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

Professor Warner

UC/ Santa Barbara, Winter, 2003

| overview | schedule | assignments |student pages | links | UCSB English
Conceptual Overview

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 narrative.

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 the media?

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, Laura Mulvey, Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Donna Haraway, and Judith Butler. [Most essays can be found in our text, Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works, ed. Kellner and Durham.]

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 may include for study: W.D. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation; Orson Welles, “The Shadow” (a radio play); The War of the Worlds (the radio play); Edward R. Murrow reporting the bombing of London; Frank Capra, Meet John Doe; I Love Lucy, The Archie Bunker Show, and The Simpsons (TV sitcom); Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange; Jennie Livingsont, Paris is Burning; Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix; Computer games: Doom and Myst.

Our class will take place in the English department’s new Media Class 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. Class size will be strictly limited to 37.

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.


Professor Warner
Office: South Hall, 2507
Office hours, Friday, 2:30-3:30PM, and by appointment
email: warner@english.ucsb.edu

Meeting room: English Department Media Classroom, South Hall 1415
Meeting time: Tuesday and Thursday, 5:00-6:15PM
Webmasters and media masters Workshops: Friday, 1:00-3:00PM, South Hall 1415

Tech Help
Jennifer Stoy, Transcriptions Studio (SH 2509) Drop-in Hours
Tues & Thurs, 10:30-1:30 PM
By appointment jmstoy@umail.ucsb.edu

Michael Perry, Transcriptions Studio (SH 2509) Drop-in Hours
Tues-Friday, 2:00-5:00 PM
By appointment: mperry@umail.ucsb.edu

Web editing overview


  • Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks (Keyworks in Cultural Studies), Meenakshi Gigi Durham (Editor), Douglas Kellner (Editor) Blackwell Publishers; ISBN: 0631220968; (December 2000)  
  • The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, Jerome Agel (Producer) Publisher: Gingko Press Inc.; ISBN: 1584230703; (June 2001)
  • English 165 Media Culture Reader, The Alternative Copy Shop,  6556 Pardall Road; Isla Vista, CA 93117, 968-1055

Media texts

  • W.D. Griffith,The Birth of a Nation;
  • Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds (the radio play);
  • Frank Capra, Meet John Doe;
  • TV sitcoms: I Love Lucy, Matt Groening, The Simpsons
  • Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange;
  • Andy and Larry Wachowski, The Matrix;
  • Computer games: Doom and Myst.

Assignments and their weighting for grading:

1: Oral presentation: [10%] (5 minutes = 2 typed pages): state the central ideas of the reading, and offer some key questions raised by the reading for class discussion. 2 page typed version is due on the same day you present.  

2: Team Web Projects: 3 (or 2) people form a team. [25%]

Each team chooses a general area of interest with implications for the theory and practices of media culture. [See sample topics below*.]
The web site will include:

  1. Overview page: the topic, scope, and leading issues that the page will explore
  2. Links/ bibliography: annotated: author/organization; topic and scope of the page; your evaluation of its quaity
  3. History/ Timeline: it should focus on your topic and develop it
  4. Media samples: digitize and present, then analyze each
  5. Essays: put single paragraph descriptions of each essay, an
    individually written 8-page paper on some aspect of your team topic.


  •  Conferences with Prof Warner will take place in early Feb.
  • Team prospectus is presented to the class on Feb 20th.
  • 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 March 11th.
  • Final presentation to the class will take place Wed March 19, 7:30-10:30PM, SH 1415

3: Exam [30%]: March 6: 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")

4: Individually written term paper (8-pages). [25%] This carefully written essay should mobilize the concepts and perspectives of this course to analysis one or more work that offers perspective on the history and theory of media culture.

5: Class participation and attendance [10%]

*Topics that might be developed into a more specific team project:

  • Media and war
  • Queer media
  • Women Return the Gaze
  • Media and Pornography
  • The media matrix for the invention of Rock video
  • Youth culture and media culture
  • Science fiction and media
  • Cyborg sex
  • Radio and fascism
  • Celebrity scandals and television
  • Special effects and kung fu films
  • Race and media: the case of Michael Jackson

Ground rules for the course:

A well functioning class is a collaborative endeavor. For this reason I ask you to respect these ground rules:

1) Class 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 4 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 work.]

2) Please arrive on time for a full 75-minute class. Please take care of any personal needs—for food or a visit to the restroom—before or after class.

3) Reading 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.

4) Format: Your oral presentation paper 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 be accepted.

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 (Friday, 2:30-3:30 PM), 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).

| overview | schedule | assignments |student pages | links | UCSB English