t mentioned in the question).

Remember it’s only half an hour and you need to address all your video projects!

You can mention other skills that you have learnt and applied to projects outside of school or in school but only if really relevant or spectacular.


Explain how your research and planning skills developed over time and contributed to your media production outcomes. Refer to a range of examples in your answer. (25 Marks)

Explain how your use of creative digital technology developed over time. Refer to a range of examples in your media productions in your answer. (25 marks)

Describe the most important post production decisions you made for your different media productions and explain why these decisions were significant. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to show how your skills in post-production developed over time. (25 Marks)

Explain the most significant ways in which your media productions were informed by your understanding of the conventions of real media texts. Refer to a range of examples in your answer to demonstrate how this understanding developed over time.

2016 Question: Explain the importance of research and planning to your media production outcomes and
how your skills in this area developed over time. Refer to a range of examples from your media production process in your answer.

2017 Question: Assess the effectiveness of the ways in which your research into real media texts led to
specific media production outcomes. Refer to a range of examples from your media productions in your answer.

Seems unlikely that research and planning will crop up three years in a row!


These are exemplars from previous years.


Performance Shot List

Instead of a written list of shots we want you to create a visual shotlist of the kind of shots you want to include in your performance shoot.  Now that you have filmed a very short performance sequence, you know how many shots you need just to get coverage.

However, certain genres rely specifically on certain shots as part of the repertoire of elements.  For example heavy rock might be canted, hand held camera shots with whip pans a plenty. Indie acoustic might be much smoother, longer, pull focus shots.

You should study other bands of a similar genre and collate @ 10 screen shots of conventional shots, frames, angles they use in their performances. You should look at at least 3 – 4 other music videos and use shots from these. You will then title the shots with an explanation of the shot i.e. close up of guitarist’s instrumental mastery; whip pans between band members looking at each other; master long shot of band performing as a unit; mid shot pan of band members; extreme close up of lead singer’s expressive face and vocals etc. 

Clearly a lot of the energy and dynamics will come from the edit in post-production but you will need a variety of shots of the performer from different angles with different movement to give yourself adequate footage.

Remember:  take at least 2 cameras for your performance shoot and get the band to sing the song several times through and take complete footage of the song being performed from different angles, distances and with different movement.

Also think about shots where movement happens through the frame…i.e. feet or people walking across the screen? What about POVs, hand held, canted, whip pans, pulling focus?

Take a printed version of the screen shots out with you to remind you of what you need to shoot in order to create the right vibe, look and energy. Also take a list of specific shots you need to help create energy and star image.

POMO – Selfies are just so postmodern + more!

Selfies are so postmodern

Have you considered how postmodern selfies are?  Our artificial image, simulation becomes the focus of a moment – we want people to focus on us and our image.  The rest almost becomes irrelevant.  We are also so self-absorbed – just recreating ourselves somewhere else – same face, different place.  A pastiche of our own lives constantly uploaded.

This is a link to an article about our modern media world. Again a great place to take down some sound bites to use in your essay.

POMO – Finstagram – where you can just be yourself? or how about an App that allows you to communicate with the dead?

Really – aren’t all photos representations and never able to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

An interview with a teenager who has a fake account: Why?

What about this though – even scarier – an app where you can take selfies with the dead? Sounds so unlikely but it is happening. Just as Brooker predicted in his first series of Black Mirror it is all becoming scarily real.

William Wordsworth spoke many a true word – even before POSTMODERN MEDIA was in existence.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

 Getting and spending we lay waste our powers;

  Little we see in Nature that is ours;

 We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!…

For this, for everything, we are out of tune

POMO – A4 flyer case studies

Please see classroom for your allocated text.

Whilst you are researching, designing and completing your A4 flyer, your teacher will go through your POMO essay.

There is another one coming at the end of the week to make sure your desk is clear for that – it will be a tricky question.

La La Land

Your second detailed case study is the film La La Land.  In order to ‘get it’ you first need to understand how the original movie musicals were designed and constructed.

Here are some short videos on how and what inspired La La Land.


POMO – against the big idea and WHAT NEXT? Easter Essay advice

Your Easter Postmodern essay is in classroom. You will have the rest of the lessons to plan, prepared and research the case studies you want to use in it.  All the resources are in the classroom post.

It is essential that you try not to make the essay purely a list of examples.  You should endeavour to open up the debate, criticise and analyse.  Have some fun with the essay. You should also try and consider the past, present and future of POMO. Here are some ideas that you could develop as to how POMO might develop in the future.  Use some of the buzz phrases you have heard in the example critiques and reviews.  But do remember this is a MEDIA essay – not an historical or political one – bring these elements in but the Media text has to be the focus.

Good luck.

Counter arguments to Postmodernism

  • As soon as something is in the media it is mediated (selected, presented, changed, simplified…) by someone and by definition becomes a representation of reality. Baudrillard is therefore railing against the human impulse to tell stories and to explain the world.
  • Postmodernism mocks. It’s easier to mock than to try to be innovative. Postmodernism takes the easy option.
  • Are there any new stories or are we just telling the same story from our own unique point in history, just as generations before us have done and will continue to do. So Jameson bemoaning the lack of originality is a specious argument.
  • What’s wrong with big ideas that give us a sense of who we are, how we should behave, that give us a sense of identity & purpose? If all grand narratives are nonsense then everything is relative to the individual experience and we have no society / community, humanity becomes just a bunch of self absorbed relativists.

