English 165mc: Media Culture: Film, Radio, Television, and the Internet

Professor Warner

UC/Santa Barbara, Winter, 2003

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Jan 7:  Introduction: Theorizing Media, Culture, and Media Culture

Introduction to Media Culture (Slide Lecture)

The reference texts: "The Time of the Teenager"; "Teens Create Language" (with a pager), Reader

I. Film and the Culture Industry

Film: at the turn of the 20th century, moving pictures emerged as the most influential form of entertainment since the rise of the novel in the 18th century. As a medium, cinema was a hybrid form: part electronic (light), part chemical (photograph) and part mechanical (projector). Cinema in America started as an a secondary part of vaudaville entertainments, flourished in Nichelodeons patronized by the working class, and emerged as an ambitious narrative medium with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, to the point where by the 1930s, the average American city dweller went to the movies three times a week. The century-long popularity of film gives it a central role in 20th century media theories: from Benjamin’s concept of the loss of the aura and the rise of reception in the mode of “distraction”; for the Frankfurt school, film is central to the industry that, by producing mass desire for the celebrity, invades everyday life with the logic of the commodity (how can I get muscles as large as his?, legs as pretty as hers?); and Lev Manovich, in The Language of New Media, demonstrates how the movement of the image into digital code, allows us to operate upon photorealistic images with the same freedom with which used to be only possible in the animated film.

A famous photograph quiz

Jan 9: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Introduction to Walter Benjamin (Slide Lecture)


Jan 10: Workshop on Editing Web Pages: South

Hall 1415, 1:00-3:00PM

Jan 14: The Institution of Cinema: the case of The Birth of a Nation (1915) 


  • Daniel Czitrom, "American Motion Pictures and the New Popular Culture, 1892-1918"
  • Media text: D. W. Griffiths, The Birth of a Nation

Assignment due Jan 14: Write a 2-page (typed) conceptual outline of Benjamin essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" 

Jan 16: Feminist media critique

Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (Slide Lecture)


  • Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", Durham & Kellner, 393-404. Presentation: Nici Patterson
  • Media texts: Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (selections), Fritz Lang, Metropolis, and Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange

Jan 21: The Frankfurt School Critique of Mass Media

Frankfurt School Media Theory: the Culture Industry (Slide Lecture)


Assignment: Formation of teams, with random access to finalize the 12 teams

II. Radio, Fascism and Propaganda

Radio: in the 1920s, wireless transmission of information, first designed for communications between ships at sea by the navy, and then picked up by ham radio hobbyists for (morse) code transmission, and only later voice transmission, was developed into a form of mass entertainment. David Sarnoff, the young President of RCA, plays an important role in promoting radio as a mass medium; though his later attempt to present himself as the father of radio is problematic. The emergence of radio as a mass medium, in between 1921 (with the Dempsey-Carpentier prize fight) and 1947 (the first year of American television), transforms the American media sphere: it allows for the rise of the American national networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), which broadcast “free” programming supported by advertising; radio makes possible live reception in America of the huge Nazi rallies at Nurenberg, President Roosevelt’s fire side chats; radio brings live coverage of the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, the 1938 Munich crisis as it unfolds, as well as of the Battle of Britain in 1940. The development of many of the media forms of radio later moved to television (from the variety show, quiz show, soap opera, situation comedy, detective show, etc.). Within all countries (whether fascist and democratic), radio technology helped to promote national unity. While print required the ability to read, radio relied on nothing more than the ability to understand the language of the radio transmission. And if all listened to the same voice at the same time (whether it is that of Edward R. Murrow covering the Battle of Britain or Frank Sinatra crooning), then one could believe that one shared a common experience, and "imagined community" of radio listeners.
Useful links :

Thomas H. White's authoritative United States Early Radio History, with overview and links to many key documents and articles about early readio.

