Mediating Social Control in Two Medias: A Chance for Mediology to Meet Critical Theory

by Mark L. Cabling

This essay explores the heuristic relationship between Mediologist Theory and Critical Theory. The former and the latter, as this essay will show, could compliment each other and further the amalgamation of Communications and Cultural Theory, especially, as this essay argues, through the bridging of the two theories by the Bourdieusian concept of symbolic power. In order to explore the potential of this theoretical foray, this essay will use the concept of social control as a cultural function that is mediated throughout time and throughout various media. Because of the limit of time and length, this essay limits its scope by using two different case studies that mediate the cultural function of social control: (1) Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (BNW) as dystopian literature from the 1930s; and (2) A Public Service Announcement (PSA) from the American Forces Network (AFN) as mass, top-down televisual media from the present. Power relations, the subject of much Critical Theory, and cultural functions, the subject of Mediologist Theory, are arguably intertwined in such a way that researchers that study either can find themselves theoretically interdisciplinary. This predicament begs for there to be a discussion on the cumulative and complex evolution of how the dialectic of human symbolic faculty and cultural artifact can benefit from a plethora of rich, nuanced cross-theories. Most importantly, these very different case studies will show how pervasive and continuous cultural artifacts, in this case the function of social control, are mediated regardless of the superficial change in technology and media. In other words, by showing how much Critical Theory and Mediologist Theory benefit each other heuristically, this essay also aims to bring insight into how cultural functions are mediated.

Social Control as Cultural Function: Mediology meets Critical Theory

Social Control is a Social Function that is mediated and remediated over time and by various medias and technologies.

Social control is defined as the competence and capability of the authority system to engender and reinforce the belief that its leaders and institutions are interested in the public good- not in the reality of its politically motivated goals (Paletz et. al. 1977). Such a cultural function begs necessitates and presupposes an authority system that must be legitimate in order to garner acceptance, and one of the basic problems faced by authority is to harness such legitimacy (Paletz et. al. 1977).  Once the public is convinced that the authority has the public interest in mind, society then accepts this authority (Paletz et. al. 1977). In order to reap this acceptance, those in power must socialize the public into accepting the existing authority system (Paletz et. al. 1977). Socialization can be overt i.e. via church, home, and school or they can be covert i.e. through messages that lack explicit political content but actually are incredibly, politically relevant (Paletz et. al. 1977). This appeal to the public’s behavior is an effort to shape desirable behavior, attitudes, and values (Weiss and Tschirhart 1994).

This covert social control is found manifest in many media throughout time as such a function is mediated by various technologies. Latour’s assertion that ‘…“to have” (friends, relations, profiles…) is quickly becoming a stronger definition of oneself that “to be”’ (Latour 2011, 802) signals a paradigm shift that students of communications, culture, and technology must explore and expand on in order to do justice to their subject(s) of inquiry, especially the subjects of knowledge and power. This is useful because it asks the type of questions that should be asked about the mechanics of power, nature of organization, and the heterogeneity of network materials, and their implications on agency (Law 1992). Debray takes this paradigm shift further with the concept of Mediology (Maras 2008; Debray 1999). To Debray and other Mediologists, the subject of interest is not the technical innovation but what is in between technologies i.e. the cultural practices, social beliefs, and communicated messages (Debray 1999). The reason why the media itself is ancillary to these ‘in between’ aspects is because whilst media is the means by which synchrony (present communication) is achieved, it is vis-à-vis social beliefs and cultural artifacts that transmission (the more important transfer of communication over time via technologies and institutions) occurs (Debray 1996).

Debray and other Mediologists can be theoretically bridged with Critical Theory.

