Media Studies Program

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, communication 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: 13.5 units, including:

The additional 8 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 and 301, a senior project under the supervision of 2 members of the program faculty, 1 of whom should be a member of the steering committee.

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. Mr. Elseewi (a); Mr. Ellman (b).

II. Intermediate

218. Chinese Popular Culture (1)

(Same as Chinese 218) The course analyzes contemporary Chinese entertainment and popular culture. It provides both historical coverage and grounding in various theoretical and methodological problems. Topics focus on thematic contents and forms of entertainment through television, radio, newspaper, cinema, theatre, music, print and material culture. The course also examines the relations between the heritage of traditional Chinese entertainment and the influences of Western culture. All readings and class discussions are in English. Mr. Du.

Prerequisite: one course in language, literature, culture, film, drama, or Asian Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2013/14.

250a. 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. 
Topic for 2013/14a:The Book as Medium. 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. 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. This fall a special focus of the course is on books of knowledge: dictionaries, encyclopedias and other books that try to organize and present the sum of what is known in arts and sciences. Mr. DeMaria and Mr. Patkus. 

Prerequisite: Media Studies 160 or permission of the instructor.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

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. Mr. Chang.

Prerequisite: Media Studies 160 or permission of the instructor.

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

(Same as Anthropology 263) This course examines how film and video are used in ethnography as tools for study and as means of ethnographic documentary and representation. Topics covered include history and theory of visual anthropology, issues of representation and audience, indigenous film, and contemporary ethnographic approaches to popular media. Ms. Cohen.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or Film or Media Studies or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus 3-hour preview laboratory.

264. The Nature of Change: the Avant-Gardes (1)

(Same as Art 264) ) Radical prototypes of self-organization were forged by the new groups of artists, writers, filmmakers and architects that emerged in the early twentieth century as they sought to define the future. The course studies the avant-gardes’ different and often competing efforts to meet the changing conditions that industrialization was bringing to culture, societies and economies between 1889 and 1929, when works of art, design, and film entered the city, the press, the everyday lives and the wars that beset them all. Ms. Nesbit.

Prerequisite: Art 105-106, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods and one weekly film screening.

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

(Same as Art 265) The history of modern painting and sculpture in Europe and America from the onset of the Great Depression to the events of 1968, together with their contemporary developments in film, photography, and the mass media. Special attention is paid to the criticism, theory, and politics of the image as part of the newly divided modern culture of abstractions, generalities, human rights and identities. Weekly screenings supplement the lectures. Ms. Nesbit.

Prerequisite: Art 105-106.

Two 75-minute periods and one weekly film screening.

Not offered in 2013/14.

266. Indigenous and Oppositional Media (1)

(Same as Anthropology 266) As audiovisual and digital media technologies proliferate and become more accessible globally, they become important tools for indigenous peoples and activist groups in struggles for recognition and self-determination, for articulating community concerns and for furthering social and political transformations. This course explores the media practices of indigenous peoples and activist groups, and through this exploration achieves a more nuanced and intricate understanding of the relation of the local to the global. In addition to looking at the films, videos, radio and television productions, and Internet interventions of indigenous media makers and activists around the world, the course looks at oppositional practices employed in the consumption and distribution of media. Course readings are augmented by weekly screenings and demonstrations of media studied, and students explore key theoretical concepts through their own interventions, making use of audiovisual and digital technologies. Ms. Cohen.

Two 75-minute periods, plus one 3-hour preview laboratory.

Not offered in 2013/14.

268. The Activation of Art, 1968 - now (1)

(Same as Art 268) This course studies the visual arts of the last thirty years, here and abroad, together with the collective and philosophical discussions that emerged and motivated them. The traditional fine arts as well as the new media, performance, film architecture and installation are included. Still and moving images, which come with new theatres of action, experiment and intellectual quest, are studied as they interact with the historical forces still shaping our time into time zones, world pictures, narratives and futures. Weekly screenings supplement the lectures. Ms. Nesbit.

Prerequisite: Art 105-106.

Two 75-minute periods and one weekly screening.

Not offered in 2013/14.

280a. The Middle East in Cinema and Media (1)

(Same as Film 280) This course looks at Middle Eastern electronic media and film to ask questions about contemporary culture, social life and politics in the region. Using the events of the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath as touchstones, we investigate such topics as globalization, mediated identity, gender, and mediated entertainment. While most of our focus is on the Arab countries, we also examine cultural material from Iran, Israel, and Turkey. We watch films, follow blogs, and read popular and academic material on the region. Mr. Elseewi.

