IYLSSIF 6: Tools Methods

The sixth and final post in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here, Part 2 Here, Part 3 Here, Part 4 Here, Part 5 Here; the lectures are unedited — hence, you might be a bit confused by a few inexplicable notes and slides about administrative issues]. We started off by describing the premise of the class; then discussed how students could find their own position within the program and the field; then helped students map that field, appreciate its breadth and the various intellectual and create traditions it draws from; then talked about practical methods for maintaining one’s orientation within the field and within one’s own work; then discussed the various forms one’s scholarship can take, ranging from traditional academic writing to more experimental writing forms, to “multimodal” scholarship and theoretically informed, research-based media production. Finally, we talk about the tools and methods we have access to to help us execute research projects in various forms.


6:00: Fabiola Berdiel re: GPIA’s International Field Programs

6:15: Peter Asaro, Principal Faculty Member, Media Studies

Readings for This Week:

  • Tools & Material Consciousness,” Words In Space
  • Jane Stokes, “Think About Theory,” “Choosing the Right Method,” “Rules of Evidence,” “Paradigms of Research,” “Combining Research Methods” & “Phrasing Your Research Question” In How to Do Media and Cultural Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003): 11-24.
  • SkimCritical Approaches,” Words In Space [This is an archived lesson from one of my old research methods courses. Read up through “How is This Research?” then skim the rest to get a sense of the variety of approaches.]
  • SkimQualitative Methods,” Words In Space [Same as above. Read the first section, then skim from “Case Studies” through the end to acquaint/remind yourself with the variety of available qualitative methods.]
  • Carole Gray & Julian Malins, “Crossing the Terrain: Establishing Appropriate Research Methodologies” In Visualizing Research: A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004): 93-128.
  • Stephen A. R. Scrivener, “The Roles of Art and Design Process and Object In Research” In Nithikul Nimkulrat & Tim O’Riley, Eds., Reflections and Connections: On the Relationship Between Creative Production and Academic Research (Helsinki: University of Art and Design, 2009): 69-79.

[SLIDE 2] Agenda

[SLIDE 4] We have to consider: What are the TOOLS – both technological and methodological – that I need to do that work?

In creating our “shopping list” of tools, we need to think back on all the different scales at which we’ve worked throughout the semester.

  • We’ve considered our researcher identities: where we can draw inspiration for research
    • “Identifying Your Interests” guide you read for 2nd class
  • We’re looked at the various traditions our field has historically drawn from, and what kinds of questions practitioners in those various traditions have asked, and what tools they’ve used to answer their questions
  • We’ve considered the different forms our work can take.
  • You’re exploring different theoretical frameworks in your Ideas classes and different design principles and skills in Concepts.
  • How do we bring all that to bear on our selection of tools, so that we’re practicing “material consciousness”?

[SLIDE 5] Work from both ends: Selection of ends and means, allegiance with particular methods and epistemologies, should mutually inform one another!



  • Methods: the techniques or procedures used to gather and analyze data related to some research question or hypotheses
  • Methodology: the strategy, plan of action, process or design lying behind the choice and use of particular methods and linking the choice and use of methods to the desired outcomes
  • Theoretical perspective: the philosophical stance informing the methodology and thus providing a context for the process and grounding its logic and criteria
  • Epistemology: the theory of knowledge embedded in the theoretical perspective and thereby in the methodology (Crotty 3)

What’s out there to know? (Ontology) ==> What and how can we know about it? (Epistemology) ==> How can we go about acquiring knowledge? (Methodology) ==> What procedures can we use to acquire it? (Methods) ==> Sources (Which data can we collect?) (Hay 2002, p. 64)

[SLIDE 7] Epistemologies: Objectivism | Subjectivism | Constructivism

  • Objectivism: “meaning, and therefore meaningful reality, exists as such apart from the operation of any consciousness” (p. eight)
  • Subjectivism: “meaning does not come out of an interplay between subject and object but is imposed on the object by the subject” (p. nine)
  • Constructivism: “there is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or meaning, comes into existence in and out of our engagement with the realities in our world” (p. eight)

You needn’t align yourself with one or the other – in fact, we could argue that this list is far from sufficient – What is “significant for graduate students to know about epistemology is that [CLICK] people claim different theories of what gets to count as knowledge and / that these differences have implications for inquiry…. [Crotty] differentiates among them by defining the ways in which [CLICK] each epistemology conceptualizes the relation between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerst-Pepin 332-3)

[SLIDE 8] “Epistemological diversity may lead to fragmentation, frustration, and confusion for graduate students, but appreciation for epistemological diversity greatly facilitates an understanding of why various forms of research seem so different from each other.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 333)

[SLIDE 9] Theoretical Perspectives

  • Positivism | Post-Positivism (absolute knowledge isn’t positive; can only reject the null hypothesis) | Pragmatism | Interpretivism | Participatory | Postmodern
  • Again, we could argue that this list doesn’t represent the diversity of approaches w/in Media Studies. What’s important is that we understand that: “The theoretical perspective…is a way of looking at the world and making sense of it. It involves…how we know what we know.” (Crotty eight)

[SLIDE 10] Stated in ‘Backward’ Direction – from Method to Theoretical Perspective: “Inevitably, we bring a number of assumptions to our chosen methodology. We need, as best we can, to state what those assumptions are… How, then, do we take account of these assumptions and justify them? By expounding our theoretical perspective, that is, our view of the human world and social life within that world, wherein such assumptions are grounded.” (Crotty 7)

[SLIDE 11] Methodology: “What is called for here is not only a description of the methodology but also an account of the rationale it provides for the choice of methods and the particular forms in which the methods are employed.” (Crotty 7)

  • Previously had a one-size-fits-all methods course
  • Explain how Research Methods in Media Studies was folded into UMS
  • Important for you to consider these issues EARLY, so you can choose your tools and methods wisely!

How many of you have taken a full-semester qualitative methods course? Quantitative?


[SLIDE 12] constructionism (knowledge constructed by learner, rather than merely transmitted) ==> symbolic interactionism (human interaction mediated by use of symbols) ==> ethnography (a ‘constellation’ of methods – participant observation, interviews, etc., used to describe a people) => participant observation

Ethnography…is a methodology. It is one of many particular research designs that guide a researcher in choosing methods and shape the use of the methods chosen. Symbolic interactionism…is a theoretical perspective that informs a range of methodologies, including some forms of ethnography. As a theoretical perspective, it is an approach to understanding and explaining society and the human world, and grounds a set of assumptions that symbolic interactionist researchers typically bring to their methodology of choice. Constructionism is an epistemology embodied in many theoretical perspectives, including symbolic interactionism…. An epistemology…is a way of understanding and explaining how we know what we know. What all this suggests is that symbolic interactionism, ethnography and constructionism need to be related to one another rather than merely set side by side as comparable.” (Crotty 3)

objectivism (belief that reality is mind-dependent) ==> positivism => survey research à statistical analysis

Students often don’t recognize methodological implications of making positivist claims!

“Engaging with the epistemology of objectivism, for instance, enables students to understand the grounding of positivism,… important for students to understand that the use of probability statistics rests on the theory of falsification, the goal of which is not to prove a hypothesis but rather to reject the null hypothesis, with the logical implication that results may be correct, not that they are correct.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 333)

[SLIDE 13] Constructivism: “Significant for students to understand what it may mean to claim that ‘knowledge is socially constructed’… For example, [CLICK] constructionist researchers vary in how they consider the role of culture in the construction of meaning, and these variations often…lead to distinct methodological differences, with those interested in how meaning is constructed in social settings more often selecting [CLICK] ethnography, and those more interested in how individuals construct meaning (without the context of a setting or in multiple settings) more exclusively relying upon an [CLICK] open-ended interview design.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 334)

  • NO ONE-TO-ONE CORRELATION between Theoretical Perspective + Methodologies: “…just because a researcher uses statistical research does not mean assuming that knowledge is objectively knowable. …[I]it opens the possibility that researchers who utilize statistical research methodologies are not necessarily objectivists” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 335)


Probably a good deal of redundancy – and even contradiction – in the texts you read (or skimmed!) for today. That’s because there are no good, comprehensive texts that address the diversity of methods that a praxis-based media studies addresses.

As we discovered on Day 2, Media Studies draws on a variety of fields, and thus a variety of methodological approaches – [SLIDE 15 + 16] Fletcher’s “Procedure” Charts


  • Introduced in Ideas + Seminar classes
  • Analysis of Texts – Depends on how you define “text”
  • You can’t look at everything all at once – Rose: “[E]ngaging with the debates in [media] culture means deciding which site and which modalities you think are most important in explaining the effect” of a text”
  • Narrative Analysis, Generic Analysis, Semiotics, Formal Analysis, Medium Theory, etc.




From Lesson (Jensen): Distinctions of Qualitative Research

  • Study should take place, if possible, in naturalistic contexts
  • Researcher plays role of interpretive subject (236)
  • Conceptualization + Operationalization
  • Iterative; rsch design is emergent
  • Sampling (maximum variation, snowball, convenience, case studies)
  • Interviewing (“hermeneutics of suspicion”; p. 240)
  • Observation (thick description, participant observation, field notes!)
  • Documents, Artefacts, Unobtrusive Measures
  • Data Analysis (coding)
  • Discourse Analysis (discourse as “structure” or as “evidence”; p. 251)
  • SPECIFICITY: “..we will not just talk about ‘carrying out interviews’ but will indicate in very detailed fashion what kind of interviews they are, what interviewing techniques are employed, and in what sort of setting the interviews are conducted.” (Crotty 6)


[SLIDE 21] Gray & Malins: Different ways of conceiving of “practice”

  • “practice as individual creative activity, perhaps the most obvious interpretation – ‘making’ in its broadest sense”
  • “practice as facilitation and dissemination – activities related to visual arts/design/ craft/ new media, for example education, administration, and activities such as curating, commissioning, critical writing, and so on;
  • “practice as collaborative activity, involving other practitioners, participants and professionals from other disciplines, and/or external bodies, for example industry, commerce, voluntary sectors, and so on. This approach could involve making, facilitating, disseminating, as well as negotiating, fundraising, and so on” (Gray & Malins 104)

Practice: disadvantage: “open to criticisms of indulgence and over-subjectivity if not placed securely within the formal framework, and if lacking in methodological transparency” (105)

[SLIDE 22] Scrivener: What distinguishes “creative project” from “praxis-based research” or “multimodal scholarship” – i.e., when “using video” or “field recordings” aren’t just production techniques, but actually research methods?

  • “ways in which creative production can be understood as contributing to the fulfillment of the conditions of research, which are here defined as intention, subject, method, justification, communication, and goal” (69)
  • creative production as a “mode of knowledge acquisition” (69)

Frayling/Scrivener’s 3 Modes of Practice-Based Research:

Various ways of conceiving relationship btw theory and practice!!

  • [SLIDE 23] Research Into Art and Design (A/D as research subject)
    • “practice is seen as interesting in itself: the research subjects are, ‘the theory-infused analyses, routines, methods and habits of the field, different ways of seeing, cultural forms and structures” (quoted on 73)
    • e.g., film studies / design studies
  • [SLIDE 24] Research For Art and Design
    • Gathering reference materials for creative production; “Research where the end product is an artifact – where the thinking is, so to speak, embodied in the artifact” (71)
    • “concerned with gaining knowledge and understanding that directly contributes to the design practice of the designer/researcher” (73)
    • [SLIDE 25] “can be argued that novel creative production that is new to the world of creative production extends the knowledge and understanding of that world” (77) – yet that knowledge is tacit; “in order to quality [creative production] as research, it is one which must be coupled with a methodology for making explicit what is otherwise tacit” (78)
    • [SLIDE 26] Managers/Consultant adopt design research methods
  • [SLIDE 27] Research Through Art and Design(creative production as research method)
    • Weak claim: we design something to then analyze and evaluate; Stronger claim: creative production as method (75-6) –
      • “…activity that yields both new scholarship and new creativity” (72)
      • must justify art/design “as a means of knowledge acquisition’ (76)
  • [SLIDE 28] Practice / Production is research “if and only if it is (1) a systematic investigation, (2) conducted intentionally, (3) to acquire new knowledge, understanding, insights, etc, (4) justified, and (5) communicated, (6) about a subject” (71) – [CLICK] research is “purposive, inquisitive (seeking to acquire new knowledge), informed, methodical, and communicable” (71)
  • [SLIDE 29] “the method or methodology must always include an explicit understanding of how the practice contributes to the inquiryand research is distinguished from other forms of practice by that explicit understanding” (quoted on 74)
    • “When a production becomes an intervention into an established scholarly debate, dialogue or discourse, or when it initiates or seeks to initiate a debate. Any performance-as-research must make explicit its relation with that debate, and communicate the ways in which the terms of the debate have been changed by the research subject” (quoted on 72)
      • Importance of Lit Review
      • All Production Theses have to explain how they’re responding to debates germane to the field of media studies
    • [SLIDE 30] Work is made public, open for critiqueJournal for Artistic Research:
      • “The aim of the program is to develop new knowledge, or to preserve or critically assess it. It is also the case that works of visual art and design are available for critical assessment by peers, and are available to the wider intellectual community, as expected of well-defined research” (quoted on 72)

[SLIDE 31] Gray & Malins speak of Leonardo’s “thinking” through sketches, his “appropriate use of media” (94) – Choice of method reflects material consciousness

[SLIDE 32] Artists & Designers can benefit from applying more traditional qualitative (and even quantitative) research methods – but must also develop new methods that take advantage of “current cultural contexts and technologies” (96), revamp/adapt existing methods for new uses (101)

  • Observation: use drawing, mapping, diagramming, video, photography (106)
  • Visualization: drawings, concept maps, flow charts, storyboards (107)
  • Photography (108-9): “an acquisition method (and to aid later analysis) annotation is essential” (109)
  • Video (110)
  • Sketchbook
  • 3D Models / Maquettes
  • Audio

[SLIDE 33] Using Media as Research Tools

  • Related to our discussion last week about Multimodal Scholarship, matching form to content – requires Material Consciousness
    • Consider each tool’s affordances and limitations

[SLIDE 34] Tools as “knowledge objectified” – tools as an embodiment of, or shaper of, consciousness

[SLIDE 35] Without thinking critically about the relationship between our chosen tools – cameras, recorders, software, etc. – and our methodologies and epistemologies, we might as well equate writing with “pushing pencil.”

  • Anti cyber-triumphalism and techno-fetishism
  • Should have a justification for choosing the tools, formats you’ve chosen

[SLIDE 36] “The enlightened way to use a machine is to judge its powers, fashion its uses, in light of our own limits rather than the machine’s potential. We should not compete against the machine…. Against the claim of perfection we can assert our own individuality” (Sennett 105).

[SLIDE 37] Recall what we said last week about the goals of Multimodal Scholarship: “…not only to seek to understand and interrogate the cultural and social impact of new technologies, but to be engaged in driving the creation of new technologies, methodologies, and information systems, as well as in their détournement (turnabout, derailment), reinvention, repurposing, via research questions grounded in the Arts and Humanities: questions of meaning, interpretation, history, subjectivity, and culture” (6)

No need to work with “off-the-shelf” methods!

[SLIDE 38] We’ve moved through today’s class from the macro- to the hyper-micro – right down to the thoughtful choice of specific models of equipment that suit your methodological purpose

  • See how consciousness has to tie together the various levels of this framework


[SLIDE 39] Why bother studying methodology? Why not “just sit down and work out for ourselves how we go about it?
In the end, that is precisely what we have to do. Yet a study of how other people have gone about the task of human inquiry serves us well and is surely indispensable. Attending to recognized research designs and their various theoretical underpinnings exercises a formative influence upon us. It awakens us to ways of research we would never otherwise have conceived of. It makes us much more aware of what is possible in research. [SLIDE 40] Even so, it is by no means a matter of plucking a methodology off the shelf. We acquaint ourselves with the various methodologies. We evaluate their presuppositions. We weight their strengths and weaknesses. Having done all that and more besides, we still have to forge a methodology that will meet our particular purposes in this research. One of the established methodologies may suit the task that confronts us. Or perhaps none of them do and we find ourselves drawing on several methodologies, molding them into a way of proceeding that achieves the outcomes we look to. Perhaps we need to be more inventive still and create a methodology that in many respects is quite new.” (Crotty 14)

“In light of this epistemological and theoretical diversity, which expands with the proliferation of theory and method, graduate students have multiple options for positioning their own work. Students need facility with theoretical perspectives to engage prior research, synthesize it for their own understanding, and create methodological plans that serve their own projects.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 336)

Yet just as we aim not to fetishize our tools, we aim not to fetishize method

[SLIDE 41] “The end of all method is to seem to have no method.”

