The American 20th century was marked by the development of
successive waves of new media for communication and entertainment.
At the same time, cultural critics developed theories to explain,
shape, and speculate about the nature of media. In this course
we will focus on four media: film, radio, television and the
networked computer. Each has become a central part of media
culture and each has demonstrated rich new possibilities for
Because this is a potentially vast topic, we will approach
these media through the prism of three topics and issues:
I: When Each Medium Was New: We will pay close attention
to the forces at work in the years when each of the four media
emerged as a media institution with broad influence within culture.
Who are the evangelists for each new medium? (e.g. David Sarnoff,
Bill Gates) What do they promise? Who were the critics? What
possibilities for each medium are foreclosed by the institutionalization
of media? Do the demonic duo of corporate interests and government
policy bind and stifle our media? If so, are there ways to free
II: Critical Media Theory: We will study the most important
critical theories developed to comprehend new media. This will
mean close reading of challenging theoretical essays written
by Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jurgen Habermas, Roland
Barthes, Marshall McLuhan, Guy Debord, Stuart Hall, and others.
III: Narrative and Aesthetic Implications of Media:
New media have transformed the visual and aural culture of the
20th century and expanded our ways of telling stories and conceptualizing
aesthetic value. In this course we will study influential examples
of each media form, paying particular attention to examples
of radio, film, television and the Internet that reflect upon
their own status as a media form. Here are some of the media
texts we will study: W.D. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation;
Orson Welles, ; The War of the Worlds (the radio play);
Frank Capra, Meet John Doe; I Love Lucy, and The
Simpsons (TV sitcom).
Our class will take place in the English department’s new Media
Room (SH 1415). There we have 5 networked laptops (with network
connections for at least 10 more). In addition to a digital
projector, VCR and DVD, and software allowing "Netmeeting" among
class members, we have equipment allowing digital photography,
digital video, digital voice recording, and advanced web editing
and certain kinds of sound and video editing. No previous knowledge
of media making or web editing is necessary but it will be most
welcome. The course will include informal workshops on web editing.
I’m hoping that the web pages that each team will produce will
offer on-line examples of the media studied. In this way, we
can practice the forms of media inscription we are studying.
I have given a detailed account of class in hopes of attracting
students who love media, who are intellectually ambitious, and
who have the time to put into reading difficult theoretical
texts and developing team projects on media in a web environment.
Office: South Hall, 2507
Office hours, Thursday, , and by appointment
Meeting room: English Department Media Classroom, South
Meeting time: Tuesday and Thursday,
Jeremy Douglass, Transcriptions
Studio (SH 2509) Drop-in Hours
By appointment email@example.com
147 Media Culture Reader, The Alternative Copy Shop,6556 Pardall Road;
Isla Vista, CA93117, 968-1055
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear
Birth of a Nation (1915);
Orson Welles, The
War of the Worlds (the radio play; 1938);
Frank Capra, Meet
John Doe (1941) ;
TV sitcoms: I Love Lucy, Matt Groening, The Simpsons
and their weighting for grading:
short papers : [25%] : state some of the central ideas of
the reading, and then develop your response to those ideas (with
a main thesis and several supporting ideas). Here is a description
of a "response paper" using the example of our first
assignment: Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Doing a response paper of a course reading:
It should focus on, and engage throughout your paper, with
the text being read (Benjamin's "Work of Art") Two
components of your engagement with text: WHAT does Benjamin
say? How do you EVALUATE or CRITIQUE what Benjamin says (about
image, actor, film)?
Length: use the whole 2 pagers and limit your paper to
no more than two pages (why?: there is an art to concision--and
if you want to go long, just look back and you will almost
always find unnecessary words or repetition; if not long enough,
offer more analysis of your quote; this can help you learn
to edit and fine-tune your essay)
Citation: give page number for text in parenthesis (e.g.
for our reader: R-5; McLuhan-x)
One central idea of your paper: in a paper this short,
I would recommend making this the first sentence of the essay--or,
as is traditional, the last sentence of the first paragraph.
[metaphor: this is like the cable or back-bone of your paper--the
central idea around which you will develop your other ideas]
The 2 or 3 or 4 paragraphs of your two page paper develop
the main thesis; explains, offers quotes from the text, give
examples of your point from your knowledge or experience (e.g.
statue of David having aura); you extend the implications
of the main thesis. (Here you will want to avoid repeating
the same idea; but also don't diverge into completely new
2: 3 (or 2) people form a team.
Each team chooses a general area of interest with implications
for the theory and practices of media culture. [See sample topics
The web site will include:
Overview page: the topic, scope, and leading issues that
the page will explore
Links/ bibliography: annotated: author/organization; topic
and scope of the page; your evaluation of its quaity
History/ Timeline: it should focus on your topic and develop
Media samples: digitize and present, then analyze each
Essays: put single paragraph descriptions of each essay,
individually written 8-page paper on some aspect of your team
opics that might be
developed into a more specific team project:
Conferences with Prof
Warner will take place in early Feb.
Team prospectus is presented to the class on Feb
26th for critique.
Each student should write a one paragraph overview of their
individual paper topic, and put it up on your website. This
should be done as soon as you can, but no later than
Final presentation to the class will take place Tuesday
March 16, ,
[25%]: March 9: matching,
quote identification, 2 short essays
Recommended steps in studying for the exam, which functions
as the course's check on how well you have understood the reading.
Read each assigned essay in the class
Use your class notes and the on-line slide lectures to focus
in on key passages
the central concepts and themes of the main theorists we have
read: Benjamin, Mulvey, Frankfurt school, Habermas, Chopsky,
McLuhan, Hall, Weber, Hall
Reading the text on our web site (along with the assigned
writings of Czitrom, Sarnoff, Spigel) identify the main steps
by which film, radio, and television become influential media
Develop examples of these concepts from the media texts
of the course (e.g. "The War of the Worlds"; "I
Love Lucy"; "The Simpsons")
4: Individually written
term paper (5-pages). [10%] This carefully written essay
should be embedded in your team project, and extend and develop
the ideas of your web-page.
participation and attendance [15%]
Ground rules for the course:
A well functioning
class is a collaborative endeavor. For this reason I ask you
to respect these ground rules:
attendance is a required
part of the class. More than 2 misses and your grade
is lowered by 1/3rd of your final letter grade; more
than 3 misses, 2/3rd of the final letter grade, and
so on.[If you miss a
class, it is your responsibility to get notes and assignments
from another class member, so you know where we are with our
arrive on time for a full class. Please take care of any personal
needs—for food or a visit to the restroom—before or after class.
We will have a break during each 2 1/2 hour class period.
assignments are an essential part of class work; the care and
quality of your reading will reflect itself in your participation
in class discussion and exams; I urge you to keep a notebook
for your readings, writing down key ideas as you read, and general
thoughts and questions to bring to class.
Your short papers and term paper should be typed on 8 ½ X 11”
paper, with 1” margins in (12 point) font. Papers should have
a works cited list in MLA format. No unexcused late papers will
5) I enjoy getting to know you and talking with students.
After our first paper, I will schedule an extensive conference
with each project team. In addition, feel free to come by my
office hours (Thursday, ), or email me to make an appointment to talk…about the content of
the course, a special problem, or just to talk.
LCI course: This course
meets the requirement for English majors specializing in the
Literature and the Culture of Information (LCI).