For readings, please sign into the course box folder.

For communication, please use our course Slack instead of email to contact instructors or fellow students.

Week 1: The Frankfurt School Goes to the Movies

1/6  

  • Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” in  Dialectic of Enlightenment. (p. 94-136)
  • Herbert Marcuse. “Introduction to the First Edition: The Paralysis of Criticism: Society without Opposition” in One-Dimensional Man. (p. xxxix-xxxviii)

1/8 

  • Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.” (p. 19-42)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, “Photography.” (p. 421-436)
  • Miriam Hansen. “Room-for-Play: Benjamin’s Gamble with Cinema,” October (p. 3-45)

Week 2: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Birmingham School but were Afraid to Watch on Television!: Cultural Form from Broadcasting to Pointcasting

1/13

  • Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies.” Cultural Studies (p. 277-294)
  • Dick Hebdige, “From Culture to Hegemony” In Subculture: The Meaning of Style (p. 5-19). 
  • Angela McRobbie, “Settling Accounts with Subcultures: A Feminist Critique” in Feminism and Youth Culture (p. 16-34)

1/15

  • Raymond Williams, “Chapter 3: The Forms of Television” (p. 39-76) in Television: Technology and Cultural Form
  • Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” in the Cultural Studies Reader (p. 507-517) 
  • Herman Gray, “Black Cultural Politics and Commercial Culture” in Watching Race (p. 1-13)
  • “Bandersnatch” Black Mirror interactive episode

Week 3: Did It For the Lulz: Audience Studies from Market Research to Trolling

1/20 NO CLASS – MLK

1/22  

  • Paul Lazarsfeld, “Audience Research in the Movie Field.” (p. 160-168)
  • Janice Radway. “Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text & Context.” in Feminist Studies (p. 53-78)
  • Whitney Phillips, “The Only Reason to Do Anything” & “Toward a Method/ology.” This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (p. 27-48)
  • Andre Cavalcante, Andrea Press & Katherine Sender. “Feminist Reception Studies in a Post-Audience Age.” (p. 1-13)

Week 4: The Social Construction of Identity from Cybernetics to Lara Croft

1/27 

  • Katherine Hayles, “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetics Anxiety” in How We Became Posthuman (p. 84-112)
  • Philip Mirowski, “Core Wars” in Machine Dreams Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science (p. 437-452)
  • Dawn T. Robinson, “Control Theories in Sociology.” (p. 157-174) 
  • Natasha Schüll, “Abiding Chance: Online Poker and the Software of Self-Discipline” (p. 563-592)

1/27

  • Assignment Due: Short paper about a Frankfurt or Birmingham theory by 5pm. Email to both professors

1/29    

  • Adrienne Shaw, “Does Anyone Really Identify with Lara Croft?” in Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (p. 55-96)
  • Soraya Murray, “Poetics of Form and Politics of Identity; Or, Games as Cultural Palimpsests” in On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender and Space (p. 47-87)
  • Jason Rohrer, Passage (5 minutes)
  • Mitu Khandaker, Passage Mod (5 minutes)

Week 5:  #GameOn: Games, Gamification, and the Ideology of Solutionism

2/3  

2/5 

  • Alexander Galloway, “Countergaming” from Gaming (p. 107-126)
  • Mary Flanagan, “Introduction to Critical Play” in Critical Play (p. 1-16)
  • Liz Ryerson, Problem Attic (play for 1 hour)
  • Lucas Pope, Return of Obra Dinn (8 hours to complete the entire game, but you are only required to finish approximately 50% for class and watch the ending on YouTube)

Week 6: Your Political Movement Will (Not) Be Mediated: From the Civil Rights Movement to QAnon

2/10

2/11

  • Special Screening: Get Me Roger Stone (documentary)

2/12 

  • Dick Hebdige, “Subculture: The Unnatural Break” from Subculture: The Meaning of Style (p. 90-99)
  • Amy Farrell, “A Change of Skin or a Change of Heart: Ms. in Transition 1987-1989” in Your in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism (p. 179-190)
  • Mary Celeste Kearney, “Brought to you by Girl Power: Riot Grrrl’s Networked Media Economy.” In Girls Make Media (p. 51-90)
  • Listen to the first half of “The QAnon Code” episode of Reply All (about 35 minutes)

2/13

  • Assignment Due: Final paper abstract by 5pm

Week 7: Alone Together: Social Media Networks and Affective Politics

2/17

  • Wendy Chun, “Preface: The Wonderful Creepiness of New Media” and “Introduction: Habitual New Media, or Updating to Remain (Close to) the Same” from Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (p. ix-xi and 1-20)
  • Aria Dean, “Poor Meme, Rich Meme” (14 pages)
  • EJ Dickson, “Did TikTok Censor a Teen’s China Protest Disguised as a Makeup Tutorial?” in Rolling Stone (November 26, 2019)
  • Kevin Deluca et al. “Weibo, WeChat, and the Transformative Events of Environmental Activism on China’s Wild Screens.” (p. 321-339)

