Media Objects/Media Theory

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

Semester and Year Offered: Winter

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Vebhuti Duggal

Email of course coordinator: vebhuti[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

No special requirements, some familiarity with cultural theory would be useful.

Course Objectives/Description:

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. This 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 and art. All these disciplines often deploy media practice in their art-works and research and also theoretically reflect upon media practices.

Course Outcomes:

  • Enable students to understand historical and theoretical ways of thinking about media. Thus, producing disciplinary knowledge of media studies.
  • Media is part of the socio-political-cultural habitation. In asking students to investigate media this course promotes ethical awareness and reasoning in the use of media.
  • Given that this course engages with media in relationship to everyday lived experience, it allows for reflective thinking.
  • The course in its teaching-learning transaction as well as prompting students to engage with specific media objects encourages digital literacy in various ways.
  • Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module I: orientations, or, originary debates

This module addresses the major schools of thought and key debates in the early and mid-twentieth century. Briefly, it recounts three major schools of thought: the Frankfurt school, the Toronto school, the Birmingham school and two significant legacies: communication studies and ‘new’ German media theory.

Module II: media objects, media forms
This module tackles particular historical objects and engages with theoretical writing which is located deeply in material sites. Thus, it looks at books, films, sound objects such as the radio and the loudspeaker to present material histories.

Module III: some current buzzwords

This module examines some key debates that have emerged post the advent of the digital. The digital is seen as having altered several regimes of thinking, doing, representing. This takes some of those key debates and locates the dis/continuties with earlier media theory.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class participation (includes reading the material; leading discussions, bringing other texts, films, and other media texts to bear on readings; posting reviews of readings and films per unit; responding from media object diary): 10%
  • Two short response papers (2000 – 2500 words; these are intended as either a commentary on a set of readings or a synthesis of a few readings from the module): 40% (20 + 20)
  • Media object diary (students are expected to take one media object (film/ tv/ mobile phone/ mp3 player/ radio/ apps etcetera) and each week develop ideas and perspectives using that object through the duration of the course, which will be submitted at the end of the course. Here, the diary may take creative forms, to be discussed with faculty): 25%
  • End-term paper (4500 words): 25 %

Reading List:

Note: ** designates page numbers to be assigned in class.

Week I / Introduction
Course introduction and overview

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. 6 - 30, 49 - 63.

Module I: The orientations, or, originary debates

Week II/ The Adorno-Benjamin debate or the Frankfurt School

Walter Benjamin, Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zorn. London: Pimlico, 1990, pp. 211 - 245.

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 94 - 136.

Week III/ The McLuhan-Williams debate or the Toronto and Birmingham schools


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding media: The extensions of man. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1994 (1964), pp. 1 - 31

Raymond Williams, Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 11 - 27, **

Stuart Hall, “Encoding/decoding” from Simon During (ed) The cultural studies reader. London/ New York: Routledge, pp. 90 - 103.

Additional reference/s:

New additions to media keywords:

Week IV/ ‘New’ German media theory


Friedrich Kittler, Film-Gramophone-Typewriter. Trans. Geoffery Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, pp. 1 - 21.

Niklas Luhmann, The reality of the mass media. Trans. Kathleen Cross. London: Polity Press, 2000, **.

Jussi Parikka, What is Media Archaeology? London: Polity Press, 2012, **.

Week V/ Legacies of communication theory


John Fiske, Introduction to Communication Studies. London/New York: Routledge, 1990 (1982), pp. 1 - 22.

Week VI/The printed word


Kajri Jain, “New visual technologies in the bazaar: Reterritorialisation of the sacred in popular print culture” in Bagchi et al (eds) Sarai reader 03: Shaping technologies, Delhi: CSDS, 2003, pp. 44 - 57.

Roger Chartier, The order of books. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, 1 - 24.

Lisa Gitelman, Paper knowledge: Towards a media history of documents. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2014, **.

Week VII/ Sound media


Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The meaning of a format. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2012, **.

Brian Larkin, Signal and noise: Media, infrastructure and urban culture in Nigeria. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2008, **.

Naveeda Khan, “The Acoustics of Muslim Striving: Loudspeaker Use in Ritual Practice in Pakistan” in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 53, No. 3 (July 2011), pp. 571 - 594.

Week VIII/ Cinema and/as media


Lukacs Hildebrand, Inherent vice: Bootleg histories of videotape and copyright. Durham/ London: Duke University Press, 2009, pp. 3 - 25.

Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous theory and multisensory media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002, pp. 147 - 159.

Sudhir Mahadevan, A Very Old Machine: The Many Origins of the Cinema in India. Albany: SUNY Press, 2015, pp. 1 – 42.

Week IX/ Digital objects


Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1999, **.

Lev Manovich, The language of new media. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001, **.

Week X/ Archive


Blom, Ina, Trond Lundemo and Eivind Rossaak (eds) Memory in Motion: Archives, Technology and the Social. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2010, **.

Wolfgang Ernst, “Dis/continuities: Does the archive become metaphorical in multi-media space?” in Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan (eds) New media old media: A history and theory reader. London/ New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 105 - 124.

Week XI/ Affect


Brian Massumi, Parables for the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation. Durham/ London: Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 23 - 45.

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. 289-309.

Week XII/ Posthuman


Donna Haraway, “A cyborg manifesto”

N. Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, **

Week XIII/ (big) Data

Orit Halpern, Beautiful data: A history of vision and reason since 1945. Durham/ London: Duke University Press, 2015, **.

Week XIV/ Conclusion

No readings, wrap-up discussions in class.