Introduction to Media Studies

MF 220 001/002

Tues/Thurs 9:40-11 (001) / 11:10-12:30 (002): Bolton 281

Weekly Screenings: Mon 6:30-9:30: Davis Auditorium

Shortcuts:         Assignments                        Course Schedule

Professor: Adam Tinkle ( OR

Office Hours (Harder 130, down a hallway and hard to find) : Tues 2:15-3:30

I hold an extra office hour in LIB113 (MDOCS lab) on Mon from 3:10-4

Or schedule another time via

Required Texts: 

danah boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).  Available in softcover at the bookstore.

All other readings and media are online and linked through the web-based version this syllabus (accessible at>Teaching and on Blackboard), except for the films which we will watch in screening. Those film DVDs will be available on 3 hour reserve at the Circulation Desk in the library.

Course Summary

This course, which is the gateway to Skidmore’s 2-year old Media and Film Studies minor, is an introduction to some of the major areas of Media Studies, the interdisciplinary academic field whose object of study is media, including their contents, histories and effects. In this course, we will primarily concern ourselves with the audiovisual media prominent in the past century (film, television, radio,) as well as with a few topical investigations of various facets of new media.

How do scholars think and write about media? In this class, we will engage historical scholarship about media (e.g., how do media technologies and industries come to be and how have they changed?), as well as theoretical accounts that seek to explain the deep structures that underlie the functioning of media and to discern what media do to us as audiences. However, we will most centrally be concerned with thinking analytically about mediatized experiences we encounter, first by learning to do close-readings of specifically visual, sonic, or otherwise mediatized aspects of these texts, and then to write about those texts in a thoughtful, critical manner.

As a scholar/artist, I am personally committed to the fusion and cross-pollination of scholarly knowledge and hands-on practice. Moreover, today’s new media already assumes an overlap between the production and consumption of mediatized culture (c.f. Instagram). I assume that for many in the class, your desire to study media may be related to a desire to create media. I hope that the joint cultivation of making and thinking will push some of you to make media that is more literate, informed, and self-aware. Thus, in addition to traditionally academic outputs (seminar discussion, quizzes, and essays), this class will also ask you to apply your study of media to creating some of your own.

Learning goals:

1. Students will engage with key theoretical debates in media studies.

2. Students will acquire vocabulary and facility in the formal analysis of media.

3. Students will integrate these formal analysis skills into scholarly writing.

How the class works: seminar, screenings, teams...

        Most of the time, during our Tues/Thurs meetings, this course will function as a seminar. That means that everyone in the class will be expected to make meaningful contributions to the conversation that flesh out our understanding of assigned texts and media. It is absolutely essential to your success in this class not only that you do all readings, but that you come to class with a page of notes on those readings that documents (and reminds you) what you understood and didn’t understand. Such notes will come massively in handy for the take-home final exam, which will be graded in large part on your successful digestion and incorporation of ideas from the readings into your analysis of texts drawn from contemporary internet culture and social  media.

        Whenever there is a reading assignment, there will also be a graded, multiple choice Structured Response assignment, which you must complete online by midnight on the night before our class meets. These, too, are linked through the syllabus.

Participation in class discussions forms a major part of your grade, but appropriate participation doesn’t necessarily mean maximal participation. Much more valuable than talking a lot is to make valuable contributions to the dialogue – contributions that are on point and backed up by careful engagement with the assigned texts. Plan to speak to the group about once or twice per class. In a class this size, it will be equally necessary to not make that 3rd or a 4th comment on a certain topic, in order to ensure that there is space for everyone to speak.

On most -- but not all -- Mondays (see calendar), we will meet at 6:30 for screenings of films, TV, or radio. Attendance at screenings is absolutely mandatory, and constitutes the 4th credit hour for this course. Missing one counts as an absence.

During the second week of classes, I will randomly assign you to teams. These teams will work together to do in-class activities during many seminar meetings, and, in the second half of the semester, will work together on an analytical project about a radio feature, as well as the creation of your own audio drama. Teammates will submit peer evaluations for one another; these will figure in to your grades for these assignments.