         Just as we are against “gee-wizardry,” we have to resist “methodolatry”

[SLIDE 42] Mary Daly’s (philosopher/theologian) Webster’s First Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language:

Methodolatry (n): common form of academic idolatry; glorification of the god Method; boxing knowledge into prefabricated fields, thereby hiding threads of connectedness, hindering New Discoveries, preventing the raising of New Questions, erasing ideas that do not fit into Respectable Categories of Questions and Answers (Daly 1987).

Sandra Bicknell, a researcher in museum studies, espouses methodological “pluralism”:

I have a feeling that there is a lot of this (methodolatry) about. There have been a number of attempts to categorize…methodology. This ‘boxing’ of methods is, in my view, isolationist. It suggests either/or scenarios.

[SLIDE 43] I use multiple methods to give greater rigor, reliability and depth to the work I do. Each element is designed both to test and to complement the findings of other elements. The different methods add layers of information but also provide a means of identifying inconsistencies and weaknesses. (Sarah Bicknell, “Here to Help: Evaluation and Effectiveness” In Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Ed., Museum, Media, Message (Museum Meanings) (Routledge, 1999): 283-4).

So, in short: you needn’t be a methodological purist. The challenge is to find a complementary combination of methods — all appropriate for your research problem or project — that, together, provide for greater “rigor, reliability, and depth.”


[SLIDE 44] Clip from Course Guide re: when to take methods courses

  • Methods courses intended to be taken later in the program, to support a particular project
  • We’ll simply preview your options – may be different from year to year, semester to semester
  • Consult w/ advisors re: appropriate methods for proposed project
  • Consider options in other programs + INDEPENDENT STUDIES!

[SLIDES 45-52]: Media Studies Methods

[SLIDES 53-54] Other Programs’ Methods Courses




Found an inspiring article published in 2003 by a group of graduate students; it appeared in Pedagogy, a journal distributed by Duke University Press – echoed requests from our OWN students…

  • They called for an introductory graduate course that [SLIDE 55] “prepare[s] graduate students for taking an active role in shaping the future of the discipline” (Crisco et al. 372). This course would [CLICK] (1) “survey the historical development of the field”; [CLICK] (2) “critically examine some of the key terms presently at the center of debates concerning the defining goals and purposes of the work” in the field; [SLIDE 56] (3) “create a collaborative, explicitly intradisciplinary space within the department to explore the often competing commitments of our discipline and to articulate the stakes (individual, fieldwide, institutional, cultural) of the various approaches to reforming” the field; and [CLICK] (4) “provide students with opportunities to locate themselves and their professional commitments in relationship to the field” (ibid. 369)
  • [SLIDE 57] These proposed course objectives map well onto those for UMS.
    • We started off next week by reviewing the history of the field and some of its defining goals
    • Then we introduce you to many of the research resources in our field, and prepared you to seek out on your own more of the field’s historical and contemporary debates.
    • In the second half of the semester, through our guests’ presentations, we’ll address some of the key terms, defining goals, and stakes of their work, and the competing (or complimentary) commitments they represent. – WE’LL TALK ABOUT THIS IN A MINUTE
    • And through the assignments, you have an opportunity to “locate [yourself] and [your] professional commitments in relationship to the field.”


You’ve been building up to this – with Abstracts, which you then gather into an Annotated Bibliography – [SLIDE 59] The Literature Review is essentially a “processing” of all the material you will have reviewed for the previous assignments. You’re processing it for a purpose: to get a sense of what exists in your area of interest, to know what’s already been done and what you can build upon.

Lit Review essentially “sets the stage” for the work that you plan to do

[SLIDE 60] Serves Multiple Functions:

  • Personal Function: As we discussed last week, we often have to dig into the writing process in order to know what we think about something. We have to write in order to work through our arguments
    • Lit Review helps you work through what you’re discovered in your research – helps you find patterns, gaps, inconsistencies, contradictions, etc.
  • External Functions: essential for seminar papers, thesis proposals, grant proposals, business plans, etc.

[SLIDE 61] Assignment on Ning

[SLIDE 62] REVIEW LIT REVIEW GUIDE (In Assignments section on NING)


  • Discuss purpose of Focus Areas
  • Not REQUIRED to choose a focus area
  • Not ALL will appeal to you – but might introduce you to areas of study you never would’ve imaged you’d be interested in
  • At the very least, you’ll be familiar with the breadth of the field.

Guest speakers have been asked to address the following:

[SLIDE 66]

  • Do you consider your work to be part of a particular academic, creative, or professional tradition? What, or who, has inspired you?
  • How do you develop ideas for new projects, and how do you hone those initial ideas into feasible tasks?
  • Discuss any methods you use in your research or creative or professional work. We hope to impress upon students that research is not exclusive to academic pursuits, and that work in all sectors requires reflection on appropriate methods. Do you conduct interviews as part of your professional work? Focus groups? Discourse analyses? Mixed methods for market research? If the MA program offers methods courses that match your preferred methods, please reference these courses.
  • Discuss any grants, fellowships, prizes, or other accolades or forms of support you may have received, and share with students how you applied, or were nominated, for these honors.
  • Mention any professional organizations or interest groups you belong to, and address the benefits of membership.
  • List some of the professional resources – magazines, journals, publishers, listserv’s, etc. – and local venues or institutions – archives, screening series, galleries, lecture series, etc. – you find most useful.
  • Refer students to New School courses – either your own or those taught within our program or in other grad programs – that would allow students to explore in greater depth the topics you address in your presentation.

[SLIDE 67] Must READ in order to be prepared to ask questions!

Should attend to all, even if they’re not within your immediate realm of interest

  • External Motivation: obligation to familiarize yourself with the field – implication of a Masters degree
  • Internal Motivation: students are often surprised to discover new interests – will become apparent next week when Ambassadors visit your discussion sections.


IYLSSIF 5: What Media Studies Makes: Forms of Scholarship

The fifth in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here, Part 2 Here, Part 3 Here, Part 4 Here; the lectures are unedited — hence, you might be a bit confused by a few inexplicable notes and slides about administrative issues]. We started off by describing the premise of the class; then discussed how students could find their own position within the program and the field; then helped students map that field, appreciate its breadth and the various intellectual and create traditions it draws from; then talked about practical methods for maintaining one’s orientation within the field and within one’s own work. Now we talk about the various forms one’s scholarship can take, ranging from traditional academic writing to more experimental writing forms, to “multimodal” scholarship and theoretically informed, research-based media production.




  • Academic Sources?
  • Next Week: begin w/ visit from GPIA re: IFP – Deadline: 10/15


In our field, media studies, we take a cross-platform, comparative approach to studying various modes of communication. This comparative approach characterizes not only our subjects of study, but also our methods and our means of presenting the outcomes of our work.

[SLIDE 4] Just as, last week, we talked about different platforms and software for taking notes, organizing projects, etc., we also have to think about what technologies can serve us as research tools – as methods – and what can help us present our work in the most effective way possible. That’s in part what multimodal scholarship is about: thinking about how different media might allow you ask new research questions, engage your subject in new ways, and share your in-progress or finished work in ways that “do justice” to your subject and your argument, that give appropriate form to your content.

As your reading for this week suggested, media studies makes scholarship in traditional written forms and in “multimodal” forms. Film, field recordings, databases, etc. can all function as research tools and as platforms for presenting our research-based, theoretically-informed work. Or course there’s still room for using these media as creative forms – as means of pure artistic expression – but today we’re going to focus on how these technologies might shape the forms of our research and theorization.

[SLIDE 5] Guest: Amir Husak



  • Researchers are more than “content providers” – they “fully engage with the platforms and tools of the digital era” (120)
    • Computing humanist
    • Blogging humanist
  • “Who better to reimagine the relationship of scholarly form to content than those who have devoted their careers to studying narrative structure, representation and meaning, or the aesthetics of visuality (and aurality)?” (120)
  • [SLIDE 7] Remember Henry Jenkins from our 2nd Lecture, on History of the Field: “New media literacies include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media…. [We] must expand [our] required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new.

Beyond core literacy, students need research skills…. Students also need to develop technical skills…. Yet, to reduce the new media literacies to technical skills would be a mistake on the order of confusing penmanship with composition….

  • [SLIDE 8] “The multimodal humanist…brings together databases, scholarly tools, networked writing, and peer-to-peer commentary while also leveraging the potential of visual and aural (and interactive) media that so dominate contemporary life… She aims to produce work that reconfigures the relationships among author, reader, and technology while investigating the computer simultaneously as a platform, a medium, and a visualization device. She thinks carefully about the relationship of form to content, expression to idea” (120)
  • [SLIDE 9]  CommentPress
  • [SLIDE 10] “The multimodal scholar explores new forms of literacy that include authoring and analyzing visual, aural, dynamic, and interactive media….[and imagines] what it would be like to immerse yourself in a scholarly argumentas you might immerse yourself in a movie or a video game. She investigates what happens when scholarship looks and feels differently, requiring new modes of engagement from the reader/user” (120)
    • “’How do you ‘experience’ or feel’ an argument in a more immersive and sensory-rich space?’ ‘Can scholarship show as well as tell?’ ‘Will representing data differently change the ways we understand, collect, or interpret it?’ ‘What happens to argument in a nonlinear environment?’” (121) – AFFECTIVE dimension


  • [SLIDE 11] “…hands-on engagement with digital forms reorients the scholarly imagination, not because the tools are cool or new (even if they are) or because the audience for our work might be expanded (even if it is), but because scholars come to realize that they understand their arguments and their objects of study differently, even better, when they approach them through multiple modalities and emergent and interconnected forms of literacy. The ability to deploy new experiential, emotional and even tactile aspects of argument and expression can open up fresh avenues of inquiry and research” (121)
  • [SLIDE 12]Book vs. Database:
    • Book calls for linear organization
    • Database allows for tangents – allows us to “present multiple lines of thought in relation to the materials at hand and to invite others to join us in this process in extended collaboration and convention. Working with databases allows us both to present our arguments differently and to understand our materials differently. Thus, the database might itself be understood das an interpretive platformthat can support and extend the core methodologies of the interpretive humanities…” (121)
    • [SLIDE 13] Wunderkammer: even though it’s organized like a book, it allows for tangents, links etc.:
    • [SLIDE 14] Thinking/Making
  • [SLIDE 15: Korsakow] New forms of argumentation: “multiple, associative, digressive, even contradictory” (122)
  • “navigating new pathways through scholarly materials that can transform the questions scholarship might ask” (122)
    • [SLIDE 16] John Snow’s 1854 Cholera Map of London

These claims are not unique to the database!

  • [SLIDE 17: Audio/Video] “…imagine very different scholarly ‘outputs’at the surface of the screen – we might create powerful simulations, visualize space and time in compelling ways, or structure data that the user can then play like a video game, richly annotate on the fly, or capture and represent in interesting new ways” (122)
    • [SLIDE 18] Mark Kann’s “Deliberative Democracy and Difference” on Vectors:
  • STILL NEED A METHOD – Topic for next week!

Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0

  • [SLIDE 19] Process (research AND design!) over product! Collaboration, Interdisciplinarity, distributed networks of knowledge production
  • McPherson: “imperative that we be involved in the design and construction of the emerging networked platforms and practices” – design our own tools (123)
    • [SLIDE 20] Manifesto: “…not only to seek to understand and interrogate the cultural and social impact of new technologies, but to be engaged in driving the creation of new technologies, methodologies, and information systems, as well as in their détournement (turnabout, derailment), reinvention, repurposing, via research questions grounded in the Arts and Humanities: questions of meaning, interpretation, history, subjectivity, and culture” (6)
    • [SLIDE 21]: URT + Mapping the Social Life of Zines
  • “determining and designing the interface to information, data, and knowledge becomes just as central as the crafts of writing, curating, and coordinating” (7)
    • [SLIDE 22: Dr. Strangelove] Faden on Media Stylos: “In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of French critic and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc’s inspiring essay “The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: Le Caméra Stylo,” I began making short films and videos in lieu of academic conference papers. Astruc’s essay called for a new film practice that moved beyond both avant-garde abstraction and narrative story telling and embraced a full range of intellectual practicesfrom filming philosophy to emulating the 17th century literary essay.”
      • Would not advocate misrepresenting your presentation in a conference or workshop proposal – or aiming to alienate your fellow panelists
      • Still, Faden has taken cues from Astruc in thinking about film- or video-making as a means of thinking through theory, or creating media that critiques itself or its own process of construction
      • Mix of media formats and rhetorical modes
      • Allows for consideration of form in relation to content– format of argumentation parallels format of its subject
        • [SLIDE 23] Issues of FAIR USE
        • [SLIDE 24] SCMS Fair Use
  • [SLIDE 25] Evaluating Multimodal Work
  • [SLIDE 27] Communities of Digital Humanities-inspired graduate students: HASTAC:



  • Production faculty claim that the biggest problems with students production projects are (1) problematic conceptualization, which is related to weak writing and (2) sound design
  • [SLIDE 28: Book of Hours, 1460] Grad students tend to write in a way that constitutes what they think is “academic” writing
    • Gerald Graff, education historian, author of “Scholars and Sound Bites” in PLMA: “When students write ponderously and evasively, it is often not because they could not do otherwise, but because they are convinced that such writing is what their professors want” (1041)
    • Becker, sociologist well known for his work on “art worlds,” also addresses the compulsion grad students feel to “sound academic,” to put on a particular “writerly persona” – advocates for simplicity

[SLIDE 29] Toor on Orwell:

  • “A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”
  • Toor: 83 comments!

[SLIDE 30-31] Graff’s Tips:

  • “Be dialogical. Begin your text by directly identifying the prior conversation or debate that you are entering” (1050)
  • “Make a claim, the sooner the better, and flag it for the reader”
  • “Remind readers of your claim periodically, especially the more you complicate it”
  • “Summarize the objections that you anticipate can be made (or have been made) against your claim.” (1050)
  • “Say explicitly – or at least imply – why your ideas are important, what difference it makes to the world if you are right or wrong, and so forth” – “So what?” (1051)
  • “Generate a metatext that stands apart from your main text and puts it in perspective” – “I do not mean to suggest that…” “Here you will probably object that…” (1051)
  • “you are probably so eager to prove that you’ve left no thought unconsidered that you find it hard to resist the temptation to say everything at once, and consequence you say nothing that is understood while producing horribly overloaded paragraphs and sentences” (1051)
  • “Be bilingual. It is not necessary to avoid academese – you sometimes need the stuff… [Bu]
    try to say it in the vernacular as well” (1051)
  • “If you could not explain it to your [friends], the chances are you don’t understand it yourself” (1051)

[SLIDE 32] Most “tips” focus on the style, and take for granted the “how” – how to start a paper when you’re not given a particular assignment, a paper that might be longer than those you’ve written in the past, a paper that serves a different purpose than those you’ve written as an undergrad or for work…


[SLIDE 33] Moxley, Publish, Don’t Perish:

  • Audience Analysis
  • Purpose Analysis: reporting, critiquing, objecting, investigating, persuading?
  • Voice Analysis
    • Becker on Persona & Authority: speaking in imperatives, passive voice, etc
  • Process Analysis
    • “What are your writing rituals? What is the best time of day for you to write? Where do you like to write?” (Moxley 39)
    • Becker: “you have already made many choices when you sit down to write, but probably don’t know what they were” (17)


  • “…some academics believe that they are violating the rules when they write without an outline. Or, more sadly, when they cannot come up with an outline, some academicians fear that their idea is weak and insignificant, that they lack the critical thinking skills necessary to write well. In fact, recommending that one always outline before writing is based on the foolish assumption that thinking and writing are not related, that first one thinks and then one writes” (Moxley 27)
    • Becker: You needn’t work out everything before starting to write; “Writing can…shape your research design” (Moxley 18)
  • [CLICK]Freewrite Drafts: write without hesitation – “try to ignore critical thoughts and focus on generating ideas” (29)
    • Helps you “(1) develop ideas that you otherwise would not develop, (2) overcome the tightness and frustration associated with beginning new writing projects, and (3) create a flow that helps establish a voice in your prose” (29)
    • “…when you let your thoughts about the research flow, they often gain a forcefulness, a sense of directness and insight, that they otherwise might lack” (29)
    • “When reviewing your freewrites, identify the details that seem most significant. Put brackets around the sections that you believe are worth keeping.” (29)
    • Zinsser on Style
  • [CLICK]Dictate Drafts
    • “sometimes dictated drafts have a strong, natural voice” (31)
    • “can speak faster than you can write” (31)
  • [CLICK] Draw a Cluster Diagram
    • “Rather than trying to force your ideas into a formal outline, you can pictorially represent them on the page and then draw lines between ideas that seem somewhat related” (31)
    • Remember discussion on CONCEPT MAPPING
  • [CLICK] Draw a Pie Diagram
    • “…allows you to estimate visually how much tie you should spend addressing each aspect of your / subject” (31, 33)
  • [CLICK] Make a Formal Outline


  • Intro / Methods & Materials / Results / Discussion / Conclusion
  • Intro / Subheaded Sections / Conclusion – with Transitions!

