Media and Communications

A major in Media and Communication Studies aims to equip students with a multi-dimensional view of media texts including, but not limited to, the news, film, television and advertisements. It introduces students to the history and theories of media forms and communication, the ethics of mass communication, the origins of and techniques used in advertisement, the complexities of watching and critically analyzing films, and the impact of media on society and politics.

Core Courses

MCS 301 Research Methods in Media and Communications

This course serves an introduction to quantitative and qualitative methods of media and communications research. Students will consider how research questions have changed over the past century and the differing critical strategies researchers have used to address these questions. Topics investigated include media effects theories, content analysis, communication models, semiotic analyses, surveys and questionnaires, interviewing and participant-observation, and secondary-data analysis.

MCS 302 Gutenberg to Google: A Social History of Media

This course introduces students to the history of media forms and communication technologies from the invention of printing to the emergence of the Internet. It explores the processes of mediation in and through time; the social, economic, and geographical contexts that shape different forms of communication; the evolution and institutionalization of communication technologies; the development of a global public sphere; and the effect of new media on local, national, and global communities.

MCS 303 Theories of Media and Communications

An introduction to theoretical and critical approaches used to analyze the content, structure, context, and processes of media communication. The course will help develop a complex, nuanced understanding of media environments, familiarity with specialized language used to assess processes of communication, and an understanding of contemporary debates in media and communication studies.

MCS 401 Communication for Social Change

This course will introduce students to strategies through which they can use communication processes and techniques to facilitate social, economic, and technological change. We will read historical and contemporary theories of social change, assess case studies of communication campaigns that have made a difference in peoples lives, consider the effect of new technologies in local and global contexts, examine independent and alternative news gathering organizations, leading to a major project that designs and executes a media campaign focused on a specific local social issue.

Electives Courses

MCS 351 Media and Post-colonialism

This course will introduce students to theories and practices of media representation as these relate to the formation and analysis of postcolonial societies. Topics covered include theories of the post-colonial; the politics of post-colonial representation; post-modernism and the post-colonial; nationalism and identity; alternative media and resistance; ethnicity, indigeneity and hybridity; and language and representation.

MCS 352 Media, Law, and Ethics

This class will introduce students to major ethical and legal issues that govern or guide the various uses of mass communication technologies and cultural and social resources. Topics covered include freedom of expression, privacy, and media regulation; public vs. private media; stakeholders and vested interests (governments, industry, civil society); social and governmental protections; intellectual, economic, and technological tensions in media policy; law and governance within global media systems; ethics and responsibilities; and the challenges posed by new media technologies.

MCS 353 Race, Class, and Gender in Film and Television

Film and television are two of the primary forums through which notions of race, ethnicity and citizenship have been constructed, especially in their intersection with class and gender. This class explores the evolution of these dynamics in cinematic and televisual representation through the study of how racial and ethnic diversity have been represented, and how various racial and ethnic groups have participated in film and television production and consumption, and how gender and class complicate how we interact with these visual media.

MCS 355 Analyzing the News

This course examines the analysis of news media content and structure using range of critical strategies including content analysis as a methodology. Students will investigate questions such as: What can we learn about news by analyzing news content? What are the quantitative and qualitative techniques used by professional media content analysts? What is the nature of content? Who is involved in producing this content? Who comprises the intended audience?

MCS 354 The International Newsroom

Traditionally international news has focused on wars, conflicts and the relations between governments. While this course will look at these, it will also examine some of the deeper issues that continue to shape our world: climate change, global disease, the imbalance between population growth and food supplies, and the depletion of natural resources. Students will learn to cultivate the qualities that that are important for reporting global events: accurate information, careful analysis, intelligent use of background material, and an understanding of the nuances that color any issue.

MCS 356 Introduction to Visual Communication

Life in the modern world has made us adept at reading an array of visual imagery. These images inform our individual and collective identities since we are partially determined by the visual representations we produce and consume. It is therefore imperative that we not only look, but also reflect on the images with which we are confronted every day. This introductory course will focus on reckoning with the complex visual world we live in using a range of examples from fine art to advertising, from architecture to film. Students will be encouraged to think broadly about what makes up their visual world and its cultural implications through careful looking, reading, and writing.

