CMN 102: Introduction to Mass Communication
This course offers students a broad overview of the mass media (print, film, video, recorded music, radio, television and the internet) with a particular focus on how these media impact our everyday lives. Students will develop critical frameworks for understanding how power operates across the media spheres of production, circulation, representation and reception. Attention is placed on how the social categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age and nationality inform each of these media spheres. The course also considers how recent developments in digital technologies, media convergence and globalization have transformed our media culture.
MCS 208: History of Cinema 1945–1975
This course covers the continued rise and development of cinema from 1945 to 1975. The course will have a dual focus, looking simultaneously at both the American studio system and international cinemas. Equal emphasis will be placed on charting the development of cinematic techniques as well as examining the growth of specific national cinemas. In addition, the course surveys international stylistic trends in narrative, documentary, and avant-garde film. Students will acquire a broad understanding of the institutional, social, technological, and aesthetic forces that have shaped the development of cinema during the mid-twentieth century.
MCS 231: Introduction to Documentary Studies
This course examines the rise and growth of documentary forms, including audio, film, television, photography, literary journalism and ethnography. Students will study representative works from each documentary approach and learn to analyze the techniques of observation and representation at use in these pieces. Students will become familiar with major theoretical constructions of documentary and be able to use these analytical tools to critique documentary forms. Lab for film viewing required.
MCS 271: Media and Cultural Studies
The central assumption of this course is that popular culture matters. We will be analyzing films, television shows, music videos, and other media products that very often are treated as if they are trivial and inconsequential at best. But these objects matter because people watch them, find meaning in them, and make meaning from them. Over the course of the quarter we will examine the numerous ways in which meaning can be made from media texts and the various lenses through which we can approach the supposedly disposable objects of popular culture.
MCS 260: Introduction to Transmedia Storytelling
Transmedia storytelling, or the distribution of narrative content across multiple technologies and media, is rapidly becoming a common trend in contemporary media making. Whether it's television series sharing content with video games, films; narratives continued (or begun) in graphic novels, or media systems in which no one medium takes precedence in telling the story, transmediation can take many forms. This class will introduce the concept of transmedia from a media studies viewpoint, will examine transmedia's history, contemporary usage, and creation, and will have students work together to construct a transmediated narrative.
MCS 273: Storytelling and Style in Cinema
Course covers basic concepts and terminology of film and video as forms of art and mass culture. This course covers the aesthetic elements that constitute film and video texts: plot structures, sets, costumes and makeup, acting, lighting, cinematography, editing, and sound. By performing extensive textual analyses, students learn how the interaction of these elements produces meaning. Students also gain basics of how these concepts are practiced in film production. After mastering the aesthetic concepts, students also examine their use in three different modes of film: fiction, documentary, and the avant-garde. (Formerly Film/Video Analysis)
MCS 331: New Documentary Video Production
This course will explore the fundamentals of producing socially-conscious or "impact" documentaries and campaigns suitable for broadcast and/or internet distribution. Sourcing contemporary issues and change agents take much more than having a good idea and preliminary vision. You will be exposed to the basic elements involved in the pre-production stage of making a documentary that inspires, entertains and ignites social change. Pre-production elements include concept development, content and expert research, subject selection, interviewing, and crafting the concept into a storyline. The course emphasis is on storytelling and preparing the components necessary to craft a compelling story that heightens awareness and provokes changes in thinking and behavior. You will also receive instruction in basic videography, video camera operation, and digital editing. The class will operate as a workshop, hence your active participation, organization, and staying-on-task are critical for your success in this course.
MCS 331: Documenting Chicago
This course examines the dynamic relationship between urban change, everyday life, and documentary film production in Chicago, Illinois. Tracing documentary explorations of Chicago from the beginning of the 20th Century through the present day, students will analyze a range of documentary approaches used by filmmakers to capture the city's built environment, understand local culture, and address civic policies. A particular emphasis will be placed on the politics of visualizing urban crisis, self-representation in minority communities, and the history of the non-profit documentary production company, Kartemquin Films. Ultimately, the class will use Chicago as a case study to investigate broader concerns in the field of documentary, including: technological constraints and advancements, the ethics of documentary and ethnographic practice, and the effects of documentary film on the production of social, spatial, and historical meaning.
MCS 341: Ethics of Radio Industry
Subjects rotate among several historical and conceptual topics, such as Rock Radio, Talk Radio, Gender and Radio, Radio and American Culture, etc. Students will have the opportunity to build upon the foundations of radio that are explored in other radio courses. Radio topics courses are considered advanced study in the subject area; therefore, students are encouraged to complete MCS 339 or MCS 342 prior to taking a radio topics course.
MCS 342: History of TV and Radio
A history of radio, television, and cable that engages with elements such as programming, economics, industrial structures, audiences, government and industry policies, and social effects. The course includes viewing, analysis, and criticism of a wide variety of American programming.
MCS 343: Media Ethics
Entertainment and social media dominate popular culture today in a way that begins to completely define American culture. In what ways do entertainment media impact society? As creators of media, what special responsibilities do we have? And as creators of entertainment media how can we use these ethical theories in our daily practice? This course will examine the underlying ethical theories used when we try to arrive at ethical judgments about right and wrong. This course will concentrate on analyzing the impact of digital entertainment on an individual and society. The issue of balancing individual creativity vs. cultural impact, particularly on children, will be addressed. The course will culminate with the formulation of elements of an ethical code of conduct for every electronic (social) media, television professional and movie creator.
