when i tell people what i'm studying in school, i mostly get blank looks in return. why is that? well, "communications" is pretty much the widest possible field, since by definition it underlies everything that we do in life (which, to me, makes it all the more important to study). it takes from sociology, history, philosophy, gender studies, cultural studies... pretty much anything you can think of can be studied under the communications umbrella, meaning that we are an interdisciplinary field. this can cause a lot of chaos and a lot of different ways of approaching research and studies, but it also means that we are not taught that there is ONE WAY of looking at things, as there is in many other fields, and it gives us a lot of freedom to try new ideas.
"communications" is also confusing because it can refer to things like marketing/PR, journalism, film/tv production, and other practical, commercial pursuits. i like to look at it this way: from one perspective, there are two branches of communications-- the creation of it and the deconstruction of it. by studying it theoretically, i've chosen the deconstruction side. for example, i want to know WHY advertisements are made and HOW they affect people and perpetuate stereotypes; i don't want to USE those tools to create effective advertisements. also, this is not meant to be a "good vs evil" black-and-white separation, because you can create media content that deconstructs media, etc.
my focus is in "media studies", which again sounds fairly broad. it means that in general, i focus on the theoretical stuff that i mentioned above. i literally study the media, both old and new, print and non: television, books, radio, films, and all of the new media on the Internet and in various new technologies. i am particularly interested in how we make choices about the media we consume, and how the media we consume affects us to varying degrees (whether we want to admit it or not).
this semester i am a TA (teaching assistant) for a 100-level class called "Intro to Media". i don't lecture, but i am there as a contact point for students who need help or have questions and i do most of the grading. the reason that i really like this class is that it exemplifies what is, to me, the most accessible part of our theoretical communications field: teaching people to be media literate, or in other words, to think critically about the media they consume. it is incredibly gratifying to watch students get so engaged when they learn about media and news bias, or that just a handful of corporations own almost all media outlets across genres. when i sit in this class, it makes me think that i could teach these kinds of subjects, because what is the point of doing all this research in academia if it doesn't affect or help the majority of people in society?