In the past several years, the media has become a central, inescapable, and growing force in politics around the globe — and, some critics might say, vice versa. Is social media dangerous to democracy? Does physical space shape political communication? These are just some of the questions that reflect what happens when politics and media converge.
That intersection — and the ways in which the realms of politics and media inform and shape one another — is the subject of a new academic program based in Prague, one that is currently enrolling students for its inaugural fall semester.
Charles University’s new Media and Areas Studies (MARS) program is a 2-year Master’s degree program. Like a traditional media studies program, it examines media studies as an academic discipline but remains unique for its equal — and rather timely — emphasis on studying the ways in which power, politics, and ideology work and intersect with the study of media.
According to the program’s director, Nico Carpentier, MARS combines three elements, all of which matter in our present world: media, politics, and space. “While we are a media studies program, politics is just as central to the program and intersects with the study of media,” he says.
“For instance, political leadership becomes extremely important in moments of crisis, where quick coordinated action can save lives, and indecisiveness can endanger entire societies,” says Carpentier, “But that also puts pressure on democratic decision-making, and might create systems of control and surveillance that are undesirable in the long run.”
Carpentier says MARS arose out of what he sees as an increasingly urgent need for training “reflexive practitioners” who can analyze the social, political, and cultural role of mediated communication in an increasingly complex world, and to evaluate different sources of information critically.
“We need people with strong intellectual training that can solve complex issues in contexts that are themselves complex, diverse and ever-changing,” he says. “MARS is designed to produce this kind of training, so that our students when they obtain their degrees, can play a role in a future world that will only be more and more multi-layered.”
MARS represents a collaboration between the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism (ICSJ FSV UK) and the Institute of International Studies (IIS FSV UK), with a particular focus on the Czech Republic, Central, and Eastern Europe, and the European Union; its students are expected to gain in-depth knowledge about the media and political ecology of these regions.
Classes, which are taught in English, present courses such as “Czech Media System in European Comparison,” “Conflict and Media in Southern Europe,” “Political Geography” and “Theorizing Memory” that all look at this intersection of media, politics and space. Research and vocational internships are part of the program.
Future graduates of the program could conceivably go on to land senior/advisory positions in a variety of social fields and organizations, including state administrations, public service institutions, and non-profit organizations, and the private sector, including the media.
“Understanding how communication, and media work, also allows us to see how other fields work, how our cultures, our politics, our social interactions work,” says Carpentier. “MARS is very much about looking at these intersections and taking the specificity of regions into consideration,” he says.
To read more about Charles University’s Media and Area Studies Masters’ Degree program or to apply for admission, visit the program’s website.
For the academic year 2020/2021, the deadline for application is April 30, 2020; classes are still due to begin on October 1, 2020, despite the current state of emergency in the Czech Republic.
UPDATE (9/7/2020): Due to coronavirus, the application period for the MARS program has been prolonged until August 31, 2020. Students who are unable to come to Prague due to travel restrictions or safety concerns will be able to study the program entirely remotely via distance learning.