Critical Perspectives in Media
Question 1: Writing reflectively
about your production work
Each question is worth 25 marks and requires 30 minutes of exam
1a asks about the whole of your
• Preliminary task at AS.
• Main task at AS.
• Main task at A2.
• Ancillary tasks at A2.
• Work completed outside the
The question is all about skills and
development and will focus on one
or two of:
• Digital Technology
• Research and Planning
• Using conventions from real media
1b asks about only one of your
projects (again could be
outside the course). It will
ask you about any one of the
• Media Language
Perfect Planning Prevents
• For 1a, prepare responses for each of the
possible areas. If more than one comes up, you
can combine your points to answer effectively.
• For 1b, you may want to have a different
production focus depending on which concept
comes up. For example:
- AS Title sequences would work well for
- A2 Music videos would work well for
• For both questions your planning will be personal
to you and, if done thoroughly, will ensure exam
Ten Commandments for
1. Focus on creative decisions informed by institutional knowledge
(you did what you did partly because of what you had learned about how the
media produce, distribute and share material)
2. Focus on creative decisions informed by theoretical
understanding (you know you did what you did because of having a point
of view in relation to media and meaning, and you can describe that in
relation to media theories.
3. Evaluate the process - don’t just describe it.
4. Relate your media to ‘real media’ at the micro level (give clear,
specific examples of how you used techniques and strategies to create
intertextual references to media you have been influenced by).
5. Try to deconstruct yourself (don’t think of your own tastes, decisions,
preferences, behaviour as just being ‘the ways things are’; instead, try to
analyse the reasons for these things - tough to do but worth the effort).
Ten Commandments for
Reflective Writing cont.
6. Choose clearly relevant micro examples to relate to macro
reflective themes (you can’t write about EVERYTHING you did, so be
prepared with a ‘menu’ of examples to adapt to the needs of the
7. Avoid binary oppositions (your media products will not either follow
or challenge existing conventions; they will probably do a bit of both).
8. Try to write about your broader media culture (don’t just limit
your writing to your media production pieces, but try to extend your
response to include other creative work or other media-related activities
you have been engaged in).
9. Adopt a metadiscourse (step outside of just describing your activities
as a media student to reflect, if possible, on the ‘conditions of possibility’
for the subject and your role within it - what kind of activity is making a
music video for media studies, compared with making it as a self-
employed media producer?)
10. Quote, paraphrase, reference (reflective writing about production is
still academic writing so remain within the mode of address)
Question 1a: Reflecting on the
development of your skills
This question asks you to consider how you have developed
as a maker of media products across your work, including
relevant work completed in other subjects (Film,
Photography, Art for example) and anything made ‘for fun’
(videos on YouTube for example).
So, what is ‘your work’?
Make a Timeline of all relevant work completed over the past
2 years adding a brief description of each piece and noting
where it can be found for reference. Use arrows to show
connections between pieces.
3 Essential Tips for 1a
1. Plan and prepare before the exam. There is a limit
to what can be asked and some combinations are more
likely than others (eg. Digital tech + any other or Creativity
+ any other). You only have 30mins but have to talk about
everything you have done so make every word
2. Consider the mark scheme. There are 10 marks for
explanation, analysis and argument, 10 marks for
examples and 5 marks for terminology.
3. Think about where you are at the end of the
course and what you have learnt in other areas of it.
You’re not just giving an account of what you did but
sitting back and reflecting upon it in the light of all your
learning. It is GOOD to utilise things you’ve learnt/are
learning in other units.
Whilst you’ve had to evaluate your work from the
perspective of the other four areas, you have not before
had to consider Creativity. Where does creativity come
from and what does it mean anyway? Let’s BRAINSTORM!
How creative do you think you’ve been? Has a set menu
of tasks made it easier to be creative or would you have
preferred a free choice? Were you pinned down too
much by the tasks or did they free you up to be creative
within the boundaries of the task? What other factors
affected your creativity?
Look over your timeline and write 5 bullet points, with
explanations and examples, reflecting on your creativity
across the course. Remember to include media
terminology where appropriate.
