Understanding Media Studies

Required first-semester graduate lecture course, hybrid on-site/online 

Understanding Media Studies is a required course for all first-semester Media Studies MA students. It is a weekly seminar series that functions not only as a communal orientation experience for the first-semester UMS cohort, but also as an intellectual and creative hub for the entire School. We welcome several guest presenters from the academy, industry, and a variety of creative fields that represent the breadth of what Media Studies is and can be. We also welcome several New School Media Studies alumni and advanced current students, who speak with us about issues regarding professionalization and socialization within the field. The course is offered in a hybrid on-site/on-line format to accommodate all first-semester students.

Spring 2017: Website 
Fall 2014 / Spring 2015
Fall 2013: Website
Fall 2011: Syllabus [updated 8/29/11]
Spring 2011: Syllabus
Fall 2008: Syllabus

Tools & Material Consciousness” Lesson [pdf]
Final Course Lecture [pdf]

Back in 2005 I created a whole bunch of guides — on how to identify your interests, how to find sources, how to read effectively, how to take notes, how to share your work in written and multimodal form, how to engage with presentations and ask good questions, how to weather conferences, etc. — and I updated them each year for this class. They need another refresh!

Tips for Guest Speakers and TA’s


PhDs for Polymaths (2011)

Over the past couple years I’ve taught a few graduate classes that incorporate ideas from the Digital Humanities and emphasize “multimodal scholarship,” and I’ve been conducting research on praxis-based PhD programs. It’s for these reasons, I assume, that the planning committee for our graduate students’ Critical Themes in Media Studies conference asked me earlier this year to organize an opening-night panel on multimodal doctoral work and praxis-based PhDs. So, for the past couple months I’ve contacted graduate directors and colleagues at various local institutions to ask if any of their students are completing non-traditional (i.e., multimedia, performance-based, practice-based, etc.) dissertations on media studies-related topics. Their recommendations have helped me to pull together an impressive panel of three inspired young artist-scholars. Next Friday evening, April 15, at 5:30pm, before Clay Shirky’s opening keynote, we’ll be gathering in the Teresa Lang Center, on the 2nd floor at 55 W 13th Street, to talk about “The Multimodal Dissertation.” Come join us.

Multimodal scholarship, writes USC’s Tara McPherson (2009), deploys “new experiential, emotional, and even tactile aspects of argument and expression” in order to “open up fresh avenues of inquiry and research.” How might we in Media Studies transform the media technologies that have traditionally been our research subjects, into researchtools, and thereby “open up fresh avenues” of creative scholarship? This panel examines how these new modes of scholarly practice are informing doctoral education. Our three panelists discuss how they’re infusing media-making into their dissertations, and how they’re navigating the still largely uncharted terrain of multimodal scholarship.

The Sound of America: Sound, Sensation, Sentiment, and Knowledge in American West Tourism

Jennifer Heuson 

Links between the American West and American identity, memory, and history are well documented. America constructs its uniqueness through the land and people west of the Mississippi. American West tourism is a crucial form of this construction.

Traveling west has become a ritual of citizenship, a pilgrimage to the birthplace of a mythical America. This is the America of cowboys and Indians, of gold mines and train robberies, of wild horses and still wilder people. It is an America of the past, performed in the present, informing the future. While scholars have devoted much energy to unpacking the significance of Wild West mythologies, two important areas remain underdeveloped: tourism and sound. My work engages both as key to the production and circulation of the “Wild” American West and its meanings. Tourist experiences of the American West play a pivotal role in knowledge of American history and identity. Yet, such experiences are neither natural, nor benign. They are mediated, historical, and political. They are actual and imagined. They are also sensual. It is the power of the sensual, living tourist encounter I hope to uncover by engaging its sonic contours. The sound of the American West, as a national soundscape, reveals much about how America is known, remembered, and imagined. It also hints at the future forms of American politics, at home and abroad.

Marquee Survivals: Racialized Urbanism in Cinema’s Recycled Spaces

Veronica Paredes

Marquee Survivals is an interactive, digital dissertation that explores contemporary conceptions of the repurposed movie theater. Across the United States, twentieth-century movie theaters have been converted into a variety of different establishments, including churches, swap meets, clothing and electronics stores. This project unravels how discussions surrounding these former movie houses racialize the spatial and historical perceptions of American popular media. In unpacking nostalgia’s place in touring the extant structures of film exhibition, Marquee Survivals highlights the roles race, ethnicity, and nation play in constructing the cultural narrative of cinema’s decline in the American downtown.

