I’m delighted to be back at LSE, and particularly its Department of Media and Communications, after seven years away. In marking my return, I want to give you some idea of how I’ve been thinking and researching about media and communications over the past 20 years and of the themes that currently preoccupy me. I am interested in how certain institutions with concentrated power over the production and circulation of symbols (we’ve usually called them “media”) have for at least two centuries been bound up with our possibilities of knowing the social. By the term “social”, I mean the web of interrelationships and dependencies between human beings which are always, in part, relations of meaning. 1