The course engages students with short readings and videos presenting critical ideas about traditional and digital media and the formation of power. Students discuss and use those ideas to explore the political-economic relations of a chosen media channel–such as social media or entertainment (like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify etc.) or news (like CNN, NewsMax, TheIntercept) or financial exchange (like BitCoin or RobinHood). Students first explore the contents, interfaces, or other interior aspects of their chosen media channel. Second, students will investigate the exterior relations of parent companies with government(s), markets, and social movements such as MAGA, white supremacy, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and others. The class will meet for 3 hrs, 3 afternoons a week. An additional 6-10 hrs work on your own involves critically engaging media content and issues of media ownership. Early course sessions will discuss readings and videos on theory. Later sessions will involve students helping each other look for patterns in the examples shared and for connections between the interior contents of media channels and the larger relations and strategies of media companies. Work outside of class will at times consist in consuming media and curating selections to share with the class. This requires at home work of viewing videos and/or reading articles or blogs or social media threads or examining web interfaces. From the material you review, you will choose examples for class discussion that you think may show political processes at work, such as construction of political ideologies or of race, gender, or other hierarchies. At other times, at home work will involve viewing videos (such as government hearings with CEOs, stockholder meetings, or investor calls, etc.) or reading news articles or other documents (annual reports, etc.). From these materials, students will select examples for class discussion that may show political-economic relations such as corporate market strategies, government-industry partnerships, or efforts to influence regulations. Through class discussions and presentations, students provide and receive mutual support enabling new views on media as product of, and means to, political struggle. Evaluation will be based on a final presentation in the form of a website, social media campaign, or PowerPoint presentation that can, at the student’s choice, be publicly shared.
The Class: Format: lecture
Grading: pass/fail only
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: final project or presentation
Enrollment Preferences: instructor's discretion
Unit Notes: James (he/him) is an activist and researcher and author of numerous studies on media, communication, and power. In addition to conducting research for political organizations and movements, his writing appears in Blackwell's International Encyclopedia of Communication, Editor & Publisher, TruthOut, and other publications. He was a campaign writer for US Rep. Bobby Rush and is currently a PhD candidate in the Communication department at UMass Amherst.
Materials/Lab Fee: none