School of Arts & Architecture

Department of Design Media Arts


DESMA 8 Summer 2018

Monday and Wednesday, 10:45am-12:50pm, Dodd 170

Instructor: Stalgia Grigg []


This class offers a synthetic overview of optical media and aesthetic movements covering the past two centuries: photography & industrialization/romanticism (1850-1900), cinema & modernism (1900-1950), television & postmodernism (1950-2000), and digital media, including a brief history of the music video and virtual reality. The class will also discuss the concept of what has been termed unimodernism (2000-2050). We will conclude by discussing how such a history can inform our own, generative work and how understanding these media becomes essential in the emerging era of the digital humanities and beyond.

Required Book: Bill Kovarik, Revolutions in Communications: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age. 2nd ed. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. (Available at the UCLA Student Book Store).

Readings: Other required and suggested optional readings are listed under each week and are available from the course Web site: Readings should be completed by the date they are listed under.

Attendance: Roll will be taken. Two unexcused absences will result in a penalty of one half step, 3 a full step, four or more results in an F.  If you arrive more than 10 minutes late or leave more than 10 minutes early, this will be marked as a tardy. 3 tardies equal an absence. If you arrive more than 45 minutes late, or leave more than 45 minutes early this will count as an absence unless you have prior approval from the instructor.

Late Work: 

Grades for assignments will be penalized one half step for each day late. Late submission for presentations will not be accepted. Contact the professor as soon as possible if you anticipate that you will be unable to turn in an assignment on time or that you will miss a presentation date.

Technology Policy & Expectations: 

Anyone planning to use their laptops or phones regularly during class time will need to self regulate and not impinge on their fellow students’ concentration. Plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty are violations of the Student Conduct Code Section 102.01 following:

Office Hours:

Prof. Grigg’s hours are Wednesdays, 1:00-2:00 in Untitled Café, 2nd Floor of Broad unless otherwise noted.

Commitment to Diversity & Safer Spaces:
We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. This means that we will use preferred pronouns, respect self-identifications, and be mindful of special needs. Disagreement is encouraged and supported, however our differences affect our conceptualization and experience of reality, and it is extremely important to remember that certain gender, race, sex, and class identities are more privileged while others are undermined and marginalized. Consequently, this makes some people feel more protected or vulnerable during debates and discussions. A collaborative effort between the students, TA, and instructor is needed to create a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as a valuable opportunity for us to grow and learn from one another. Alternatively if you feel that something said in discussion or included in a piece of work is harmful, you are encouraged to speak with the instructor or TA.
*Statement adopted from voidLab at:

Center for Accessible Education:
Students needing academic accommodations based on a disability should contact the Center for Accessible Education (CAE) at (310) 825-1501 or in person at Murphy Hall A255. When possible, students should contact the CAE within the first two weeks of the term as reasonable notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.

For more information visit 

Mental Health & Wellness:
As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, depression, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student's ability to participate in daily activities. UCLA offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, consider utilizing the confidential mental health services available on campus. I encourage you to reach out to the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) for support. For more information visit:

Phone: (310) 825-0768. An after-hours clinician is available 24/7.


Grade %

1st Assignment

Photo Analysis Presentations

Short presentation in class that semiotically analyzes 3 photos from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive

DUE Aug. 15


2nd Assignment

Midterm Essay

Essay responding to 1 of 5 possible prompts with a minimum length of 1000 words.

DUE Aug 27


3rd Assignment

Pecha Kucha Final

In class presentations on 1 of 3 possible research prompts. These presentations are in Pecha Kucha form, consisting of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds apiece, equaling 6 minutes, 40 seconds total.

DUE Sep 10 or 12, sign up sheet available.


Extra Credit

Event Review

A written review of a public event, lecture, show, or screening. If a student wishes to write about an event that is not sponsored by the UCLA Dept. of Art & Architecture, they must contact the instructor with details for the event to request permission.

DUE Sep 10




Notes on Assignments:

Assignments and the final may be completed early, consult with the instructor. An e-copy must be emailed to the instructor to receive a grade on the assignment. Rubrics will be provided for all assignments.


CLASS 1: August 6

What Are Media Anyway?

The first thing to talk about is what media are, and why it’s vital we talk about them. We will review the course mechanics; discuss what we mean by “history,” “theory,” and “criticism.”