This is a critical development in communications heuristics because unlike in past communications theory, Mediology is anathema to technological determinism. As Irvine states: ‘technologies can’t be usefully described as having “effects” on cultures or societies, because technology is culture and only empowered by culture’ (Irvine 2005). This necessary paradigm shift deals with power and agency and according to Irvine, Mediology is a way to uncover these power relations. Some of the conceptual frameworks we have been learning throughout the semester thus far can be incredibly useful in helping synthesize Mediology’s concepts and take them further, especially on fundamental issues surrounding how authority systems are legitimized. What Mediologists do is provide a means of distinguishing what is rendered invisible by the black box of technology and media. What they do not do however is explain or give attribution to what/whom such a de facto power benefits and how.

The Frankfurt School are Neo-Marxists that conceived Critical Theory.

This is the significant instance wherein Critical Theory would be helpful to judge the power relations that are uncovered by Mediologists; Critical Theorists attribute agency to those in power. In the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, which was established in 1923, problems were being discussed by the likes of Adorno, Horkheimer, Pollock, Lowenthal, and Benjamin (Agger 1991). Attempting to explain why the socialist revolution prophesied by Marx in the mid-nineteenth century did not occur, the Frankfurt School developed Critical Theory by reconstructing Marxist method and logic in order to make it relevant to modern capitalism (Agger 1991). According to the Frankfurt School, Marx underestimated the proletariats’ false consciousness; thus, their critical theory emphasizes the individual as someone who could be so manipulated, socialized, and determined that he is incapable of resistance (Schoolman 1980). Thus, it is characteristic of such thinkers that agency is given to tools of power such as media and technology. Critical Theory as a means of rigorous academic discussion has ‘the potential to play a role in the liberation of humanity from oppression’ (Freedman 2000, xx). Oppression against what? The essential connection between Critical Theory and media studies is based on the idea of the destructive misuse of science and technology as domination over the individual. Its critique of technology helps us understand that technology is used for social control (Feenberg 1995).


The Critical Theories perspective would argue that since legitimacy involves garnering acceptance, socialization is a key way through which members of society can be led to embody appropriate attitudes that are conducive to accepting the authority system (Paletz e. al. 1977). According to Bourdieu, himself a theorist that bridges Mediology and Critical Theory, this socialization happens covertly, through what he calls symbolic power in the production of belief- a power that is effective precisely because it is unrecognized, or recognized as arbitrary (Bourdieu 1991). Bourdieu would thus ask questions that go beyond the Critical Theorist framework of assigning agency on technology and blame on governance and domination:

(1) How covert is the reification of [insert any technology or media] and is this clandestine effort successful in garnering acceptance of [insert said technology’s or media’s corporation, maker, regulator, user, etc.]?

(2) Which invisible institutions (cultural, legal, etc.) are linked to visible media technologies and how are they so?

(3) Are social networks powerful because of the technology itself or because of the networks, cultural artifacts, and social institutions that surround it?

(4) To what extent does [insert any technology or medium of communications]‘s ‘agency’ and arguments/claims about causality (via black-boxing) contribute to its legitimacy?

Hence and ultimately, the Mediologist question, (5) What cultural functions are being mediated by technology and why?

The way to explore such questions is to use the concept of symbolic power to scrutinize via de-blackboxing (Latour 2011) because in order to fully understand the legitimizing and socializing processes that are present, the hidden power relations must be uncovered by analyzing the thingified technology itself as an ideological producer. Because the ‘ideological products offered by the political field are instruments of perceiving and expressing the social world’ (Bourdieu 1991, 172), the forming of opinions, and thereby individual thought-process, depends on the scope of available instruments of perception and expression. In other words, it is imperative to uncover any hidden or embedded political agenda in the process of reification because the political field effectively censors via its limiting the scope of what is politically thinkable.

These questions and methodology address fundamental elements in the quest for finding and developing a sound and rigorous conceptual framework and paradigm for a richer view of mediation and communication: symbolic power and its role in the legitimization of those in power, and the socialization of those being overpowered. Using such concepts from Critical Theory via the Bourdieusian theoretical bridge, will thus essentially help add nuance and insight to the inquiries of Mediologists.