Halper's History of Radio, with brief clips of the 1938 Munich crisis and Roosevelts "fireside chats"

Jan 23: The Promise of Radio: David Sarnoff as the "father" of American broadcasting


  • Daniel Czitrom, “The Ethereal Hearth: American Radio from Wireless through Broadcasting, 1992-1940”, Media and the American Mind, From Morse to McLuhan, Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Pr., 1982. Chapter 3, 60-88. Audrey
  • David Sarnoff, from Looking Ahead: the Papers of David Sarnoff , New York: McGraw Hill, 1968. “Radio Broadcasting” 29-65. Rebecca Miller; Samathana Percy

Jan 28: Orson Welles and the Practice(s) of Radio

Radio as a National Network (Slide Lecture)


Film screening: Meet John Doe
Jan 29: 3:00-5:30PM

Jan 30: Film does a media critique of radio: Frank Capra's Meet John Doe

Radio as Critical Public Sphere; or, Radio as Agent of Mass Delusion
(Slide Lecture)

Issues for discussion of Meet John Doe


  • Meet John Doe, editor Charles Wolfe. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1989. ”Authors, Audiences, and Endings,” 1-29 and Capra, “Five Endings in Search of an Audience,” 205-215. Lucia Freschi
  • Media text: Frank Capra, Meet John Doe:

Friday Jan 31 Workshop: on Search techniques from Google to Lexus/ Nexus
Michael Perry
SH 2509; 1:00 - 3:00PM

Feb 6: Media as Propaganda System

Roland Barthes' Mythologies (Slide Lecture)
Propaganda and a Free Press (Slide Lecture)


  • Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, "A Propaganda Model," Durham & Kellner, 280-317. Brian Burnett; Emily Lemay; Paul Lins
  • Roland Barthes, "Operation Margarine; Myth Today", Durham & Kellner, 121-128. Chris Mnoz; Jason Matsushino

III. Television and the emergence of the Media Theory paradigm

Television: American television started regular broadcasting in 1947, and by 1955 2/3rds of all American homes had made room for television in their lives and living rooms. The rapid expansion of live network television is partly explained by the agility with which the radio networks transferred their whole commercial and cultural formula to television: live network broadcasting; free programming interrupted by ads from our “sponsors;” all the generic categories of radio, and even specific popular shows like “Ames and Andy” and “Gunsmoke". Even FCC regulation followed radio into televsion. The rapid acceptance of television by Americans—television may be the most popular medium since speech—resulted in part from American affluence and the movement from urban centers, where live entertainment was plentiful, to the suburbs, where it was not. In the half century since the beginning of live television broadcasts, television has changed under the influence of the arrival of color, the remote control, the VCR, cable, satellite transmission, and the DVD. Each change in the technological infrastructure of television made new media forms possible (for example, cable enabled MTV and CNN.) In the 1960s, there develops a broad recognition that television had won a leading and decisive role in the modern media sphere. Guy Debord calls this new, superficially unified televisual world, “the society of the spectacle.” [Is it a world prepared for terrorism.] The enormous cultural influence of television provokes Marshall McLuhan into developing a general theory of media; in his optimistic moments, he summons us toward the a powerful new form of oral-electronic culture, what he calls “the global village.”

Feb 11: The Medium is the Message/ Massage: the Rhetoric of Marshall McLuhan

The Medium is the Massage: Role playing McLuhan (Slide Lecture)


  • Marshall McLuhan, "The Medium is the Message," Durham & Kellner, 129-138. Sigrid Jensen; Lorissa Prescott
  • Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage: an inventory of effects. Mika McKinnon; Nicole Tjomsand
  • What McLuhan got right and what he got wrong

Feb 13: Institutionalizing Television

Making Room for TV and Lucy (Slide Lecture)


  • Lynn Sigel, Making Room for TV, Chicago: U of Chicago Pr.,1992. ”Introduction,” 1-10; “Television in the Family Circle,” 36-72. Hillary Lansman
  • Media text: "I Love Lucy"

