Media Studies Program

Director: Tom Ellman (Computer Science) Steering Committee: Lisa Brawley (Urban Studies), Heesok Chang (English), Colleen Cohen (Anthropology and Women’s Studies), Robert DeMaria (English), Wenwei Du (Chinese and Japanese), William Hoynes (Sociology), J. Bertrand Lott (Classics), Mia Mask (Film), Thomas Porcello (Anthropology), Jeffrey Schneider (German Studies), Cindy Schwarz (Physics), Eva Woods (Hispanic Studies); Participating Faculty: David Bradley (Physics), Kristin Carter (American Culture and Women’s Studies), Eve Dunbar (English), Sarah Kozloff (Film), Michael Joyce (English), Amitava Kumar (English), Kathleen Man (Film), M. Mark (English), Leonard Nevarez (Sociology), Michael Pisani (Music), Harry Roseman (Art), Andrew Tallon (Art), David Tavárez (Anthropology) Adelaide Villmoare (Political Science), Silke Von der Emde (German Studies)

The Media Studies Program encourages the understanding and critical evaluation of new and old media technologies, the centrality of media in global and local culture, social life, politics and economics, and the contemporary and historical impact of media on individuals and societies. As defined by the Program, “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 Program emphasizes several interrelated approaches to the study of media: multidisciplinary perspectives derived from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences; the historical study of various forms of communication and the representation of knowledge; theoretical and critical investigation of how media shape our understandings of reality, and the dynamic interrelationship of media industries, cultural texts, communications technologies, policies, and publics; examination of global, as well as non-Western, indigenous, and oppositional media forms and practices; and practical work in media production and the use of media technologies.

Because the Media Studies concentration incorporates courses originating within the program as well as a wide range of courses from other programs and departments, students wishing to concentrate in Media Studies should consult with the Program Director as early as possible to design their course of study in consultation with a faculty adviser who will be drawn from the Program Steering Committee. Prospective majors will submit a “focus statement” outlining their interests, objectives, the proposed course of study, and a tentative senior project. The proposed course of study should be rigorous, well-integrated, and feasible in the context of the College curriculum. Focus statements should identify specific courses and provide a narrative explaining the linkages across departments/programs and curricular levels among the proposed courses, as well as their relevance for the proposed senior project. Focus statements will be evaluated by the Program Director, in consultation with the Program Steering Committee.

As the Steering Committee occasionally requests revisions of focus statements in consultation with the prospective major adviser and the program director, students who plan to spend one or both semesters of their Junior year studying abroad should submit their focus statement no later than the Friday following October break of their sophomore year. Students who intend to take courses at another domestic institution during their junior year should submit their focus statements no later than the Friday of the first week of classes of the spring semester of their sophomore year. All other students should submit their focus statements no later than March 1 of their sophomore year.

Requirements for the Concentration: 14 units, including Media Studies 160, 250, 260, 300, and 310. The additional 9 courses will ordinarily be selected from courses cross-listed with Media Studies and the list of Media Studies Approved Courses, which will be made available prior to pre-registration each semester. Students wishing to apply other courses toward the Media Studies concentration should consult with their adviser before petitioning the Program. All petitions must be approved by the Program Director. The additional courses must be distributed as follows:

  1. 200-level course work from a minimum of three different departments or multidisciplinary programs;
  2. a minimum of two 300-level courses, from more than one department or program, and which must reflect the intellectual path set by previous coursework;
  3. a minimum of one course on multicultural media practices or issues. Students should consult with their faculty advisers to identify appropriate courses from the list of Approved Courses;
  4. one practice-based course. If the course is not selected from the list of Approved Courses, a JYA or Fieldwork course may satisfy the requirement upon approval of the Program Director. While students are encouraged to pursue further practice-based coursework or internships, a maximum of two such units may be applied toward the concentration.

After declaration of the concentration, no courses applied toward the concentration may be elected NRO.

Senior-Year Requirements: Media Studies 310, Senior Seminar; Media Studies 300, a senior project under the supervision of a member of the Program faculty.

Advisers: Students will consult with the Program Director to select an adviser from the Steering Committee or Participating Faculty.

I. Introductory

160a and b. Approaches to Media Studies (1)

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, 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. Ms. Cohen, Mr. Joyce

II. Intermediate

250b. Medium Specificity (1)

Medium specificity is a consideration of what makes a medium a medium. The emergence of so-called new media has called attention to the ways in which new forms borrow upon or “remediate” older forms. By asking what aspects a particular medium can surrender to another without losing its particularity, we can form provisional representations of the essential aspects of a given medium, new or old, which differentiate it from others. The course considers old and new media including literature, photography, film, television, computer games, immersive computer environments, new media art, and digital image manipulation, sometimes viewing them comparatively in order to isolate those cultural, economic, and ideological structures which have led to the construction, identification, and conservation of a specific medium. The program faculty.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed. Prerequisite: Media Studies 160 or by permission of instructor.

