Media Theory and Design 1

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Spring 2011; Section 4, Tues. 12:30 - 3:20 Instructor: A. Barbier


Paraphrased from Making Sense of Media, Arthur Asa Berger

This class provides familiarity with important writings and concepts that explain how media works, affecting the larger culture, and subsequently our everyday lives. MTD1 focuses on the creation and analysis of the static image and study of media culture created by them.

This class gives you content and context that will inform your life as a media consumer and/or producer. This includes theory, history, sociology, physiology, and more.

Course Description/Rationale

The course examines the history and theories of media, art, and technology, and the impact upon and implications for contemporary society, culture, and aesthetics. Through discussion, lecture, and analysis, this course develops students’ abilities to connect media theory to media design and practice through textual analysis, students will develop and demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills.

Goals and Objectives

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify and describe fundamental media, cultural, and semiotic theories.
  • Critically analyze media, both in written and oral form, from a variety of theoretical perspectives
  • Apply research methodologies to communicate and illustrate important theoretical concepts
  • Explain the importance of historical and contemporary media art forms and their influence on contemporary media production.
  • Debate the ethics of copyright in a digital age
  • Recognize that media texts communicate various messages about race, class, gender and other identities


[1]Barbier Section 04 Syllabus T 12:30

Class Notes

MTD1Notes WEEK 1

MTD1Notes WEEK 2

MTD1Notes WEEK 3

MTD1Notes WEEK 4

MTD1Notes WEEK 5

MTD1Notes WEEK 6

MTD1Notes WEEK 7

MTD1Notes WEEK 8

MTD1Notes WEEK 9

MTD1Notes WEEK 10

MTD1Notes WEEK 11

MTD1Notes WEEK 12

MTD1Notes WEEK 13

MTD1Notes WEEK 14

MTD1Notes WEEK 15


VISITING ARTIST LECTURES(2 - 40 points each)

Attend no less than two Visiting Artist Lectures in IAM, and write a 500 word reflection on that presentation. Due within one week of presentation, in drop folder.

INTRODUCTION(40 points): Due week 2 in drop folder In one page, place an image of yourself, name, major in the upper right hand corner. Write one autobiographical paragraph, and another telling me how media influences and shapes your life. Include your favorite TV shows, bands, movies, web sites, and video games.

QUESTIONS ON READINGS (88 points): Due weekly on blog There are numerous readings throughout the semester. Each week submit one pithy question on each reading that demonstrates thought and critical inquiry. Broad, general questions that might relate to media in general or to any number of readings are not acceptable. Due 24 hours in advance of the class with which they are associated. For eg., week 1 has 2 readings which you are expected to read before week 2. Section 04 meets on Tues. at 12:30, so the questions for those readings are due Mon. at 12:30.

IMAGE ANALYSIS (90 points): Due Week 5 Take a single image do a semiotic analysis. What are the meanings of this image? Who does it speak to? Why does it exist? What is its cultural function? 1500 words.

MIDTERM For the latter half of the 7th class, you will be given a midterm covering vocabulary, concepts, matching, and a written component covering applied discussion of the readings.


  • Research Paper:

(Abstract, Outline, Bibliography, Paper, Powerpoint/Keynote) 3000+ word paper with sources. Take a type of media (books, film, online, social media, etc.) . Consider a genre within that medium (comic adaptations, Mythology in modern film, Steampunk) and analyze ONE set of examples of particular interest to you. The paper must contain at least four external references and be cited in MLA style.

  • Give a 10 minute Powerpoint Presentation.


  • to display an advanced thoughtful, systemic process to create and iterate a media artifact;
  • to display an advanced understanding of basic communication, media, cultural, and semiotic theories; *to demonstrate an advanced ability to critically analyze media design from a variety of theoretical perspectives in written and verbal form;
  • to demonstrate an advanced understanding of foundational development concepts including
    • goal-oriented research,
    • idea development,
    • analysis,
    • process,
    • design
    • production;
  • to demonstrate an understanding of foundational ethical principles;
  • to further connect theory and practice;
  • to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the social and cultural implications of media.

Presentation: 129 points. Paper, 150 points.

Use the topic specified above, or create one of your own. Here are some seeds that may serve to spur thought:

These 5 master plots (enumerate) are the most commonly shared among games, films, and television programs in the post 9/11 decade in the US. The prevalence of these plots have led thinkers in sociology, psychology and cultural criticism to posit X,Y,and Z about the cultural climate in the US at present.

How has the definition of “narrative” changed with the availability of interactive media including games? Discuss this phenomenon in light of McLuhan’s Laws of Media.

Compare interactive narrative and video games, taking into account the work of new media theorists Lev Manovich and Marcia Kinder as well as that of game makers/thinkers Chris Crawford and Steve Swink.

Discuss the effect of literature such as Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” and William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” on the development of virtual worlds and video games.

Plagiarism: copying exactly or paraphrasing someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. [16] From the syllabus: “Academic Honesty and Conduct: Academic honesty is expected of all students. Any inappropriate use of materials or plagiarism will not be tolerated. (See Academic Integrity Policies on pg. 18 of the Columbia Catalog.)” Columbia College policy on academic integrity[[2]]

Extra credit – Media Deprivation (750 words): Due last day of class [[3]]

2 days of electronic media deprivation – no phone (except for true emergencies), internet (except for school assignments), videogames, TV, or film in any form.

Not allowed: computers, theaters, televisions, ipads, iphones (or any other kind).

Keep track of your observations and feelings and responses, your thoughts about how central (or not) media is to your construction of yourself, your sense of your own identity. What did you miss? What were you secretly grateful not to have to deal with?

Extra Credit - Flickr/Creative Commons (30 points) due 4/26 in class

Create an account on Flickr and upload at least two images THAT YOU CARE ABOUT. These can be personal or professional (something created or taken by you in private life, in class, etc. - as long as you are willing to make them public). Set the Creative Commons licensing on each image - for Eg., the lowest level would be Attribution (in doing so, you let people know under what conditions they may use your images). Step 2 - find another image on line (in Flickr preferably, so that you have a way of knowing what the CC license requires) and make a mashup of this image with one of yours. Upload this third image, respecting the licensing requirements of the other person's work. This should be a reasonably thoughtful process.


Recommended Reading

The New Media Reader [4]

Visual Thinking for Design, Colin Ware

Reading Ads Socially, Robert Goldman

Media, Technology and Society, A History: from the Telegraph to the Internet, Brian Winston

Week 1: Media History and Context

Media History Timeline

Brecht on Radio

Television Delivers People

Merchants of Cool

How to FTP

Week 2: Semiotics, Formal Principles


handmade craft

world on fire video Sarah McLachlin

Steve Mann

Social Media


Dove Evolution

Parody of Dove Evolution

Washington Post on Dove

Dove Onslaught

Greenpeace Onslaught


Unilever advertising

Ad Review

Potus Typographicus


Obama & Gotham

positive & negative space

Week 3: Myth & Metaphor

Darmok synopsis

Plato's cave

the Construct

General Interest

AIGA design assn.

All My Life For Sale

Projection Bombing

John Craig Freeman billboards

rtmark ads

Yes Men


WTO fake



Another good article on Mac commercial

resource page for film language concepts

Atomic Cafe

Children and Digital Media

writing a research paper

the citation machine [5] Purdue Owl [6] how to: power point and research paper tips [7]