Making Media Studies

The Creativity Turn in Media and Communications Studies

by David Gauntlett (Author)
©2015 Textbook XII, 171 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 93


In Making Media Studies, David Gauntlett turns media and communications studies on its head. He proposes a vision of media studies based around doing and making – not about the acquisition of skills, as such, but an experience of building knowledge and understanding through creative hands-on engagement with all kinds of media. Gauntlett suggests that media studies scholars have failed to recognise the significance of everyday creativity – the vital drive of people to make, exchange, and learn together, supported by online networks. He argues that we should think about media in terms of conversations, inspirations, and making things happen. Media studies can be about genuine social change, if we recognise the significance of everyday creativity, work to transform our tools, and learn to use them wisely. Making Media Studies is a lively, readable, and heartfelt manifesto from the author of Making is Connecting.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Unpacking ‘Making Media Studies’
  • An aspirational media studies
  • Origins of this book
  • Media as triggers for experiences and making things happen
  • What this means in practice
  • A note on hacking and making
  • Outline of this book
  • Part 1: On Media Studies
  • Chapter 2. Media Studies 2.0
  • Original Article (2007)
  • Outline of Media Studies 1.0
  • Outline of Media Studies 2.0
  • History and emergence of ‘Media Studies 2.0’
  • Chapter 3. Further Reflections on Media Studies 2.0
  • ‘Media’ expands
  • Media studies, quietly frustrated
  • Avoiding a proper engagement
  • Some alternatives
  • Part 2: Making Conversations
  • Chapter 4. Creativity and Participatory Culture: A Conversation with Henry Jenkins
  • Chapter 5. On Making Media Studies—a Crowdsourced Interview
  • On ‘making media studies’ and the ‘creativity turn’
  • On optimism, pessimism, and exploitation
  • On creativity and digital media
  • On teaching and learning
  • On social institutions
  • And here’s some for you
  • Part 3: Making Collaborations
  • Chapter 6. Academia–Industry Collaboration and Innovation: Three Case Studies, and Eight Principles, for Fostering People’s Creativity on Digital Platforms
  • Introduction
  • Case #1: The BBC
  • 1. The organisation and its engagement with user creativity
  • 2. The particular project
  • 3. On the organisation’s collaboration style
  • Case #2: S4C
  • 1. The organisation and its engagement with user creativity
  • 2. The particular project
  • 3. On the organisation’s collaboration style
  • Case #3: The LEGO Group
  • 1. The organisation and its engagement with user creativity
  • 2. The particular project
  • 3. On the organisation’s collaboration style
  • Looking across the three organisations
  • On collaboration and innovation
  • On designing platforms for creative expression
  • 1. Embrace ‘because we want to’
  • 2. Set no limits on participation
  • 3. Celebrate participants, not the platform
  • 4. Support storytelling
  • 5. Some gifts, some theatre, some recognition
  • 6. Online to offline is a continuum
  • 7. Reinvent learning
  • 8. Foster genuine communities
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 7. The Lego System as a Tool for Thinking, Creativity, and Changing the World
  • The LEGO System
  • A tool for thinking
  • A cultural model—applied to LEGO cultures
  • The cultural model—applied more broadly
  • Uniting individual and collaborative creativity
  • … And changing the world
  • Part 4: More Thinking about Making
  • Chapter 8. Creativity and Digital Innovation
  • Case #1: Everyday creativity
  • Case #2: Academic critique
  • Case #3: Everyday arts and humanities research
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 9. The Internet is Ancient, Small Steps are Important, and Four Other Theses about Making Things in a Digital World
  • 1. The internet is ancient (in other words: the internet has affordances which connect with ancient, great aspects of humanity)
  • 2. A world with lots of interesting, creative things is always better than a world which offers a small number of popular, smartly-finished things
  • 3. People doing things because they want to is always better than people watching things because they are there
  • 4. The distribution and funding possibilities of the internet are better than the traditional models
  • 5. Small steps into a changed world are better than no steps
  • 6. The digital internet is good, but hands-on physical things are good too
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
  • A significantly different era, and a changed ecosystem
  • Media as triggers for experiences and making things happen – revisited
  • People doing and making because it’s what they want to do
  • Making and thinking, and ‘critical making’
  • Millions of little things make a big difference
  • Make it happen
  • References
  • About the Author
  • Index
  • Series Index

| IX →


I’m hopefully getting better at collaborations—the secret, it turns out, is just to pick your collaborators really, really carefully—and this book has been helped, more than my previous ones, by things I’ve done with other people. And to come at it from the other angle, book-writing remains a solitary occupation, so the support of others is much needed. Therefore: acknowledgments.

Authors typically thank partners and children last, but that doesn’t seem quite right, or certainly not in this case, as they deserve much the biggest slice of the acknowledgments pie-chart. So first of all, I offer my love and unwavering gratitude to Jenny, Finn, and Edie, without whose inspiration and support none of this would be possible.