Topic for 2008/09: Serious Play: Computer Games in Contemporary Culture. This course explores the medium of computer and video games, as a form of play and entertainment, as an important economic and cultural force, and in relation to other narrative forms, such as fiction and film. Questions raised in the course focus on how games work, what kinds of games are being produced (and not produced); why people play video games, who plays them, and how video games affect behavior; the economic structure of the gaming industry and tie-ins to other industries such as entertainment and military; the representational content of games and the broader and differential impacts of games on culture and society. Students address these questions by playing, observing and critically evaluating popular video games, as well as games of their own creation, in the context of theoretical and critical readings on the gaming phenomenon. Ms. Cohen, Mr. Ellman.

260b. Media Theory (1)

This course aims to ramify our understanding of “mediality”—that is, the visible and invisible, audible and silent contexts in which physical messages stake their ghostly meanings. The claims of media theory extend beyond models of communication: media do not simply transport preexisting ideas, nor do they merely shape ideas in transit. Attending to the complex network of functions that make up media ecologies (modes of inscription, transmission, storage, circulation, and retrieval) demonstrates the role media play not only in the molding of ideas and opinions, but also in the constitution of subjectivities, social spheres, and non-human circuits of exchange (images, information, capital). Texts and topics vary from year to year, but readings are drawn from a broad spectrum of classical and contemporary sources. Ms. Brawley.

Prerequisite: Media Studies 160 or by permission of instructor.

264b. The Avant-Gardes, 1889-1929 (1)

(Same as Art 264b)

[265b. Modern Art and Mass Media, 1929-1968] (1)

(Same as Art 265b) Instructor to be announced..

266b. Indigenous and Oppositional Media (1)

(Same as Anthropology 266b) Ms. Cohen.

268a. The Times: 1968-now (1)

(Same as Art 268a) Instructor to be announced.

284a. Art, Appropriation, and New Media (1)

The modern world has been shaped by technologies that in one way or another copy information, from the printing press to the Internet.  This course investigates the historical meanings of different media by looking at practices of appropriation, such as collage, imitation, mixing, piracy and sampling.  In the process, it shows how the value of various types of creative expression has been constructed overtime, and how people have actively used media in unexpected ways.  The participatory nature of many new media has challenged traditional notions of property rights and aesthetic value, whether through the use of Xerox machines to print zines or a computer to arrange words and images on a screen.   Centered on the twentieth century, the course traces the use of media from the rise of the culture industries through the emergence of a post-industrial society that focuses on the production and ownership of information.  Mr. Cummings

290 a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Permission of the director required.

298 a or b. Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

Permission of the director required.

III. Advanced

300. Senior Project (1)

A full-length thesis or (multi)media project. Students design their projects in consultation with the Program Director and a senior project adviser. Senior Project proposals are evaluated by the program Steering Committee, and all projects are publicly presented and become part of a permanent media archive at the College. The program faculty.

302b. Adaptations (1)

(Same as College Course 302) If works of art continue each other, as Virginia Woolf suggested, then cultural history accumulates when generations of artists think and talk together across time. What happens when one of those artists radically changes the terms of the conversation by switching to another language, another genre, another mode or medium? What constitutes a faithful adaptation? In this course we briefly consider the biological model and then explore analogies across a wide range of media. We begin with Metamorphoses, Ovid’s free adaptations of classical myths, and follow Medea and Orpheus through two thousand years of theater (from Euripides to Anouilh, Williams, and Durang); paintings (Greek vases and Pompeian walls to Dürer, Rubens, Poussin, Denis, and Klee); film and television (Pasolini, von Trier, Cocteau, Camus); dance (Graham, Balanchine, Noguchi, Bausch); music (Cavalli, Charpentier, Milhaud, Barber, Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Glass); narratives and graphic narratives (Woolf, Moraga, Pynchon, Gaiman); verse (Rilke, Auden, Milosz); and computer games (Mutants and Masterminds, Fate/stay night). We may also analyze narratives and graphic narratives by Clowes, Collins, Ishiguro, Groening, Joyce, Lahiri, Malcolm X, Mann, Millhauser, Nabokov, Pekar, Shakespeare, Spiegelman, Swift, Tanizaki, and Wilde; films by Bharadwaj, Berman/Pucini, Camus, Dangarembga, Ichikawa, Ivory, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Lee, Lyne, Mendes, Nair, Sembene, Visconti, and Zwigoff-, remixes by DJ Spooky and Danger Mouse; sampling; cover bands, tribute bands; Wikipedia, wikicomedy, wikiality; and of course Adaptation, Charlie and Donald Kaufman’s screenplay for Spike Jonze’s film, based very very loosely on Susan Orlean’s Orchid Thief. Ms. Mark.