Gregory Colon Semenza, Graduate Study for the 21st Century:


  1. The Controversy Paper: “claim that purports to end a controversy or debate” (93)
  2. The Textual Crux Paper: “for years readers have pondered the meaning of an ambiguous, unclear, or even a missing part of a given text…Your research leads you to a strong conclusion about the meaning of the problematic text or term..” (93)
  3. The Gap in Scholarship Paper: “in reading the scholarship about a particular subject, you are struck that no one has said anything about a related and seemingly important matter. You decide to widen the scope of the conversation” (93)
  4. The Historical Contextualization: “clarify the meaning of a particular work or explain its provenance, immediate reception, of influence on other contemporary texts” (94)
  5. The Pragmatic Proposal: “more interested in praxes than theory for its own sake” (94)
  6. The Theoretical Application
  • The “so what?” question + Situating your argument

MORE INFORMAL DH-INSPIRED FORMS OF ACADEMIC WRITING – Work through some ideas before formal publication

[SLIDE 39] Revision

  • Zinsser’s revised m.s.: pp. 10-11
  • Becker on necessity for writing multiple drafts – “writing need not be a one-shot, all-or-nothing venture. It could have stages, each with its own criteria of excellence” (14)
  • [SLIDE 40] Use of Writing Center

[SLIDE 41] Giving Credit Where It’s Due

  • Plagiarism – Don’t do it; honor the collective thought and creation that inspired your own thoughts – just as you would have others do to your own work
  • [SLIDE 42] Crediting Photos
  • Make sure you’re familiar with what constitutes academic honesty and dishonesty
    • “Piece-mealing” an argument is plagiarism
  • Style Guides


  • Each has affordances and limitations
  • Choice should be guided by what “tool” is right for the job (must cultivate “material consciousness”) – We’ll talk more next week about methods.
  • In this week’s discussion section, you’ll look at various platforms for multimodal scholarship.

IYLSSIF 4: The Order of Things

The fourth in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here, Part 2 Here, Part 3 Here; the lectures are unedited — hence, you might be a bit confused by a few inexplicable notes and slides about administrative issues]. We started off by describing the premise of the class; then discussed how students could find their own position within the program and the field; then helped students map that field, appreciate its breadth and the various intellectual and create traditions it draws from. Now we talk about practical methods for maintaining one’s orientation within the field and within one’s own work.

GUESTS: Video Lab Representatives: Alexandra Kelly, Anna Barsan, Ann Enzminger, Sarah Winshall

Questions from Last Week?

  • Reason I didn’t pay more attention to Frankfurt school and more contemporary theories in last week’s lecture – aimed to highlight theoretical traditions you wouldn’t hear about in your other seminars

Collecting, annotating, organizing, and processing research materials and opportunities for presentation and publication:

  • C. Wright Mills, “On Intellectual Craftsmanship,” Appendix to The Sociological Imagination, 40th Anniversary Ed. (New York: Oxford, [1959]2000): 195-226.
  • Reading Effectively” + “Note-Taking and Abstracting,” Words In Space.
  • Shannon Mattern, Introduction to “Notes, Lists, and Everyday Inscriptions” Special Issue The New Everyday (Fall 2010) [+ read any other articles you might be interested in]
  • Joseph M. Moxley, “How to Write Informative Abstracts” In Publish, Don’t Perish: The Scholar’s Guide to Academic Writing and Publishing (Westport, CT: Praeger 1992): 61-4.

Keeping Track of What You Read/Screen/Listen To – Taking Notes – Reading for Deeper Meaning (incl. Abstracting) – Keeping Track of Your Reflections on Reading

Keeping Track of What You Read/Screen

SLIDE 2: Portlandia, “Did You Read”

  • Pressure to read trendy texts – connect w/ last week’s reading on “heteronormativity”

Organizing/Notetaking was among top issues students said they wanted to talk about in an intro class – or that advanced students withed they had thought more critically about initially

Keeping Track of Your Sources: Left over from last week

Bibliographic Software

  • SLIDE 3: Reference Management Software Comparison Chart
  • SLIDE 4: Zotero  [4:03]
  • SLIDE 5: Delicious
    • Value of making “notes”
    • Potential closure/sale by Yahoo! – importance of knowing export capabilities

    SLIDE 6: Diigo [3:37]

Potential Problems of “Effortless” Annotation?

  • Promotes excessive highlighting

After Deciding What to Read and Citing It — Reading Tips

Before we start talking about annotation, let’s take a step back and talk about READING

  • SLIDE 7: Navigating Through a Text
    • Scan the chapter titles and index or, if it’s an essay or article, the abstract and subheads.
    • Read the article’s or book’s main introduction and conclusion, then return to the beginning and scan through, focusing on the introductory and concluding paragraphs in each chapter of the book or section of the article
    • Keep list of keywords
    • “expect not to get it on the first pass”
    • Sometimes necessary to read through slowly and patiently


Highlighting on Your Initial Pass Through a Text

  • SLIDE 8: Acrobat Reader
  • SLIDE 9: iAnnotate for iPad

Taking Notes

  • Choosing amongst these options requires that we reflect on how we organize our thoughts, and how we want software to help us become the more efficient, better organized, more productive note-takers we want to be.
  • Historian Ann Blair: methods and materialities of note-taking shape modes of thought and argumentation
    • SLIDE 10: Pen, paper, index cards
    • SLIDE 11: Moleskine
    • Text doc w/ thematically or bibliographically organized notes
    • SLIDE 12: EverNote
    • SLIDE 13: Scrivener
    • SLIDE 14: DevonThink


SLIDE 15: Leonardo da Vinci’s Sketchbooks

  • Visual studies or anatomy, flora, other natural subjects; some function as “lab notes
  • 1630s: attempt to organize notebooks by subject – resulted in destruction of original order
  • Lettering is quick, sloppy, often uses shorthand, sometimes written backward

SLIDE 16: Galileo’s sketches – value of graphic representation, concept mapping (discussed in “Finding Your Interests” guide you read for first class

SLIDE 17: Stan Brakhage Notebooks (in Beinecke Library @ Yale) – experimental filmmaker – often experimented with materiality of film – can see this interest reflected in his notebooks, which were assembled w/ his wife, Jane

SLIDE 18: Extreme Example: Buckminster Fuller’s (architect, inventor, futurist) Chronofile (Stanford University)  [4:33]

  • Large scrapbook in which Fuller documented his life every 15 minutes from 1915 to 1983
  • Contains copies of correspondence, bills, notes, sketches, news clippings
  • Total # of papers: 140,000

SLIDE 19: “Most children like to collect things. At four I started to collect documents of my own development as correlated with world patterns of developing technology. Beginning in 1917, I determined to employ my already rich case history, as objectively as possible, in documenting the life of a suburban New Englander, born in the Gay Nineties (1895)– the year automobiles were introduced, the wireless telegraph and the automatic screw machine were invented, and X-rays were discovered; having his boyhood in the turn of the century; and maturing during humanity’s epochal graduation from the inert, materialistic19th into the dynamic 20th century. I named my documentation the Chronofile. —From Synergetics Dictionary citing Citizen of 21st. Century, (U, or 0, Chap. 1), 1 Apr’67 (

“If somebody kept a very accurate record of a human being, going through the era from the Gay’90’s, from a very different kind of world through the turn of the century–as far into the twentieth century as you might live. I decided to make myself a good case history of such a human being and it meant that I could not be judge of what was valid to put in or not. I must put everything in, so I started a very rigorous record. —From Synergetics Dictionary citing Oregon Lecture #9, p.324., 12 Ju1’62

  • Fuller used it as a “working tool”: He would proceed in the following manner: finding that he needs, for example, to recall a person’s name (or a place, date, historical fact, etc.), he can easily proceed to retrieve a particular volume from the Chronofile which he intuits may reveal the needed information. This opens up that historical period like a time machine/ window which then allows him to rapidly proceed to the correct volume and letter(s) that clarify the issue at hand. (
    • Personal archive; organization not intuitive to others

SLIDE 20: Commonplace Book (early Modern – 14th – 18th c.)

  • Commonplace books are broadly defined as compendiums of adages, sententia, and examples. In the Renaissance, these collections of textual fragments culled by readers from a myriad of sources were embraced as memory aids and as rich storehouses of materials that might eventually be incorporated into composition of one’s own making.
  • The commonplace book participated in the transformation of readers into writers, laying the foundations for the author-centered genres that took shape in the early modern era.
  • collections of textual fragments gathered by readers and rearranged under common topics, including rhetorical topics (i.e. metaphors and similes), and moral topics (i.e., drunkenness and swearing).
  • Erasmus (16th c.): “One should collect a vast supply of words from all sides out of good authors… have a wealth of words on hand, [bu]
    …It will not be sufficient to prepare an abundant store of such words unless you have them not only at the ready but also in full view.”
  • Commonly taught to college students in 17th, 18th, 19th c. (Francis Bacon, John Milton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau)
  • Like blogs?: “…blogs are sometimes described as digital diaries, like commonplace books, their contents are often primarily or entirely comprised of images and texts culled from other sources.  … commonplace books and blogs are both products of collecting and ordering (archival practices) and reflect common understandings of authorship, intellectual property and subjectivity. In addition, both forms or forums are ambiguously situated between the public and private spheres.

While taking notes, you can copy individual passages, but you’ll also want to…

Read for Deeper Meaning

SLIDE 21: Peter Barry, author of Beginning Theory, offers some guidelines to keep in mind when we encounter intimidating readings:

Firstly, we must have some initial patience with the difficult surface of the writing. We must avoid the too-ready conclusion that [academic writing] is just meaningless, pretentious jargon (that is, that the theory is at fault). Secondly, on the other hand, we must, for obvious reasons, resist the view that we ourselves are intellectually incapable of coping with it (that is, that we are at fault). Thirdly, and crucially, we must not assume that the difficulty of theoretical writing is always the dress of profound ideas – only that it might sometimes be, which leaves the onus of discrimination on us. To sum up this attitude: we are looking, in [theory or other academic writing], for something we can use, not something which (sic) will use us. We ought not to issue theory with a blank cheque to spend our times for us… Do not, then, be endlessly patient with theory (pp. 7-8).

  • Refine your “crap detector” (Hemingway)

Using Secondary Sources

Processing & Reflecting on Your Reading

SLIDE 25: Linguist S. I. Hayakawa’s Abstraction Ladder (Language in Thought and Action)

Abstract Format

Marie desJardins:

  • SLIDE 26: To really understand a paper, you have to understand the motivationsfor the problem posed,…
    • historical, social, cultural, or professional context from which the author is writing, and to which he or she is speaking
    • What other ideas or texts is the author in dialogue with?
    • We might also ask how the author would have answered the “so what? question; how would he or she have explained to a reader why he or she should care about the argument in the text? Not all theory has to do things in the world – but we might consider what the theory might allow us to do, materially or symbolically, with it. What does it allow us to think through, to think with? What power does it wield?
    • the choicesmade in finding a solution,…
      • methods, or the sample the researcher chooses to draw from, or the theoretical framework he or she uses.
      • the assumptions behind the solution, whether the assumptions are realistic and whether they can be removed without invalidating the approach,…
      • future directions for research, what was actually accomplished or implemented,…
        • Are you planning to follow any of his/her leads?
  1. SLIDE 27: In two or three sentences, what is the central thesis of this work, or what is the major problem it is addressing?
  2. In two or three sentences, on what assumptions or points is the thesis of the work built, in logical order?
  3. What are the major terms or concepts central to this work, and how does the writer define these terms? Interrogate buzzwords. How are key concepts related to each other?
    • Could aid in your identification of keywords, which you’re asked to provide for the first assignment – to get you thinking about “search language”
  1. SLIDE 28: What are the methods of research and argumentation and kinds of evidence used to develop and support the thesis of the work? What research methods – content analysis, interviews, discourse analysis, fieldwork, etc. – did the author employ? What methods of argumentation, or rhetorical strategies, is he or she employing to make his/her case? How else could the argument be made? Is it sufficiently elaborated? How is he or she supporting his/her arguments?
  2. In your judgment, what are the limitations, shortcomings, errors, or weaknesses in the work – if there are any?
  3. In your judgment, what are the major contributions of this work to your understanding of the field and your specific research topic?
  • This template will evolve as you get more deeply involved in your research and discover what you’re asking from each of your sources, what you want to remember from each source. It’s a good idea to add these abstracts to your research journal/database – ideally, in a searchable format online – so, later on, you can easily search for patterns and keywords.

Abstract Applications

  • SLIDE 29: You may have noticed the abstracts at the top of many academic articles or essays; publishers will usually ask you to provide a brief (usually about 150 words) abstract with your submission. You need to know how to distill your argument and methods and explain the value of your contribution.
  • AS WE SAW LAST WEEK, You’ll also commonly be asked to submit abstracts as part of your application or proposal to participate in academic or professional conferences or festivals, or to have your work considered for inclusion in exhibitions or edited volumes. In these cases, you’ll need to be able to explain, in just a couple hundred words, what your work proposes to do, what methods you’re using, what key concepts you’re working with, in what traditions you’re working, etc. Organizers and editors have hundreds – if not thousands – of proposals to wade through, so you need to be able to get across the specificity and soundness and potential value of your proposed project quickly and clearly.
  • Abstracting your own work, as Moxley says, “makes you focus on what is important” (63) – forces you to “reevalut[e] your logic and…defin[e your] purpose” (63-4) – helps you “gain a firmer hold, a tighter perspective, on the nature of your work” (64)

You’ll practice writing abstracts in this week’s discussion section, in preparation for your first assignment, due in two weeks. This assignment, like all of your assignments of this class, should be used to support your independent work or your work in other classes. Each of these exercises has applicability outside the context of this class.


  • Importance of connecting your interests to the field’s needs and conventions
  • Media studies is a flexible field, as we discovered in our second week in class, but it’s not a bunch of drummers drumming to their own beats
  • For this class, you can choose to tailor your assignments so they help you pursue a project that’s personally interesting – one that would benefit from the skills we’re practicing here: abstracting, literature reviews, various kinds of proposal writing
  • You might have a project that’s so personally meaningful that you don’t want to tie it up in academic conventions. In those cases, it’s best to pursue that work outside the context of grad school or the academy – to make that your personalwork.
    • Even academics and practitioners have to make these decisions – what’s professional work, and what’s personal work.

SLIDE 30: Abstracts + Keywords: Due October 10

We’ll talk in class about different applications and practices of abstracting, and your work in your discussion sections should prepare you to try your hand at writing abstracts of texts you’re reading either in your independent research or for your other classes. If you choose to dedicate this assignment to other course texts (e.g., assigned readings for your Ideas section), we’d still encourage you to choose texts that bear some relevance to your own research interests, so this assignment can potentially feed into a larger project in the future. Your task is to write one 300-word abstract of an academic journal article or essay, and one 600-word abstract of an academic book. (Don’t know what constitutes an “academic” publication? There are plenty of web resources that will help you figure it out – and if you still don’t get it, ask your Instructor). You’ll undoubtedly find that some essays and articles – especially those in scholarly journals – already contain abstracts. And of course books feature blurbs on their dust jackets and their Amazon profiles. Your challenge is to write new abstracts that not only crystallize what you regard as the primary arguments, key concepts, methods, etc., of the texts, but also address their value in relation to your own particular projects and general research interests. These abstracts should be the kinds of documents that you’d want to keep in your “file” (Mills) – your research database – for future reference. When you want to refresh your memory about a particular text and your impression of it, it’ll be much easier to review a one-page abstract than to skim through the entire text.