Social Control: Mediated by Dystopian Literature

Brave New World (as depicted by a BBC movie production in 1980)

Europe and America of the 1920s was witness to the threats to freedom from a dogmatic egalitarian, the intensification of the eternal youth cult, the implications of conspicuous consumption, the possibility of eugenics as a means to shape future man, the impact of Fordism on the psyche, and the rampant growth of positivism.

It is from this context that the British novelist, Aldous Huxley was compelled to write his famous novel, Brave New World (BNW), published in 1932. BNW was written in an unprecedented time of instability in British politics. He was not only worried by overpopulation of the masses, but also by the risks that the legions of the unemployed and the unregulated advance of technology posed for social stability (Bradshaw 1994, xvii). He was therefore faced by problems of controlling these masses. Consequently, Huxley used BNW as a satirical science fiction dystopia to caution his readers of the dismal future that could be as a result of technological agency and domination.

Critical Theory helps us understand what social control is as mediated in BNW, but it is helpful to deconstruct (read: de-blackbox) in a Mediologist manner, how such social control is mediated by the media of dystopian literature. Because of its genre, it is obvious that the end message is meant to be one of beware-of-totalitarian-domination. Debray and other Mediologists would argue that the problem with Critical Theory is that it would automatically agree with Huxley’s position that technology has the agency to negatively affect and be used solely for domination in society. Critical Theorists such as Marcuse on the other hand would argue that Mediology merely provides a method of critical analysis but without providing any significant identification of power relations. In order to reconcile these two frameworks in a way such that they compliment each other, BNW is de-blackboxed in order to find what is culturally transmitted.

The Frankfurt School, especially Marcuse’s critical theory, helps us understand that social control is mediated by BNW by arguing that (1) sex, (2) welfare, and (3) labor are agents of totalitarian domination.

Sex as a Form of Domination

Frankfurt thinkers argue that industry and technology has an impact on our lives. Marcuse takes this argument further and emphasizes its impact on our erotic lives. Although there is a perception that society has become more sexually permissive with its pornography, encouraged use of contraception, and a more laissez-faire attitude towards sex, Marcuse argues that industrialization is in fact inhospitable to our sexual impulses (Fremstad 1977). He compares lovemaking in a meadow and a lovers’ walk in the country to that of lovemaking in a car and a walk on an urban street. As he argues, ‘in the former cases, the environment partakes of and invites…[eroticness, and the] libido transcends beyond the immediate erotegenic zones.’ However, in the latter examples, their ‘mechanized environment seems to block such self-transcendence of libido,’ which leads to the intensification of purely localized sexuality (Fremstad 1977, 87). For example, the flowers, grass, and trees of a park should provoke a full erotic experience but industrialization has left us admiring instead the short skirts and shirtless torsos of park goers because the libido is contained to such localized sexuality (Fremstad 1977). Furthermore, the public display of sexuality is meant solely to be visual i.e. nobody is to touch the legs that those short skirts reveal or the abs on the naked torso. Sexual display, in other words, is for the well behaved and as Marcuse concludes: ‘pleasure, thus adjusted, generates submission’ and thus prevents us from challenging the dominating system (Fitzgerald 1985, 92).

This type of sexual domination helps us understand how sex in BNW is an agent of totalitarian domination. In BNW, legalized sexual freedom is also possible because of the various technological advances: contraception is prescribed by regulations, intensive years of hypnopaedia (sleep-teaching) condition promiscuity, Malthusian drills three times a week during adolescence prevents pregnancy (Bowering 1968). More importantly, the ideas of family, of mother, father, and love have become obsolete while monogamy has become obscene and promiscuity the only socially acceptable sexual behavior (May 1972). For example, the orgy-porgian Solidarity Services and the overtly sexual advancements of Lenina on the Savage paint a picture of completely released but empty sexuality (Firchow 1972). Because chastity means passion and passion means instability, and instability means a threat to happiness, sexual license along with the obliteration of love and family is a guarantee against creative emotional tension, and thus any negative thinking to challenge the status quo (Bowering 1968). The society of BNW thus is sexually permissive according to Marcuse, but it is through this permissiveness that we understand BNW’s sex as a tool for dominating its inhabitants.