Look again at all the work you have produced over the past
2 years (referenced in your timeline) and ensure that you
have access to it all next lesson. Failure to do this will
mean your presence in the lesson next week be largely
Digital technology you may have used includes:
• Web-based such as websites, downloads, YouTube
• Digital editing programs (iMovie/Final Cut Pro/music
• Digital cameras/video cameras
• Digital sound recorders
One way of approaching this area might be to imagine
you DIDN’T have any of this technology available to you
and consider how this would have negatively affected
your production work.
Look for examples in your production work where your
use of each type of digital technology has been
particularly successful and/or interesting and/or has led to
or shown a development.
Try to focus your ideas on your development as a media
producer and try to trace a path across the two years.
Research and Planning
This is an area in which some of you have been
stronger than others across the past two years. The
examiner has no way of knowing what you actually
did, so some poetic license can be applied if this
area comes up in the exam.
What were the most useful Research and Planning
activities you undertook in each of your projects and
how did they inform the production?
Find 10 examples.
AKA Editing. This may be video or still image editing
Answer the following for still image AND video (AND
sound where relevant:
• How have your editing skills developed over the past
two years and what evidence is there of this in your
work (give examples)?
•What are the key skills that you have learnt in order to
be successful in editing work and when/how did you
learn them (give examples)?
• How important has post-production work been to each
of your projects?
Using Conventions from real
You should have some analysis of your use of codes
and conventions in your blog evaluations for each
production (for media studies projects at least), so use
these as a starting point. Find examples of times when
• Followed a convention
• Developed a convention
• Deliberately ignored/contradicted a convention
For each example, explain HOW you did it and WHY.
Remember to ensure you have a range of examples
from across the course.
In your experience, how has your
creativity developed through using
digital technology to complete your
Explain the tasks you have done across the 2 years,
including anything done outside the course that you
intend to reference.
•Write about the technology you have used, with some
reflections on how you got to grips with it initially, and
where you went from there. You might discuss:
-iMovie/Final cut pro
•Make some observations about how easy it is to get used to
technology these days, particularly for young people who
have access to it outside school. Refer specifically to how
you used the technology in particular tasks.
•Open up the question of creativity: what does it mean to
you, and where have your ideas about creativity come from?
What do other people say about what creativity might mean?
(*Quote) How have the tasks themselves encouraged
creativity? Refer to examples from what you’ve done.
•Try to bring together these strands - creativity and
technology - to answer the question.
•Refer to ways in which the technology has also allowed you
to develop other skills - teamwork, organisation, planning,
•Finish by opening up to a wider conclusion - that digital
technology has given media consumers the opportunity to
become media producers too - particularly via web
distribution and that this, in turn, has allowed creative
comment in wider communities such as YouTube.
Question 1b: Writing analytically
about your production work
1b asks about only one of your
projects (again could be
something completed outside
It will ask you about any one of
the key concepts:
When preparing for this
question you may want to pick
different production pieces for
each of the key concepts.
The question will essentially be
asking you to analyse a piece
of your own work in terms of the
application of one of these
A key part of answering this question successfully is showing your
understanding and ability to apply media theory/critical
approaches. Which theory/approach is relevant will depend on
the key concept and on your own production so you will have to do
some research of your own.
To get you started, you are going to work in pairs to prepare a
presentation for the rest of the class on relevant critical theories for
each of the key concepts. Your presentation should include:
•An explanation (in words YOU understand) of the theory/approach,
who came up with it, when and how.
•A short quotation or two (with accreditations) that could be learnt
and used in the exam.
•An example of how you could apply it to your own work, using one
of your productions.
REMEMBER: It may be that your production goes AGAINST the
theory, or even disproves it. This is fine and makes for an
interesting critical analysis of your work.
Key Concepts and Possible
•Uses and gratifications theory
•Hypodermic needle theory
•Reception theory (Stuart Hall)
•Gender: Judith Butler, Laura Mulvey, Angela McRobbie,
•Sexuality: Queer theory, Feminist theory
•Race: Stuart Hall, Edward Said
•Sub-cultures and youth: Dick Hebdidge
Media Languages/Codes & Conventions
•Semiotics (Roland Barthes)
Music Video Specific:
•NOTE: It is not always
possible to categorise
theories like this, so you
may find that something
you’re looking into
overlaps into another
category. Mention this in
your presentation if so.
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