The following evaluations and scale will be used to determine course grades:

10-shot silent video (8%)

Analytic mini-essay of a sequence from a course-assigned film (12%)

Argument-driven shot analysis paper  (16%)

Group presentation: analysis of an audio narrative (8%)

Group-produced radio drama/fiction (10%)

Take-home final exam (16%)

Quizzes and structured reading responses (18%)

Participation in seminar and group work (12%)

Grading Scale

A+ 98-100             B+ 88-89         C+ 78-79         D+ 68-69         

A 93-97         B 83-87        C 73-77         D 61-67                

A- 90-92        B- 80-82         C- 70-72         F 0-60

***You are welcome to change your grade option for this class to S/U. A grade of C and above receives a grade of “Satisfactory.”

Late Assignments

Assignments will be marked down by 1/3 of a letter grade for each day late. Structured responses will not be accepted late.

Absences and Lateness:

Everyone is allowed 3 unexcused absences. Each additional absence beyond the 3 will result in a reduction of your final grade by 1/3 letter (e.g., a B+ would turn into a B). Habitual (i.e. more than 3x) or severe (i.e. more than 10 mins) lateness will similarly result in final course grade reductions.

Inclusive Classroom

I strive to create an inclusive classroom and value your input -- in private or in an email -- in my effort to make all students, regardless of any dimension of identity or background, feel welcome and free of all discrimination and other unreasonable discomfort.

Tutoring (NEW!)

Would you like to work with a tutor from Student Academic Services on this class? Tutors are available with experience in various disciplines, and the designated tutor who knows a lot about Media Studies is Samantha Grant. Reach her at <>  and she will arrange a time when she can meet to give you one-on-one help.

***I reserve the right to make changes to this calendar if the need arises.

Course Calendar

Slides from 1st class meeting

Wk 1

9/12         Screening: A Trip to the Moon (dir: Georges Méliès), One Week (dir: Buster Keaton), At Land (dir: Maya Deren), The Heart of the World (dir: Guy Maddin)

9/13         Jacobs, Christopher. “Development of Cinema,” Reprinted from Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema, Greenwood Press, 1999.

+ Videos: Shot Types, Editing I + QUIZ


9/15         Fabe, Marylin. The Beginnings of Film Narrative: D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation,” in Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique. (Berkeley: UC Press, 2014), pp. 1-18.

+ Videos: POV, Editing II, Montage, excerpt from Birth of a Nation (Griffith)



Wk 2

9/19         Screening: 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

+Videos: Angles, Composition, History of Cutting (watch only through 9:25)  

9/20         Elsaesser, Thomas. “A Retrospect: The Film Director as Auteur - Artist, Brand name or Engineer?+QUIZ

Screenshots for In class activity


9/22         Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson. “Narrative as a Formal System,” in Film Art: An Introduction (New York: McGraw Hill, 2004), pp. 74-96

Ross, Edward. “Power and Ideology,” in Filmish (SelfMadeHero, 2015)

Structured Response 1 -- due by midnight or so the night before class


(Due 9/25 before midnight: 10-shot silent video)

(On 9/26 in class, turn in a filled-in 10-shot matrix excel pdf)

Wk. 3

9/26         Screening: Singin’ in the Rain (dir: Gene Kelley and Stanley Donen)

+Videos: Sound, Diegetic/Nondiegetic Sound, Moving Camera

9/27        Rosenzweig, Roy. “From the rum shop to the Rialto: workers and movies” in Eight hours for what we will: Workers and leisure in an industrial city, 1870-1920. (Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 192-220

Lipsitz, George. “Popular Culture: This Ain’t No Sideshow” in Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1990), pp. 3-20.  

        Structured Response 2


Optional and recommended event Tues evening 6-8pm: Media and Film Ethics Bowl

9/29        Feuer, Jane. The Hollywood Musical, (Indiana University Press, 1993), 1-31.