Welfare as Domination.

Another agent of totalitarian domination is welfare. Marcuse argues that we no longer desire freedom because our welfare governments have given us happiness in the form of relative affluence. Critical Theorists argue that people’s reasons for political dissent are removed when their needs are satisfied (MacIntyre 1970). However, these needs are what Marcuse calls ‘false needs,’ or needs that are ‘superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests’ (Fitzgerald 1985, 88). Individuals are not free to understand what they truly need as the barrage of advertisements tells them what they must need (Munshi 1977). They thus become passive instruments of the dominating system.

In BNW, conditioning instead of advertisements tells individuals what they must need. Not only are disease, old age, illness, or even the fear of death completely obliterated in BNW, but every conditioned desire is fulfilled. Their ‘needs’ for mechanized amusements are fulfilled via playing Excalator Fives, Riemann-surface tennis, Obstacle Golf, and the Feelies (Huxley 1932). Their ‘needs,’ ingrained into them via hypnopaedia in mantras such as ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ (Huxley 1932, 52), ‘orgy-porgy gives release,’ or ‘One cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments’ are fulfilled via promiscuity, organized orgies, and soma respectively (Huxley 1932, 66). Because these needs are fulfilled, the inhabitants of BNW as Marcuse would argue, have no reason for political dissent and therefore remain passive to the dominating system- a system that not only provided for the needs but defined them.

The Caste System in Brave New World.

Labor is another agent of totalitarian domination. According to the Frankfurt School, in order for the successful production of commodities to be precise, calculable, and efficient, regimentation, specialization, and standardization must be upheld (Schoolman 1980). Because regimentation tasks follow strictly binding and specific rules, removed are individual initiatives and personal discretion from the process of production. This removal enhances production’s predictability but subsequently limits human capacity to objective measurements; individual action and thought transforms into reaction, reflex, and habit (Schoolman 1980). In other words, this one-dimensional labor apparatus creates one-dimensional thought as the individual’s mind is identified only with the productive functions it performs and is dominated by it (Schoolman 1980).

This standardization of man via labor helps us understand BNW’s labor-dominated society. It is not surprising that Ford is the prophet and patron saint of BNW because Huxley believed that the factory of the industrialized world was antithetical to individualism (Bowering 1968). Therefore, in BNW, individuality is eradicated because on the Fordian assembly line, the laborer does the same task repeatedly. As Critical Theorists would argue, individual action thus must transform into reaction, reflex, and habit. In BNW this occurs via hypnopaedia (Huxley 1932). Pillow microphones condition Betas to believe their own caste the foremost, preferring themselves to those above and below them (Huxley 1932). After all, Epsilons cannot read or write and although Alphas are cleverer, they have to work harder. Being an Alpha, Beta, etc. is therefore the most pleasant thing in the world. For example, those who repair the undersides of space vehicles are conditioned to be happy when standing on their heads (Huxley 1932).

Sexual license in BNW along with welfare and labor are the tools of domination characterized by Critical Theory’s technological agency. But in order to realize the more profound reason why this is so, the cultural institutions must be identified and analyzed, which Mediologists would identify as social control through the Bourdieusian vocabulary of symbolic power. So how are the dominating tools of sex, labor, and welfare mediating the concept of social control as cultural function?

