evolving ecological media culture(s)

Week 1: Media studies & medium theory

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As this class is not being aimed (specifically) at media studies students, it begins with some fairly introductory material. This week, the class is reading the following four articles and excerpts.

1) Creeber and Martin, “Introduction,” from Digital Cultures: Understanding New Media (Open University Press, 2009), pp. 2-9.

Read the “What is new media?” and “Digital cultures” sections (including the box on pp. 8-9). This reading is mainly to make sure we are all on the same page with understanding what is meant by “Web 2.0” and “Media studies 2.0.” (Availability note: Most of these pages should be available on Google Reader.)

2) Jim Macnamara, “Understanding the Mediascape,” from The 21st Century Media Revolution: Emergent Communication Practices (NY: Peter Lang, 2010).

This reading provides important background on key theoretical perspectives and themes in media studies research. The first section, “Major Traditions of Media Critique,” with its distinction between “political economy,” “cultural studies,” and “medium theory,” provides a key organizing framework for our thinking about media in the rest of the course. These sections are very introductory; if you’ve taken any media studies courses before, you will likely find them superficial and overgeneralizing. But if you haven’t, please be sure you grasp the differences between these three traditions. The rest of the chapter introduces the important notions of “net neutrality,” the “digital divide,” social capital, “digital enclaves,” and technological determinism. You should make sure you understand each of these.

3) Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: Signet, 1964).

Read the first four paragraphs from this essay, which is a classic by one of the most celebrated and controversial figures in media theory.

Here’s a related video:

4) Ott and Mack, “Ecological analysis,” from Critical Media Studies: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

This chapter focuses on the tradition in media/communication studies known as “media ecology” or (more broadly) “medium theory.” We will be defining “media ecology” in several different ways in the course; this chapter presents an overview of one of the key ways we will use the term. Try to get a sense of the broad historical scope of the field as it has been developed by Innis, McLuhan, and Ong. (You can skip the section on “Equipment for Living.”)

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