MCS 348: Genre: Comedy and The Body
The human body is central to comedy. In slapstick that’s clear, but the physical self also dominates our sense of vulgarity and the way we talk about marginalization, two of comedy’s favorite themes. What makes the body funny? What does it mean to laugh at certain bodies? How are our bodies engaged by comedy as spectators? “Comedy and the Body” will prompt us to speculate on these issues and more. Each week we will screen one or more films or TV shows, read pertinent scholarly literature, convene as a group and discuss it in a conversational lecture setting, with the aim of developing a critical understanding of the history, theory, and practice of comedy of the body in film and television.
MCS 349: The Sci-Fi City in Film
Throughout history, the city has functioned as a prime location for fantasies about the future. Utopian dreams and dystopian nightmares play out in urban space in science fiction literature and film, dramatizing cultural hopes and fears about technological progress, social change, and the unknown. What it means to be human is the central question of science fiction, and this question also rests at the heart of anxieties about the city. This course will explore the ways in which the science fiction genre has asked questions about human life in urban environments, imagining the best and the worst for a future humankind and expressing present concerns in the process.
MCS 351: Bad TV
This course is an introduction to television that is considered 'bad,' from the 1950s to the present. The class will introduce students to a range of television programming that does not seem to operate within the bounds of high quality or good taste: topics may include reality shows, cable access shows, soap operas, made-for-TV movies, infomercials, daytime talk shows, afterschool specials, court programs, failed pilots, bad sitcoms, and other forms. The course will focus on the pleasures of these programs, their ideological implications, and the cultural work that they do.
MCS 352: Alternate Reality Games
This course examines how games can make the world a better place. We will discuss games and play as concepts, analyze new types of games, and examine the "gamification" or the world. At the end of the course, we will design an Alternate Reality Game, a new form of game that involves multiple mediations and ubiquitous gameplay. We will look at the evolution of games as role-play, from tabletop simulations to MMORPGs and beyond. The concept of "gaming" will be interrogated for both its critical function in today's society as well as its cultural role in the solution of social problems. Students will create their own ARG and will be encouraged to attend a gaming environment in the process of this class. Collaboration between students, the instructor, and the Chicago community will be encouraged.
MCS 353 Walk Like a Man: Shifting Masculinity in the Media
This seminar will examine shifting articulations of masculinity within American film, television, and music since the 1950s. Whether through the construction of fatherhood, the single guy, the sex symbol, or the businessman, mass mediated images of men have changed to reinforce (and guide) the social state of gendered identity. For example, from Ozzie and Harriet's Ozzie to All in the Family's Archie to Mad Men's Don, the certainty, responsibility, and primacy of fatherhood shifted as America's divorce rates rose and primary identificatory characteristics of proper masculinity realigned. From Bobby Rydell to Jimi Hendrix to New Kids on the Block, Bruce Springsteen, or NWA, rock stars/pop stars/rappers carry and convey differing levels of rebellion and sexuality. Similarly, throughout the history of genre films-Westerns, musicals, et al.-gendered codes shift to adhere to those forming in society. Along with these changes in representation, we will be examining-through readings and screenings-social changes in American masculinity and how the culture industries themselves shift structurally and/or formally to facilitate such gender redefinition.
MCS 370 Adaptation: Movies/TV/Novels/Comics/Video Games
This course looks at adaptation as a cross-media phenomenon, which we will trace back to the origins of the film medium in the late nineteenth century. The desire to experience familiar stories and characters in different media forms transcends generations. Film critic Margaret Farrand Thorp wrote in 1939 of the “widespread human eagerness to experience the same story in as many media as possible.” This impulse has only grown in recent years with the increasingly vital role of franchises in an era of media convergence, whereby narratives become replayed, extended and/or intertwined across films, television programs, video games, comic books and other forms. The course will begin with the traditional adaptive process of turning novels into film, the theoretical concerns surrounding fidelity and medium-specificity, and the critical debates to do with adaptation and authenticity. We will look at the classical era of Hollywood in the 1930s through 1950s, using Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Robert Bloch novel Psycho in the 1960 film as a case study. This is followed by comparisons of the Scott Pilgrim and Watchmen graphic novels to their film versions. The more problematic process of adapting such properties as board games, toy lines and video games is explored in later weeks, as are the implications for the adaptive process created by the prolific nature of digital special effects. We will go beyond narrative and aesthetic analysis in many weeks to consider the industrial implications of adaptations, as well as what media theory can offer us in studying how and why texts are adapted from one medium to another.
MCS 383: Talking About Film: Theory and Criticism
This course is to familiarize students with a wide range of disciplines (film, art history, philosophy, psychology, etc.) and how these ideas both inflected the development of classical film theories as well as the evolution of cinema. Moreover, the scope of the course seeks to examine the overall process whereby theoretical discourse develops historically.
MCS 385 Semiotics, Storytelling, and Film Form
This course will provide an in-depth exploration of how filmmakers create various types of meaning through film form and style. Methods of analysis will include semiotics (the analysis of signs and symbols that produce meaning), genre studies, and celebrity studies. We will pay specific attention to how meaning emerges from in-vogue or director-specific stylistic choices (for example, Spike Lee's dolly shot, bullet time post-Matrix, and the popularity of still photography in film of the late 1960s) and new technologies that emerge at various times (for example, special effects that allow for the production of different images, and advances in control over layered sound that change aural impact).
MCS 389: Podcasting (Hybrid Course)
Students do NOT need any previous radio or podcasting experience to succeed in this course. Some experience with Garageband or similar programs will definitely benefit students in this course. Podcasting has more or less been possible since the iPod was introduced in 2001, however, they have never been more popular than they are at the present time. Listeners are responding favorably to the niche-focus and appeal of many podcasts, including This American Life, The Nerdist, and Serial. In this course, students will work in groups to produce a variety of podcasts, including lifestyle, sports, and technology podcasts. Students will also produce a final podcast project that can be customized to the learning and career goals of individual students.