People talk about “the media” all the time as powerful, as everywhere, and as important. But what exactly are the media? How do they work? Who controls them? Whom do they benefit, and how? As media increasingly pervade the fabric of daily life, and as fewer and fewer entities maintain ownership over the largest media institutions, the urgency of answering these questions only grows in importance.
These questions are very difficult to ask—much less answer—because the ways in which structure and function of media remain, for many of us, either so taken for granted as to seem self-evident, or so opaque as to seem utterly mysterious. This course will introduce you to the basic vocabularies of visual and media literacy, and it will hone your skills at analyzing media texts, institutions, apparatuses, and audiences critically as they exist in and help form culture. This course is divided into three major units: cinema, television, and digital technologies, although we will often gesture to other important media institutions such as advertising and radio in developing our units. Our goal is to explore the relationships between and among form, meaning, and cultural-historical contexts with respect to each.
C190 will help you appreciate more fully the complex ways in which media inhabit and affect cultural, political, social, and economic life. More importantly, it will provide you with the analytical and interpretive skills by which to navigate and begin to make sense of the densely mediated landscapes we inhabit.