Freedom vs. Happiness

In BNW, happiness is social control and the ultimate goal of sex, labor, and welfare. The society of AF 632 makes its inhabitants happy rather than allowing them to choose to be so. Therefore, this orientates them to the status quo, and prevents instability. Huxley’s future world is controlled by a small group of World Controllers who rule five castes of subjects. Their castes are divided not just socially but biologically, since they were bred in bottles and have been conditioned to their future tasks. For happiness’s preservation, the World Controllers obliterate everything that can provoke passion or thought (Huxley 1932). Alphas, Betas, Deltas, and Epsilons are all prevented from experiencing unhappiness by being prevented from experiencing any kind of real emotion. For example, Mustapha Mond, the Controller of Europe, says that Epsilons, the lowest caste who do menial work remain happy in their conditions because conditioning ‘has laid down rails along which he’s got to run. He can’t help himself; he’s foredoomed. Even after decanting, he’s still inside the bottle of infantile and embryonic fixations. Each of us…goes through life inside a bottle’ (Huxley 1932, 245). Furthermore, the Director of Hatcheries explains that ‘the secret of happiness is…liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny’ (Huxley 1932, 16). In other words, happiness in BNW is at the necessary expense of freedom.

In order to understand how this happiness/freedom clash in BNW mediates social control, it is helpful to use Bourdieu’s (1991) symbolic power, which posits that social criticism can only be derived from individual thinking. Consequently, one of Bourdieu’s greatest subjects of inquiry was socialization of people and legitimization of power structures (Bourdieu 1991), something that successfully and systematically happens in BNW.

In the context of BNW, how can the Alphas or Epsilons, who are essentially happy slaves, find freedom? In order to remain happy, they cannot find freedom. In Chapter Seventeen of BNW, in which John, a savage from an uncivilized reservation, is left alone with Mond. This part of the novel is a straightforward debate between Mond and the Savage, through which there is an open case of alternatives: ignorant freedom or insufferable knowledge (Huxley 1032)? Mond explains that both science and art in their ‘purer’ forms belong to truth and therefore are incompatible with happiness (Huxley 1932). Through Mond, Huxley is opposing happiness to truth and beauty. Personal freedom and religion, both absent from BNW, can serve as agents of misery while social justice in the form of equality is virtually impossible; therefore, according to Mond, conditioning is desirable and needed so that no-one feels treated unfairly (Huxley 1932). On top of being bred and conditioned to live in slavery, people in BNW are vaporized with a ‘euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant’ drug called soma if they express any public discontent (Huxley 1932, 70). Alas, mental and physical unhappiness disappears- but so do art, religion, and poetry. And the power structures of society remains. Ergo, the symbolic power found in the happiness-vs.-freedom dichotomy exposes the cultural function of social control.

Social Control: Mediated by Public Service Announcements

Social control is a cultural function that is remediated by many medias and technologies throughout time. To exemplify this, a different media/technology from the genre of dystopian literature is analyzed to make visible this remediation.

Public Service Announcement: Kicking the Can

Televisual Public Service Announcements (PSAs) from modernity, according to the research on them thus far, do not often change behavior but canalize audience predispositions and already existing behavior, such as general beliefs about certain gender roles and racial stereotypes (Storey 2008; Dudley 1947; Yarwood 1982). In the case of PSAs, social value in human terms i.e. quality of life, is the paramount goal- not efficiency and financial return such as that of commercial advertising (Storey 2008). There is consensus by those who have studied PSAs that although PSAs are proclaimed to be apolitical and for the public good, they are actually tools for government to (1) promote social cohesion and consensus; (2) assure its power; and most importantly to (3) reinforce values and attitudes that bode well with and ensure the political system (Block 1948; Kehl 1983; Yarwood 1982). The issue is that these are all political in nature despite government assuring otherwise.

I choose to focus on one PSA from the American Forces Network (AFN) because it is targeted at a very specific yet important audience i.e. at the 2.6 million service members and their families whose de facto TV channels abroad are limited to those provided by AFN (AFRTS 2009). A chunk of the American population watching almost exclusively only nine channels on their TVs seems lacking in choice, especially when put in the context that the in-house production team consists of seven people (AFRTS 2009) i.e. only seven people basically control what 2.6 million people will view in terms of PSAs and topics of PSAs. I choose to focus on a PSA called Kicking the Can, which is one that discourages the consumption of smokeless/chewing tobacco also known as snuff. It is a 29-second clip that seems benign because its message is quite common to US PSAs in that it discourages tobacco consumption. The message seems to be in the public good in that it discourages a scientifically proven unhealthy behavior. The PSA involves a woman dressed as a can of snuff nagging a man who is about to play baseball.