By special permission.

One 3-hour period.

310a. Senior Seminar (1)

Special topics course for all senior Media Studies majors, providing a capstone experience for the cohort. This course is taught in the Fall semester each year. Mr. Joyce.

Prerequisite: Media Studies 250 or Media Studies 260.

[352b. The City in Fragments] (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 352b). Ms. Brawley, Mr. Chang.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[356. Culture, Commerce, and the Public Sphere] (1)

(Same as Sociology 356) Mr. Hoynes.

362b. The Thousand and One Nights (1)

(Same as English 362 and College Course 362) Ms. Mark.

379b. Computer Animation: Art, Sciences and Criticism (1)

(Same as Art 379b and Computer Science 379b)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 for describing the shape, motion and shading 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 medium 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. A weekly laboratory period provides guided hands-on experience. Mr. Ellman, Mr. Roseman.

[385a. Media and War] (1)

Senator Hiram Johnson’s 1917 remark “The first casualty when war comes is truth” is often repeated. But the processes through which (mis)information and images circulate in wartime are less well known. This course explores the role of popular media in the production and circulation of knowledge about war. Drawing on both news and entertainment media, we examine how war is represented and remembered in various media, including newspapers, photographs, radio, television, film, and online. Through a series of historical and contemporary case studies, we explore topics such as the practices of the war correspondent, strategies of news management by military planners, the relationship between media images and public attitudes toward war, media as a propaganda tool, and the role of popular media in constructing and contesting national myths and memories of war. Mr. Hoynes.

Prerequisites: Media Studies 160 or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2008/09.

Approved Courses

Courses on the Approved list may be applied to the concentration in Media Studies; students may petition the Program Director to apply other courses to their concentration. Students must complete all prerequisites prior to enrolling in courses on the Approved list.

Africana Studies 236. African Cinema (1)

American Culture 287. American Television Culture (1)

Anthropology 259. Soundscapes: Anthropology of Music (1)
(same as Music 259)

Anthropology 263. Anthropology Goes to the Movies:Film, Video, and Ethnography (1)

Anthropology 351. Language and Expressive Culture (1)
(depending upon topic)

Anthropology 361. Consumer Culture (1)

Anthropology 364. Tourism (1)

Art 264. The Avant-Gardes, 1889-1929 (1)

Art 265. Modern Art and Mass Media, 1929-1968 (1)

Art 268. The Times, 1968-now (1)

Art 364. Seminar in Twentieth Century Art (1)

Art 366. Seminar in African American Art and Cultural History (1)
(same as Africana Studies 366 and Women Studies 366)

Chinese 217. Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction (1)

Chinese/Japanese 250. Chinese Popular Culture (1)

English 275. Caribbean Discourse (1)

English 325. Studies in Genres (selected topics) (1)

English 362. Text and Image (1)

English 370. Transnational Literatures (1)

Film 210. World Cinema to 1945 (1)

Film 211. World Cinema After 1945 (1)

Film 212. Genre: The Musical (1)

Film 215. Genre: Science Fiction (1)

Film 219. Genre: Film Noir (1)

Film 230. Women in Film (same as Women Studies 230) (1)

Film 231. Minorities in the Media (1)

Film 233. The McCarthy Era and Film (1)

Film 260. Documentary: History and Aesthetics (1)

Film 392. Research Seminar in Film History and Theory (1)

French 212. Reading French Literature and Film (1)

French 213. Media and Society (1)

German Studies 230. Contemporary German Culture and Media (1)

German Studies 235. Introduction to German Cultural Studies (1)

German Studies 265. German Film in English Translation (1)

Italian 250. Italian Cinema in English (1)

Italian 255. Four Italian Filmmakers (in English) (1)

Japanese 222. Narratives of Japan: Fiction and Film (1)

Japanese 224. Japanese Popular Culture and Literature (1)

Jewish Studies 315. Jews, Jewish Identity, and the Arts (1)

Music 238. Music in Film (same as Film 238) (1)

Philosophy 240. Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics (1)

Physics 180. Science of Sound (1)

Political Science 234. Media and Politics (1)

Russian 231. Russian Screen and Stage (1)

Sociology 256. Mass Media and Society (1)

Sociology 265. News Media in America (1)

Sociology 273. Sociology of the New Economy (1)
(sames as Science, Technology, and Society 273)

Sociology 356. Culture, Commerce, and the Public Sphere (1)

Sociology 365. Class, Culture, and Power (1)

Sociology 380. Art, War, and Social Change (1)

Science, Technology, and Society 200. Science and Technology Studies (1)

Women’s Studies 240. Construction of Gender: Representations of Gender in American Popular Media. (1)