SLIDE 31: Please integrate your two abstracts into a single file, and label it [LastNameFirstName_Abstracts], so it’s easier for your Instructor to keep track of everyone’s assignments.

Over the course of the next several weeks, you’ll be applying your abstracting skills to lots of additional texts that will eventually coalesce in your literature review. We want you to start thinking now about what key terms will guide your search for these additional resources. The two texts you’ve already abstracted have likely sparked a few ideas. Please include in your abstract document (perhaps posted at the end) a list of five to seven keywords that will help to structure your future research for this class. These can be topical, theoretical, methodological, etc; a good list would likely include a mix of theoretical concepts, proper names, temporal identifiers, etc. Lots of published academic articles include a list of keywords on the front page; they’re there to help researchers like you find them! You can look to these publications for examples of how to put together a good, useful list.

SLIDE 32: Annotated Bibliography of Scholarly Resources: Due November 7

This project gives you a chance to identify and review a variety of scholarly resources that pertain to your research interests, and to collate your summaries of and responses to those resources. Think of this as an alphabetized collection of abstracts. It’s a stepping stone on the way to your literature review, which will take all or most of the resources you’ve listed and annotated here, and “process” them into something that’s more than a mere listing. The bibliography should contain no fewer than eight scholarly sources. You’ll need to provide a full bibliographic citation (choose a citation format that best fits the type of work you’re doing and the type of scholar-practitioner you want to be) and an annotation, of no longer than 300 words (fewer – say, 150 – is fine!), for each. These annotations should do the same work that your abstracts did: they should crystallize and critically reflect on your sources. Please label your file [LastNameFirstName_AnnotatedBibliography].

One Way to Keep All This Material Together, and Integrate It With More Informal Notes, Sketches, etc…

SLIDE 33: Keeping a Research Diary

Remember: Mills was writing to sociologists – but we can apply his advice to ourselves



SLIDE34: “Your notes may turn out, as mine do, to be of two sorts: in reading certain very important books you try to grasp the structure of the writer’s argument, and take notes accordingly; but more frequently, and after a few years of independent work, rather than read entire books, you will very often read parts of many books from the point of view of some particular theme or topic in which you are interested and concerning which you have plans in your file. Therefore, you will take notes which do not fairly represent the books you read. You are using this particular idea, this particular fact, for the realization of your own projects.” (Mills)

SLIDE35: “You will have to acquire the habit of taking a large volume of notes from any worth-while book you read… The first step in translating experience, either of other people’s writing, or of your own life, into the intellectual sphere, is to give it form….

Adding your own thoughts to your notes on others’ work…

SLIDE36: As a social scientist” — or, more generally, as a researcher, as a media-maker, as an artist, etc. — “you have to control this rather elaborate interplay [between your past, present, and future], to capture what you experience and sort it out; only in this way can you hope to use it to guide and test your reflection, and in the process shape yourself as an intellectual craftsman. But how can you do this? One answer is: you must set up a file, which is, I suppose, a sociologist’s way of saying: – keep a journal” (Mills)

In such a file as I am going to describe, there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned. In this file, you, as an intellectual craftsman, will try to get together what you are doing intellectually and what you are experiencing as a person. Here you will not be afraid to [SLIDE37] use your experience and relate it directly to various works in progress. By serving as a check on repetitious work, your file also enables you to conserve your energy. It also encouraged you to capture ‘fringe-thoughts’: various ideas which may be by-products of everyday life, snatched of conversations overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience.” (Mills)

  • Check on repetitious work: should be searchable
  • Recall lecture during our first on-site meeting: regarding personal experience as source of insight

“Any working social scientist who is well on his or her way ought at all times to have so many plans, which is to say ideas, that the question is always, which of them am I, ought I, to work on next? You should keep a special little file for your master agenda, which you write and rewrite just for yourself and perhaps for discussion with friends.” (Mills)

SLIDE38: “Under various topics in your file there are ideas, personal notes, excerpts from books, bibliographic items and outlines of projects…. [S]ort all these items into a master file of ‘projects,’ with many subdivisions. The topics, of course, change, sometimes quite frequently.” (Mills)

“By keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to [SLIDE39] keep your inner world awake. Whether you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications, show yourself either how foolish these feelings or ideas are, or how they might be articulated into productive shape. The file also helps you build up the habit of writing. You cannot ‘keep your hand in’ if you do not write something at least every week. In developing the file, you can experiment as a writer and thus, as they say, develop your powers of expression. To maintain a file is to engage in the controlled experience.” (Mills)

SLIDE40: “…the use of the file encouraged expansion of the categories which you use in your thinking. And the way in which these categories change, some being dropped and others being added is an index of your intellectual progress and breadth.” (Mills) – keywords evolve!

Outline a project: “the idea and the plan came out of my files… After making my crude outline I examined my entire file, not only those parts of it that obviously bore on my topic, but also those which seemed to have no relevance whatsoever. [CLICK] Imagination is often successfully invited by putting together hitherto isolated items, by finding unsuspected connections…. It is a sort of logic of combination, and ‘chance’ sometimes plays a curiously large part in it. In a relaxed way, you try to engage your intellectual resources, as exemplified in the file, with the new theme.” (Mills)  [mashup]

SLIDE 41: Reflective Journal for Artists & Designers (Carole Gray & Julian Malins)

  • ‘off-loading’ device: “allow[s] the learner to take stock, evaluate and ‘deposit’ ideas and feelings about the learning experience” (58)
  • dynamic – “a depository for a range of information in a range of media, which is added to and consulted on a regular basis” (59)
  • different types of info: activity and development log, diary, documentation of work in progress, contextual references, information about the pace and progress of work, key points from evaluation and analysis
  • Content
  • Bibliographic database
  • Project Glossary
  • Contacts + Correspondence
  • Contextual references: e.g., visual examples of other practitioners’ work, w/ discussion of what it is and why it’s significant
  • activity log: detailed records to allow for repeatability; may include visuals, photos, material samples, diagrams, data;
  • Video Diary
  • SLIDE 42: Document the failures – “Asking why a failure has occurred is liable to reveal much more useful information in research terms than contemplating ‘successful’ final outcomes” (60)
  • Evaluate the pace and progress of your work – e.g., key incidents, events, decisions, realizations
  • Brainstorm, think aloud, have insights, make decisions, make changes, what if’s?, plans for improvement

SLIDE 43: A lot of students and artists and scholars use websites to collate this material

A personal website – or through a “web presence” of some sort – is where you might connect this personal reflection to the “network”:

  • Remember from last week: several functions of professional site: as portfolio, as chronicle of your work, as a “file” for organizing your materials, as a writing “practice space,” as a reflection space, etc.
  • Margaret Kimball, “Your Blog Is Not Your Resume”
    • Manage your ideas; Develop goals; Practice communicating w/ various publics; Practice design skills; Connect w/ others

DETOUR: Software to Help w/ Project Management

SLIDES 44-46: Google Tasks/Queues; Remember the Milk; Things

SLIDE 47: Life Hacker

SLIDE 48: Prof Hacker (first week’s readings drawn from here)

SLIDE 49: Getting Things Done (Management consultant David Allen)

Back to Websites: Websites also aid with…

Connecting the personal to a public responsibility…

SLIDE 50: Venessa Miemis

SLIDE51: Brian Eno (innovator of ‘ambient music,’ composer, produer) at 1995 Turner prize acceptance speech chiding artists for not explaining themselves CLICK / CLICK

SLIDE52: Brian Eno’s A Year With Swollen Appendices (Faber & Faber, 1996)

  • Diary of 1995: producing albums by David Bowie and JAMES, working with U2, organizing a record/concert and a fashion show as charity work for Bosnia, directing art installations
  • Appendices, on orange paper, w/ “pet theories, obsessions” and ‘germs’ of projects

SLIDE53:  “Do very hard things, just for the sake of it.

Try to make things that can become better in other people’s minds than they were in yours.

A few years ago I came up with a new word. I was fed up with the old art-history idea of genius–the notion that gifted individuals turn up out of nowhere and light the way for all the rest of us dummies to follow. I became (and still am) more and more convinced that the important changes in cultural history were actually the product of very large numbers of people and circumstances conspiring to make something new. I call this “scenius”–it means “the intelligence and intuition of a whole cultural scene.” It is the communal form of the concept of genius.

Following on Eno…

SLIDE54:  “…in taking the decision to embark upon postgraduate work, you have:

  • Acknowledged that you don’t know something, which is why you want to do some research in order to learn and discover new things;
  • Assumed a position of humility – essential for learning anything;
  • A genuine desire to carry out the research to the best of your ability with integrity and honesty;
  • Accepted the formal framework of academic research, complete with its ethical obligations (Gray & Malins 69) – Remember what I said earlier about some projects being better suited for work outside the academy or the professional world.

Social Obligations

SLIDE55:  “A widespread, informal interchange of such reviews of ‘the state of my problems’ among working social scientists is, I suggest, the only basis for an adequate statement of ‘the leading problems of social science.’…. Three kinds of interludes – on problems, methods, theory – ought to come out of the work of social scientists, and lead into it again; they should be shaped by work-in-progress and to some extent guide that work. It is for such interludes that a professional association finds its intellectual reason for being.” (Mills)

  • Field is defined by its practice

SLIDE56:  You’re about to practice the conventions of abstracting. Next week, we’ll explore conventions of writing and multimodal production, and after that we’ll address methodology. In the following weeks, you begin to meet various faculty, who will examine how they define the “state of their problems”


  • Basil B. Bernstein, Sally Power, Peter Aggleton, University of London Institute of Education, Julia Brannen, Andrew Brown & Lynn Chisholm, A Tribute to Basil Bernstein, 1924-2000(London: Institute of Education, 2001).
    • Kate Eichhorn, “Archival Genres: Gathering Texts and Reading Spaces” Invisible Culture 12 The Archive of the Future / The Future of the Archive (May 2008):
    • Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices: The Diary of Brian Eno (Faber & Faber 1996)
    • Carole Gray & Julian Malins, Visualizing Research: A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004)
    • S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action (New York: Harcourt, 1949)
    • Malcolm McCullough, Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996)
    • C. Wright Mills, “On Intellectual Craftsmanship,” Appendix to The Sociological Imagination, 40th Anniversary Ed. (New York: Oxford, [1959]2000): 195-226.
    • Joseph M. Moxley, “How to Write Informative Abstracts” In Publish, Don’t Perish: The Scholar’s Guide to Academic Writing and Publishing (Westport, CT: Praeger 1992): 61-4.

IYLSSIF 3: Mapping the Field

The third in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here, Part 2 Here; the lectures are unedited — hence, you might be a bit confused by a few inexplicable notes and slides about administrative issues]. We started off by describing the premise of the class, then discussed how students could find their own position within the program and the field — and now we hope to help students map that field, to appreciate its breadth and the various intellectual and create traditions it draws from. Be forewarned: this one’s epic.




  • Oz Skinner
    Conferences/ CFPs
  • Mobility Shifts

Professional Websites

  • Also a place where some people post reading responses, research notes, inchoate ideas


  • Library Research

SLIDE 3: Conferences

  • OZ SKINNER re: Critical Themes
  • Reference “Conference Tips” guide
  • SLIDES 4-7: CFPs
    • Value of learning to write abstracts
    • Listservs
    • Look for professional organizations (recall last week)
    • Talk to advisors who share your interests

SLIDE 8: Professional Website

  • Increasing # of academics have “web presence.”
  • Many of our faculty think it should be obligatory for our students to have one, too (as is required in Parsons’ MFADT)
  • Instead of requiring you to create a website, for now, we simply want you to consider whether or not – and if so, how – you want to a “public professional presence”
    • Independent Exercise: Creating Public Persona
  • Several functions: as portfolio, as chronicle of your work, as a “file” for organizing your materials, as a writing “practice space,” as a reflection space, etc. – we’ll talk more about this next week
    • SLIDE 9: Jenkins:
    • Recall Jenkins’ discussionof the value of blogging to his students at MIT
      • Cultivate reputation as “public intellectuals”
      • Get feedback on work
      • Space for “just-in-time” scholarship
      • Window on the work of the university, the process of research
        • Post out-takes from publications
  • Margaret Kimball, “Your Blog Is Not Your Resume”
    • Manage your ideas; Develop goals; Practice communicating w/ various publics; Practice design skills; Connect w/ others
  • “Opening up,” making transparent, our work as scholars/artists/producers – justifying our existence, making clear why we deserve public support, funding, etc.

SLIDE 10 Jonathan Sterne

SLIDE 11 Sterne’s PERSONAL site: SuperBon

SLIDE 12 Kathleen Fitzpatrick

SLIDE 13 Jentery Sayers

SLIDE 14 Jesse Shapins

SLIDE 15 Tanya Toft

SLIDE 16 Wordsinspace

  • If time allows, you’ll look more closely at some of these sites in your discussion sections this week.
  • If you know of other exemplary grad student sites, please tell me about them!

You can find out about new work in the field via social media – new forms of networking – but alos via old-fashioned library research

SLIDE 17 Library Research

Recap of what we were to have discussed last week

Tour of Library Resources: Library Website

  • Please review FINDING SOURCES guide
  • Ask a Librarian / Library Events / Reference Appts
  • Google will not show everything – consider algorithms, fact that much research material is behind paywalls
    • Need to combine Google with other database searches!
    • And yes, we still need to GO TO THE LIBRARY
    • Search for Books in Google Books, Bobcat
      • May need to go to Bobst!
      • ILL
      • Electronic Resources
        • Periodicals Searcher    
        • What if there’s no full text in library databases? Go to NYU computers, search for hard-copy or request ILL
        • Library Research Services!

Moving on to this week’s lesson…

SLIDES 18-23 Library Resources Consulted for This lesson


  • Opportunity for Institutional Critique
  • Important to know this material – commonly integrated into intro classes
  • There are times when students’ lack of familiarity with the field’s terrain becomes a problem – e.g., thesis proposals, even proposals for seminar/studio projects (e.g., students commonly propose to study “effects,” or propose new theories – e.g., information theory, visual studies – that already exist

MAPPING THE FIELD IS A POLITICAL ACT – What you include/exclude says much about how you define the field

SLIDE 24  Daniel K. Wallingford, A New Yorker’s Idea of the United States of America, 1939

SLIDE 25  Saul Steinberg, View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1976

Cartographic historian Matthew Edney: “each map’s character is determined by the context within which the map was made and used, a context formed from an amalgam of social needs, power relations, and cultural conventions.” (Ackerman & Karrow 121)

SLIDE 26  Nina Katchadourian: Austria, dissected paper map, 6 x 9 inches, 1997

Austria describes itself as “the heart of Europe.” This photograph shows the entire Austrian road network, dissected from a paper map and formed into the shape of a heart (

  • How much context does one provide in a map?

SLIDE 27 Mark Lombardi, Bush Market, 1999

Historian Susan Schulten, on maps of America: “the most powerful maps in the nation’s history have been tools of exploration and discovery, statements and projections of national coherence and power, and instruments to explain the fundamental shift in spatial understanding brought by the modern era.” (Ackerman & Karrow 205)

SLIDE 28 Situationist Maps: Guy Debord, Naked City, 1957; Constant Nieuwenhuys, Symbolische voorstelling van New Babylon (symbolic representation of New Babylon), 1969

SLIDE 29 William Faulker, Map of Yoknapatwpha County from Portable Faulker, 1945; another version in Absalom, Absalom, 1936

SLIDE 30 Matthew Bennett, Mayberry

Cartographic librarian and historian James Ackerman distinguishes between the itinerary map: “primarily concerned with the representation of a single route or corridor of movement” – and the network map, which “describe[s] an entire system of routes or pathways within a place, region, or country” (Ackerman & Karrow 39)

  • You need to map out some itineraries that can help you find your way through the network of our field

Personal – Place-based – Representations

Recall from last week: SLIDE 31 Map of Tenderness (Carte du Tendre) Sentimental Geography

  • Inspired by Clelie, Historie Romaine, novel by Madeleine de Scudery (1607-1701)
  • Topographic allegory, representing stations of love as if real paths and places

SLIDE 32 Giuliana Bruno, film historian, in her Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, simultaneously traces the spectator’s — the moving, feeling, gendered subject’s — engagement with cinema and cinematic spaces; while she also retraces the history of cinematic apparatus, filmic space, and exhibition

As we plot out our own itineraries, we need to know what terrain we’re working within – What’s the Map of Media Studies?