2/19

  • Rita Raley, “Introduction” to Tactical Media (p. 1-30)
  • Nicky Case, We Become What We Behold (play for 5-10 minutes)
  • Mary Zournazi and Brian Massumi, “Navigating Movements: A Conversation with Brian Massumi” in Hope: New Philosophies for Change (p. 210-242)
  • Brian Massumi, The Power at the End of the Economy (p. 19-56)

Week 8: Alternate Realities: From Digital Work to Breaching Experiments

2/24 

  • Zixue Tai and Fengbin Hu, “Play Between Love and Labor: The Practice of Gold Farming in China” in New Media and Society (p. 2370-2390)
  • Tiziana Terranova, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy” (p. 33-58)
  • Nick Dyer-Witheford, “Silicon” and “Mobile” in Cyber-Proletariat (p. 60-80 and p. 102-123)
  • Bea Malsky, “Managing Hearts with Kim and Flo” in The New Inquiry

2/25

  • Special play session of Stardew Valley Co-op at the Weston Game Lab at the MADD Center at 5pm

2/26

  • Harold Garfinkel. “A Conception of, and Experiments with, ‘Trust’ as a Condition of Stable Concerted Actions.” In Motivation and Social Interaction. (p.187-238)
  • Derren Brown, Derren Brown: The Push (watch Netflix special)
  • Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken (p. 119-45, 296-344)
  • In-class cases: the parasite and Terrarium

Week 9: The Short American 21st Century: From Post-9/11 Politics to Post-Truth Politics

3/2 

  • Jean Baudrillard, “The Spirit of Terrorism”
  • Gary Alan Fine and Bill Ellis. “A Riot of Conspiracies.” From The Global Grapevine (p. 51-72)
  • Richard Grusin, Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11 (p. 1-7 and 90-121)
  • Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers (graphic narrative)

3/4

Week 10: Uber, Google, Amazon, Oh My!

3/9

3/10

  • Special Final Paper Conference: 2-8pm (Place TBD)

3/11 NO CLASS

3/13: Assignment due: Final projects


  • Attendance, Preparation, Discussion, and Participation in Exercises: 20%
  • Blog Posts (4 posts and short weekly responses): 25%
  • Short Paper (apply a Frankfurt/Birmingham theory to a post-2000 media case): 15%
  • Final Conference Paper (including abstract and final paper): 40%

Blog Posts and Responses: Over the course of the quarter, you will contribute to a class blog (located on this site) through original posts and responses to your peers. These posts are intended to influence and extend the conversations we have during our shared meetings. You are required to post at least 4 entries over the course of the quarter. Each entry should respond to that week’s media or theoretical reading, expand substantively on an ongoing topic of class discussion (without simply reproducing or documenting an exchange), or call our attention to articles or media about related phenomena. The 4 minimum entries can be posted anytime over the course of the quarter but you may post no more than one post a week for credit (so plan ahead!). Each post must also comment on a topic from the week in which it is posted (so you can’t, for instance, return to a topic from Week 2 on Week 9 unless it is in some way related to a current discussion). While the content of these entries can be wide-ranging and a touch less formal than an academic essay, you should observe formal citation standards and be mindful of your prose. You are also required to read posts by your classmates and respond briefly to at least one entry per week.

Short Paper (5 pages): For this short paper, select a theory from the Frankfurt or Birmingham schools, covered in Week 1 and 2, and apply it to a post-2000 media case. For instance, how does Snapchat operate relative to Walter Benjamin’s concept of “aura”? Does Adorno and Horkheimer’s “culture industry” still apply to a post-broadcasting media landscape made up of streaming services such as Netflix or interactive media such as video games? How can you extend Angela McRobbie’s feminist critique of the Birmingham school to a salient contemporary case of digital or networked media? The theory and case are up to you, but the paper should include a clear synthesis of the theory, an overview of your case, and a non-obvious argument with stakes.

Final Paper Abstract (300-400 words): About a month before the final essay is due, you will turn in a brief abstract. You can adjust your topic during the research process, but it’s useful to have a starting point — a working fiction, if you will — well in advance of the deadline. The abstract should succinctly state your argument, name your key work or object of analysis, explain the way you’re positioning your intervention in the broader scholarly field, and demonstrate why a reader would care about the argument that you’re making. The abstract should also comment upon the type of research that will be necessary to complete your work in the final month of the quarter. You can include a bibliography. Also, this exercise will connect to the final mock conference. So write the abstract as if you are submitting it to an actual conference and include the name of the conference to which you are submitting. We will play the part of a conference organizer and either accept or reject your proposed paper. 

Final Mock Conference (10-12 Minutes): About a week before the final research paper is due, you’ll have a chance to present a slightly shorter version of your paper in class. You should present your argument and its implications in a clear and persuasive manner. You should also prepare the presentation, in advance, so that it fits within the allotted slot (you will be timed). Visual aids (such as PowerPoints, images, or videos) will certainly strengthen your presentation. The primary purpose of the assignment is to prepare you for conference presentations and to give you useful feedback that will help you with your final set of revisions. After your presentation, we will have a short question and answer period.

Final Paper (10-15 Pages): Your 10-15 page final paper can be related to any aspect of the material covered in the course. To clarify, you need not necessarily write about one of the primary texts we cover in class. For this assignment, you will work up to your final essay through an abstract and a conference presentation.