Why is snuff represented as a stereotypically annoying ex-girlfriend? Critical Theorists would argue that this is because the male is the dominant one in gendered power relations and that the PSA is given the agency to propagate this message. There is the classic stereotype of women nagging men but more telling is the stereotype that women are temptresses and the weaknesses of men. Not only does this PSA use the seductress stereotype for the woman in the PSA, but the woman is also portraying an inanimate object that is purely consumed for pleasure and for a temporary high that leads to the downfall of men. When watching this PSA, everything about Nicki is personified and very human except of course for the outlandish and flamboyant mascot-like costume that is supposed to convey to the audience that she is a metaphor for snuff, which is scientifically founded to be unhealthful and highly addictive. The distinction between what is snuff and what is woman is blurred. This is because the seductress is a woman already known by the audience to be careful of, for although she is tempting with her abilities to make your ‘heart pump’, she is inevitably bad for you. Therefore, this feeling of wariness for the seductress is easily transferred to smokeless tobacco. Snuff too is attractive but is also unhealthy to consume. The baseball player is a male stereotype of athletic prowess as he is on his way to a sports event. He also fulfills the stereotype of male reservation and assuredness, as he is the calmer, quieter one in the relationship but also the tougher one as he plays sports and ignores the nagging with stride, dignity, and power of will. Because of the presence of these over-simplified gender stereotypes, this PSA, as Critical Theorists would argue, is a tool for reinforcing the gendered power relations in a male-dominated society.

With this type of discursive analysis of the PSA that Critical Theory allows, there is no discussion of the further socio-cultural function and dimension that the PSA, like the media of dystopian literature, mediates. In order to bridge the insight that Critical Theory brings about the PSA with what Mediologists are interested in, I would address a question Bourdieu would ask: What is not being said i.e. what is rendered invisible? The PSA’s overt message warns the audience that smokeless tobacco is harmful and discourages its consumption. However, there is no mention (1) of its harms to health and well-being; (2) of reasons why chewing tobacco is ‘pesky’ except for the broad assumptions of what it can do e.g. ‘make your heart pump’, ‘give you a boost’, and ‘slow you down’; and (3) how exactly ‘it’ll slow you down’. This PSA thus relies on the presupposition that the target audience already knows the addictive nature of smoke-less tobacco and the cons that accompany it to the extent that they would be compelled to believe in the hyperbole that once one starts to consume it, one would not be able to ‘not live without [snuff]!’. While smokeless tobacco is very addictive, the PSA seems to only focus on this aspect of tobacco and not the actual damage that snuff can have on one’s health i.e. loss of teeth, throat cancer, jaw surgery, etc. The gravity of using smokeless tobacco is thus reduced to that of only a ‘pesky addiction’ that will ‘only slow you down’, akin to an annoying ex-girlfriend.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no use of commands or strong language telling the audience what to do or how to deal with smokeless tobacco. Why the lack of gravity in the tone of the PSA? It could be to avoid sounding patronizing or too obtrusive to individual behavior as such a tone would more likely cause the audience to reject the message (Hall 1980; Corner 1996). Having a more light-hearted, less judgmental tone allows the PSA message to not only more likely be accepted by the audience, but also to give the audience a sense that they possess freedom and choice in the matter of smokeless tobacco. In other words, the agency of the audience is not threatened at all overtly by this PSA. For 29 seconds however, if one is a woman, she has no choice in this PSA but to refer to the drug as her own gender boxed into a one-dimensional, simple, crude, buffoon of a character that possesses the merits of a legal drug and only in reference to a man (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004; Eco 1984). If one is a straight male, he has no choice but to use his negative relationship experiences with women as a cultural reference to be enabled to read the message of the PSA (snuff=addiction=woman) regardless of whether he agrees with or accepts the messaging (Eco 1984). If one is an inexperienced straight male or gay/lesbian/transgendered, they would be forced to use their knowledge of social norms of male and female straight intimate relationships in order to understand the messaging of the PSA (Eco 1984).

