Media Objects/Media Theory

Home/ Media Objects/Media Theory
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSCC2FS2074

Timing/days: 2 – 4 pm, Tuesday and Thursday Venue: CR 407

Course Coordinator and Instructor: Dr Vebhuti Duggal

Contact details:

Pre-requisites: No prerequisites to credit this course are necessary but some familiarity with
concepts from film, media and cultural theory would be useful..

Aim :
Our lived experience, since the late nineteenth century has been intertwined with different media
objects from telephones and cameras to the digital object. The presence of media objects has
altered the regimes of everyday life, perception, governance etcetera. Given the ubiquity of media
objects, it is necessary to learn to engage with what media is and what it does. This course charts, to
a large extent chronologically, major debates and schools of thought in media theory, which
straddle different media forms and historical locations, all within the twentieth century. It does so
often by considering specific media objects (without presenting exhaustive perspectives) in order
to draw attention to their history and materiality. Finally, it also works with certain keywords
throughout the course which have acquired tremendous purchase in various disciplines such as
affect, the archive, infrastructure, governance, surveillance etcetera to consider how these might
lend themselves to our understanding of media and vice-versa, especially in the context of ‘new’
media. Flowing through these three strands would be considerations of media as technology, its
space in art practice, cinematic practice and its relations to questions of power and ideology. The
course is envisioned as enabling students from various disciplinary backgrounds who are working
with or wish to work with media objects to be able to gain an entry into some of the debates of the
field. It hopes to specifically address students coming from film studies but also students from
gender studies, literature, art, design and other allied humanities and social science disciplines. All
these disciplines often deploy media practice in their art-works and research and also theoretically
reflect upon media practices.
Assessment with weightage

  1. Class participation and attendance (includes reading the material and contributing with questions, comments, other relevant material): 10% (throughout the semester)
  2. Reading responses (300 - 500 words once each every week; these are intended as either a commentary on a set of readings or a synthesis of a few readings from the module or a comprehensive evaluation of a single reading, in response to prompts on the google classroom page): 30% (throughout the semester)
  3. Mid-term in-class examination: 30% Date: 27 February 2020, 2.00 - 4.00 pm
  4. End-term paper (maximum 4000 words including references and notes): 30 % Abstract for the paper due on 9 March 2020 by 11.59 pm; final paper due on 30 April 2020, by 11.59 pm.

(a) For MPhil/PhD students crediting the course, assessment requirements and weightage will vary.
(b) For students auditing the course, please get in touch for course requirements.
Course policies

  1. Please note that any assignment that has been plagiarised will automatically receive a  grade of C only . In case there is any confusion as to what constitutes plagiarism, please look at these links: , .
  2. All students are expected to turn in the assignments as per the assignment schedule. Delayed submissions will be penalised with grade-cuts.
  3. Classes that fall on scheduled general holidays will be held on Saturdays, as noted in the outline. Class timing and venue will remain the same, unless otherwise notified.
  4. All course readings will be available, from 14 January 2019 via the google classroom page.
  5. All students are expected to attend all classes; please note that class participation is graded and absences would reflect adversely on the overall grade for the course. In the event of a medical emergency, please note that leave would be granted only with a medical certificate accompanying the application.
  6. Each week will have students read all the readings and have questions/comments/material for discussions, including any other commentary/ media material they wish to bring to bear upon the text. Please note that this forms part of your grade for participation.
  7. Generally, when reading, the expectation is that students will be generous to the arguments being made. In other words, while disagreement is expected and welcomed; it is necessary to be able to understand and rehearse the arguments cogently and with sufficient sympathetic intellectual context before proceeding to remark upon it.

1. Readings are subject to change.
2. ** indicates page numbers to be confirmed.

Weeks I-II / Course overview and Introduction
14 - 23 January 2020
David Hesmondhalgh, “My media studies: A few of my favourite things” in Television & New Media ,
Vol 10, no 1, Jan 2009, pp. 86 - 87.
Meenakshi Durham and Douglas Kellner (eds) Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks . Malden/
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006, pp. ix - xxxviii.
WJT Mitchell and Mark Hansen (eds) Critical terms for media studies . Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2010, pp. vii - xxii.
25 January 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week III/ The Adorno-Benjamin debate or the Frankfurt School
28 and 30 January 2020

  1. Walter Benjamin, “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction” in Illuminations . Trans. Harry Zorn. London: Pimlico, 1990, pp. 211 - 245.
  2. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments .
  3. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 94 - 136.
  4. 1 February 2020 -- response to reading prompt due
  5. Week III/ The McLuhan-Williams debate or the Toronto and Birmingham schools
  6. 4 and 6 February 2020


  1. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding media: The extensions of man . Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1994 (1964), pp. 1 - 31, **.
  2. Raymond Williams, Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society . New York: Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 11 - 27, 153 - 157 (entry on “ideology”), 266 - 269 (entry on
  3. “representative”), 315 - 316 (entry on “technology”).
  4. Stuart Hall, “Encoding/decoding” from Simon During (ed) The cultural studies reader .
  5. London/ New York: Routledge, pp. 507 - 517.

