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November 26, 2005

Media and History Course

In the spring, I'll be teaching 3 sections of CUA's Media and History course. The stated goal of the course is to "explore mediation in and across time," with the hope of introducing students to questions about the transitions and interactions among media and culture. In the past, the course hasn't been taught as a comprehensive survey of media history (teaching several thousand years' worth of media in fifteen weeks would be rather difficult). Instead the emphasis is on using past media transitions to make sense of contemporary transitions, which I think is a good idea. So far, I have the basic scaffolding for the course set up, including the books I'll require my students to read:

I'll certainly supplement these books with some relevant historical essays (too tired to list them right now) and required encounters with relevant texts (Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, possibly the Bela Lugosi film, Murder by Television, and others). I'm thinking out loud over here, so any suggestions or observations would be welcome.

Posted by chuck at November 26, 2005 10:58 PM

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Tracked on December 15, 2005 2:52 PM


I don't know, but towards the end something like Videodrome might be applicable?

Posted by: Matt at November 27, 2005 1:56 AM

Videodrome might be interesting. I do need to spend some time talking about the major shifts in the 1980s (the emergence of video and cable, the "birth" of the high concept film, etc).

Posted by: Chuck at November 27, 2005 11:10 AM

It looks like you've got quite a reading list already - is this for an intro level class? I like Brian Winston's Media Technology and Society quite a bit since he's highly skeptical about many of claims about new technologies, and he has chapters devoted to things like cable and laserdisc. I assigned the chapter on the Internet to the intro-level production class I taught last spring, and I thought it was good for getting a bunch of people up to speed on the history of the Internet, but many of the more technophilic students complained his tone was "grumpy." Would you read some of Tom Schatz's work on "New Hollywood" if you went into blockbusters?

I've been assigned to TA a class titled "New Communication Technologies" next semester. I chatted with the prof about her plans for the class, and I was pretty surprised when she said, "In the past, I spent most of the semester discussing cable TV." The class will emphasize the Internet more, but, as a thirty-year-old, cable wasn't even on my radar as a new technology.

Posted by: McChris at November 27, 2005 12:01 PM

The Winston book looks good. I might use his chapter on the Internet (or a similar chapter on a recent technology). I don't think a little grumpiness is a bad thing, of course (after all I like Adorno). Tom Schatz on "New Hollywood" would be good.

I do think some time on cable would be good, especially since I want to cover changes over the last two centuries (though focusing primarily on the relatively contemporary). I think it's worth looking at the changes that cable introduced--I still remember getting cable for the first time and being amazed that there was an entire network devoted to sports (!) and one dedicated to kids' shows (!). Of course, talking about cable might also help foster larger conversations about media deregulation and other more recent institutional questions.

Posted by: Chuck at November 27, 2005 12:36 PM

I think the strongest part of Winston's book is his introduction, which includes a very useful framework for thinking about technological change. The rest of the book is a little uneven.

Posted by: cbd at November 27, 2005 4:12 PM

No plans to include anything about videogames? I know its still rare to see it in the classroom, but you might consider including some machinima (Red V Blue) to talk both about video game media culture and the production of media/cinema using video game technology...

Posted by: Jason at November 28, 2005 3:09 PM

Yeah, I do need *something* about video games. I simply forgot to mention them since I was writing primarily about the major texts for the course. Machinima is an interesting possibility, especially in terms of those issues of media in transition. I may look at the Video Game Reader for 1-2 short essays to cover that history.

Posted by: Chuck at November 28, 2005 3:41 PM

You might also look at the new Handbook of Computer Game Studies (MIT Press 2005) edited by Joost Raessens and Jeffrey Goldstein and/or ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces, edited by Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska. If you are able to make it to Dave's on Saturday night, I'd be happy to chat about idea.

Posted by: Jason at November 28, 2005 10:31 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. Hope we can talk about it IRL at some point....

Posted by: Chuck at November 28, 2005 11:49 PM

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