Some might argue that the world needs to change – as everything is being corrupted or has been corrupted, perhaps we all need a new direction?  ‘Do not – focus on the shadows on the wall but on the light source itself’.

Could this mean civilisation, needs to redefine itself?  Will the freedom of the internet eventually bring about our disintegration? Do we need Big Brother to come in and censor our lives? Are they spiralling out of control and is POMO media feeding that descent?

In fact, do we need a BRAND NEW GRAND NARRATIVE?

POMO – Geordie Shore – very funny article from Charlie Brooker – use a quote from it!



Thanks to Rosie for pointing us in the direction of this article. Charlie Brooker takes his usual side swipe at modern media and hits the nail right on the head. Focus on the last couple of paragraphs where it is clear their ‘creation’ is all part of consumer culture. Elements of ‘scopophilia’ are involved in wanting to watch and hate them and not wanting to watch and kind of liking them all at the same time.  ‘Hyperreality’ is involved too in their caricaturing personas but the most interesting idea could fit with Lyotard’s ideas on the destruction of the ‘grand narrative’.

The current state of society is fractured, pluralist and perhaps lost its way with the destruction of those absolute truths. We need somewhere to channel our fears, our angst, our distaste, our pent up anxiety and loss of direction – and what better way than taking it all out on a bunch of wannabe celebrity Z listers, who are just dying to be noticed? They really are noble types.


POMO – more examples

Taylor Swift – Look What you Made me Do.  Packed full of intertextual references – cultural competence required. Jameson would hate it.  Baudrillard would say it is a sympton of consumer culture.  Lyotard would like the fact that she is pointing the finger at the press who has defined her as having a ‘victim’ complex – she is being ironic and has her finger firmly in her cheek – parody of their representation of her.

All the references explained:


TOIWE – does Shakespeare. The blurring of lines between low art and high art?  Would Lyotard like this? I think so. Whereas Jameson would think it was cheap and nasty and distorts history.


POMO – BBB – Baudrillard would ask us to look BBB – FAKE NEWS – Post Truth Era

Beyond, Beneath and Below…..even Between…..

This is a presentation focusing on ‘all may not be what it seems’. It was used in an assembly last year but it is a good reference point for making sure that in this postmodern age, images, messages, ideas and communication may be no more than ‘a shadow on the wall – look for light source itself’.


The truth behind instagram. A collection of photographs showing how instagram provides a vehicle for cleverly constructed images that encourage everyone to aspire to a life, other than their own.

And the girl who quit Instagram?


This refers to fraudulent photography, where photographs are manipulated through   photoshop or manipulated by other means to change the information they convey.    Fauxtography is often used to manipulated the viewer and promote a particular agenda.

Fauxtography is also occasionally used to refer to low-quality or humorous photographs taken by amateur photographers who have started photography businesses or blogs despite their limited experience and skill. In this sense, fauxtography is an Internet meme.


“Faux” is the French word for “fake.”  Techopedia explains Fauxtography. The term fauxtography may have emerged in 2006 when freelance photographer Adnan Hajj provided an altered photograph of what was described as an Israeli raid in Beirut. Reuters printed the photo, and it quickly spread online. However, the billowing black smoke was later discovered to have been digitally added, along with other elements of the photo. Fauxtography is especially dangerous in photojournalism because audiences trust the news to provide accurate representations of worldwide events. When images are photoshopped or staged, this can drastically change how people feel about the event depicted.

And the latest from infowars – the website that says it exposes conspiracies, is a very sorry and deeply distressing development.  Whilst, its main agenda is to highlight how the grand narratives, absolute truths are to be questioned and that hegemony is alive and kicking and needs to be challenged,  it also causes an enormous amount of misinformation and anxiety. It has been accused of causing so much hurt to the families of the Sandy Hook massacre, saying it was set up by those in favour of harsher gun licensing laws in the USA. One father though is hitting back.

I GUESS ALL THAT THIS SAYS ABOUT POSTMODERN MEDIA IS THAT, with the proliferation of digital media, the idea that anyone and many do, feel the right to air their views, become keyboard warriors or citizen journalists, how are we ever going to be able to police what is out there and really KNOW WHAT THE TRUTH IS? Lyotard might argue that it is good that everyone know has the right to question, air their own mini narratives and to question the absolute truths/grand narratives but is it just making life full of false stories, unproven facts and FAKE NEWS.  Postmodern Media is now, more than ever giving over to the POST TRUTH era. With the President of the USA now embroiled in various FAKE NEWS stories, the whole of society needs to be on high alert and always look beyond, beneath, behind and below the headlines.




POMO – Hegemony, Grand Narratives – we think we’re free? Cambridge Analytica

A story broke this week that has been investigated for over a year now by the Guardian newspaper. It basically exposes Facebook for the monster it has become and all of us as unwittingly playing into the hands of the ruling classes – we have been moulded and monstrously manipulated by those who can – governments, politicians, corporations.

Watch the entire video below to fully understand the enormity of how Media has played right into the hands of those who have sort to ‘manage’ society.

Baudrillard would say – well, what more could we expect from a society that is managed through the media. We were bound to be fed and fall for falsehoods.

Lyotard – would he be saddened by the fact that even though we think we’re free to question, look beyond, beneath and behind in this pluralistic society, are we in actual fact, free at all? Just like the prisoners in Platos cave – have we actually come much further?  However, he would applaud the idea that the grand narrative of unbiased, investigative journalism is able to blow the ‘pretence’ apart and that what we are seeing has to be questioned, deconstructed, disseminated.

This is a really current case study that would sit well in any Level 4 essay on postmodernism