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!

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