SLIDE 33 What’s the Map of Media Studies?

  • Liberal Education Tradition
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Design Education

Important to remember that media studies is part of the tradition of liberal education

History Of Liberal Education:

SLIDE 34 Diderot’s Systême figuré des connaissances humaines, Encyclopédie, 1851 (figurative system of human knowledge)

SLIDE 35 Rafael, School of Athens, 1509-10

  • Plato gestures upward, symbolizing ethereal realm of eternal forms; Aristotle holds arm parallel to ground, symbolizing the concreteness, the worldliness, of his contribution

SLIDE 36 Aristotle’s Politics, Book VIII: “there is a kind of education in which parents should have their sons trained not because it is necessary, or because it is useful, but because it is liberal and something good in itself”; “To aim at utility everywhere is utterly unbecoming to high-minded and liberal spirits” (Roosevelt 3)

  • In general, liberal education is associated with “broad knowledge,” “transferrable skills,” ethics, and civic engagement
  • Smacks of elitism – but in an ideal world, all would have an opportunity to partake in this sort of education

SLIDE 37 Aristotle Educating Alexander

“The amount of ‘useful’ knowledge imparted to young people, Aristotle goes on to explain, should ‘never be large enough to make them mechanically minded.’” (Roosevelt 3)

“Liberal education was conceived of as having an ethos that contrasted with and in some ways counteracted the ethos of the marketplace.” (Roosevelt 3)

“The assumption was that the polity required forms of knowledge and habits of mind that were different from the forms of knowledge and habits of mind required by the economy.” (Roosevelt 3)

    • You are more than your profession. Of course it’s great if you learn knowledge and skills as part of your liberal education that can be applied in the workplace – but we need to remember that that knowledge is ours, not the marketplace’s

SLIDE 38 Laurentius de Voltolina, Liber ethicorum des Henricus de Alemannia, Einzelblatt, 14th c.

Political aims of liberal education flourished during Roman Empire (Cicero), replaced by religious aims of medieval scholasticism

SLIDE 39 Seven Liberal Arts

“Medieval universities taught the seven liberal arts: the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) (Peters)

SLIDE 40 Kant Lecturing (Königsberg, 1755-96)

Kant’s The Conflict of the Faculties: argued against graduate education in 18th c. Prussia in which there was a “lower” philosophical faculty and “higher” faculties of theology, law, medicine; Kant “argues that since philosophy is concerned with truth and reason, it is philosophy that should provide the standards with which to judge the ‘higher’ professional schools”; “philosophy is needed both to demystify and to judge the direction of the disciplines that are closest to the seats of power – in Kant’s world, church and state” (Roosevelt 4)

  • “The liberal arts are essential to civic life, for they alone can nurture the skills of critical thinking and objectivity necessary for judging the powerful commercial forces that affect our lives” (Roosevelt 4)

SLIDE 41 Diderot’s Encyclopedia, 1750- (Memory, Reason, Imagination; History, Philosophy, Poetry)

SLIDE 42 Weitsch, Alexander von Humboldt Portrait, 1806

“the humanities date from the early nineteenth century, when universities were taking shape as institutions of research, as initially associated with the Humboldt tradition in Germany… The understanding of knowledge as a product of research had been preceded by at least two alternative conceptions of knowledge, either as self-awareness (Delphi Oracle: ‘know thyself’) or as traditional learning, administered and passed on by a class of learned people” (Jensen)

19th c: university rationalized into the social sciences: history, economics, sociology, psychology, political science, and anthropology (Peters)

Late 19th c: founding many large private universities, inspired by German models and devoted to scientific method and specialized research; “stress on specialization and the free electives system increasingly came to be seen as creating a ‘political as well as an intellectual empty space’” (Roosevelt 5) –

SLIDE 43 Meanwhile, Thorstein Veblen (economist/sociologist who taught at TNS) critical of underlying ‘pecuniary’ purposes of American universities

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION – companion to or competition for liberal arts?

Robert E. Lee started first journalism program at Washington & Lee in 1868; positioned “printing as an adjunct to a curriculum in the classics” (Sloan 3)

“In many of its incarnations, journalism has had a disciplinary status closer to that of law or medicine than to art history or literary studies” – “Its functionalist research orientation …made it instrumental in the definition of the ‘new’ social science discipline of mass communication, where it was joined by radio and television, but not, with a few notable exceptions, film.” (Uricchio 26-7)


How media studies arose from that newly rationalized university

The most common story about media studies

Cultural Context for Rise of Social Science: SLIDE 45 Newspaper Row, 1873-5

Mid 19th – early-20th c: Modernity + Mass Society: industrialization, urbanization, modernization increase social differentiation and psychological isolation (Fascism, Nazism); mass refers to a “distinctive pattern of social organization” (Lowery & DeFleur 11)

SLIDE 46 Early Press + Movie Theaters

“by the second decade of the twentieth century, three distinct mass media waves had swept across the western world in quick succession, fundamentally altering the exercise of state power, the construction of the citizen, and public memory itself.

  • The cheap rotary press,
  • film, and
  • radio…”

media occupied an increasingly significant part of the information infrastructure essential to the functioning of democratic governments and the capitalist system” – Hitler’s Germany of Stalin’s Soviet Union (Uricchio 26)

Later 20s: “moralists and critics had posted warning about the effects of the popular press” thru 19th c. (17);

Great War: “American way of life seemed to be deteriorating” – blamed, in part, new motion pictures (18) – “people were concerned about the problem of media audiences (Lowery & DeFleur 18)

Development of Tools of Research: prior to 20s, there was “little in the way of systematic investigation of the effects of mass comm. w/in what we would today call a scientific perspective” (14); “Communication research is an extension of the methodology and theory-building strategies of the social and behavioral sciences.” (Lowery & DeFleur 15, 18)

  • Durkheim’s numerical data on deaths by suicide
  • 20s: teaching of statistical techniques; birth of content analysis
  • Early 20th c: rise of sociology: Tonnies (gemeinschaft, gesellschaft)

30’s onward: “Sustained research in the field of mass communication and media studies”  (Williams 23)

SLIDE 47 Mass Society Criticism: 1920s-50s:

  • Mass media are a negative and disruptive force in society and should be controlled
  • Mass media have the power to directly influence the attitudes and behavior of ordinary people
  • People are vulnerable to the power of mass media b/c they have become isolated and alienated from traditional social institutions
  • Social changes brought about by disruptive influence of mass media will result in advent of more authoritarian and centrally controlled societies
  • Mass media bring about decline in cultural standards and values (Williams 29)

SLIDE 48 Propaganda Analysis and Public Opinion: inter-war years; Harold Lasswell’s Propaganda Techniques in the World War (1927); Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion (1922)

“[Walter] Lippmann’s Public Opinion is the originating book in the modern history of communication research” (Carey 22) – Lippman “established the tradition of propaganda analysis and simultaneously, by framing the problem not as one of normative political theory but as one of human psychology, opened up the tradition of effects analysis that was to dominate the literature less than two decades after the publication of PO.” (Carey 24)

SLIDE 49 Magic Bullet Theory as a point of departure – informed by Darwinian models, which portrayed media audiences as “irrational creatures guided more of less uniformly by their instincts” (Lowery & DeFleur 13)

  • Direct effects: hypodermic needle; magic bullet


Payne Fund Studies: “psychological field experiments conducted by Peterson and Thurstone to study the impact of exposure to one or more films on children’s attitudes toward social issues” + quantitative approach using “biographical technique to probe the influence of the movies on children’s daily behavior” (Lowery & DeFleur 381); “The movies did seem to bring new ideas to children, influence their attitudes, stimulate their emotions, present moral standards different from those of many adults, disturb sleep, and influence interpretations of the world and day-to-day conduct” – may have been true, since movies were so new (41); conclusions reinforced the “legacy of fear that had been kept alive by strident denunciations of the evils of propaganda during the same decade and by the widely held beliefs about the horrors of newspaper influence current during the late nineteenth century” (Lowery & DeFleur 41); used survey, content, experimental methodologies

CLICK: Radio Panics: War of the Worlds – of 6 million who tuned in, one million were panicked; study intended to focus on panic behavior, w/ mass communication not a primary interest

  • Invasion from Mars: Cantril’s multimethod study of “how the American public responded to Orson Welles’s ratio dramatization of War of the Worlds suggested…how to combine qualitative and quantitative methods…” (Jensen 156-70)


SLIDE 51 People’s Choice: Media in a Political Campaign: study of media influences on voters in Erie County, OH, during presidential election of 1940; “prompted a fresh look at social relationships as an important part of the mass communication process” (Lowery & DeFleur 383); innovated use of panel interviewing techniques

  • media reinforce rather than change people’s positions”; “overall, media serve democracy” (Jensen 156-70)

CLICK: Audiences for Daytime Radio Serials: uses and gratifications (Herzog) – differences between heavy and light listeners; uses: emotional release, satisfying wishful thinking, social depictions in play provided them w/ advice applicable in their own lives

CLICK: Experiments with Film Persuading the American Soldier in WWII: studies use of films for indoctrination and training films during WWII – see if films could change beliefs and attitudinal orientations of new recruits

  • Film experiments on American Soldiers: “series of experimental studies were conducted on Frank Capra’s Why We Fight films, asking to what extent they might not only provide information, but also shape attitudes” (Jensen 156-70)

SLIDE 52 Persuasion: Search for Magic Keys: learn how to change people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors – search for a systematic theory of persuasion

  • Yale Program of Research on Communication and Attitude Change (Carl Hovland); Found only short-term changes

CLICK: Personal Influence: 2-Step Flow: Katz & Lazarsfeld

  • Research agendas often shaped by issues raised in political debate; much commercial funding
  • Lazarsfeld’s Personal Influence study: funded by two commercial sponsors: McFadden magazine publisher and Roper polling organization – Lazarsfeld and Katz defined “two-step flow

SLIDE 53 Project Revere: Leaflets as a Medium of Last Resort – “understand ways of communication with large populations scattered into the hinterland from cities that would become targets if the unthinkable happened” (Lowery & DeFleur 387)

SLIDE 54 Television in the Lives of Our Children: Schramm – “focusing on the way children made use of television, the functions if performed for them, and the satisfactions or gratifications they derived from viewing”; children watched to be entertained, to acquire new info, to participate in social activities associated w/ viewing (Lowery & DeFleur 388)

CLICK: Agenda-Setting: McCombs and Shaw: media tell us not what to think – but what to think about

SLIDE 55 Violence and Media: social unrest during 60s: National Commission of the Causes and Prevention of Violence’s Media Task Force – “conclude that television had to be considered a possible contributing factor in explaining why there were so many forms of violent behavior in American society” (Lowery & DeFleur 391); extended in cultivation research

CLICK: First 50 years of research contributed to : demise of Magic Bullet Theory; Uses and Gratifications Theory; Agenda Setting Theory; Adoption of Innovation Theory; 2-Step Flow and Diffusion of Info; Limited Effects; Modeling Theory (people act out patterns of behavior – these depictions serve as imitable models); Social Expectations Theory (can learn norms, roles and other components of social organization from media); Cultivation Theory (George Gerbner – heavy viewers see world as more violent)

Meanwhile: SLIDE 56 Information Theory: Claude Shannon + Bell Labs – “A Mathematical Theory of Comm” published in 1948


SLIDE 57 Michael Delli Carpini: asked about origin of field: growth of mass media, fear of their propagandizing effects, concern about the stability of democracy, emergence of new technique for studying social phenomena; draws on traditions from humanities (e.g., rhetoric), social science (e.g., political science and anthropology), sciences (e.g., information technology, cybernetics, psychology) and professions (e.g., law, policy, journalism) (Dervin & Song)

SLIDE 58 Ron Rice, UCSB: concerns about propaganda from WWI and WWII; rise of audience research with introduction of radio; influx of European sociologists and social psychologists after WWII; growth of urban studies and concern over transformation of communities and rise of mass society; rise of grad education w/ GI bill; influx of immigrants (Dervin & Song)

CLICK: Barbie Zelizer, Penn: origins: post WWII, development of social science research councils, gravitation toward funded research on media effects, increasingly present role of media as new actor in public sphere (Dervin & Song)

SLIDE 59 James Carey calls this standard history a “sketch and a caricature” – there is “some truth” to it, but it’s also “powerfully misleading” (17). “[T]he standard history had, or at least was subsequently endowed with, a practical political purpose. It attempted to negate or at least deflect the characteristic critiques of modern, liberal, capitalistic democracies.” (18)

Mass society theory was a “straw man” – “the actual demolition often concealed the real intent behind the creation of work both the history of mass communication research and theory of mass society, namely, the attempt to contain and neutralize those intellectuals pursuing a critical theory of modern society, among whom the Frankfurt School, exiled in America, was merely the most prominent group” (Carey 19) – will address in your Ideas classes

SLIDE 60 Chicago Philosophy ClubChicago School of Social Thought: “The work of Dewey and his colleagues is often omitted from the standard history of mass communication research, but it, along with Lippmann and liberal theory (e.g., J. S. Mill’s On Liberty), provides the necessary linkage between the theory of the public and freedom typical of the nineteenth century and the theory of media effects typical of the twentieth” (Carey 24)” – pragmatism

            Pragmatic Foundations of TNS – as seen in 1925 Brochure

Daniel Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: “In the 1890s, a trio of American thinkers began the first comprehensive reckoning with modern communication in toto as a force in the social process. Charles Horton Cooley, John Dewey, and Robert Park each ascribed enormous significance to the sum of recent advances in media technology, and each placed the implications he saw at the center of his larger social thought. Together, they construed modern communication essentially as an agent for restoring a broad moral and political consensus to America, a consensus they believed to have been threatened by the wrenching disruptions of the nineteenth century . . . “(p. 91).

  • Chicago School Sociology: behavior best explained in relation to social constructs and physical environment

SLIDE 61 “The convergence of the three traditions in the late 1930s at Columbia was only a microcosm of a much larger and ragged debate in North America and Europe in the years between the wars about what we have come to call – with reluctance, enthusiasm, or habit – mass communication. A diverse company included Dewey, Walter Lippmann, George Herbert Mead, Lewis Mumford, Kenneth Burke, Margaret Mead, Robert Park, Harold Lasswell, Floyd Allport, Robert Lynd, Edward Bernays, Robert Merton, Lazarsfeld, I.A. Richards, F.R. and Q.D. Leavis, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Rudolf Arnheim, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Leo Lowenthal, and Antonio Gramsci, for example, all explored the meaning, in their ways, of new forms of mass culture. Thinkers of this period faced the economic, political, and spiritual fallout of World War I, the rise of mass production, fascist politics, broadcasting, audience measurement, public relations, and survey research, for example.” (Peters 137)

SLIDE 62 “Hopefully, the range of forefathers – and foremothers – will grow as inquiry is freed to take the best ideas from anywhere, regardless of provenance.” (Peters 138)



Media Studies draws from

  • Rhetoric (Western and Eastern)
  • Linguistics (e.g., Semiotics)
  • Literary criticism: biographical studies of major authors; historical approaches to artworks and their place in genealogy of styles, forms thematic; New Criticism (close readings of ‘the texts themselves’); formalism (“defamiliarize” reality); generative model of language
  • Hermeneutics (“clarify the nature and conditions of interpretation, with reference both to the text and to the activity of the reader” [21]; Ricoeur);
  • Phenomenology (“defensive reaction against the reductionism, in the form of either positivism of ‘psychologism,’ which was then seen to threaten a humanistic understanding of consciousness as a lived and interpreted whole; phenomenological tradition insisted on the unique qualities and insights of ordinary human experience; interpretive studies of social life; Husserl – “to the things themselves,” human consciousness, or intentionality, is always intentionality of something;
  • Art history: Gombrich provided tools for examining form, perspective, color, iconography in film and tv; Panofsky’s iconology; media studies took up art history’s only marginal interest in relationship between arts and their social context
  • Film Studies: “academic research on film from the outset defined it primarily as an art form”; “Growing out of literary studies in several national contexts, film studies have remained comparatively segregated from other media studies” (31); “Film scholarship remains characterized by its aesthetic research questions, its ‘textual’ analyses, and its grand theory” (32); constructivist and formalist traditions; realist tradition; the gaze; minor interest in film production and reception


Take One Example: SLIDE 64 Film School (arrived 1950s): you’ll read a historical text during our Film Studies Focus Area week

  • Film taught to illustrate other subjects; as an integral part of liberal arts’ commitment to moral/civic education (Decherney 451, 455)
  • Late 60s: “cinematologists” fighting for “recognition of cinema study as an autonomous discipline” (Grieveson 169)Film study would become part of the “liberal arts,” distancing itself from the mass culture debates of the 1950s and the fearful anxieties about the…politically deleterious effects of film as manifested in the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations of Hollywood.”
  • SLIDE 65 Film Taught in Seminar or Studio?