Incorporating methodologies from diverse academic disciplines, Marquee Survivals is also a networked digital dissertation that complicates dominant understandings of cinema’s early exhibition spaces by connecting them to present-day media consumption. Working toward an alternative media historiography of the repurposed movie theater, Marquee Survivals marries film theory and history, cultural studies, and digital media production. This presentation will feature documentation of Marquee Survival’s design processes and struggles. What are the challenges of building a distributed dissertation project that has equal investment in achieving rigorous scholarship and an affective user experience?

Hitting Walls (v.XVII): Some Strategies, Several Projections

Carlin Wing

Hitting Walls uses the sport of squash to address colonial histories, globalization and the potential for serious play within overdetermined structures. The project exists as a series of iterations made in a variety of media including large format photography, appropriated webgrabs, video, sculpture, performance, participatory activities and academic lectures. The most recent completed iteration took the form of a lecture and workshop on ball-making methods at Machine Project in Los Angeles this past January.

I expect my dissertation to exist as one more iterative element of this larger project. My broad goal is to use my dissertation as an opportunity to experiment with and make a claim for hybrid formats of intellectual work. As this is my first year in a doctoral program, it does not seem particularly helpful to pretend that I already know what form my dissertation will take. I cannot even, at this stage, claim with absolute confidence that it will make sense to me four years from now to consider the project to be part of Hitting Walls. I do expect a large amount of the work to be written but I also intend for there to be play within that writing, as well as essential elements, visual, aural or otherwise, which will work with the written components.

I would like to take the opportunity of this panel to briefly share a few of the Hitting Walls projects and to discuss various ways to experiment with academic, as well as other, forms. I would then like to open up a conversation that I am just beginning to have within my own department about how a dissertation is, can and should be defined. Right now it seems like a matter of shaping some good questions, setting them loose, and seeing how they ricochet.


Indexical Landscapes: 2015

I’ve curated a symposium for the Media Design Practices Program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

Thursday, October 29, 6 to 9pm
The Wind Tunnel Graduate Center for Critical Practice,
950 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105
[via MDP ArtCenter]

Our streets stream data from embedded sensors, our metropoles splinter into districts defined by delivery logistics or crime data, while our contested zones yield their secrets to drone surveillance. Our cities and metropolitan regions are code-spaces, algorithmic landscapes, with layers of data and informational networks laid atop, and often spilling over, their traditional geographic boundaries. “Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City,” a concurrent exhibition in Art Center for Design’s gallery, will feature projects that explore these new forms and practices of digital urbanity. Yet even without their datified dressings, our landscapes have long been shaped using techniques and technologies that render them “intelligent” and intelligible – either to we humans who inhabit them, or to the various tools we use to cultivate, navigate, and operationalize them. So many of our landscapes – from factory farms and container ports, to libraries and factories, to airwaves and railways and codifed urban “zones” – materialize, and even render perceptible, the logics behind their own organization, management, and use. This panel discussion examines myriad such “indexical landscapes,” those spaces shaped to refer to their own organized content and operative logics.


Emily Bills, Participating Adjunct Professor and Coordinator, Urban Studies Program, Woodbury University:
“The Telephone Builds Los Angeles”

Jesse LeCavalier, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology:
“Landscapes of Fulfillment”

Mark Vallianatos, Policy Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College:
“Coding & re:coding Los Angeles”

Lorie Velarde, Geographic Information Systems Analyst, Irvine Police Department:
“Using Geography to Find Criminals”

Jason Weems, Associate Professor of American Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Riverside:
“The City, A Slaughterhouse View”

Richard Wheeler, Adjunct faculty, Graduate Media Design Practices: Field, ArtCenter College of Design:
Viewing the Landscape Through Data”

with Tim Durfee, Professor, Graduate Media Design Practices Program, ArtCenter College of Design, on the Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City exhibition, co-curated with Mimi Zeiger 

I also led a six-week “Critical Practices” master class, “Sorting Things Out,” which focused on approaches to “indexical writing.”


