TVR 30.5: Media Criticism (Television and Radio Criticism)

Class Schedule and Assignments - Fall, 2006

Monday/Wednesday - 3:30PM-4:45PM
Monday - 6:20PM-9:00PM

Section Resources:

Monday/Wednesday3:30PM-4:45PMClass Schedule and AssignmentsLecture Notes
Monday6:20PM-9:00PMClass Schedule and AssignmentsLecture Notes

Course Description

This course explores critical and theoretical approaches to understanding contemporary media, particularly mass media such as television, radio, and Internet streaming media. We will examine the meanings, pleasures, and practices associated with our production and consumption of media content.

We live in our media. We spend more time engaged in communication than we spend in any other activity, including sleeping, and there are media choices associated with every minute of that communication. In this course, you will learn how to analyze the media and the messages they enable. To do this we need to step back from the way we usually think about media and consider alternate perspectives; we need to learn how to use those perspectives to view, hear, read about, think about, discuss, and write about the media we use and the content we consume from those media.

To do so, we will survey several major methods associated with media theory and criticism. Media theory considers the ways in which, "in the words of Marshall McLuhan, "the medium is the message"; the ways in which the possibilities, uses, effects, practices associated with media imbue messages with meaning. Various methods of media criticism apply differing theoretical premises to identifying the message of the medium. The critical methods examined in this course include semiotics, narrative theory, genre theory, ideological theories, cultural studies, and media ecology.

This course is designed to help you to think about the media you use to make and consume messages. It will present a variety of of different perspectives on the media within a framework that should complement your production experiences and goals. You will be asking questions, exploring possibilities, and writing intensively (this is a writing intensive course) about difficult and sophisticated ideas, and cultivating skills that are crucial to your development not only as future media makers and storytellers, but also as participants in our evolving media culture.


Allen, R.C. Channels of discourse, reassembled: Television and contemporary criticism. The University of North Carolina Press. 1994.

Levinson, P. Digital McLuhan: a guide to the information millennium. Routledge. 2001.

A body of content of your choosing. You will need to obtain this body of content yourself. You will view it repeatedly. If you don't have a VCR or DVD player at your local place of residence (dorm room, apartment, home, etc) that you can use this way, you should obtain one. VCRs and DVD players are currently available from retailers for as little as $40.

Lecture Notes

My usual practice is to make my lecture notes directly available to the class via the Internet. I will display those lecture notes during class. You can print them out later. You may be able to print them out before class, but I don't guarantee that you will. I known for changing my lecture notes right up to the beginning of class (and sometimes during class), however. The version posted at the end of class can generally be considered to be reliable.


Exam25%Classic Question and Answer testing, conducted near the end of the semester. Covers all of the material covered in the course covered up to that date, including classroom discussions and readings.
Index Card Assignments10%Index card assignments entail doing a small assignment involving thought or observation, but usually with the restriction that the output of the assignment (your answer or observation) must fit on one side of a 3x5 card. I don't grade these assignments. Simply turning them in on time nets the points so long as you appear to have taken the assignment seriously. Index Card Assignments will frequently be used in the course of class discussions.
Short Criticism Paper 112%A short (approximately three page) research paper applying one methodology to your selected content.
Short Criticism Paper 212%A short (approximately three page) research paper applying one methodology to your selected content.
Term Paper25%A longer (at least six pages; at least 10 pages for an A) research paper applying the methodologies of your choice to your selected content.
Term Paper Presentation6%A 6-8 minute presentation that overviews what you found in your term paper for the class. Note that a six page term paper would normally take at least 12 minutes to read. You won't have that much time, and its usually a good idea to play a short clip from your body of content, so focus on the notion of "overview".
Participation10%You should bring two questions to class each day based on the readings. Write them on one side of an index card. Lectures will often take the form of a conversation in which you ask questions and we discuss the answers to those questions. This portion of the grade will be based on your preparation and ability to both ask good questions and participate in answering them. If I feel strongly that the class is not prepared, I may give a quiz that will count as a part of this portion of the grade.
Total Grade 100% Based on above.
Attendance Subtractionopen Attendance is mandatory. The Brooklyn College Bulletin states that "Students are expected to attend all scheduled sessions of every class for which they register. Students late for class may be excluded from the room. An instructor may consider attendance and class participation in determining course grade." While I am unlikely to lock the door, I will take account of missed class time in computing grades.
Effort BonusUp to 10%An optional addition, based on good and enthusiastic participation, interest in subject matter, etc. There is no guarantee I will give any of these points to anyone.

Plagiarism and Cheating:

I have caught a number of students attempting to pass off other people's work as their own. Such behavior is unacceptable in any classroom, and I won't accept it in mine. My usual practice will be to zero any assignment on which a student has been found to be cheating and consult with the department chair on what other actions may be appropriate

Examples of cheating include:

Bottom line: Write in your own words and reference the ideas you use to the sources you read them in.

Disabling Conditions

Students who have a disabling condition which might interfere with their ability to successfully complete this course are encouraged to speak to me confidentially. I will be happy to cooperate in identifying alternate means of demonstrating such mastery where there is a demonstrable need.

Bottom line: I'm here to help.

Late Assignments:

It is your responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted by the due date. I will reduce the grade on an assignment by one half letter grade for every class period by which it is late.

Questions, Problems and Incompletes:

If you have a question I encourage you to ask it in class. There are no stupid questions; only answers that didn't need to be. If you don't know the answer to a question it is likely someone else is curious as well. Please ask. The worst that can happen is that I defer my answer to a meeting after class or during office hours.

If you have a problem in the class I encourage you to contact me as quickly as possible. Several means of contact are listed at the top of my Brooklyn College home page, including telephone, e-mail, and instant messenger. I also maintain regular office hours. Note, in particular, that I will not grant an incomplete for the course unless you talk to me about it in advance or I am aware of conditions which would make it impossible for you to do so.