1000 Years of Media History

We will talk about the development of Western arts and media from the year 850 to 1850, a thousand years that takes us from the medieval to the modern, from the local to the global, and that introduces the mechanization of media and the “capture of the real.”

Sidebar: PRINTING & Gutenberg

Reading: Friedrich Kittler, selections from Optical Media (suggested)

Reading: Kovarik, 27-36.

CLASS 2: August 8 

The First Wave: Photography (1850-1900)

Following up our discussion of a thousand years of media history, we will look at the earliest era of photography, a medium that creates a radical split with the practices of the past. We will transition into talking about the truth value of photography, and what makes an image a datum of history. We will examine the Pre-History of Photography, Niépce & Daguerre, the Calotype Process (1841), and the Collodion Process (1851).

Movements: Industrialization & Romanticism

The Photography Effect 

It is impossible to underestimate the “photography effect.” The ability to capture and transmit images of the world and its peoples is the first wave of transformation. Photography enters as the world is coming to grips with the rise of industry in the West and the aesthetic reaction to these transformations that we call romanticism. We’ll then look at the American Civil War photography of Matthew Brady, in order to discuss photographic "truth" and the manipulations of images.

Conflict: The Civil War (1861-1865)

Reading: Kovarik, 139-161.

Reading: John Berger, "Understanding a Photograph.”

Reading: Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida(excerpt).

CLASS 3: August 13

The Second Wave: Cinema (1900-1950) 

The cinema takes the photographic and animates it, creating the first truly new time-based art form since the dawn of recorded history. The cinema is the second wave of optical media, and is quintessentially modern, even in its silent form. In this meeting, we’ll look at the origins of moving pictures including the Zoetrope the Phasmatrope; look at pioneers Eadwaerd Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey; see the emergence of popular forms like the Kinetescope, Vitascope, and the Nickelodeon. Finally, we’ll look at the Lumiere Brothers’ “Actualities” (1896), and Georges Méliès, Voyage to the Moon (1902), to look at the origin of documentary and narrative cinema.

How to Talk About Movies

We will look at the emergence of codes & conventions of narrative cinema and discuss the importance of the Modernist movement to the origin and growth of the cinema, concentrating on Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925), Edward Curtiz, Casablanca (1941), and Maya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). By the end of the second wave, sound and color are fully integrated into the cinematic experience and we need to begin to understand how the cinema creates us as spectators. We will look at a variety of films produced in 1939, referred to as the greatest year the film business ever had: Victor Fleming, Gone With the Wind; Edmund Goulding, Dark Victory; and John Ford, Stagecoach.

Conflict: The First and Second World Wars (1914-18 & 1939-45)

Movement: Modernism

Readings: Kovarik, 181-191. “How to Write a Review.”

Readings: Kovarik, 191-205;  

Readings: Sergei Eisenstein, "A Dialectic Approach to Film Form."

CLASS 4: August 15


How to Look At Movies 1: 

We will take this week to view films: Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie (1928), which introduced Mickey Mouse to the world, and Billy Wilder’s film noir masterpiece, Double Indemnity (1944).

CLASS 5: August 20

How to Look At Movies 2: 

We will discuss Double Indemnity in light of feminist theories of the cinema using Laura Mulvey’s very complex essay as our starting point.

Hollywood and Beyond The cinema affected not only how we looked at the world, but how we framed and understood stories. When the narratives we construct change form and media, they affect the ways that we position ourselves in relation to society and to each other.

Screenings: Roberto Rossellini, Roma città aperta (1945), Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon (1950), Jean Luc Goddard, Vivre Sa Vie (1962), and Agnès Varda, Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962).

Reading: Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure in the Narrative Cinema”

CLASS 6: August 22

The Third Wave: Television (1950-2000)

We start our discussion with the Paramount decision, which destroyed the Hollywood movie system as it had existed, and opened the way for new forms of broadcast entertainment, especially television.


Television, the third wave, is the optical medium that comes into the home. If cinema is the urban, modern medium, television is the suburban, postmodern medium. In its broadcast form, television in the United States created a sense of flow that carried viewers from one show to the next, ensuring that audiences stayed present for the “real” content of broadcast television – the commercials.

Screenings: Dragnet (on-line from, I Love Lucy, CBS Evening News, All My Children

Conflict: The Cold War (1945-1991)

Reading: Kovarik 287-288, 309-321.