Feb 18: Critique of Television and the Realities it Invents

Targeting/ shooting from a AC 130 Gunship in Afghanistan: 12/6/03

Spectacle Theory (Slide Lecture)  


  • Newton Minow, "Television and the Public Interest" (the vast wasteland speech); Colleen O'Conner
  • Samuel Weber, "The Media and War" (Gulf War I) ; Amber Berens
  • Jean Baudrillard, "The Procession of the Simulacra", Durham & Kellner, 521-549. Fernando Sanchez

Feb 20: The Popular Culture Paradigm: the British School

Cultural Studies of Media (Slide Lecture)


  • Daniel Chandler's critique of "The Transmission Model of Communication" http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/trans.html [recommended]
  • Stuart Hall, "Encoding/ Decoding," Durham & Kellner, 166-176. Garrett Bascom
  • Daniel Chandler's critique of "Encoding/ Decoding" [recommended]
  • Dick Hebdige, "From Culture to Hegemony"; "Subculture: the Unnatural Break", Durham & Kellner, 198-216. Conran Hojabrpour, Paul Lumsdaine
  • Reference texts: "High Brow/ Low Brow," "The Time of the Teen-Ager," "Teens Create Language of Pager Speak,"  

Assignment due Feb 20: Team project web page with 5 elements: overview page, annotated links, annotated bibliography, timeline, digitized media. 

English 165mc Team Project Web Sites

Feb 25 Media Critique through Parody: The Simpsons



IV. New Media, Cyborgs, and Computable Culture

After the Digital Mutation: the computer was developed in the 1940s as a machine for increasing the speed of command and control: for decoding German encryption quickly, for targeting missiles in real time. In the decades since the 1940s the computer, and the software algorithms that lie as the center of its operational power, was applied to data processing for business and government; were made into the hubs and routers of communications networks (telephones, local area networks, the Internet), and finally appeared in the form of the personal computer on our desks and laps in the last quarter of the 20th century. In order to make information computable it must be turned into 0s and 1s; but the information the computer contains and operates upon, can become resident in many media forms: as paper tape, punch cards, magnetic tape, hard drives, screens, sound, etc. In fact, the ductility and plasticity of information has enabled us to translate all of our earlier natural and electronic media forms onto the computer. This has led Lev Manovich to describe the computer as the “universal media machine.” This is at once insightful and misleading. For there is a very real sense in which software code is free of any necessary relation to any medium; it is an a-media, that can be invested with many different media forms (as screen image; as sound; as print; as film; etc.) This has threatened to transform the media ecology, a change that corporations will resist (c.f. Napster).

Feb 27: After the Digital Mutation: Promoting the New Media Paradigm


  • Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, New York: Viking, 1995, 1-34. Ben; Julien Bonney 
  • Nicholas Negroponte, from Being Digital, New York: Vintage, 1995, 1-20. Robert

March 4: Defining Computable Culture & Exam Review

Frameworks for studying Media Culture


  • Manovich, Lev. Selections from The Language on New Media, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001, “Principles of New Media,” 27-48. "The Interface," 63-93. Matt Cooper

March 6: Exam: 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
  • Outline 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 institutions.
  • Develop examples of these concepts from the media texts of the course ("The War of the Worlds"; "I Love Lucy"; "The Simpsons")

March 11: Cyborgs 'r Us


  • Norbert Weiner. “Men, Machines, and the World About,” from Selected articles for a popular audience. Norbert Weiner: Collected Writings, Volume 4. Ed. P. Masani. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985. 1950. 793-799.  
  • Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” (Selection) from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature . New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-182.

Media texts: Robocop, Terminator, Blade Runner,…

March 13: Gaming Culture and Hacking The Matrix: Bullet time and Computable Cinema

 "Final Exam": Wed. March 19, 2003: 7:30-10:30PM

  • Final Team Project Presentations will take place during this scheduled "final exam" time slot
  • A printed copy of each student's final paper is also due this day.  

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