1979 Int’l Federation of Film Archives conference in Brighton, England: new film historians

SLIDE 66shift from medium-specific histories – film’s history in particular – to media history” – “Film’s own history and developmental trajectory, and its assumed agency with regard to ‘derivative’ media such as television, have been recast in the light of an array of precedent technologies, practices, and notions of mediation” (Uricchio 23)


SLIDE 67 Toronto School: Innis, McLuhan, Eric Havelock, Edmund Carpenter, George Grant

  • importance of media form; media structuring human mind and human cultures


SLIDE 69 Bauhaus + Vorkurs

  • Founded 1919 – same year as TNS
  • Foundational Course – abstractions + general design principles
    • Color, composition, materials, 3-D form
    • Language of Vision / Verbal Language
      • Graph / Grid / Translation / Figure
      • Drew from theories, like semiotics, that you’ll be exposed to in Ideas class
      • Demonstrates mutual influence of theory and practice
  • Desire to find “unity” among the arts; erasing boundary between craft and art training
    • One instructor teaches method/technique; another teaches “creativity” and formal language (Bailey)
    • SLIDE 70 Translation: “drawing correspondences between graphic, linear marks and a range of non-graphic experiences such as color, music, spiritual intuition, and visual perception” (Lupton & Miller); “exchanging symbols from one system with symbols from another”
      • Correspondences btw visual and verbal languages?
  • Likewise, our Concepts class fosters as “cross-platform” approach
  • Classes foster translation of argumentation between verbal, visual, sonic, etc.

Evolution in design education? (Bailey)

  • ACADEMY: Master-Apprentice model for craft + Academy-studio for fine art
    • Student possesses talent specific to discipline, learns technique by imitation
  • BAUHAUS: Group-workshop model
    • Students possess creativity that spans disciplines; method of teaching is invention, emphasizes formalism
    • Intro of Foundation Course of “general principles for all disciplines


SLIDE 72 “The boundaries of the field of communications have been unclear from the beginnings. Somewhere between the liberal arts/humanities and the social sciences, communications exists in a contested space where advocates of different methods and positions have attempted to define the field and police intruders and trespassers. Despite several decades of attempts to define and institutionalize the field of communications, there seems to be no general agreement concerning its subject-matter, method, or institutional home. In different universities, communications is sometimes placed in humanities departments, sometimes in the social sciences, and generally in schools of communications. SLIDE 73 But the boundaries of the various departments within schools of communications are drawn differently, with the study of mass-mediated communications and culture, sometimes housed in Departments of Communication, Radio/Television/Film, Speech Communication, Theatre Arts, or Journalism departments. Many of these departments combine study of mass-mediated communication and culture with courses in production, thus further bifurcating the field between academic study and professional training, between theory and practice” (Kellner 1995).

  • At TNS, you’re in the School of Public Engagement – defined by praxis and civic consciousness



Meyrowitz (1994): “no common understanding of what the subject matter of the field is” (qtd Williams 4)

Golding and Murdock (1978): “embracing a staggering and often unbounded range of interests and topics’ (qtd Williams 4)

Levy and Gurevitch (1994): “impression of a field that is everywhere and nowhere” (qtd Williams 4)

SLIDE 75 Rather than lament that communication isn’t one of the six social sciences, we should regard it as a “newer, nascent way of organizing inquiry” (Peters 132)

CLICK: “we cannot succeed in academia by imitating the established fields. We have to boldly strike out in a popular and interdisciplinary manner that runs directly counter to the dominant trends in the academy” (McChesney 100)

CLICK: Move from 3R’s – reading (input, decoding), ‘riting (output, encoding), ‘rithmetic (computation or processing) – rooted in post-war pedagogical models, to 4C’s: cognition, culture, control, communication – a model in which “communication might find a more distinct place among the social sciences, by virtue of its several theoretical and methodological subfields that would necessarily center on the exchange and flow of information quite apart from considerations of cognition and culture per se.” (Beniger 23)

SLIDE 76 “…disciplines are defined not by cores of knowledge (i.e., epistemologies) but by views of Being (i.e., ontologies) (Shepherd 83)

Disciplines are defined more by faith than knowledge; their beliefs and practices depend on views of Being which they witness, not cores of knowledge that they claim.” (Shepherd 84) – “Academic disciplines…are distinguished not by the parcels of existence that they study, but by the views of existence they afford.” (Shepherd 84)

CLICK: “…it is precisely the nature and purpose of disciplines and their disciples to forward a unique view of Being among all the alternatives and say, ‘There is something primary, or essential, about this particular view.’ Disciplines depend on disciples acting as advocates for the ontology they forward, making implicit and explicit arguments that their view ‘matters.’” (Shepherd 84)

Could conceive of communication as “cross-disciplinary,” achieving legitimacy through its association with other disciplines; as anti-disciplinary, just as much a rhetorical construction as any other discipline; or it could argue “for a definition of communication as foundational” and conceive of a Being grounded in communication, a life “communicationally constructed” (Shepherd 90)


SLIDE 78 “Our fields are defined less and less by the professional passport we bear than by the literatures (broadly defined!) we read, teach, and contribute to.” (Peters 133) — CLICK: … and by what we make – CLICK: FIELDS ARE DEFINED THROUGH THEIR PRACTICE


Recall: Historian Susan Schulten, on maps of America: “the most powerful maps in the nation’s history have been tools of exploration and discovery, statements and projections of [spatial] coherence and power, and instruments to explain the fundamental shift in spatial understanding brought by the modern era.” (Ackerman & Karrow 205)


Several key figures in our field have remarked repeatedly on the centrality of a “rigorous grounding in political and social theory, radical and mainstream” (McChesney 99) + general historical and cultural literacy

SLIDE 80 “New media literacies include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media…. [We] must expand [our] required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new.
Beyond core literacy, students need research skills…. Students also need to develop technical skills…. Yet, to reduce the new media literacies to technical skills would be a mistake on the order of confusing penmanship with composition….
As media literacy advocates have claimed during the past several decades, students must also acquire a basic understanding of the ways media representations structure our perceptions of the world; the economic and cultural contexts within which mass media is produced and circulated; the motives and goals that shape the media they consume; and alternative practices that operate outside the commercial mainstream” (Jenkins 19-20)

SLIDE 82 If we continue to view ‘making’ and ‘analyzing’ as mutually exclusive categories, then our students will never receive the full benefits of what media studies as a field of practices and knowledges has to offer.” (Hershfield & McCarthy 112)


SLIDE 83 Flexibility must be a valued characteristic of communication workers, and generating flexibility requires a different sort of education than that needed to train somebody to fill a slot. The need for increased critical thinking skills cannot be underestimated… It is the ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information that will allow communicators to train themselves to take on future jobs… We must give our students a general communication education with a large conceptually based core of classes. There will still be a place for classes that give students technical skills for entry-level jobs, but these must be subordinate to classes that teach critical thinking, law, history, mass media and society, international communication, and so on.” (Shoemaker 150-1)

SLIDE 84 O’Grady: CLICK: Media studies = “the exploration of the creation, the aesthetics, and the psychological, social, and environmental impact of the art forms of photography, cinematography, videography, radio, recordings, and tapes within the broad framework of general education in the humanities” — CLICK the “new humanities” (O’Grady 116-7)

READ: O’Grady’s Model for Media Studies Curriculum: instruction in “new image-making technologies…while simultaneously being exposed, through film rentals, slide collections, and exhibitions, to the best work of the past and present”; “discussions of theory and aesthetics; topics not ‘taught’ as formal units but regarded as perpetual and ultimate concerns. This whole process of viewing, making, comparing, debating was conceived as one undivided…stream of creation” + instruction in “humanities – literature, philosophy, music, and the fine arts – the experiencing and formal analysis of the great texts, compositions, and art works from the beginning of civilization to the present” – “image-makers…should be rooted in the ways in which man had imaged forth himself and his concerns in the traditional media which continue to be lively and influential.” + behavioral sciences – “creators of media should be knowledgeable about and responsible for the psychic and social consequences of their work” (O’Grady 123) + community involvement


Stuart Bailey in “Towards a Critical Faculty,” on Future of Design Education:

  • SLIDE 85 “open discussion about the very nature of being a contemporary artist/designer…; involve direct connections – lectures, seminars, etc. – to the wider humanities disciplines”
  • foster “engaged discussion as part of a historical and theoretical continuum rather than the regular ego-feeling value-judgments of the group or individual crit”
  • SLIDE 86Educating reflexivity – teaching students to observe their practice from both inside and outside – offers students the facility to interrogate their potential roles and their effects”
  • Need to give students “the capacity to change the discipline itself, to completely define the state-of-the-art”
    • SLIDE 87 equipped to ask whether they
      • want to / ought to / refuse to
      • enter into / challenge / reject (the)
      • existing art & design world / industry / academic / market
  • Need to give students “the capacity to change the discipline itself, to completely define the state-of-the-art”

SLIDE 88 John Culkin, founder of Center for Understanding Media, which became our MA program; Culkin was its first director: “Media studies represents the arts and humanities in a new key.” (Culkin, on dept website)

  • “We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re certain it wasn’t a fish”
  • “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us”

IYLSSIF 2: Finding Your Place in the Field

The second in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online — in succession and unedited (hence, you might be confused by a few inexplicable slides and notes about administrative issues) — in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here]




  • Please review 8/29 videos if you haven’t already
  • Occupying the space in between theory & practice & management. Certain skills – research, writing, thinking about the appropriate form for your message/argument – are pertinent to all. So, when we talk about writing or research, we’re not speaking specifically of traditional academic applications.
  • You chose an MA – not MFA or MBA
  • Internal locus of control – This is your field – a field in which you have chosen to become a Master – you need to find interest in the things we’ll be talking about this semester.


  • Typical Grad Reading Assignment: 300-500 pp/week; you’re reading under 100!
  • FOR NEXT WEEK: Show listing on Ning & explain what each reading is; total volume is very much manageable



  • Brian Croxall, “An Open Letter to New Graduate Students,” ProfHacker, The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 19, 2010).
  • Mark Sample, “An Open Letter to Part-Time Graduate Students,” ProfHacker, The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 29, 2010).

The following address the creation of a research plan/agenda:

Academic agendas, like those in any other field of cultural production, are subject to fashion:

  • James S. Lambert, “Heteronormativity is Hot Right Now” The Chronicle Review (September 28, 2009). [yes, this is a parody!]

What research resources are available to help you find your place within the field?

  • “Finding Sources,” Words In Space.

DISCUSSION SECTION: This week you’ll consider some of the questions posed in the Intellectual Autobiography. How do they inform how you orient yourself within the field? How can you then publicly situate yourself within the field – via an online persona, publications, conferences, festivals, etc.?


You should’ve had some time to think about the two “open letters” from the ProfHacker blog on the Chronicle of Higher Ed. You can talk about some of these issues in your discussion sections if you like.

  • Some piece of advice mention PhDs – but nearly all advice is applicable to MA, too.
  • You’ll find that a lot of that advice is already represented in our syllabus
  • My biggest piece of advice: Make yourself knownacclaimed, not notorious. Participate. Get involved. Get to know faculty.


Next week we’ll talk about the “network” – today we’ll start with where you are – and how you can identify your own itinerary, before you figure out how your own itinerary links up with the network.

SLIDE 7 e.g., Asking yourself what you’re interested in – a component of the Intellectual Autobiography, a recommended activity that you’ll be talking about in your discussion sections this week, and encouraged to think about on your own

SLIDE 8 Calvino: Starting “from where you are”

Lindlof and Taylor (2002) say that “we problematize experience by noticing gaps and dislocations in our own explanations” of particular things or happenings (p. 74). “We might sense an incongruity, an irony, a contradiction, an ambiguity, or a mystery in a situation.”

“Or we find ourselves in a new situation, one that defies our ability to explain it. Or we imaginatively put ourselves in the place of others who are confused or mystified.”

“Or we experience moments that prick at our moral conscience.” (Lindlof & Taylor)

SLIDE 9 Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies Cards

SLIDE 10 Thumbprint: IDENTITY  |  CLICK Art of Looking Sideways

Colin Robson: “[r]emember that who you are has a central place in the research process because you bring your own thoughts, aspirations and feelings, and your own ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, family background, schooling, etc., to your research”… While this personal “baggage” is commonly regarded as “bias” that we must shed in order to achieve objectivity, Maxwell argues that “what you bring to the research from your background and identity” can be conceived as a “valuable component of research”; we should consider how to capitalize on our experiential knowledge (qtd in Robson, p. 50).

SLIDE 11 Sociologist C. Wright Mills (whom you’ll read in two weeks) regards one’s personal life as an invaluable resource for the “sociological imagination”:

…the most admirable thinkers within the scholarly community…do not split their work from their lives….[T]hey want to use each for the enrichment of the other….

What this means is that you must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you may work. To say that you can “have experience,” means, for one thing, that your past plays into and affects your present, and that it defines your capacity for future experience.

Yet we do not uncritically translate our autobiography into our scholarly or creative work. Mills continues: “To be able to trust yet to be SKEPTICAL of your own experience, I have come to believe, is one mark of the mature worker” (italics mine).

Many authors reveal the personal motivations for their projects in their introductions

SLIDE 12 Giuliana Bruno’s Self-Revelation

Atlas of Emotion (2002): cultural history of film and the arts; draws connections between seeing and traveling, connecting site and sight, motion and emotion

SLIDE 13 Madeline de Scudéry’s Carte du pays de Tendre – map of the land of tenderness – “This map of tenderness has accompanied me for years and, as an emotional journey, has done more than just propel the writing of this book. As a manifestation of my own sense of geography, it has come to embody the multiple trajectories of my cultural life, punctuating my inner voyage….

…[T]he complex levels on which Scudéry’s map engaged the exterior as an interior even include a specific figurative level: in a way, this map pictures a woman’s interiors and, from one perspective, resembles a womb….

…This point was made more ‘pregnant’ by the fact that I, as I proceeded in my scholarly observation of the terrain of a corporeal map, my own womb took center stage by growing tumors… In an uncanny turn of events, like the return of the repressed, the completion of this Atlas was delayed as I devoted myself to investigating alternative medical procedures to treat tumors… It was a quest that, on the surface, took me away from this book but in fact wrote ‘atlas’ all over me and contributed to a shift in orientation of my research. What began as a cultural history of art, travel, and film became a search for their intimate geography (Bruno 3)

Inspiration from others’ research – scholarly or popular

  • SLIDE 14 Promiscuous Ideas – Ways to use this….

How do you Gather Others’ Ideas? Publications + Conferences + ???