MCS 357 History of Commercial Art

This course will introduce students to the history of the commercial arts from lithography to logos, book design to branding, and stencils to motion graphics, and including the origins and history of advertising.

MCS 358 Communication in Advertising

This course introduces students to the study of advertising as social communication, as cultural representation, as an economic force, and as central structural feature of consumer societies. The course will survey the history of advertising, investigate changing strategies used by advertisers over the past two centuries, examine social attitudes and ideologies as these emerge through advertisements, and introduce students to semiology and the semiotic analysis of promotional texts.

MCS 359 Watching Films

This course introduces students to an interrelated set of approaches to film study, all of them defined by their attention to the filmic text. The course begins with an extended examination of the elements of film form, principally style (mise-en-scène, cinematographic properties, editing, sound) and narrative (structure and narration). After students have an initial grounding in the principles of film form, we will examine how different types of film operate formally by examining cinematic texts that typically do not depend upon narrative (i.e. the documentary and the avant-garde). In particular, we will investigate analytical approaches to mainstream films, with a concentration on how the critical categories of genre and author have proven relevant. Finally, we will consider several alternatives to commercial practice, taking up questions of film's representational strategies (particularly of gender and race).

MCS 360 History of Film

This course will introduce students to the history of world cinema from its origins to the present, emphasizing the work produced by major directors, historically and critically important movements and films, the emergence and development of film genres and national cinemas, the socioeconomic structure of the industry, and the development of new and innovative technologies.

MCS 361 The Non-Fiction Film

This course will introduce students to a range of non-fiction film genres including documentaries, educational films, propaganda, ethnographies, autobiographies, cinematic essays, and newsreels. Readings, lectures, and discussions will focus on issues of truth and accuracy, sociological and ethical questions raised by the films themselves and their processes of production, and the films as aesthetic and cultural texts. The course will pay close attention to the way these films reflect the social contexts in which they were produced.

MCS 362 Introduction to Television Studies

Television is arguably the most influential and ubiquitous mass medium of the last half century. It is also often the medium most dismissed and maligned. Through an examination of the history of television, this course introduces students to a theoretical framework for thinking about and analyzing this important medium of communication. The course will cover interdisciplinary approaches to studying global television texts, audiences, and industries.

MCS 363 Television Newsmagazines and Documentaries

This course will introduce students to the practice and principles of TV newsmagazines and documentaries. As part of the coursework, students will watch, discuss and write about a range of non-fiction narrative pieces. The course will also take students behind-the-scenes and explore how non-fiction stories come together from the first idea to the completed work. Students get the opportunity to try their hand at basic production techniques and create simple narratives of their own. This course works to build overall media literacy and enhance the ability to critically observe and analyze non-fiction media.

MCS 364 Theories of Film and Television

A broad introduction to the major theories of film and television that will help students develop multiple strategies through which to analyze the many and varied visual narrative texts they encounter every day. Topics covered include genre theory, the psychology of spectatorship, Hollywood and Bollywood studio star systems, ideologies of visual narrative, auteur theories, the gaze and the politics of identity, serialization, reality television, and apparatus theory.

MCS 365 Narratives Across Media

Artistic and popular media employ their own medium-specific techniques of storytelling. This course explores how narrative structures and models operate differently between film, television, and digital media in both fictional and non-fictional forms. Drawing heavily on various theories of narrative, the course will consider how different media offer possibilities to creators and viewers to tap into the central human practice of storytelling. We will focus on works that challenge convention in a variety of ways, centered on new media and contemporary trends in narrative technique.

MCS 366 Digital Activism and Democracy

How does the Internet affect politics? In the last decade, text message campaigns, online social networks, and citizen media have played a major role in world events. This course explores how digital technology changes both the manner and the meaning of democratic participation. Students will read and analyze case studies and both scholarly and popular readings about new media technologies and applications, and their measurable impact on global and local social and political structures.

MCS 367 Media Convergence and the Virtual Public Sphere

The boundaries between forms of mediated communication have long been unstable; today, they have all but disappeared. This course investigates the social, cultural, and aesthetic effects of such convergences, the shifting roles of spectators, participants, artists, and industries across a range of media practices, and the pervasive impact these shifts have had on the way we understand our selves.