 Structured Response 3


        Wk 4 SLIDES

10/3        Screening: Peeping Tom (dir: Michael Powell)

        +Videos: Setting/Expressionism, Lighting 

10/4        Note: this week’s readings are super tough! Do your best, don’t be discouraged if there are paragraphs that make no sense to you, and come to screening with questions!

Metz, Christian. “The Passion for Perceiving” in The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), pp. 58-68.

        Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” (originally published in Screen 16: 3 (1975)  6-18.

        SR 4

10/6 Silverman, Kaja. Excerpt from The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), pp. 32-41.

        Cohan, Steven.Excerpt from  “Case Study: Interpreting Singin’ in the Rain” in Remaking Film Studies, eds. Linda Williams and Christine Gledhill (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000)

        SR 5

        Wk 5 SLIDES

10/10         Screening: The Holy Mountain (dir: Alejandro Jodorowski)

10/11        Lipsitz, George. “As Unmarked as Their Place in History: Genre Anxiety and

Race in Seventies Cinema,” in American Studies in a Moment of Danger (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001)

+Video: Genre

        SR 6

10/13 No reading

+Video: Color Adjustment: Blacks in Prime-Time

NOTE: This 80’ streaming video is available through a database to which Skidmore’s library subscribes (and you can find the streaming link it in the library catalog if you’re having trouble with the link above). However, you might only be able to watch this in an academic building on campus, not through ResNet.

SR 7

Recommended event tonight, 7pm at Tang, with Senegalese filmmaker Fatou Kande Senghor: 

Assignment 2 due by 4PM on 10/14: email AND hard copy to my office Harder 130

(Also on 10/14: Networking event with Lesley Norman, ’79, Production Executive in National Programming at WNET New York Public Media (Channel Thirteen, the NYC PBS flagship station, 2-3pm, LIB 113)

        Wk 6 SLIDES

10/17 Screening: Television Families from Prime Time to Streaming

Recommended event at 7pm in Palamountain: Artist talk by Daesha Devon Harris

SO: Screening 8pm-9:30 only

10/18 Cantor, Muriel G. “Prime‐time fathers: A study in continuity and change” Critical Studies In Mass Communication 7:3 (1990).

        Poniewozik, James. “Streaming TV Isn’t Just a New Way to Watch. It’s a New Genre” New York Times Dec. 16, 2015.

No SR for today (Readings are super short, easy, and self-explanatory--I’ll trust you to come to class prepared to discuss)

10/20        Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding”

Castleberry, Garret. “Understanding Stuart Hall’s ‘Encoding/Decoding’ Model through TV’s Breaking Bad”

        SR 8

        Wk 7 SLIDES

NO Screening. Watch Good Morning America from 8/7/78 and the most recently available episode of  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon 

10/25        Auslander, Philip. “Digital Liveness: A Historico-Philosophical PerspectivePAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 34: 3 (2012)

        Auslander, Philip Liveness excerpt

        Feuer, Jane. “The Concept of Live Television: Ontology as Ideology,” in Regarding Television: An Anthology of Critical Approaches (Los Angeles: American Film Institute, 1983)

        SR 9

(Recommended event 10/26: Davis Aud, 6pm)

10/27 McLuhan, Marshall, Playboy Interview in Essential McLuhan, ed. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone (New York: Basic Books, ), pp. 236-247.

        Gitelman, Lisa. Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 1-9.

        SR 10

        Wk 8 SLIDES

10/31No screening (Halloween),

11/1                Hilmes, Michele. Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-1952 (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 1-19

Verma, Neil. Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics and American Radio Drama. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012) pp. 1-3, 33-49. (13’)

Listening: (24’)

(Note, the above is the first segment of a full 60’ episode that you might enjoy, recommended, not required!) (Ep 1, 13’)

SR 11

Recommended artists talk w/ Jay Blakesberg, Chasing the Light: Rock and Roll Photography

11/2 Assignment 3 due by 4PM email AND hard copy to my office Harder 130

11/3         Hilmes, pp. 82-95, 102-105

        Verma, pp. 57-81

Listening:  Amos and Andy episode from 1929 (8’)

Columbia Workshop: A Trip to Czardis (Intimate style)

The March of Time from 12/11/1941 (Kaleidosonic style)

OPTIONAL: War of the Worlds (full)


SR 12

        Wk 9

11/7 No Screening (Recommended: attend “Folk’d Up Country” event at the Tang Museum instead?)

