Media Science

What you’ll learn

  • how to develop research skills to question, investigate and understand media messaging
  • how to analyze audiences and gauge message effectiveness
  • best practices in the creation and distribution of persuasive messages in media

Courses

Your media science courses will provide you with research opportunities and theoretical foundations. Here are a couple noteworthy experiences to look forward to.

Audience Analysis

Master the behaviors, descriptors and measurement of media audiences. You’ll develop skills in conducting surveys, focus groups and other research methods used by the media industry.

Sex in the Media

Explore the role and portrayal of sex and sexuality in media, and examine the potential social and psychological effects of exposure to sexual content in the media.

Student work

How do music videos interpret sex and gender?

Andy Canada, Dasha Beauchamp, Javeon Brown and Brett Halverson researched the representation of concepts such as sex, gender, relationships and emotional health in music videos. The group analyzed songs in the country, pop and R&B genres and compared their portrayals of these topics.

Description of the video:

Sex in Music Videos

Sexuality can be seen in music videos more today than ever before. But how do they present gender, emotional health, power, relationships?

We examined eight music videos from three music genres to show the varieties of how these topics are presented in the media.

We chose to study music videos of country, pop and R&B. A 2011 content analysis in a Journal of Mass Communications study noted the differences in how the different genres differ in their portrayals of sex and objectification.

Country was found to be the least objectifying due to the conservative nature of the audience. This falls in line with our two country music videos, which are both positive depictions.

Keith Urban's music video "Blue Ain't Your Color" plays in the background.

This study found pop and R&B to be equally sexualized and objectifying and noted that male artists were less likely to sexualize themselves and more likely to have sexy women around them playing decorative roles, as we can see in Tyga's video "Taste." The fact that women are used primarily as decorations in these videos is in line with objectification theory, supporting the notion that women are valued the most for their appearance.

Tyga's music video "Taste" plays in the background.

However, objectification is not inherently negative. Beyonce willingly and purposefully objectifies herself in her video "Partition." The key thing about "Partition"'s video is it was Beyonce's goal to display her sexuality as a means of empowerment. This pertains specifically to women in their late 20s and beyond. Beyonce said that her idea for the video stemmed from how she felt post-childhood, saying "You can have your child and still be fun, still be sexy, still have dreams and still live for yourself. I don't have to protect that side of myself because sexuality is empowerment that we all have." Beyonce's decision to objectify herself for Jay-Z exemplifies positive objectification and that she's able to use her power to please him.

Beyonce's video "Partition" plays in the background.

In contrast to "Partition," Tyga's song "Taste" is a negative depiction of sex and power because the women in the video are only present to please Tyga because of his status. They are merely objects to him and his friends.

Tyga's music video "Taste" plays in the background.

The results of the 2016 study by Carsey and Mathis suggest that it's consuming sexually objectifying media that increases self-objectification among young women. So our discussion question is "Is there really a difference between positive self-objectification and objectification imposed on us by others if the result is the same?"

Maren Morris' music video "Girl" plays in the background.

The choice that Beyonce and many other female artists make when objectifying themselves can be empowering and even an example of feminism, as suggested by Gill's 2007 study of post-feminist movie culture. But a music video doesn't need to be objectifying to empower them. Maren Morris' anthem "Girl" is an example of how gender can be positively and accurately represented in music videos. Maren goes on to say that leaving that emotional behavior behind benefits everyone when she says "I don't wanna wear your crown, there's enough to go around."

Charli XCX's music video "Boys" plays in the background.

To show the opposite side of the coin, here's a highly sexualized music video highlighting men's sexuality. This is a very different presentation of gender than the previous video because the purpose of this is merely sexual and not empowering. This video chose to use a lot of notable men in the rap and pop industry instead of unnamed male actors. The purpose of this was to show that men have many sides, and even the most masculine rappers have the capacity to be sensitive. The video shows men being comfortable being themselves and seems to show what men look like when overly masculine facades and behavior are removed, and the fact that that rawness is what's most appealing for women in the music video.

Trey Songz music video "Heart Attack" plays in the background.

Media sometimes portrays emotional health as something that is supposed to be healthy at all times, but as you can see in the beginning of this video, Trey looks as though he's dying slowly from a heart attack caused by his emotions toward the woman he loves, which tends to happen in life when people are going through these types of stressors. I really like this part because oftentimes the media portrays men's emotions to be hidden underneath the surface and women's emotions to be all out in the open, to be seen, but in this situation, we see how it's the other way around. The man is showing more emotion, while the women tries to be calm in the situation. So as you all can see, this video shows a lot of emotional health issues, and this not an emotionally healthy video at all. I think it shows what some men and women choose to do with their emotions in a committed relationship when going through issues.

Keith Urban's music video "Blue Ain't Your Color" plays in the background.

To contrast with the previous unhealthy relationship, this video presents characteristics of a healthy emotional attraction. Keith Urban encourages the woman to choose a man who treats her with respect and doesn't drag her down. This kind of positive message is more common in the country genre because of the values that often align with country music listeners'.

Rihanna's music video "It's All About Sex" plays in the background.

Lastly, to examine the representation of sex and relationships in music videos, we'll watch a positive and negative example from the R&B genre. Both of these videos are R&B songs that represent a negative versus positive representation of sex and relationships in video. In Rihanna's video "It's All About Sex," this video highlights the porn socialization themes we mentioned in class – nymphomania, objectification, hierarchy versus submission and violence. The women are being treated as whores and commodities. We can see this by the money being thrown at them and the pleasure they bring the men.

Beyonce and Jay-Z's music video from "Everything is Love" plays in the background.

We can see that Beyonce and Jay-Z's video is drastically different and many of us would watch and aspire that our relationships are similar. This video is empowering because they are portrayed as royalty and talk about how they made it, but also mention that they are thankful for being rich and famous rather than their relationship. So we need to think, "Is this what people actually aspire to be?" We all have our own opinions, and this affects how we interpret sexual media.

A student researcher places electrodes on a participant at a computer station.

Institute for Communication Research

The Institute for Communication Research is your gateway to pioneering social science media research. Enhance your classroom learning by taking advantage of research opportunities with Media School faculty and graduate students in the ICR. The ICR supports survey research, focus groups and content analysis of media in addition to psychophysiology labs to measure heart rate, skin conductance, facial muscle coding and eye tracking.

Visit the ICR’s website

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Careers

From sports to politics, it’s all about data. The ability to conduct, interpret and apply scientific research will set you apart in any sector of the media industry. This concentration is useful for students interested in careers in advertising, public relations, audience research, media management and marketing, among others. It’s also a foundation for graduate work in media research.

Jared Solow

I was able to find my passion by taking risks, and it all started at IU.

Jared Solow, BA’11, product marketing manager at Comcast Spotlight