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. (1994). Channels of discourse, reassembled: Television and contemporary criticism. The University of North Carolina Press.
The Allen text should cost about $20-$35 in print form. It is available in an electronic edition for about $19 from Amazon.com. The Brooklyn College bookstore should have copies, but I expect many of you will prefer the electronic edition, which is designed to work with e-readers and software on computers, tablets (like the iPad or a smartphone). At last check it was available for the Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader for $33. I haven't checked availability on others e-readers (SONY, Google, etc), but you may want to check for availability if you already use an e-reader device. Note that prices on electronic editions sometimes change rapidly. The Amazon version was $13 when I checked a few days ago.
If you choose to use the electronic version (as I will be doing) from Amazon, it can be used in any of three ways. You can use it on your Windows PC using free software that can be downloaded from Amazon. You can also use it on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad using free Kindle software that can be downloaded for free from the Apple Apps store. It is supposed to work on MacIntosh computers. The third and most expensive option is Amazon's Kindle e-books. I use one thqat sells for about $199 (considerably more than the text), but there are versions available for under $100.00. I find the electronic version more readable than the text version, but either is fine and your mileage may vary. The only option you don't have is to NOT read the assigned chapters in the text.
A body of content of your choosing. You will need to obtain this body of content yourself. You will view it repeatedly. A few years ago I would have suggested buying a DVD that contains at least one season of the series you select. Today I'd probably use Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon Prime, or some other subscription based service.
Students should understand a variety of theory-based qualitative/critical methodologies and be able to apply them to mass media content. It is expected that these methods will help students to reintegrate their existing production experience.
My usual practice is to make my lecture/discussion notes directly available to the class via the Internet. I will frequently display those 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 frequently change my discussion notes right up to the beginning of class (and sometimes during class). The version posted at the end of class can generally be considered to be reliable, but I occasionally modify them after class based on class discussions.
Three and a half hours (the scheduled meeting time) is a long class. I will therefore try to keep class sessions shorter and conduct a portion of the class online using a class discussion/learning space called a "Moodle" located at http://messageecologies.com/ed. There will be required discussions and assignment submissions there. You can also use this group to exchange of any class-related information or questions. Only class members (and perhaps one or two selected others) can post to or read messages in this discussion space. You will be registering into this Moodle on the first day of class. You'll have assignments to complete there for the second day of class and most subsequent days. There is a possibility we will also use online discussion environments. I will inform you of any such change in advance.
Point your web browser at http://messageecologies.com/ed
Attendance is required for all classes, including the final exam period. Punctuality is much desired.
The reading and writing load for this course is fairly heavy. This is intentional. TVR 30.5 is both the capstone course in Television and Radio and the department's writing course. If you can't keep up with the readings, papers, or other assignments, you may want to drop the course early on and try again in another semester.
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. You should not, as a general note, ask me for "permission" to miss class. While I will try to be understanding of documented emergencies, the basic reality (which has more to do with your ability to learn when you aren't in class than anything else) is that absences make your grade grow smaller.
The CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity states that “Academic Dishonesty is prohibited in the City University of New York and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion, as provided herein.” For more information on CUNY policy on Plagiarism and cheating and BC's implementation of that policy, see http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/policies/ .
On a more practical note, 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 appropriateExamples of cheating include:
- Duplicate test answers. I cannot prevent students from studying together or comparing notes on a take home exam (should I give any). Test answers should always be in your own words (e.g. not copied out of a book or off of someone else's test paper).
- Plagiarized term paper content. I encourage you to look at content from a wide variety of sources, but the content of your term paper should be in your own words.
- Unreferenced term paper content. Where, in the course of writing a term paper, you present the ideas of others, you must indicate where they came from with a reference. This is true even when you have stated the ideas in your own words or if the ideas or their sources seem obvious.
Bottom line: Write in your own words and reference the ideas you use to the sources you read them in.
Help with Research and Writing
The Library maintains a collection of links to sites that can assist you with proper citation format and paraphrasing and quoting other authors at http://library.brooklyn.cuny.edu Research & Writing Help. The Learning Center has writing tutors available to help you with your writing http://lc.brooklyn.cuny.edu/.
The best learning is done in conversation with others, whether they are people—classmates, teachers, friends—or texts—books, articles, essays, poems, films etc. It should not be a solitary process. However, the assignments that you hand in for this course must be done on your own, should represent your own thinking, and should be original work that you have done for this particular course. In my opinion, the best way to balance these two seemingly contradictory approaches (collaborative learning and original individually-produced work) without knowingly—or, even unwittingly—resorting to plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct is to learn and meticulously observe the rules for citing the work of others (this could be the great point your roommate made that you used in your paper, it could be a well-turned phrase from an academic essay, or it could be anything in between). It is your responsibility to learn what constitutes plagiarism and the correct rules for citing sources—read the information on the following website carefully: http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/policies/. The bottom line is: passing off anyone’s words or ideas as your own for any reason whatsoever is plagiarism.
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 if one period late and one full grade thereafter. As a general rule, it is always best to turn in assignments on time, but not turning in an assignment at all is far worse than turning them in late. A letter grade penalty is far less onerous than a zero.
It is important to me that the course be accessible to all students. 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. Students with disability-related academic accommodations students must register with the Center for Student Disability Services if they have not done so already. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services please provide me with the course accommodation form so we may discuss your specific accommodation.
Bottom line: I'm here to help. Brooklyn College wants to help too.
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 complete the course during the semester.