Prerequisites: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

281b. Transnational Television (1)

(Same as Film 281) This class examines transnational television and global media (including internet production) from aesthetic, economic, political and theoretical perspectives. We look at the role that television plays in enculturating its viewers within and across physical, cultural and linguistic borders. We critically explore the intersection between globalization and television by focusing on specific ‘travelling’ texts such as Dallas, Friends, Lost, Big Brother, and the Eurovision song contest. Textual examples from Japan, India, the Middle East and Latin America are also examined. With an eye towards avoiding simplistic binaries such as East/West, Global/Local, or Good/Bad, we explore the complex and contradictory impulses of global culture and globalization from multiple theoretical perspectives. To this end, we are guided by theorists Benedict Anderson, Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Arjun Appadurai, Koichi Iwabuchi, Manuel Castells, Mikhail Bakhtin and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Mr. Elseewi.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

283a. The Virtual Barrio: Latin American and Latino Media (1)

(Same as Hispanic Studies and Latin American and Latino/a Studies 283) This course aims to deepen our understanding of the complex media ecologies of Latin American and Latino contexts. Attending to how messages make meanings through a range of media—we study 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). Do theories of media and embodiment mean something different in this context, given the ways in which race, skin/hair color, cultural expectations, and history have inscribed themselves on the Hispanic body? Exploring mediation from the perspective of postcoloniality, transnationalism, and the local we thus examine the internet through the lens of recent developments in social movements (Chile, Mexico, Spain); film through the experiments of Third, Imperfect Cinema and Andean indigenous media practices; television through the genre and industry of the Telenovela; graphics through the traditions of murals, graphics and comics and the more recent transnational iconography of Ché Guevara; alternative youth culture through video and online gaming; and convergence through multi-media performances and installations. The course will be taught in English. Ms. Woods.

Prerequisite: Hispanic Studies 216 or 219.

Two 75-minute periods.

285a. Emotional Engagement with Film (1)

(Same as Film and Psychology 285) While movies engage our emotions in psychologically significant ways, scholarship on the psychological allure and impact of film has existed primarily at the interdisciplinary margins. This course aims to bring such scholarship into the foreground. We begin with a careful examination of the appeal and power of narrative, as well as processes of identification and imagined intimacy with characters, before taking a closer analytical look at specific film genres (e.g., melodrama, horror, comedy, action, social commentary) both in their own right and in terms of their psychological significance (e.g., why do we enjoy sad movies? How do violent movies influence viewer aggression? How might socially conscious films inspire activism or altruism?) In addition to delving into theoretical and empirical papers, a secondary goal of the course is to engage students as collaborators; brainstorm and propose innovative experimental methods for testing research questions and hypotheses that emerge in step with course materials. Ms. Greenwood and Ms. Kozloff.

Prerequisites: For Psychology majors - Psychology 100; For Film majors - Film 175 or Film 210; For Media Studies majors - Media Studies 160.

Two 75-minute periods.

286a. TV History and Criticism (1)

(Same as Film 286) This course is a survey of the history, technology, regulation, audience, and economics of television and related electronic media from the 1920s until the present. This class focuses on both the historical development of the medium and its texts as well as on the theoretical frameworks scholars have used to study television. The course approaches television primarily through the lens of its relationship with American culture with an ongoing focus on issues of race, gender, class, and the political process. Mr. Elseewi.

Prerequisite: Film 210 or Media Studies 160.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Permission of the director required.

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

Permission of the director required.

III. Advanced

300a. Senior Project Preparation (1/2)

The Senior Project may be a full-length thesis or a (multi)media project. During the fall semester, students carry out the following independent work under the supervision of the Program Director and participating faculty: formulating a project topic; identifying suitable faculty advisors; writing a project proposal and bibliography; presenting the proposal at a poster event; and developing a work plan. Ms. Cohen.

301b. Senior Project (1)

Students carry out the Senior Project during the spring semester, under the supervision of their two project advisors. All students present their projects at a public symposium at the end of the semester. The projects become part of a permanent Media-Studies archive. The program faculty.