Reading: Brian Winston, Media Technology and Society. A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet, 88-143. Reading: Lynn Spigel, “Television in the Family Circle: The Popular Reception of a New Medium”

Reading: Kovarik, 217-240, 324-329.

Reading: Raymond Williams, “Programming: Distribution and Flow.”

CLASS 7: August 27


Television as a Ubiquitous Medium 

TV undergoes a profound shift when it moves from broadcast to cable era, flow loses its centrality as the televisual spreads throughout all forms of culture. To be on TV becomes our shorthand for “to exist.”

TV and Postmodernism

The postmodern with its appropriations, blurred authorship, and genre mixing – becomes the key aesthetic movement to juxtapose with the third wave.

Screenings: Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Oprah Winfrey, Survivor, Lost, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Sidebar: POMO ART Cindy Sherman & Sherrie Levine Movement: Postmodernism

Reading: Marshall McLuhan,“The Medium Is the Message”

Reading: Marshall McLuhan, “Media Hot and Cold”

Reading: Kovarik, 333-341.

CLASS 8: August 29

The Fourth Wave: Digital Media (2000-2050)

The computer is the first media machine that serves as the mode of production (you can make stuff), the means of distribution (you can upload stuff to the network), the site of reception (you can download stuff and interact with it), and the locus of praise and critique (you can talk about the stuff you have downloaded or uploaded). This culture machine inaugurates the fourth wave of optical media.

Conflict: Global Jihad / The War on Terror (2001-2???)

Screenings: Doug Engelbart, “The Mother of all Demos” (1967)

The Social, Mediated

Social media platforms create a massive shift in the primary context for viewing and sharing optical media. We will discuss how the arrival of these platforms changes the social relationship to the image.

Reading: Lev Manovich, “Principles of New Media” excerpt from The Language of New Media

Reading: Nathan Jurgenson, “The IRL Fetish”

Reading: Nathan Jurgenson “The Facebook Eye,”

Reading: Nathan Jurgenson “Production, Consumption, Prosumption”

CLASS 9: Sept 3rd – Labor Day, No Class

CLASS 10: Sept 5

Gaming: Play and the Interactive Image

Videogames are unique in their ability to leverage the computational capability of digital media to create interactive experience. This brings viewer agency to the foreground, and in doing so renews the debate about the constraints of narrative.

Virtual Reality: The Last Medium?

 We will cover the current rise of VR and its reputation as the “last medium.” This includes a brief overview of 1st and 2nd wave VR, as well as current trends and such hyped terms as empathy, immersion, and presence. We will also briefly discuss augmented reality.

Screenings: Chris Milk, The Evolution of Vrse, VR: The Last Medium. Hyper-Reality by Keiichi Matsuda

Reading: Brenda Laurel, “AR and VR: Cultivating the Garden”

Reading: Gonzalo Frasca“Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology”

CLASS 11: Sept 10

Unimodernism and The Digital Humanities

In the fourth wave, rather than early, high, or post, the networked computer and its digital relations produce and consume a unimodernism. Our moment is unimodern in the sense that it makes modernism in all its variants universal via networks and broadcasts, uniform in their effect if not affect, and unitary in terms of their existing as strings of code. In the unimodern era, as bits, online and in databases, a photo is a painting is an opera is a pop single.

Screenings: Jeffrey Shaw, Legible City, Lynn Hershman Leeson, The Difference Engine #3 (1995-8), Michale Joaquin Grey, Zoobs (1999) & Reentry (2005), Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Movement: Unimodernism

The digital humanities is still being developed, but right now the following key words would be a good place to start and to conclude: collaborative, networked, interactive, rhizomatic, locative, productive, active, intertextual, hybridizing, generative.

Reading: Kovarik 349-374.

Reading: Peter Lunenfeld, “Generations,” from The Secret War Between Downloading & Uploading

Reading: Peter Lunenfeld, “Unimoderism,” from The Secret War Between Downloading & Uploading

Reading: Digital_Humanities (MIT, 2012) excerpts

First Round of Final Presentations

FINAL DUE Pecha Kucha Presentations due IN-CLASS either September 11 or 13 (we will have a sign up sheet) at 10:45 AM.

CLASS 12: Sept 12

Second Round of Final Presentations

FINAL DUE Pecha Kucha Presentations due IN-CLASS Wednesday, September 13 at 10:45 AM.

Syllabus by Dr. Peter Lunenfeld, Kate Parsons, and Stalgia Grigg