This reliance of the PSA on male, hetero-normative norms used as a tool to conceptualize and understand the link between snuff and one’s health along with the use of broad generalizations and unsound arguments shows that this PSA has a covert message of normalizing certain gender/sexuality roles and identity reinforcement i.e. social control. This shows that the producers have a very male, hetero-normative worldview that is the only truth and must be part of the mechanism that educates those that watch AFN. This ‘mere’ education socializes Department of Defense (DoD) personnel into embodying appropriate attitudes and values that accept the authority of the DoD elite and legitimize their power (Paletz et. al. 1977). Such gender/sexuality reinforcement masked in what is perceived to be freedom of choice, is a way of allowing the DoD administration to legitimize its power. The DoD is a military-based, top-down bureaucracy, in which personal freedoms are sacrificed (despite US liberal democratic values) and following orders from those higher-ranked are top priority and vital to the mechanics and technocratic nature of the DoD (AFRTS 2009; AFN 2011). This is symbolic power in that by having the semblance of freedom in an American culture that honors democracy and in a military that supposedly protects and propagates ‘freedom’ is vital to the not-so-democratic way in which the DoD bureaucracy militarily operates so that it is not seen for what it lacks, i.e. freedom, and is accepted as the status quo (Bourdieu 1991; Paletz et. al. 1977). Social control is thus a cultural function that is mediated by this PSA.


This essay explored the relationship between Mediologist Theory and Critical Theory by bridging them with the Bourdieusian concept of symbolic power. In order to explore this heuristic potential, this essay aimed to de-blackbox Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and A Public Service Announcement from the American Forces Network. In the former, sex, welfare, and labor are the tools of domination characterized by Critical Theory’s technological agency. But in order to realize the more profound reason why this is so, the cultural institutions are identified and analyzed a la Mediology via symbolic power. In the latter case study, Critical Theorists would argue that the male dominance in the PSA is indicative of gendered power relations and that the PSA is given the agency to propagate this message. In order to go beyond just the discursive dimension and delve into the socio-cultural function, Mediology is used, via symbolic power, to view the PSA as a mediator. When symbolic power is used as a bridge between Critical Theory and Mediology, these case studies showed how this combinatorial theoretical framework could be utilized on vastly different medias to analyze and discuss how cultural functions are mediated. This has ramifications for both Critical Theorists and Mediologists that want to further develop their epistemology and conceptual frameworks, and evolve heuristically, so that they may do justice to their complex subjects of inquiry that involve the greater human symbolic faculty.


Agger, Ben (1991) ‘Critical Theory, Poststructuralism, Postmodernism: Their Sociological Relevance’ in Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 17 (pp. 105-131)

Block, Ralph (1948) ‘Propaganda and the Free Society’ in The Public Opinion Quarterly Vol. 12 No. 4 (pp. 677-686)

Bourdieu, Pierre (1991) Language and Symbolic Power Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Bowering, Peter (1968) Aldous Huxley: a Study of the Major Novels London, UK, Toronto, CN, New York, NY: University of London- the Athlone Press

Bradshaw, David (1994) The Hidden Huxley: Contempt and Compassion for the Masses 1920-36 London, UK and Boston, MA: Faber and Faber Ltd.