302b. Adaptations (1)

(Same as College Course and English 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 switches to another language, another genre, another mode or medium? In the twenty-first century we may reframe Woolf’s conversation in terms of intertextuality—art invokes and revises other art—but the questions remain more or less unchanged: What motivates and shapes adaptations? What role does technology play? Audience? What constitutes a faithful adaptation? “Faithful” to what or whom? In this course we consider the biological model, looking briefly at Darwin’s ideas about the ways organisms change in order to survive, and then explore analogies across a range of media. We’ll begin with Virgil’s Georgics; move on to Metamorphoses, Ovid’s free adaptations of classical myths; and follow Orpheus and Eurydice through two thousand years of theater (Euripides, Anouilh, Ruhl, Zimmerman); painting and sculpture (Dürer, Rubens, Poussin, Klee, Rodin); film and television (Pasolini, Cocteau, Camus, Luhrmann); dance (Graham, Balanchine, Bausch); music (Monteverdi, Gluck, Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Glass); narratives and graphic narratives (Pynchon, Delany, Gaiman, Hoban); verse (Rilke, H.D., Auden, Ashbery, Milosz, Heaney, Atwood, Mullen, Strand); and computer games (Battle of OlympusShin Megami Tensei). During the second half of the semester, we investigate other adaptations and their theoretical implications, looking back from time to time at what we’ve learned from the protean story of Eurydice and Orpheus and their countless progeny. M. Mark.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

310a. Senior Seminar (1)

Topic: Media End Memory. We will explore: the destruction of memory; the invention of memory; mnemotechnics; collective memory; historical memory, fabrication and power; voluntary and involuntary memory; modes of collection, storage, and retrieval; memory theaters, cabinets, and atlases; trauma, erasure and blindness; flows, clouds and the futures of memory. Special topics course for all senior Media Studies majors, providing a capstone experience for the cohort. Mr. Chang.

Prerequisite: Media Studies 250 or 260.

350. New York City as Social Lab (1)

Not offered in 2013/14.

351. Language and Expressive Culture (1)

Not offered in 2013/14.

352. The City in Fragments (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 352) In this seminar, we use the concept of the fragment to explore the contemporary city, and vice versa. We draw on the work of Walter Benjamin, for whom the fragment was both a central symptom of urban modernity and a potentially radical mode of inquiry. We also use the figure of the fragment to explore and to experiment with the situationist urbanism of Guy Debord, to address the failure of modernist dreams for the city, and to reframe the question of the "global" in contemporary discussions of global urbanization. Finally, we use the fragment to destabilize notions of experience and evidence—so central to positivist understandings of the city—as we make regular visits to discover, as it were, non-monumental New York. Readings include works by Walter Benjamin, Stefano Boeri, Christine Boyer, Guy Debord, Rosalyb Deytsche, Paul Gilroy, Rem Koolhaas, Henri Lefebvre, Thomas Lacquer, Saskia Sassen, Mark Wigley, and others. Ms. Brawley, Mr. Chang.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2013/14.

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

(Same as Sociology 356) 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.

360. Problems in Cultural Analysis (1)

Not offered in 2013/14.

364a. Seminar in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Art (1)

(Same as Art 364) The Moving Image: Between Video and Experimental Curating. Already by 1930 experimental film had tested the boundaries for the exhibition of works of art; when video built on that foundation thirty years later, the borders were again expanded. Moving image and radical exhibition formats would continue to evolve in tandem, becoming a succession of inspirations and experiments. The seminar studies these as theoretical, practical and perceptual questions posed in fact since the invention of cinema; case studies from past and present are compared; the seminar plans and executes curatorial experiments of its own. Ms. Nesbit.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor

One 2-hour period.

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

(Same as Art, Computer Science, and Film 379) 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. Mr. Ellman, Mr. Roseman.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Offered alternate years.

Two 2-hour periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

380. Special Topics in Media Studies (1)

Not offered in 2013/14.

385. 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.

Prerequisite: Media Studies 160 or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2013/14.

389a. Computer Games: Design, Production and Critique (1)

(Same as Computer Science 389) Investigates all stages of the game development process, including conception, design, physical and digital prototyping, implementation and play-testing, among others. The course emphasizes the integration of formal, dramatic and dynamic game elements to create a specific player experience. The course also examines various criteria and approaches to game critique, including issues of engagement, embodiment, flow, and meaningful play. Course work includes a series of game development projects carried out in groups, along with analysis of published games and readings in critical game-studies literature. No previous experience in media production or computer programming is necessary. Mr. Ellman

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

399. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)