Media Studies Program: Goals and Objectives
Media Studies encourages the understanding and critical evaluation of new and old media technologies; the centrality of media in politics, economics, social life, and global and local culture; and the contemporary and historical impact of media on individuals and societies. "Media" includes all forms of representational media (oral/aural, written, visual), mass media (print, television, radio, film), new media (digital multimedia, the Internet, networked media), their associated technologies, and the social and cultural institutions that enable them and are defined by them.
The program emphasizes several interrelated approaches to the study of media: multidisciplinary perspectives derived from the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences; the historical study of various forms of communication and the representation of knowledge; theoretical and critical inquiry into how media shape our understandings of reality; the dynamic interrelationship of media industries, policies, publics, cultural texts, and communications technologies; examination of global media, including non-Western, indigenous, and oppositional media forms and practices; and practical work in media production and the use of media technologies. A central goal of the program is that all majors develop familiarity with the breadth of these approaches.Many of the goals that inform Media Studies courses are congruent with general education goals outlined in the College’s Mission Statement. All courses are designed to stimulate integrative thinking both within and across the disciplines. Collaborative learning, especially via group creation and critique of media objects, is a key component of all our course offerings, extending even into the preparatory work for the senior project/thesis. Program courses seek to develop critical media literacy skills that students will apply not only in other disciplines, but as citizens and media consumers beyond Vassar. Program courses examine specific means by which media forms are critical to the representation of knowledge (scientific, social, or otherwise), encouraging students to think deeply about contemporary and historical forms of knowledge production. Finally, program courses stress important general-education goals, including giving and receiving constructive criticism; recognizing the limitations of one's knowledge and developing the confidence to explore new kinds of questioning and understanding; and learning to make valid connections among different disciplines and bodies of knowledge.The program strives to provide majors (MEDS offers no correlate) with the tools to become sophisticated analysts of both contemporary and historical media environments, developing theoretical and critical skills that they can use in everyday experiences of media consumption and production. To achieve this goal, our courses include considerations of media form and aesthetics; the history of traditional and contemporary media; the economic and organizational structure of media industries; local, indigenous, and oppositional media; relations between media technologies and intellectual property; and the social implications of and ethical issues associated with old and new media.
The program originates five required units, which provide the thread that connects the parts of each student's major curriculum. One of these is the 100-level course (MEDS 160), designed to introduce the multidisciplinary approaches to media study. Our 200-level courses (MEDS 250, Medium Specificity, and MEDS 260, Media Theory) provide students with foundational theoretical and methodological training in Media Studies. These courses are designed primarily for majors and assume introductory-level background. Our 300-level course (MEDS 310, Senior Seminar) is the capstone course for senior majors; it involves focused study of a media-related topic each year and provides a framework for senior project development. The senior project (MEDS 301) gives students the opportunity to use their training from previous courses to conduct their own in-depth media analysis or create a theoretically informed media project.
In conjunction with major advisers and the program Steering Committee, majors select the remainder of their 14 courses from a list of approved courses from other departments and programs. To gain multidisciplinary exposure, students must take 200-level courses in at least three departments or programs, and pursue 300-level work in at least two of these. To develop skills in creating and consuming media, majors must complete at least one (and as many as two) "practice-based" courses. Finally, to develop an understanding of media practices beyond those of the major Western media industries, majors must complete at least one course in "multicultural" media practices or issues.