11/8         (Election Day!)        2 articles from Sounding Out! The Sound Studies Blog:

Listen to at least a bit of each one of the embedded clips in these two blog posts (these will help you think through your own use of audio examples in your own presentations), PLUS at least the first 20 mins of Norman Corwin’s masterpiece, “We Hold These Truths,” created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights and aired just after the Pearl Harbor attack (STREAM or mp3 for download here)

SR 13

11/9 Recommended events: 5:30pm Screening of Lamb, with Q&A/talkback with pioneering Ethiopian director Yared Zeleke.

11/10        Porter, Jeff. Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling pp. 1-9, 155-173

Listen: The Idea of North  - Glen Gould (60’)

(alt link)

The City Wears a Slouch Hat - Kenneth Patchen and John Cage (28’)

(OPTIONAL: compare to new version:

SR14 (Note: by popular demand, this SR is all short response)

You are all invited to come to SoundMind, sonic meditation and participatory workshop with yours truly, Tang Museum, Thurs 5-6pm

        Wk 10 (SLIDES contain your group assignments)


Recommended: Screening of Offset, plus Q&A with director Adam Hale: 

Also recommended: get with your groups ASAP

11/15        Bull, Michael. “iPod Culture: The Toxic Pleasures of Audiotopia” in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, ed. Trevor Pinch & Karen Bijsterveld (Oxford University Press, 2013).

        Miller, Kiri. “Virtual and Visceral Experience in Music-Oriented Video Games” in The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, ed. Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson (Oxford University Press, 2013)



No reading-- I am at a conference.  Meet with your groups to prepare for 11/21

        Wk 11

11/21 Group Presentations during Screening Block: Audio analyses (ASSIGNMENT 4)

Check out the wild audio pieces that your classmates will be analyzing!

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

11/22 Dunbar-Hester, Christina. Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism (MIT Press, 2014), pp. ix-xiv, 21-25, 41-49.

        Weiner, Jonah. “Towards a Critical Theory of Podcasts” Slate Dec 14, 2014.


        Wk 12

11/28  Guest lecture (public talk held during screening block) with composer/video game audio expert Paul Hembree, PhD, entitled: Nostalgia and Digital Materiality in Video Games: Sound and Music”

This talk is required for MF220 students, but open to all.

Required Readings relevant to the talk, with SR 17:

 Kim Cascone: “The Aesthetics of Failure,” Computer Music Journal Vol. 24, No. 4 (Winter, 2000), pp. 12-18, The MIT Press. (alt link:

Marilou Polymeropoulou: “Chipmusic, Fakebit and the Discourse of Authenticity in the Chipscene,” WiderScreen Vol. 1-2 (2014).

Talk abstract: Retro-style gaming continues to rise in popularity, alongside and frequently overlapping with the burgeoning indie game scene. These games often emulate the low-resolution graphics and low-fidelity audio characteristics of media technology from the 1970s through the 1990s. In these talks, we'll discuss the limitations of gaming technology from these eras, how those limitations were negotiated creatively by designers, and how the digital materiality of that era is fetishized today.

11/29 Class will consist of follow-up seminar discussions with Dr. Hembree. Bring your questions!


12/1 Work time for Assignment 5--I am at NYU

        Wk 13

12/5 Screening block (6:30) will be a showing of class-created audio pieces: Assignment 5 (Same groups as Assignment 4)

12/6 Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where New and Old Media Collide, Intro and Chapter 2

SR 18

12/8 boyd, danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens  selections: pp. 1-25, 29-43

SR 19

        Wk 14

No screening block

12/13  boyd, danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

pp. 128-174

SR 20

Monday 12/19 9am: final exam questions emailed out

Tuesday 12/20 9am: final exams due to me by email