Communication and Culture | Media History (Topic: Media and Technology)
C594 | 27523 | Dawson, M.

M, 1:00 PM-3:30 PM, C2 272

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Max Dawson
Office: C2 214
Phone: 856-5367

This class surveys a variety of historical and theoretical
approaches to the study of new media. Though the class will examine
the histories of digital media technologies such as the Internet and
video games, our focus will not be digital media exclusively.
Rather, we will take the term “new media” quite literally,
concentrating on media during their period of novelty, when their
material properties and cultural meanings are undefined, making them
the subjects of intense negotiations between interested individuals
and publics. By defining “new media” in this broad fashion, we will
explore the ways that technology manufacturers, artists, cultural
intermediaries, consumers, and audience members have deployed
historically-specific conceptions of novelty at various points
through the last two centuries in relation to a range of media
innovations. In this respect, the class is both a history of new
media technologies (including telegraphy, telephony, radio,
television, cinema, the Internet, and video games) and a history of
the concept of “new media,” particularly as it has been mobilized in
various political projects.

Though this course primarily draws on literature from the field of
media and cultural studies, readings will also introduce students to
foundational work in the sociology and history of technology, a
field that has produced a number of landmark studies of media
technologies. Class readings will be divided between case studies
examining the histories of specific media innovations (especially
studies that employ innovative methodologies or that consult
unlikely sources), works of critical historiography, and theoretical
work on such topics as medium specificity, technological determinism
and social constructivism, the agency of users and non-users, failed
technologies, the relationships between technology and aesthetics,
etc. Authors studied are likely to include Raymond Williams,
Marshall McLuhan, Michel Foucault, Brian Winston, Claude Fischer,
Carolyn Marvin, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Lisa Gitelman,
Ann Douglas, Lynn Spigel, Kristen Haring, Lev Manovich, Weibe Bijker
and Trevor Pinch, and Ruth Schwartz Cowan.

Assignments will include weekly reading responses, in-class
discussion leadership, a book review, a paper prospectus, a twenty-
minute conference style presentation, and a seminar paper of between
twenty and thirty pages in length. The seminar paper may either take
the form of a historical study or a consideration of historiographic
theories or methods.