Re/Lab: 2014-2016

Re/Lab is a New School-wide research collective premised on the idea that students of media think and engage more creatively when they deeply understand the material history of their subject. We (Kate Eichhorn, Melissa Friedling (our intrepid leader), Amir Husak, Dale MacDonald, Rosalie McManis, Barry Salmon, Colin Stearns, and me) aim to make visible what the processes of “upgrading” and the blind pursuit of “innovation” often obscure. We’re creating a digital collection of “object biographies” of old-school media technologies unearthed in The New School’s labs, classrooms, and offices. We’re also organizing a series of workshops and retreats, and linking media-archaeologically-informed classes across the divisions — and we’ll eventually complement the new “media archaeology” focus area in the Media Studies MA program. Here’s our website.


Understanding Media Studies Speaker Series: 2014-2015

I organized the 2014-15 Monday night lecture series for the School of Media Studies. Our guests included Mary Flanagan, Caitlin Burns, Susa Popp, Mary Wareham, Jody Williams, Peter Asaro, Benjamen Walker, Jill Godmilow, Deirdre Boyle, Andrew Uroskie, Anne Balsamo, Garnet Hertz, Dragan Espenschied, Ben Vershbow, Jeanne Liotta, Brian Larkin, Joe Inzerillo, Laura Kurgan, Chi-hui Yang, Melissa Gregg, Stephanie Boluk, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, James Paradis, and Nick Montfort. You can find more information here.


Embracing the Formalist Mantle

Embracing the Formalist Mantle,” “Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media @ 50” Special Issue, Journal of Visual Culture 13:1 (April 2014): 85-87

on McLuhan’s formalism 


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!

SCMS Mapping Workshop (2011)

We received word last week that our “Urban Informatics, Geographic Data, and the Media of Mapping” workshop has been accepted for the 2011 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in New Orleans. I’m chairing, and Germaine Halegoua (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Brendan Kredell (Northwestern University), Daniel Makagon (DePaul University), Jesse Shapins (Harvard University), and Nicole Starosielski (University of California, Santa Barbara) are contributing. Should be awesome.

The past several years have seen increasing corporate and educational interest in and major funding for projects that make urban histories, knowledges, data, etc., accessible, visible/audible/tangible, and, ideally, intelligible to urban publics. This workshop, supported by the Cinema, Media and Urban Studies SIG, will examine several such projects, critically addressing their rhetorical and aesthetic strategies and examining their utility as platforms for research, as pedagogical resources, and as political tools for civic engagement. Acknowledging the widespread commitment among these projects to “making the invisible, visible” (and sometimes collapsing “the urban” into “the visible”), panelists will pay particular attention to the media and sensory modes of mapping.

Brendan Kredell will critically reflect on how he’s using tools borrowed from urban and cultural geography—maps, census data, GIS—in his research on the relationships between gentrification and the growth of “sophisticated” cinema venues, like the Landmark Theatres. Germaine Halegoua will examine projects that use RFID, GPS, and other coding protocols to track, annotate, and map information about urban objects—from park benches to trash. Fusing urban informatics with “the Internet of Things,” these maps have the potential to “encourage novel styles of learning the city [and] aid in creating more stable policy initiatives.”

Daniel Makagon will discuss his own and others’ sound-mapping projects, which provide alternatives to traditional sight-centric modes of mapping and serve to represent the complexity of urban sensory experience. Both Makagon and fellow presenter Jesse Shapins pay particular attention to the politics embodied in their projects’ “base maps”: Makagon makes use of wiki-style OpenStreetMaps, while Shapins is developing an open-source toolkit for the creation of “cross-platform, interactive narratives” about urban places. Shapins’ software allows users to remix photos, videos, text, audio, maps, etc., into “database documentaries” that are then tied to places on a map. Finally, Nicole Starosielski will demonstrate a digital mapping project she has created in collaboration with USC’s VECTORS journal. Her “counter-map” uses digital media’s networked capabilities to portray transoceanic cables not as static material infrastructure, as they are presented in traditional cartography, but as “vectors” revealing the “complexity, historicity, and locality” of global media networks.