Additional (suggested) reference/s:
(i) New additions to media keywords .
(ii) McLuhan interviews/lectures at .
8 February 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week IV/ Publics and politics
11 and 13 February 2020
1. tbc
2. Kate Lacey, Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age .
London: Polity Press, 2013, **.
15 February 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week V/ Media, surveillance, power: beyond representation, ideology, discourse
18 and 20 February 2020
1. Toby Miller, “How the media biopoliticized neoliberalism: or, Foucault meets Marx” in
Revista Galáxia , No 20 (Dec 2010), pp. 22-31.
2. TBC
3. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control” in October Vol 59 (Winter 1992), pp.
3 - 7.
Additional (suggested) reference/s:
(i) Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle . .
Also see, [for Debord’s
film by the same name]

22 February 2020 -- response to reading prompt due
Reading and Mid-term Exam week
25 and 27 February 2020 - Mid-term In-class Prep and Exam
Week VI/ Communication theory and its legacies
3 and 5 March 2020
1. John Fiske, Introduction to Communication Studies . London/New York: Routledge, 1990
(1982), pp. 1 - 22.
2. George Gerbner and Larry Gross, “Living with television: The violence profile” in the Journal
of Communication Vol 26, issue 2, 1976, pp. 172 - 199.
3. Lev Manovich, The language of new media . Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, pp. 33 - 65.
Additional (suggested) reference/s :
7 March 2020 -- response to reading prompt due
9 March 2020 -- abstract due (max. 250 words)

Week VII/ ‘New’ German media theory
12 and 14 March 2020
No class on 10 March 2020 on account of Holi
( )
1. Friedrich Kittler, Film-Gramophone-Typewriter . Trans. Geoffery Winthrop-Young and
Michael Wutz. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, pp. 1 - 21.
2. Niklas Luhmann, The reality of the mass media . Trans. Kathleen Cross. London: Polity Press,
2000, 1 - 10.
3. Jussi Parikka, What is Media Archaeology? London: Polity Press, 2012, 1 - 18.
14 March 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week VIII/Materiality, technology, infrastructure
17 and 19 March 2020
1. Bill Brown, “Materiality” in WJT Mitchell and Mark Hansen (eds) Critical terms for media
studies . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010, 49 - 63.
2. Tung-Hui Hu, The prehistory of the cloud . Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015, **.
3. TBC
Additional (suggested) reference/s :
(i) Lisa Gitelman, Paper knowledge: Towards a media history of documents . Durham/London: Duke
University Press, 2014.
(ii) Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The meaning of a format . Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2012,
pp. 184 - 226.
(iii) Brian Larkin, “The politics and poetics of infrastructure” in Annual Review of Anthropology , Vol
42, 2013, pp. 327-343.
(iv) Ravi Sundaram, “Post postcolonial sensory infrastructures” in E-flux Journal No 64, April 2015
( ).
21 March 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week IX/ The ‘digital object’
24 and 26 March 2020
1. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding new media . Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1999, **.
2. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “The enduring ephemeral, or the future is a memory” in Critical
Inquiry , Vol. 35, no 1, 2008, pp. 148 - 171.
3. Yuk Hui, “What is a digital object?” in Metaphilosophy , Vol. 43, No. 4, July 2012, pp. 380 -
28 March 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week X/ Eco-media criticism (Session to be conducted by guest faculty)
31 March and 7 April 2020
No class on 2 April 2020 on account of Ram Navami
( )

1. To-be-circulated
No reading response this week.
Week XI/ Mediatised affect
9 and 11 April 2020
1. Brian Massumi, Parables for the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation . Durham/ London: Duke
University Press, 2002, pp. 23 - 45.
Additional (suggested) reference/s :
Nigel Thrift “Understanding the Material Practices of Glamour” in Melissa Gregg and Gregory J.
Seigworth (eds) The affect theory reader. Durham/ London: Duke University Press, 2010, pp.
Eric Shouse, “Feeling, Emotion, Affect” in M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture , Vol 8, issue 6, Dec
2005, accessed at .
12 April 2020 -- response to reading prompt due

Week XII/ The data-fictation of media
14 and 16 April 2020
1. Lisa Gitelman and Virginia Jackson, “Introduction” in Gitelman, Lisa (ed) Raw data is an
oxymoron . Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013, pp. 1 - 12.
2. tbc
Additional (suggested) reference/s
(i) Orit Halpern, Beautiful data: A history of vision and reason since 1945 . Durham/ London: Duke
University Press, 2015.
(ii) Sandeep Mertia, “Socio-technical imaginaries of a data-driven city: Ethnographic vignettes from
Delhi” in The Fibreculture Journal , issue 29 (2017) y-ethnographic-vignettes-from-delhi/

Week XIII/ Conclusion
21 and 23 April 2020
No readings, wrap-up discussions in class.
Final Assignment due for assessment: 30 April 2020
End-term paper due