  • SLIDE 15 Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From  [4:07]
  • SLIDE 16 Perceived “holes in the literature” – requires know the field, which we’ll address next week, and a comprehensive literature review, which you’ll practice this semester
  • SLIDE 17 My Own Case: Inspiration from Annoyance w/ Others’ Research – not any particular person, but, rater, an overabundance of a particular kind of research
    • 1927: Siegfried Kracauer, Mass Ornament
    • 1936: Walter Benjamin’s “Work of Art” essay
    • 1977: Venturi, Scott Brown & Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas
    • 1993: Anne Friedberg’s Window Shopping: Cinema & the Postmodern
    • 1997: Deitrich Neumann’s Film Architecture: Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner
    • 1999: James Donald’s Imagining the Modern City
    • 2000: Anthony Vidler’s Warped Space
    • 2000: Bob Fear’s Architecture & Film II
    • 2000: Mark Lamster’s Architecture & Film
    • 2001: Mark Shiel & Tony Fitzmaurice’s Cinema and the City
    • 2003: Same authors’ Screening the City
    • 2004: Mitchell Schwartzer’s Zoomscape
    • 2006: Stephen Barber’s Projected Cities
    • 2006: Nezar AlSayyad, Cinematic Urbanism
    • 2007: Ranjani Mazumdar, Bombay Cinema
    • 2007: John David Rhodes, Stupendous Miserable City: Pasolini’s Rome
    • 2008: Juhani Pallasmaa, The Architecture of Image
    • 2008: Barbara Mennel, Cities and Cinema
    • 2008: Scott Mcquire’s Media City
    • Conferences: Cinema at the City’s Edge (U of Washington)
    • 2008: SCMS, Architectures of the Moving Image
    • 2009: Urban Screens Reader, Institute for Network Culture
    • Urban Encounters Conference
    • 2010: Eric Gordon, The Urban Spectator
    • 2010: Mapping the City in Film, Liverpool
    • 2010: Emerging Landscapes, Westminster

My Recent Publications

  • SLIDE 18 IAC Bldg
    • follows w/ the screen fascination, but intends to complicate the relationship between old and new media; the material and the immaterial – show that there’s a very material, grounded infrastructure underlying the “wired city,” the “screen city”
  • SLIDE 19 Architects’ interest in print publication – particularly alternative formats that produce “counter-publics” – zines, transforming blogs into “little magazines,” regarding the live event as a form of publication, etc.

Urban Media Archaeology [Archival Research]

SLIDE 21 Cable Map

SLIDE 22 Western Union Bldg

SLIDE 23 Bangladesh Wires

SLIDE 24 Tubes  |  CLICK Fiber Optic Cable Tubes

SLIDE 25 NY Journal  |  CLICK Serlio (Italian arch. from early 1500s)

SLIDE 26 Layering of Media Infrastructures

Reworking Others’ Work

  • SLIDE 27 Fletcher on Avoiding Cliches:
    • “I take a cliché and try to organize its forms to make it monumental. The difference is often not great, but it is crucial.” – Roy Lichtenstein
    • “Everything has been said before but because no one listens you always have to say it again” – Andre Gide, winner of Nobel Prize in literature
  • SLIDE 28 Man Ray on Improv: Art from Accident
    • cobbling things together; meeting the right people; jury-rigged equipment & happy accidents
    • “Invention is sometimes more like falling off a log than like sawing one in two.”

SLIDE 29 Conferences indicate current agenda – look at programs, abstracts, proceedings

  • You can of course participate in conferences yourself – addressed in “Research Agenda” reading and my “Conference Tips” guide – but even the conference programs and videos can serve as a good overview of what’s going on in the field at the moment
  • Mobility Shifts – you’ll skim through the program for next week
  • MIT conferences, lots of local grad student conferences
  • For recommendations of conferences in other fields – production or management-oriented – consult w/ faculty who work in those fields

SLIDE 30 Human resources – advisors, colleagues, fellow students

  • The Inside Higher Ed piece also focused on the value of consulting w/ faculty – and choosing classes wisely

SLIDE 31 Pragmatic Concerns: the relevance of your interests to the field, accessibility of the scene, availability of qualified and interested supervisors in your program, availability of funding


Even if you think you’ve already got it all figured out, Mills reminds us that it’s in our best interest to reflect on our interests and projects every now and then

Self-reflective questions:

  • SLIDE 32 Ways of Thinking

SLIDE 33 Brain Map

Is this idea congruent with my personal and researcher identities?” (Lindlof & Laylor 77) Am I post-positivist, a social constructionist, a pragmatist, an advocacy/participatory researcher? (We’ll talk a bit more about these labels next week, and when we discuss methods.) What is my purpose as a researcher: am I an explorer, a describer, an explainer, or an emancipator?

  • How strong is your interest? “Can I sustain my interest in this project over the long haul?” (Lindlof & Taylor, p. 77).
  • Do I want to frame myself as an expert on this subject?
  • Do I have the necessary methodological expertise to do what I plan to do? We’ll talk more about methods in a couple weeks.
  • How likely is it that I can complete this project with the time and resources I have available?

SLIDE 34 INTELLECTUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY helps you catalogue or map your “ways of thinking” – find your current position w/in the field – helps you make reasoned choices about theory and method

  • This should help you identify projects you might want to explore through this class – develop a tentative research agenda.
  • Inside Higher Ed advice on research agenda: creating one helps you identify what to focus on now, and what to defer to another day; agenda is not set in concrete
    • Use course work to advance your agenda – you’ll have an opportunity to do that here
    • Previous semesters’ students found the intellectual autobio a difficult – yet valuable – exercise. One student who works as a film exec developed a modified version and used it w/ her clients.
    • Not naval-gazing. Take a critical distance.
      • Distance not only from your personal investment, but also from the conventions of the field
      • SLIDE 35Be wary of trendiness and intentionally obfuscatory language
        • Chronicle parodic article: liminal, heteronormativity, empire, postempire, trauma, narratography, post-new formalism, posthuman, specism, fecism, culturality, hybridity, hybridism,
        • LINK:


How to Frame Your Interests as a Research Project

SLIDE 36 Author James Michener, known for meticulous research

  • Recall what I said in 1st lesson: Because all of you chose an MA – not an MFA or an MBA – program, you’ve signed up to study Media Studies w/in the tradition of the liberal arts.
    • Even some of our advanced students don’t seem to know about the electronic databases, or about how to identify scholarly sources – must keep reinforcing this.
    • Some of you might be hatching project ideas that are framed as “research” projects from the get-go
      • Challenge is to find where your interests intersect with the field’s needs and interests – how to frame your interests in language that the field, and its resources, “understand”
      • We find that lots of our students, though, need some help framing their more production- or management-oriented project ideas as research projects.
        • Not simply because it’s a requirement of the program – but because we believe, and we hope you’re convinced – that there’s much to be gained by learning through research, by allowing theory to inform practice.

 Media Management:

  • SLIDE 37 Two new books published by academic publisher Springer
  • SLIDE 38 International Journal of Media Management
  • SLIDE 39 I am not very management-minded, but I’ve found a lot of great research material in management/marketing/branding literature – especially in regard to how companies, and even nations, use graphic design, architecture, etc., to establish institutional identities.

 Film Production

  • Of course you’ll need to research the content of your productions and research existing productions on similar topics
  • But there’s also much to be gained in examining the academic literature on media production – and in exploring theoretical frameworks for your work
    • One field of “production” that’s been exceptionally eager to allow theory to inform practice is architecture.
    • We saw last week how practice at the Bauhaus was inspired by theory; lots of designers draw on media theory – e.g., flow, presence – to inform their design practice
    • SLIDE 40 Jrnl of Media Practice + Cinema Jrnl + CJ TOC

SLIDE 41 Creative Practice (Kentridge, Hamilton, Vonna-Michell

  • Lots of artists whose work is informed by theory and what we might regard as “academic” research – especially conceptual, performance, sound
  • We’ll talk more about arts research in our Methodology lesson in a few weeks.

Getting Our Hands Dirty

We’ll talk more about note-taking and managing resources in two weeks – but there are some stages of resource management that should take place at the moment you access the resources

Bibliographic Software

  • SLIDE 42 Comparison Chart
  • SLIDE 43Vimeo

Tour of Library Resources: Library Website

  • Please review FINDING SOURCES guide
  • Ask a Librarian / Library Events / Reference Appts
  • Google will not show everything – consider algorithms, fact that much research material is behind paywalls
    • Need to combine Google with other database searches!
    • And yes, we still need to GO TO THE LIBRARY
    • Search for Books in Google Books, Bobcat
      • May need to go to Bobst!
      • ILL
      • Electronic Resources
        • Periodicals Searcher    
        • What if there’s no full text in library databases? Go to NYU computers, search for hard-copy or request ILL
        • Library Research Services!

If You Love Something, Set It Free — Or, Why an Intro to Grad Studies Class?

Oh, boo hoo! “Set You Free” via Krystn Palmer Photography on Flickr:

In my previous post I mentioned that I’m worrying over one of the courses I’m teaching this term. I’ve decided that it would be liberating to simply throw out there, into the intergalactic Internets, the six lectures I deliver at the beginning of the semester. This might bore the crap out of my legions of loyal readers who wait with bated breath for my normally gripping posts, but I’ll willingly run the risk of slightly annoying you for the sake of offering something of potential value to teachers and grad students out there. I’ll post the lectures in succession, and unedited (hence, you might be confused by a few inexplicable slides and notes about administrative issues):



  • SLIDE 3]Helping students find fruitful connections between theory and practice, which, especially during the students’ first semester (and sometimes beyond), are separated into distinct classes. This bifurcation occasionally leads to students declaring, based on their experiences in these early classes, their identification as either “theory people,” “management people,” or “production people.” This course is intended to explain and model (through guest presentations) the potential gains of interweaving these various threads of the program. Stated ambitiously, the course is intended to embody the spirit of our program.
  • [SLIDE 4]You all chose an MA – not an MFA or an MBA – which indicates that you’ve bought into the idea of studying media studies within the tradition of the liberal arts. Some of you might be completely on-board, and you can take off running in this class. Others of you might be open to the idea of what we stand for, but might need a little guidance in seeing how theory and practice can come together. [Image: Sevel Liberal Arts – Trivium (Grammar, Dialectic [Logic], Rhetoric) + Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy)
  • [SLIDE 5]Most explicitly, we hope to cultivate an appreciation of how research skills and theoretical grounding can enhance students’ production work, and how working knowledge of media production can inform their understanding of theory. We also want to demonstrate that the relationship can be more than one of mutual support; it also has the potential to evolve into a relationship of convergence: theorization can become a form of practice, and practice a means of theorization.
  • [SLIDE 6]Helping students cultivate frameworks for processing — and questioning the assumptions of — the material presented in other content- and skills-based classes.
  • Helping students orient themselves and map a trajectory (or a dérive!) through an often overwhelmingly large and diverse program. In the past, students commonly expressed regret that they finished the program without recognizing the need to plan ahead in order to complete a thesis, that they didn’t have an opportunity to meet (and sometimes didn’t even know about) faculty in the program and across the university who shared their interests, or that they hadn’t thought critically about their course choices (including, in particular, their methods courses). This course aims to impress early on the importance of identifying useful resources and planning ahead.
  • [SLIDE 7]In the process, this macro-scale overview should help to demystify the curriculum and degree requirements – should help students understand the logic behind seemingly arbitrary requirements and regulations. – ASK QUESTIONS
  • We also want to impress the importance of commitment and engagement in graduate study; these two qualities that distinguish it from undergraduate study. Some graduate programs force this engagement by requiring comprehensive exams and making theses mandatory. We instead invite our students to be engaged by sharing with you, through this class and elsewhere, the ways you can be.
  • [SLIDE 8](Relatedly,…) Helping students identify opportunities – e.g., MA thesis, independent study, coursework in other divisions (Parsons, NSSR), internships, contact with faculty working in their areas of interest, participation in professional organizations or activities – that they can pursue over the course of their studies, and helping them to develop a feasible plan for achieving their goals.
  • [SLIDE 9]Helping students cultivate reading, research, and writing skills that will serve them well not only in UMS, but in their future classes – and even in the world beyond the MA program. In this course, we focus on helping students cultivate healthy scholarly and professional practices, to think critically about their working processes, and to become familiar with common academic and professional forms (e.g., the form of a literature review or a grant proposal), without expecting them to have yet mastered the content that fleshes out those forms.
  • Often resistance from students – yet faculty agree that these are areas in need to continual development!

There’s WIDESPREAD PRECEDENCE for this kind of course. Lots of grad programs – including large ones, like ours – have “Intro to Grad Studies”-type courses. In creating this course, we looked at how other universities taught their courses.

Also looked at pedagogy literature — I did a “literature review,” which you’ll practice doing in this class, on the transition to graduate education.

Found an inspiring article published in 2003 by a group of graduate students; it appeared in Pedagogy, a journal distributed by Duke University Press.

  • They called for an introductory graduate course that [SLIDE 10]“prepare[s] graduate students for taking an active role in shaping the future of the discipline” (Crisco et al. 372). This course would [CLICK](1) “survey the historical development of the field”; [CLICK] (2) “critically examine some of the key terms presently at the center of debates concerning the defining goals and purposes of the work” in the field; [SLIDE 11](3) “create a collaborative, explicitly intradisciplinary space within the department to explore the often competing commitments of our discipline and to articulate the stakes (individual, fieldwide, institutional, cultural) of the various approaches to reforming” the field; and [CLICK](4) “provide students with opportunities to locate themselves and their professional commitments in relationship to the field” (ibid. 369).
  • [SLIDE 12]These proposed course objectives map remarkably well onto those for UMS.
  • We’ll start off next week by reviewing the history of the field and some of its defining goals.
  • Over the following weeks, we’ll introduce you to many of the research resources in our field, and prepare you to seek out on your own more of the field’s historical and contemporary debates.
  • In the second half of the semester, through our guests’ presentations, we’ll address some of the key terms, defining goals, and stakes of their work, and the competing (or complimentary) commitments they represent.
  • Then, through the assignments, you’ll have an opportunity to “locate [yourself] and [your] professional commitments in relationship to the field.”

Studying how the field’s history and general goals map onto the work of the field’s practitioners, Crisco et. al, suggest, would [SLIDE 13]familiarize [students] with the rules, conventions, folkways, and habits of mind that inform the profession and the discipline” (363). Yet it also presents the field of media studies, and the various professions it represents (scholar, producer, activist, educator, manager, etc.), [CLICK]“as sites for institutional critique, not as idealized future spaces wherein fully realized and credentialized professionals do their work” (ibid.).3

[SLIDE 14]This program – and, on a smaller scale, this class – can offer you a space for institutional critique – critiquing not only media institutions, but also educational institutions

One central institutional structure that this program attempts to crumble is, of course, the boundary between theory and practice, between thinking and making.

[SLIDE 15]Joanne Hershfield and Anna McCarthy argue that “if we continue to view ‘making’ and ‘analyzing’ as mutually exclusive categories, then our students will never receive the full benefits of what media studies as a field of practices and knowledges has to offer” (Joanna Hershfield & Anna McCarthy, “Media Practice: Notes Toward a Critical Production Studies” Cinema Journal 36:3 (Spring 1997): 108-112.)

[SLIDE 16]Some of the questions we’ll be asking throughout the semester:

  • How can we, individually and collectively, think across media platforms about the relationships between traditional and new literacies?
  • How can we regard media technologies as tools for research, and how can we use those same tools as new means of disseminating our research findings to wider audiences?
  • How can we make sure these new tools for expression and argumentation are held to the same rigorous standards to which we hold more traditional forms of presentation, like scholarly writing?
  • How can we make sure our making is inherently analytical, and our analysis is generative?”

[SLIDE 17]I also examined how educational researchers talked about the pedagogical values of a class like ours – values that, as I hope you’ll see when we take a look at the syllabus, play out in the design of the class:

Michael Gunzenhauser & Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin: “Engaging Graduate Education”:

  • [SLIDE 18]“helping [students] identify and accomplish research projects that are personally meaningful” – “life-projects” (I won’t use that term)
  • We’ll talk more about finding ways to make your professional and personal interests converge in research and research-based production projects
  • What G & G-P do: “We do not encourage students to dwell on personal reflections about their subject positions, instead getting them to articulate the use and contribution of such reflections to their formation of research questions, their reading of the research literature, and their self-formation as researchers. By quickly getting students to engage in dialogue with relevant texts by other researchers interested in similar questions, we / wish to avoid solipsistic tendencies
  • [SLIDE 19]Draw on Crotty’s (1998) helpful distinctions between the terms “epistemology,” “theoretical perspective,” “methodology” and “method
    • Theoretical Perspectives: covered in Ideas classes
    • Methodology: introduced here, explored in depth in three credits of methods coursework
    • Epistemology: theory of knowledge – begin to ask yourself those questions here (objectivism, subjectivism, constructionism – Crotty)
    • “distinguish epistemologies from theoretical perspectives, to demonstrate their relation to each other, and to show how they inform methodological approaches
    • “In light of this epistemological and theoretical diversity, which expands with the proliferation of theory and method, graduate students have multiple options for positioning their own work. Students need facility with theoretical perspectives to engage prior research, synthesize it for their own understanding, and create methodological plans that serve their own projects.”
  • [SLIDE 20]Crotty: “scaffolded learning,” which he describes as “an approach to teaching and learning that, while careful to provide an initial framework, leaves it to the learner to establish longer term structures…. Students need considerable exposure to each element and a sense of how they fit together, how researchers in the past have negotiated the relationships, and what it would mean to get the various parts of the framework to speak together or to each other.
    • G & G-P have their students develop research proposal and carry it into subsequent courses
    • You’ll do something similar here: identify interest and develop skills that, within the context of this course, will build upon each other – but will also carry over into your other courses
  • Resistance from “… students obsessed with instrumental goals are resistant to challenges to their time and their existing (and often unquestioned) assumptions and conceptions about their professional practice
    • “perhaps mimicking the characteristics and actions of their mentors early on to “try on” the discipline—and devote themselves to becoming members of a research community. This model infantilizes graduate students, treating them as if they know little of consequence and inviting them to disconnect themselves from prior knowledge and experiences in favor of a superior, enlightened subject position

Online forums w/ current and former graduate students discussing “what I wished I would have learned”

  • [SLIDE 21]My Intro to Grad Studies course emphasized (amongst other things) citation style and basic writing techniques. Students b*tched and moaned about it at the time (and I’m sure I did too), but I’m glad I had it in retrospect. – mountainguy, 11/6/10, “Grad Student WritingChronicle Forums.

