This course is a survey of ideas: Media Ideas. We tend to assume that ours is an exceptional era – one unprecedented in its mediatization, unique in its digitality, its information- and image-centricity. But even if the conditions of our media environment are unprecedented, these claims of exceptionality are not new – nor are the practices of thinking about and theorizing media and communication.
In this course, we will focus on major schools of thought that have shaped the study of media throughout the 20th century and that have served as a foundation for media studies in the 21st century. The philosophical and historical roots of media studies are deeply interdisciplinary, and we will therefore work across the fields of literary theory, art history, anthropology, sociology, history, and philosophy, to name just a few. As wide-ranging are its backgrounds, the discipline of media studies also bears considerable specificity and weight, and throughout we will be asking how and why thinking about media matters.
Media Studies: Ideas is organized around three central themes, or lenses: Technology, Power, and Aesthetics. Through these lenses, the course serves not only as a foundation for intermediate and advanced work in the Media Studies Program, but as a sharp critical engagement with the multiple roles that media play in our individual and collective lives.