Affect and Media

Fundamentally, affect is extremely related and crucial to the context of media and communication, as this is the field in which interaction and engagement are created through audience feelings and emotions. Whether it is a piece of music, novel, film, an advertisement or any of other media works; stimuli and “intensities” are all involved in the process of affecting and being affected by us. The complexity of various processes and systems of feelings and emotions affecting and being affected is the fundamental element in media and communication. For example, one method usually used in music to evoke emotions and produce affect is through ‘mimesis’, which is the way of using imitation of human action or expression to trigger the similar emotions of listeners (Aristotle 2003, as cited in Shepard n.d). In this way, the triggered affect is made up of the relations we have with the contemporary worlds (Murphie 2010). Perhaps these are the real world of our externally displayed emotions, the hidden world of our concealed feelings, the world of abstract emotion in the song, and the more social world of our community, etc. Also, because these relations constantly affect us and be affected by us, our ability to affect these worlds and be affected by them are constantly changing. However, it is noticeable that affect is not necessarily a personal feeling. It might even affect or represent ‘reason, agency, intention, volition, intentionality’ (Murphie 2010). It is interesting to think about the difference between a feeling and an emotion. While feelings are personal and biographical, emotions are social and affects are pre-personal (Shouse 2005), which suggests that the way media make us “feel” and they way we make other people “feel” (via various platforms of media and communication) are defined differently according to our own set of sensations and also experience.

Furthermore, affect and emotion are also distinctive in their basic characteristics. According to Massumi, affect is primany, non-conscious, unqualified and intensive whereas emotion is derivative, conscious, qualified and meaningful (as cited in Grant 2011). In relation to William James, his model of emotion also suggests a relation can be found between affect and cognition by stating that, a perception immediately produces an affect within the body, and only later is this affect transformed into a recognisable emotion (as cited in Shepard n.d).

Grant, C 2011, ‘On Affect and Emotion in film and media studies‘, Film studies for free, accessed 25th April 2015, <http://filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/on-affect-and-emotion-in-film-and-media.html>

Massumi, B 2002, Parables for the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation, Duke University Press, Durham, pp. 23-45.

Murphie, A 2010, ‘Affect – a basic summary of approaches’, Adventures in Jutland, accessed 25th April 2015,

Shouse, E 2005, ‘Feeling, emotion, affect’, Jounal of Media and Culture, vol. 8, no. 6, accessed 25th April 2015 <http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0512/03-shouse.php>

Shepard, B n.d., ‘Affect’, The Chicago school of Media Theory, accessed 25th April 2015, <https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/affect/>

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