For prompting me to write some of these things in the first place, I thank Henry Jenkins, Gillian Youngs, Mark Wolf, and Nelson Zagalo. And for encouraging me to turn it all into a book, and their fantastic support in the publishing process, thank you to Mary Savigar, Steve Jones, and Sophie Appel.

I am really grateful to Amy Twigger Holroyd, who generously pointed to ideas worth looking at and made many insightful comments. Thank you also to Clare Twomey, Shaun Moores, Jan Løhmann Stephensen, and Andrew Clay, who have given me further things to think about. And I thank my many ← IX | X → supportive colleagues, most notably Jeanette Steemers, Kerstin Mey, Silke Lange, Graham Meikle, Christian Fuchs, Heidi Herzogenrath-Amelung, Anastasia Kavada, Winston Mano, and Pete Goodwin.

Many thanks to Bo Stjerne Thomsen, Tina Holm Sorensen, and Andrew Bollington, and their colleagues at the LEGO Foundation, for some very inspiring conversations and collaborations. I am also grateful to Stella Wisdom and Nora McGregor at the British Library, and Rachel Bardill at the BBC, for their continued support.

I have also benefited from interesting conversations with many other people, including Mike Press, Simon Lindgren, Jen Ballie, Jamie Brassett, Anthony Quinn, Katie Smith, Kevin Walker, Julia Keyte, Sunil Manghani, Tiziano Bonini, Simon Keegan-Phipps, Roland Harwood, William Merrin, and Andrea Drugan.

Finally, thank you to lots of other humans on Twitter, which I do, personally, find to be a consistently supportive, useful and stimulating network.

All of these people have helped, but as ever, none of this is anyone’s fault but my own.


Four chapters were originally published elsewhere, and have been a little revised and updated for this book:

Chapter 4, ‘Creativity and participatory culture: A conversation with Henry Jenkins’, was originally published on Henry Jenkins’s blog (http://henryjenkins.org) as ‘Studying Creativity in the Age of Web 2.0: An Interview with David Gauntlett’, on 3–7 August 2011. Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence, and by kind permission of Henry Jenkins.

Chapter 7, ‘The LEGO System as a tool for thinking, creativity, and changing the world’, was originally published with the same title in Mark J.P. Wolf, editor (2015), LEGO Studies: Examining the Building Blocks of a Transmedial Phenomenon, New York: Routledge. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher.

Chapter 8, ‘Creativity and digital innovation’, was originally published with the same title in Gillian Youngs, editor (2013), Digital World: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights, Abingdon: Routledge. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher. ← X | XI →

Chapter 9, ‘The Internet is Ancient, Small Steps are Important, and Four Other Theses about Making Things in a Digital World’, was originally published with the same title in Nelson Zagalo and Pedro Branco, editors (2015), Creativity in the Digital Age, London: Springer-Verlag. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher.

| 1 →

· 1 ·


Media studies used to be more straightforward.

But not as interesting.

For a couple of decades, from the 1980s, media studies had settled into a reasonably stable cluster of subject areas, such as ‘institutions’, ‘production’, ‘audiences’ and ‘texts’. ‘Institutions’ looked at the broadcasting and publishing industries as businesses and organisations with political and economic concerns; ‘production’ was about how the professionals working for those companies made the stuff; ‘audiences’ was about what people did with the stuff; and ‘texts’ was just about the stuff itself.

‘Institutions’ is still an incredibly relevant area of study, but the companies are all different. Many of them didn’t exist 20 years ago, and in traditional terms aren’t even ‘media’ companies at all, but are ‘technology’ developers, which means that they primarily engineer software platforms to gather data about people and show adverts to them, whilst acting like they are primarily about something else. Then there are the historically well-established institutions too, such as the BBC and Disney, but they are having to do lots of different things now—typically with everybody doing some of everything and trying to unify it somehow. ← 1 | 2 →

‘Production’, ‘audiences’ and ‘texts’, meanwhile, have all fallen apart. For some kinds of media—cinema, television, online broadcasting or narrowcasting, publications—these are still reasonably adequate terms, but there’s not much very new or interesting to be said—or, to put it another way, the interesting things can be said by scholars of economics, business or sociology, leaving media studies somewhat adrift.

Thankfully there are lots of new things happening, but you wouldn’t look at them in that way anymore. People still make stuff, and people still look at stuff, but often they are the same people doing both. (You will note that I’ve skipped over the study of individual ‘texts’ altogether, because—as I will explain briefly in chapter 3—I don’t think you get to understand the role of millions of things in society merely by analysing one or two of the things).


XII, 171
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (March)
Building knowledge Everyday creativity Social change Online network Creative engagement
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XI, 171 pp.

Biographical notes

David Gauntlett (Author)

David Gauntlett is a Professor in the Faculty of Media, Arts and Design and Co-Director of the Communications and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster, United Kingdom. See davidgauntlett.com for further information, blog, and videos.


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