In the fall 2010 semester I will be teaching a graduate seminar, and I wanted to use this space to share some of my thoughts and plans.
Some context: I get to teach graduate seminars only once every two years, which doesn't seem like all that often. I like the idea of matching the topic to my current research interests, which explains why I'm not going to repeat the seminar I taught last time on indie culture (which I thought went pretty well). I'm still interested in indie culture, but I have been looking at new areas of study. I see the opportunity to teach graduate students as an occasion to read work that I want to know better. Some of it might be material I have read before but not studied carefully, and some of it will be new to me as it will be to everyone else in the seminar.
Elana and I have been working on a project on convergence-era television and cultural status, and this research has piqued an interest in the history of media technologies. So much of what is interesting about TV in recent decades is a product, in part, of the integration of digital TV technologies. Thinking about the intersection of television's contemporary social and technological identities has made me want to know more about the history of communication technologies, and to think about new media (in the current sense of digital media) in light of this history.
I am posting this here for a few reasons. Most importantly I want prospective seminar participants to have a sense of what they are signing up for. This will be a reading-intensive course with a fair bit of time spent on the past rather than the present of new media. I also wanted to pull the curtain back a bit to reveal the process of developing a course. When I was a student I would have been happy to learn more about instructors' thinking behind teaching certain topics and shaping a syllabus. And I am also eager to invite your feedback, whether in the comments or elsewhere, to help me find the right shape for a course on a topic, New Media, that always threatens to get out of hand. I'm happy to hear from students past and future, as well as others who have taught or studied these topics. Feel free to suggest more readings, to let me know about your experiences teaching this material, or to warn me off of spending a week on Marshall McLuhan.
Some of the work I have in mind to consider in this course will fit into the typical conception of new media studies. Benkler and Lessig are clear instances of scholars engaged with questions about changes brought on by digital communications. But some of the work I want to look at is much older, and considers media which are no longer new in terms of what changes they wrought on society and culture. I'm not sure how much of the material that interests me will fit into the course. I don't know if work on oral vs written cultures will make the cut and I don't know if spending too much time on telegraphy and telephony will unduly tax the patience of media studies MA candidates who are probably more interested in today's internet than the Victorian internet. But these are all topics I want to know more about.
Below are some likely and possible readings. The ones I'm especially eager to include in the course are marked with a *. In the past one assignment I have given in a course like this is a book review, where students in groups of between three and five all read the same book. We then have one seminar meeting that's a kind of book club, where we have panel discussions of each book. The items I'm considering for this assignment are marked with a #. Of course there is much more here than one can teach in a single semester, so much of the work below won't make the cut. And because I'm interested in TV first of all, that is the medium that will likely get the most time during the semester.
Charles Acland, ed., Residual Media (Minnesota, 2007).
*Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Yale, 2007) / Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody (Penguin, 2009).
Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
*William Boddy, New Media and the Popular Imagination: Launching Radio, Television, and Digital Media in the United States (Oxford, 2004).
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (MIT, 2000).
#Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Polity, 2009).
James W. Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (New York: Routledge, 1992), or possibly just Chapter 8, "Technology as Ideology: The Case of the Telegraph."
Susan J. Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922 (Johns Hopkins, 1989).
Claude Fischer, America Calling: A social history of the telephone to 1940 (California, 1994).
Robert Friedel, A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western Millennium (MIT, 2007).
Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree, New Media 1740-1915 (MIT, 2003).
Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture (MIT, 2008).
Henry Jenkins and David Thorburn, eds., Rethinking Media Change (MIT, 2004).
#Mark Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (California, 2004).
*Derek Kompare, "Publishing Flow: DVD Box Sets and the Reconception of Television," Television & New Media 7.4 (2006), 335-360.
Lawrence Lessig, Remix Culture: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (Penguin, 2008) / Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity (Penguin, 2005).
#Amanda Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized (NYU, 2007).
*The Essential McLuhan (Basic, 1996).
*Michèle Martin, "The Culture of the Telephone," in Patrick D. Hopkins (ed.), Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender and Technology (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989), 50-74.
Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1990).
Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2009).
Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2002).
*Benjamin Peters, "And lead us not into thinking the new is new: a bibliographic case for new media history" New Media & Society 11 (2009), 13-30.
#Scott Rosenberg, Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters (Crown, 2009).
*Lynn Spigel, Make Way for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America (Chicago, 1992).
Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson, eds.,Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition (Duke, 2005).
Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet (New York: Berkeley, 1998).
Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003).
#Chuck Tryon, Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence (Rutgers, 2009).
Noah Wardrip-Fruin, The New Media Reader (MIT, 2004).
*Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (Routledge, 2003).