Media Studies Development Project

Steering Committee: Lisa Brawley (Urban Studies), Heesok Chang (English), Colleen Cohen (Anthropology), Robert DeMaria (English), Tom Ellman (Computer Science), William Hoynes (Sociology), Michael Joyce (English), Sarah Kozloff (Film), J. Bertrand Lott (Classics), Thomas Porcello (Anthropology), Patricia Wallace (English).

The Media Studies Development Project, established in 1999, is designed to encourage the understanding and critical evaluation, from a multidisciplinary perspective, of new and old media technologies, the centrality of global media in culture, social life, politics and economics, and the contemporary and historical impact of media on individuals and societies. As defined by the project, media includes all forms of representational media (oral/aural, written, visual), mass media (print, television, radio, film), new media (digital multimedia, the Internet, networked media), their associated technologies, and the social and cultural institutions that enable them and are defined by them. 

The project recognizes several interrelated approaches to the study of media: multidisciplinary (perspectives derived from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences); historical (the development of various forms of communication and the representation of knowledge); theoretical and critical (how media shape our understandings of "reality," and the dynamic interrelationship of media industries, cultural texts, communications technologies, policies, and publics); multicultural (non-Western, indigenous, and local media forms and practices); and practical (work in media production and the use of media technologies). 

The courses below are all taught by participating members of the Media Studies Faculty Seminar. Some have been created through the Media Studies Development Project curricular initiatives and are central to the approaches discussed above. Others reside in disciplines closely related to the project.

Course Offerings

180a. Approaches to Media Studies
This course explores concepts and issues in the study of media, attentive to but not limited by the question of the “new” posed by new media technologies. Our survey of key critical approaches to media is anchored in specific case studies drawn from a diverse archive of media artifacts, industries, and technologies: from phonograph to photography, from cinema to networked hypermedia, from typewriter to digital code. We examine the historical and material specificity of different media technologies and the forms of social life they enable, engage critical debates about media, culture and power, and consider problems of reading posed by specific media objects and processes, new and old. We take the multi-valence of “media,” a term designating text and apparatus of textual transmission, content, and conduit, as a central problem of knowledge for the class. Our goal throughout is to develop the research tools, modes of reading, and forms of critical practice that help us aptly to describe and thereby begin to understand the increasingly mediated world in which we live. Mr. Hoynes.
265a. Modern Art and the Mass Media, 1929-1968
(Same as Art 265a) The history of modernist painting in Europe and America from 1930 to 1975, together with those contemporary developments in film, photography, and the mass media. Special attention is paid to the criticism, theory, and politics of the image. Ms Nesbit.
281b.The Medium of Print and the History of Books
(Same as English 281b) A study of the rise of print technology in the west and its impact on the development of the book. Insofar as possible, the method of the class is empirical; class meets in the special collections seminar room where printed books of all sorts are available for inspection. There are also field trips to other rare books libraries. In addition to studying the book as object, the course treats questions concerning the sociology of texts, the influence of books on the nature of reading, the relations between form and content in printed books, and the effects of publishers and printers on the construction of literature. Mr. DeMaria and Mr. Patkus.
282a.Virtual Reality: Myths, Texts, History and Practice
(Same as Film 282a) This course is an overview of virtual reality for technical and nontechnical students. We examine the history of virtual reality and compare the myths about virtual reality with what is really possible today. The history ranges from the panoramas that were common at the turn of the twentieth century, to immersive technologies such as 3-D movies and more recent versions such as IMAX and Omnimax, to the development of Quicktime VR by Apple and totally immersive CAVEs. Critical and social issues around VR will be examined, from the social consequences of “living your life on-line” to the effects of “virtuality” such as our perception of the Gulf War as being a “virtual” war. The hands-on component includes exploring text-based MUDs (such as Genesis or Angalon and the Vassar MOO), graphic-based MUDs (Ultima Online, Everquest or similar), multi-player on-line gaming, designing our own avatars, and building our own level for a game like Quake or Unreal, for those with the technical skills, and working in a pre-built environment such as Active-worlds for less technically minded students. Ms McMahan.
350b. Media(tized) Language
(Same as Anthropology 350) This course utilizes approaches drawn from psycholinguistics, semiotics, and critical discourse analysis to examine a series of issues linking linguistic form and practice to both digital and mass media. The course begins by contrasting semiotic and discursive analyses of television, print, and web-based advertising, with a particular emphasis on their linguistic structuring. The second section of the course utilizes critical discourse analysis to examine fact-based media content (e.g., news, eyewitness accounts) from print, television, and the Internet as forms of narrative and rhetoric deeply implicated in constructing the events they purport to describe. A final section of the course sustains a focus on linguistic issues attendant to digital media. Issues investigated include the metaphors used to organize web structures; linguistic analysis of email and chat as forms intermediate to speech and writing; the web’s effects on language-leveling; how language revitalization movements utilize digital media; and the web’s relation to English as the world’s de facto lingua franca. Mr. Porcello.
356a. Culture, Commerce, and the Public Sphere
(Same as Sociology 356a) This course examines the culture and politics of the public sphere, with an emphasis on the changing status of public spaces in contemporary societies. Drawing upon historical and current analyses, we explore such issues as the relationship between public and commercial space and the role of public discourse in democratic theory. Case studies investigate such sites as mass media, schools, shopping malls, cyberspace, libraries, and public parks in relation to questions of economic inequality, political participation, privatization, and consumer culture. Mr. Hoynes.
388b. Computer Animation: Art, Science, and Criticism
(Same as Computer Science 388b and Art 388b) An interdisciplinary course in computer animation aimed at students with previous experience in computer science, studio art, or media studies. The course introduces students to mathematical and computational principles and techniques used to describe the shape and motion of three-dimensional figures in computer animation. It introduces students to artistic principles and techniques used in drawing, painting, and sculpture, as they are translated into the context of computer animation. It also encourages students to critically examine computer animation as a means of communication. Finally, the course exposes students to issues that arise when people from different scholarly cultures attempt to collaborate on a project of mutual interest. The course is structured as a series of animation projects interleaved with screenings and classroom discussions. Students carry out their projects working in pairs or small groups, using state- of-the-art modeling and animation software. In classroom discussions, students critically evaluate their project work, and reflect on the process of interdisciplinary collaboration itself. Mr. Ellman, Mr. Roseman.