Communication and Culture | Media, Politics, and Power (Topic: Ethnographic Approaches to New Media Studies)
C620 | 28433 | Gray, M.

Tu, 4:00 PM-6:30 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 272

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Mary Gray
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 243
Phone: 855-4379

Backstory (motive for the course): The qualitative analysis of media
technologies—particularly those considered “new”—has become
increasingly important to a number of fields, from communication and
science studies to new media studies design. In order to make the
qualitative study of new media as vigorous and grounded as possible,
I suggest we 1) contextualize new media as a kind of information
system coming from a rich history of “newness” 2) plumb the “old”
methodological toolbags of classical ethnography and qualitative
analysis more broadly and 3) investigate what to tweak or rethink in
applying qualitative analyses to the study of new media and/or its
role in our lives.

Focus (course goals): In this course, we will examine current
understandings of what constitutes ethnography and survey texts that
talk about technologies as politically complicated relations of
power. From this foundation, we will address the rapidly growing
body of qualitative analyses examining new media in order to better
equip us to modify these principles for our own studies of “new
media.” You may approach the course in one (or both) of two ways.
First, if you plan on doing ethnographic research of new media as
part of your doctoral thesis, then this semester can be used for
locating, gaining access to, and undertaking a pilot project at your
research site, with the readings guiding you in possible themes.
Your final work will be a project description. Second, you may
choose to concentrate on the social and theoretical issues raised by
the texts being studied. In this case, you will be expected to turn
in a theoretical essay discussing general issues in the study of new
media with an eye towards situating new media in these past and
ongoing analyses.

• Because this is a 600-level course, it will provide both a survey
of current scholarship in the field and specific interrogations in
and across disciplines concerning the course themes.
• Course will be a seminar format and incorporate a course message
board to facilitate discussion outside of the seminar meeting times;
attendance will be taken and count towards final course evaluation.
• Authors studied will include Nancy Baym, John Campbell, James
Clifford, David Hakken, Christine Hine, Emily Ignacio, Steve Jones,
Lori Kendall, Beth Kolko, Lisa Nakamura, and Nina Wakeford.
• Continues themes and ideas presented in C507: Methods of
Ethnographic Research in Communication and Culture.
• Designed to improve students’ abilities to critically examine the
uses of ethnographic approaches in the study of new media
technologies and/or the study of how media (new or otherwise) fit in
the flow of everyday life and the production of cultural meaning.
• Assignments will include weekly written reading responses (2 pages
typed); individual and group presentations with an associated paper
approximately 3-5 pages in length; weekly postings of discussion
questions to the course’s Oncourse message board; a book review
(approximately 2000 words) for submission to a targeted journal or
online resource identified by the student; a final project or
seminar paper for presentation to the class at large. Students will
also be required to complete a draft version of an IU campus IRB
application appropriate to their actual or a hypothetical research
design over the course of the seminar.