Media Ecologies and Cultural Politics, the 2020 election/pandemic version
As our nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for a potentially pivotal national election, and as climate, ecological, and racial and social justice crises continue to roil the body politic, it is crucial to understand how a rapidly evolving media sector—encompassing both mass media and digital social media—informs (or misinforms), shapes, and steers public opinion. This seminar course will present an intermediate-level introduction to media and cultural studies in the context of social, political, and environmental movements that make use of, and in the process transform, the new media environments in which social and political life increasingly takes place.
We will study debates in “media ecology” and the cultural politics of new/emergent media, from Marshall McLuhan’s notion of media as sensory extensions of humanity to theories of “media convergence” and “surveillance capitalism.” And we will study recent debates in cultural and political theory concerned with politics, democracy, and radical social change in an increasingly interconnected, globally mediated world.
Drawing on this combination of theoretical resources, we will examine and assess media use in a range of contemporary social movements and phenomena, particularly as these pertain to cultural and political debates in the run-up to and follow-up from the November elections. These may include debates over “fake news,” conspiracy theories, and media manipulation (by U.S.-based and international players), the roles of Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms in enabling and constraining various forms of political discourse, and movements aimed at addressing climate change through climate justice activism and a “Green New Deal,” “tactical media” interventions such as “culture jamming” and “hacktivism,” and others.
The course will not only be about media, and particularly “new” media (which for many of us are not new at all), but will also make use of these media. Class activities will include analysis of media objects as well as applied media production projects generally carried out in groups; collaboration will be a prominent focus of the class.