Corner, John (1996) ‘Reappraising Reception: Aims, Concepts and Methods’ (pp. 280-304) in Curran, James and Gurevitch, Michael (eds.) Mass Media and Society: Second Edition London, UK and New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Debray, Regis (1996) Media Manifestos: Translated by Rauth, Eric London, UK and New York, NY: Verso Books

Debray, Regis (1999) ‘What is Mediology?’ (pp. 32) in Le Monde Diplomatique Vol. 1999, No. August, Translation by Irvine, Martin (Georgetown University) in (accessed on April 16, 2013)

Dudley, Drew (1947) ‘Molding Public Opinion Through Advertising’ in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 250 No. March (pp. 105-112)

Feenberg, Andrew (1995) ‘Marcuse and the Critique of Technology: From Dystopia to Interaction’ in Feenberg, Andrew Alternative Modernity Los Angeles, CA, Berkeley, CA, London, UK: University of California Press (pp. 19-40)

Firchow, Peter (1975) ‘Science and Conscience in Huxley’s “Brave New World”’ in Contemporary Literature Vol. 16, No. 3 (pp. 301-316)

Fitzgerald, Ross (1985) ‘Human Needs and Politics: The Ideas of Christian Bay and Herbert Marcuse’ in Political Psychology Vol. 6, No. 1 (pp. 87-108)

Fremstad, John (1977) ‘The Dialectics of Hopelessness’ in The Western Political Quarterly Vol. 30, No. 1 (pp. 80-92)

Hall, Stuart (1997) ‘The Spectacle of the Other’ (pp. 223-290) in Hall, Stuart (ed.) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices Los Angeles, CA and London, UK: SAGE Publications

Huxley, Aldous (1932) Brave New World London, UK and New York, NY: Chatto & Windus Ltd.

Irvine, Martin (2005) Introduction to Mediology: An Overview of Theory and Method in Communications, Culture, and Technology: Georgetown University at (accessed on May 1, 2013)

Kehl, DG (1983) ‘How to Read an Ad: Learning to Read between the Lies’ in The English Journal Vol. 72 No. 6 (pp. 32-38)

Kirkpatrick, Jerry (1994) In Defense of Advertising: Arguments from Reason, Ethical Egoism, and Laissez-Faire Capitalism Westport, CN and London, UK: Quorum Books

Latour, Bruno (2011) ‘Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist’ in International Journal of Communication Vol. 2011, No. 5 (pp. 796-810)

Law, John (1992) Notes on the Theory of the Actor Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity in Centre for Science Studies: Lancaster University at (accessed on April 14, 2013)

Maras, Steven (2008) ‘On Transmission: A Metamethodological Analysis (after Regis Debray)’ in The Fibreculture Journal Vol. 12, No. 80 in (accessed on May 2, 2013)

MacIntyre, Alasdair (1970) Marcuse: Fontana Modern Masters London, UK: Wm. Collins & Co. Ltd.

May, Keith M. (1972) Aldous Huxley: Novelists and Their World London, UK: Paul Elek Books Ltd.

Munshi, Surendra (1977) ‘Marcuse Philosophy about the Working Class in Advanced Capitalism’ in Social Scientist Vol. 5, No. 9 (pp. 21-32)

Paletz, David L., Pearson, Roberta E., and Willis, Doland L. (1977) Politics in Public Service Advertising on Television New York, NY: Praeger Publishers

O’Shaughnessy, John and O’Shaughnessy, Nicholas Jackson (2004) Persuasion in Advertising London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge

Schoolman, Morton (1980) The Imaginary Witness: The Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse London, UK and New York, NY: Collier Macmillan Publishers

Schudson, Michael (1993) Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society London, UK: Routledge

Storey, Richard (2008) ‘Initiating Positive Behavior’ (pp. 13-36) in Lannon, Judie (ed.) How Public Service Advertising Works Oxford, UK: World Advertising Research Center

Weiss, Janet A. and Tschirhart, Mary (1994) ‘Public Information Campaigns as Policy Instruments’ in Journal of Policy Analysis and Management Vol. 13, No. 1 (pp. 82-119)

Yarwood, Dean L. and Enis, Ben J. (1982) ‘Advertising and Publicity Programs in the Executive Branch of the National Government: Hustling or Helping the People?’ in Public Administration Review Vol. 42 No. 1 (pp. 37-46)