Intro to Graduate StudiesChronicle Forums (July 20, 2009)”:

  • [CLICK]Some of the things that scholars use most are rarely formally taught, in my experience — things like: how do you organize your citations and articles when working on a topic? What kind of notes do you take when reading? …[W]hen I started grad school I read by trying to read every word, slowly, in order, and it was disastrous. I also retained relatively little of what I read because I had no systematic way of keeping notes.
    A class that presented various professors’, and more advanced grad students’, ways of dealing with really practical stuff like this, without implying that any one way is “the” right way, would be very valuable in my opinion.
    • How to skim readings and take good notes. I’m still reading nearly every word and tend to over-highlight.
  • While I appreciate the “how to read a book in an hour” recommendations, and while those got me through the final few weeks before comps when I was filling in gaps, I think they depend on knowing which books you can read in this manner and which books you must not read in this manner. A couple of students in my immediate cohort have been caught out repeatedly (and often embarrassingly) during seminars for blatantly having used this technique inexpertly when they shouldn’t. I think that new grad students need time to learn when they can skim and when they should buckle down and grind (though one rule of thumb may be that if you’re going to read a book in an hour so that you can watch your favorite television show or spend more time at the bar, you’d better not).
  • How to write a good grant application; if you time it right you could actually have the class all apply for an external grant.
  • Drafting abstracts for conferences. I’ve no idea how to do this on my own and am quite frankly somewhat deathly afraid of it. How do you know when you have enough material to swing a presentation? At what point in your grad school career should you be submitting to conferences?
  • [SLIDE 22]More discipline-specific information, ranging from the citation format(s) to the top and good journals in the field/subfields. You’d probably expect everyone to know this already, but if you establish it early on then they’ll have no excuse when they try to use some weird MLA-Chicago mishmash instead of APA down the road.
  • [CLICK]I also like the idea of the research overview. It catches everyone up to the current state of the field (as undergrad courses often lag behind in this regard) while giving an overview of all the different subfields. I know that in a discipline as widely flung as mine it’s quite possible to be unaware a given subfield exists, let alone know much more about it beyond its name.
  • [CLICK]…we’re expected to have a very wide & general knowledge of the whole field before we settle on a specialization. So a series of meetings with different faculty members, each talking about his/her subfield and interests on a general level, might have been useful. My cohort arranged some informal meetings like this that I found very useful.
  • I know it’s a cliche, but I would just spend some time talking about the importance of just finishing and how easy it is to let perfectionism (and many other things) derail you.
  • [SLIDE 23]…What I felt like I was missing at the time was some basic information about how the whole program fit together. What are these “comps” of which people spoke? What were the advantages and disadvantages of writing a thesis for the MA? What is a DGS? I would have liked a basic road map for how the next several years of my life were supposed to work. Yes, I know I could have just looked up everything in some handbook somewhere, but what I needed was someone who actually understood the handbook to explain it in plain language and separate the really important parts from the boilerplate.
  • [CLICK]Its somewhere between the nuts-and-bolts stuff people are suggesting and trying to understand what a field is and your place within it.
  • What I was confused about at the time was the basic transitions between undergraduate and graduate study (some of which have been mentioned upthread). These include how to read journal articles (we mostly read books and sections of books at UndergradSLAC), how to balance grad school and life, issues regarding the requirements for the degree (do I get help finding an internship if it’s required; what is the timeline for completing the thesis; how many readers should I have on my thesis committee; if I want to go on for a PhD, what would be the best courses to choose).



  • Introduce TA’s
  • Discuss Pass/Fail Grading – History of Grading
  • We won’t discuss everything we read – still worth reading
  • FOCUS AREAS: Some presentations might be more immediately relevant and compelling than others; still obligated to familiarize yourself w/ breadth of work in field
  • Scaffolded Learning: Even if the research you conduct for this class doesn’t ultimately make its way into a larger or long-term MA project, it’s not for naught! This work will likely shape your interests and methods in ways that will become apparent to you years from now; and it may resurface unexpectedly in a future project. For now, follow your immediate interests, and give yourself the freedom to explore. Your first semesters in a graduate program are your time to explore – to try out theoretical approaches, methodologies, and, in developing your material consciousness, various approaches to production.

Kill Your Darlings

Within the past two weeks I’ve moved back to Brooklyn, taught my regular classes, delivered a couple lectures, and attended 41 meetings. Did you hear that? 41 meetings! I should be dead.

I’m not, obviously — but being so overextended has inspired some new coping mechanisms: in particular I’ve decided to try on a new style of semi-laissez-faire pedagogy that involves disentangling myself to some degree from a few pet projects. Recent frustrations with one of my fall classes — the lecture class I wrote about late last year — have forced me to entertain the possibility of killing one of my darlings. And when you’ve spent as much time and effort as I have rearing this particular darling, that’s not an easy decision to come to.

As I mentioned before, our program developed an intro-to-grad-studies-type course back in 2006-7, and I taught the inaugural section in Fall 2008. That course drew on work I’d been doing — initially in ad hoc fashion, to serve my new-student advisees; and then more intentionally and systematically —  to collect resources that address new students’ needs, noting skills they typically lack and problems they commonly encounter upon entering the program. I won’t go into detail here about just what those deficiencies and problems are — but these same issues have been noted repeatedly by many of my colleagues, and I’ve addressed some of them in a series of guides I created a while ago and have updated over the years.

Since initially offering the course, I’ve kept track of useful resources; chronicled common new-student misunderstandings, mistakes and concerns; and made note each time I heard an advanced student say, “I wish I had known that earlier….” Even during the semesters when I wasn’t teaching this particular course, its development has eaten up a huge amount of my time — largely because I really care about the class and believe in its function. And when I was teaching the course, its development commonly took months of work; it required coordinating 60 or 70 individuals’ schedules, training and supervising TAs, coordinating advanced student ambassadors, prepping guest presenters, consulting with A/V and Maintenance regarding microphones and video cameras and tables and chairs and lighting, etc. It was intensely complicated teaching and intensely complicated event production rolled into one.

I remain convinced of the course’s value and utility. The course material is of use, I think, to both well- and lesser prepared students; even those who are already, say, strong writers and researchers could benefit from reassessing their practices. Most of the things we address in class I certainly didn’t know (or didn’t know I didn’t know!, which is very often the case with my own students) as a new graduate student — and I don’t think I was a particularly naive or stupid beginning graduate student. And many of my TA’s, and random folks who write me after finding my course material online, say that they wish their own programs offered similar courses. The class also speaks directly to desires expressed by our own former students and to the documented wishes of graduate students and teachers of similar courses at other institutions.

If only more of my own students felt the same way. There’s a vocal faction that doesn’t want to talk about graduate-level writing, or research strategies, or methods for integrating research and media production, or the value of praxis, or approaches to organizing what C. Wright Mills calls our research “files” — because they learned how to use the Internet and write an essay and keep a notebook in fifth grade. As if designing, researching, writing, and executing projects are the same activities in grad school as they were in fifth grade. (Another not-uncommon perception is that research and writing are irrelevant to media production and management.) I’ve come to realize that some students have little interest in reflecting on their own practice, and no matter what I do, I can’t cultivate that interest. Some have very particular (and limited) understandings of “challenge” and “achievement”; the instrumentalists among them want immediately measurable, marketable skills, and the academically inclined want theory whose very difficulty supposedly proves its worth. They want to master a piece of software, or to be able to claim they’ve read A Thousand Plateaus. They don’t seem to value finding time for intellectual self-reflection, which, if you ask me (and lots of other folks whom I’ve found inspirational) is just as “challenging” and worthwhile as learning Final Cut or reading Badiou.

Another faction (perhaps the same one?) doesn’t seem to care about the “breadth of the field.” These students are getting an MA in Media Studies, a field that, as our program conceives it, represents “the liberal arts in a new key.” Sure, students can specialize within the program, but we also want them to recognize their responsibility to be aware of — and perhaps draw upon — work from across the field. After all, they are preparing to be masters of the field as a whole. As I aim to emphasize, students have to know how to connect their interests to the field’s needs and interests. Yet when we bring in various guests to represent different parts of the field and areas of concentration within our own curriculum, some students don’t seem to understand why they should care. Their response isn’t simply confusion (“I don’t get this”); they go straight to resentment. They complain that they’re wasting their time listening to a renowned expert in a subfield that’s not their own — as if hearing about, say, documentary bears no relevance to one’s own interest in film; or hearing about international media has nothing to do with one’s work in media management.

What’s happening here? Is this simply an inability to extrapolate? Myopia? Entitlement? My own ineptitude?

I constantly wonder what I’m doing wrong — if, how, why I’m falling short. I’ve had colleagues and friends visit to observe me. They have only positive things to say. They remind me that I’ve been recognized — through years of strong evaluations and peer reviews and teaching awards — as a highly competent teacher, and that I should trust my judgment. I do trust my judgment, to a certain degree; I still believe in what this class represents, and my not-insignificant experience tells me that students need to hear the things we’re addressing in the class. Even, perhaps especially, those who “already know this stuff.”

But I don’t know if they can be encouraged to want it — to want to make time to reassess those skills they’ve supposedly already “mastered”; to want to expose themselves to segments of the field that are tangential to (what they assume are) their narrow areas of interest; to want to allow their minds to be changed, their interests to evolve. Try as I might, marshaling all my experience as a traditionally successful teacher, I just can’t convince them otherwise.

Times have changed. The economy, the weakening of undergraduate education, the amplification of undergraduate ego-boosting, and a host of other cultural and political-economic factors have transformed student expectations. For some students — what seems to me a growing faction — instrumental rationality and workplace training reign supreme. I suppose I can’t blame them; school is expensive, jobs are scarce.

To think that these priorities squeeze out the classic values of the liberal arts is devastating. Yet recognizing the futility of my own efforts, and exhausted by my incessant and failed attempts to reach those students who remain unconvinced, I’m preparing to kill my darlings. Perhaps I simply need to focus on those who want to be there, and who share in the pursuits that I (and most of my colleagues) find so meaningful — and leave the rest to their own devices, even if that means twisting “customizing” our program into something it really wasn’t meant to be, something I sadly can’t recognize or wholeheartedly endorse.


I Know This Already

Saw this “book igloo” in Chelsea last month; wish I could remember the artist’s name!

The past couple weeks have been consumed by committee meetings and student advising. The next three weeks promise to be more of the same. At the same time, we’re moving back to Brooklyn, and we’re painting our new apartment — one room at a time, one late night after another. All this is to say that I’ve had little opportunity to think beyond what I’m teaching, what my students need, what committee meetings I’m heading to next, what goes into what box, and how to get that grey paint off my Vans.

Still, I’ve managed to process some of the conversations I’ve had in my many student advising meetings over the past few weeks. One particular phrase resonates for me — perhaps “clangs” is a more appropriate verb. I hear it every now and then, usually from students who are completing a first semester full of required courses: “I know this already.” “I read X as an undergrad; I know him already.” “I taught myself years ago how to use Y technology; I know that already.” “I learned how to write in high school; I know that already.”

What does it mean — to know something already? The claim implies that “knowing” is an event that “happens,” a state one attains, at a particular moment — a moment that, for these particular students, allegedly took place prior to their arrival at graduate school. There’s nothing more to know; knowledge has been achieved and exhausted. Any further encounters are redundant — or, worse, a waste of time.

When I started graduate school in 1998 I don’t recall assuming I knew anything. I had been exposed as an undergraduate to some of the thinkers and theories that reappeared on our graduate syllabi — but the only thing I was sure of as an undergrad was the partiality of my knowing. Sure, I made it through Habermas and Pynchon and Haraway in my junior and senior years; I read all the pages, but I certainly wasn’t capable of appreciating all the intellectual and aesthetic treasures in those pages. So I welcomed a chance to read them again — actually, perhaps to really read them for the first time — in a different context, with a different group of fellow readers and discussants, and for a different purpose.

I created for my grad students a guide on “reading effectively”; I start by referencing an article called “Learning to Read, Again,” published earlier this year in the The Chronicle Review:

Academics take reading for granted. We learned to read in first grade, and those skills have served us well ever since…

Although the words, syntax, and ideas are more complex, isn’t reading in graduate school fundamentally like reading in first grade?

It isn’t, of course. Not only is reading Foucault more intellectually challenging than reading Goodnight Moon (although the two have quite a bit in common, both emphasizing omnipresent surveillance), but the application of reading differs. For the most part, earlier reading is an attempt to grasp the meaning of a text so that one can repeat it to an authority, who then judges whether one “got” the ideas. At that level, reading is regurgitation.

In graduate school, reading and the ability to discuss and interpret that reading are simultaneously a means by which a student asserts an academic identity and the basis on which a student can produce new knowledge.

“Getting” a text is one kind of “knowing” it; grappling with a text — critically engaging with it, discerning its context, putting it into dialogue with others, building upon it — is another “knowing” entirely. Only the incredibly rare undergraduate is capable of the latter.

We can say similar things about researching and writing. Students commonly say they already know how to use a library, yet so few of them do. They already know how to research, yet when they come to my office to say they’ve exhausted the literature on their topic — that they “know it all already” — I discover that there are relevant theoretical concepts they’d never heard, relevant subfields of study they’d never known about, search keywords they’d never considered, all of which open up an entirely new realm of not-knowing. I say this not to mock their ignorance or overconfidence, but to wonder at their seeming discomfort with admitting unknowing and embracing it as an opportunity — an opportunity to revisit texts they thought they knew, to retrace the borders of fields they thought they mastered.

As for writing; students commonly assume that if they learned to write a research paper in high school, they “already know how to write.” So not true. Even if one is a competent writer, there’s tremendous value in continually reevaluating one’s writing process, style, etc. Even if one has practice with a particular form — say, an exegetical essay, a literature review, or a thesis — there’s always more to be learned when we flesh out those forms with new contents, for new audiences, and in new contexts. As we develop our abilities to grapple with the “raw material” from which we’re crafting an argument, our writing of those arguments must necessarily evolve, too.

I thought I was a solid writer in high school. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college, when Robin Schulze (who’s apparently now at Delaware) gave me a B on my first paper in her Reading Poetry class and told me that I was writing in a way that I thought “sounded academic,” that I realized that one’s writing — perhaps particularly when one’s really good at it, as she was, or as the poets we read in class were — needs continually to be reassessed. I bless Robin for initially devastating me; for sitting with me for an hour to talk about how to write what I mean and mean what I write; and for making me a better, more conscious, more sensitive reader and writer in the process.

Rather than thinking “I know this already,” I wish my students could more readily embrace — and be inspired by — the unknowns outside (and perhaps even inside) their “knowns,” and to appreciate the various kinds and degrees of “knowing” a text or a skill. I wish more of them had the patience to appreciate the value of repetition — of rereading, rewriting, rethinking. You may “know it already,” but you’ll know it even better, you’ll know it differently — maybe you’ll even come to realize that you never knew it at all, and you’re finally coming to know it for the first time — upon reading it again.