MA in Media Studies – Courses for 2012-13

If you are interested in taking any of these courses please contact Eve Girard.

Fall 2012

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
13:15 – 16:00
COMS 646
Alternative Media
Prof: Lorna Roth
Rm: 5.223

Spec. Top. In Media Studies: Media Ephemera
Prof: Charles Acland
Rm: 5.223

COMS 600
Communication Theory
Prof: Peter van Wyck
Rm: 5.223

COMS 684
Media Research Laboratory
Prof: Elizabeth Miller
Rm: 5.223


Winter 2013

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8:45 – 11:30


Mediated Landscape: the Camera as Machine in the Garden
Prof: Rick Hancox
Rm: 4.320


13:15 – 16:00

Citizen science, biohacking and media art in the 21st century
Prof: Tagny Duff
Rm: 5.223

Harold Innis: Communication Bias, Knowledge Monopoly, and Technological Control
Prof: William Buxton
Rm: 5.223

COMS 605
Media Research Methods I
Prof: Kim Sawchuk
Rm: 5.223


Course Descriptions

Fall Courses (2012):

COMS 600 – Communication Theory

Required Core Course. This seminar studies and evaluates the major historical and contemporary approaches to communication theory. The following approaches are covered: Processes and Effects, Functionalism; Symbolism and Cultural Studies; Institutional Studies and Political Economy.

COMS 642V – Spec. Top. In Media Studies: Media Ephemera

In this course, we will examine the history and theory related to moving image ephemera. What is the historiographic status of the moving image fragment? How do moving image texts accumulate, circulate, and degrade? How are some moving images lost and others recycled into new works? Topics will include neglected genres, found footage films, archives, and YouTube video postings.”

COMS 646 – Alternative Media

This is a tentative outline – subject to minor modifications over the summer…. it is just to give you a sense of how I shall be framing the field. This seminar will focus on critical theories and practices of alternative media from within a historical context beginning in the early part of the twentieth century with the critical writings of Bertolt Brecht (1930) and examining some of the other key theorists, practitioners, and projects marking the development of the field – Hans Enzensberger, Raymond Williams, Jean Baudrillard, Frances Berrigan, DeeDee Halleck, John Downing, Janine Marchessault,Clemencia Rodriguez, Challenge for Change, Paper Tiger Television, Community Memory Project, and many other more recent exemplars. The study of alternative media has always been complex and at times confusing and contradictory and is particularly so in the present era. With reduced costs, increased access to micro-technological mobile devices, and the rapid co-optation of countercultural ideas and practices by the capitalist marketplace, the phenomena of alternative media has almost disappeared from the public sphere. In the context of social and cultural change theories, this course will trace the historical rises and falls of alternative media in the past and consider its future in the current global cultural economy. What is alternative about alternative media in our historical period when web 2.0/3.0, as well as more recent challenges to mainstream media, have become commonplace?

COMS 684 – Media Research Laboratory

This production-based seminar explores the intersections of analog, electronic and digital media with a special emphasis on their convergence. Topics may include digital imaging, multimedia information design and programming, three dimensional media, virtual reality, world-wide-web, hypertext and hypermedia publishing.

Winter Courses (2013):

COMS 605 – Media Research Methods I

Required Core Course. This seminar prepares students to critique literature from any of the major research traditions; to make basic connections between epistemology and problems of basic communication research; to be able to identify the research method most appropriate to personal areas of interest; to design a basic research project.

COMS 642W – Citizen science, biohacking and media art in the 21st century

This course will look at the practices, philosophy and political concerns emerging around the movement of amateur DIY citizen science. Works by artists, inventors, and activists will be explored as potential critique and creative contribution to various disciplines of the life sciences. Students will engage in biohacking workshops as well as seminar style discussions on selected readings.

COMS 642X – Mediated Landscape: the Camera as Machine in the Garden

Since the impact of photography on painting, the camera has popularized, and increasingly defined, arbitrated, and exposed the visible landscape. How has it changed our perception of landscape – both natural and manufactured? In what ways, for example, have camera artists rendered McLuhan”s invisible ‘environment” visible? To what extent does landscape-as-representation actually assist in the disappearance of place? We don”t seem to look out windows anymore; we stare at screens which frame out nature, and other annoying contingencies – not the least of which is our own modernism in a landscape of ruins. Starting with Leo Marx”s The Machine in the Garden, tracking the myth of technological progress in the pristine American wilderness, readings will include J.B. Jackson”s “How to Read the Landscape,” Liz Wells on landscape photography, Gail McGregor on landscape painting in Canada, McLuhan on the “anti-environment,” Peter van Wyck, Edward Casey, Alexander Wilson, W.J.T. Mitchell, and more. Complimenting these will be key films like The City, made for the 1939 New York World”s fair, Jennifer Baichwal”s Manufactured Landscapes, Patrick Keiller”s experimental documentaries, and the cinema of Philip Hoffman, as he mines through the strata of family landscapes and cultural geography. We will look at photographers like Edward Burtynsky, and his troubling of the landscape aesthetic. And since landscapes can be as much about what they hide, we”ll explore the notion of “temporal landscape,” where layers of time and memory intersect with space to (re)construct places of memorialization, commodification, and ideological contestation. Besides a seminar, students will be assigned a camera exercise and can do either a final research paper or project.

COMS 642Y – Harold Innis: Communication Bias, Knowledge Monopoly, and Technological Control

Harold Innis (1894-1952), along with Marshall McLuhan, has been recognized as a foundational figure for the Toronto School of Communication. His highly influential writings spanned a great range of areas, including economic history, political economy, the impact of technology, the nature and purpose of higher education, and, perhaps most notably, the interplay between communications and civilizations. The objective of this course is to examine the communication thought and practice of Innis in relation to broader currents of thought and shifting geo-political circumstances. It gives particular attention to how Innis’s work was rooted in the post-colonial emergence of Canada within a changing world order. To this end, it explores how his contributions to communication were bound up with his civic activism, in the form of generating new institutions, reconfiguring old ones, recasting public opinion, as well as redirecting political and social practices. This will involve an examination of Innis”s key concepts (such as “bias of communication,” “monopoly of knowledge,” and “crisis of public opinion”) as they intersected with his broader views on issues such as gender, race, landscape, nationalism, centre-margin relations, and the archive. The course will draw on a range of Innis”s writings (including excerpts from Bias of Communication,Empire and Communications, and the forthcoming History of Communications), as well as key secondary sources (e.g. James W. Carey, Marshall McLuhan, Charles R. Acland and Jody Berland). Class participants will be encouraged to think about how Innis”s ideas and concepts might be used to shed light on problems and questions of interest to them.