References to the power and prevalence of “the media” are commonplace today. But what are “the media”? How do they work and for whom? As media increasingly pervade the fabric of daily life, and as global conglomerates consolidate their ownership of media companies, the urgency of asking and answering these questions only grows in importance.

Yet these questions are incredibly difficult to ask (much less to answer), partly because of how the structure and functioning of mass media remain, for many of us, taken for granted, or maybe even something of a mystery. This course introduces undergraduates to the basic vocabularies of visual and media literacy, and hones their skills at critically analyzing media texts, institutions, apparatuses, and audiences. This course covers cinema, radio, television, and new media technologies, and its primary goal therein is to explore the relationships between the form, meaning, and socio-historical context of each. This course helps students to more fully appreciate the complex ways that media inhabit and affect cultural, political, and aesthetic life. More importantly, it provides them with the analytical, interpretive, and critical skills with which to navigate and begin to make sense of the densely mediated landscapes we inhabit.

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