Given the recent discussions revolving around the questions "What is CMS?" I thought it's past due time for a little overview a couple of the background contextualization CMS students would come into the class possessing.
A consensus media is the dominant media form of a culture, in which conservative, modern, and liberal voices negotiate cultural change and anxieties.
From our current position in history it may be hard to imagine what this means, but consider the age of movies, before television was widespread. Most of the country was at the movies weekly, if not more often, watching the same set of shows, the same set of cartoons and the same sets of news reels. With the advent of television, especially with the broadcast system, the consensus media shifted from the movies to television. Television was more prevalent than movies (it's located in the home) and the limited number of stations meant that every week "I Love Lucy" was being watched by a vast population. Over time, we see development in the way topics are treated in shows. One particular example is the treatment of women: from "I Love Lucy," to "That Girl" to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," we see increased autonomy of the lead female character, and decreased moderation of this liberal perspective (Lucy was always thwarted in her pursuit of fame, and That Girl lived alone, but displayed reliance on her boyfriend and father.)
Once cable comes into the picture the audience becomes fragmented, and it can be said that today the leading media is the internet, which has yet (and may never) take over the role of a consensus media. Evidence for this comes from situations like 9/11, when the nation needs a central place to gather, which was fulfilled by the news organizations, primarily the televised ones.
A consensus media is defined by cultural group, and so we can look for the same trends in any media form, particularly those linked to a particular culture (even down to wrestling.)
Horse and Buggy
The first cars looked a lot like horse drawn carts, even though the internal combustion engine makes no such restriction on form. We see the same scenario every time a new media arises. Early movies were filmed plays, many thought the cable market would never take off. It is true that we drag history along with us each time, but not because people are not forward thinking: development takes time, especially when exploring the potential of a new media form.
It is the individual's interaction with a text that gives rise to meaning. Meaning is not something that's packaged by the authors into a text and unpackaged with the audience, but is a result of an interplay between these locations. This relates to the ideas of consensus narratives in an interesting way, and it is important to keep track of from what perspective you're looking at a media.
If there are other terms/concepts anyone is curious about, or thinks should be listed, let me know.