Course Description

This course will survey some fundamental theories about mass media and culture. We will methodically summarize, evaluate, and compare these writings and critical approaches. The writings we will cover criticize media as popular culture, a commercial industry, and a territory for cultural citizenship.

Goals

This Media Criticism course is best regarded as a criticism of media criticism, or media criticism criticism, if you will. This in-person course will require you to read one or two essays per week before class that criticizes some aspect of mass media and culture. At each class session, we will cover the historical and scholarly context in which the essays were written and extract some key terms and concepts. In subsequent classes, we will revisit some of the essays compare them the other essays we have already read. By the end of the course, you will be familiar with the literature of media studies and will be able to understand any other essays you encounter in media studies and several other fields. Your success in this course depends less on memorizing class material and more on developing the ability to be a critical media scholar through intensive reading and argumentative writing.

Writing Intensive Course at Queens College

This course is a Writing Intensive (W) course and fulfills one Writing Intensive requirement. W classes include a significant portion of time devoted to writing instruction. This may include things such as revision workshops, discussions of rhetorical strategies, or reflective writing about writing assignments.

Time and Place

Tuesdays, 6:30 – 9:20 PM
King Hall, Room 105
Section: MEDST 201W–04 (52176)

Instructor

Juan Monroy

Connect

Office Hours:

G Building, Room 102-D
Tuesday, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Schedule an appointment: https://juanmonroy.com/qcofficehours

Course Materials

Textbooks

The following textbook is available through Amazon, Textbookx, and on reserve at Rosenthal Library.

You should also review Goals for Student Writing published by Writing at Queens College.

Reserve Readings

Required course readings not found in the textbook are available electronically from the course website under the particular class session. You will need to use your QC G Suite account to access these materials.

Blackboard

We will not be using Blackboard for this course. Instead, consult the Course Website for the syllabus and Google Classroom for submitting assignments.

Writing Center

Would you like free in-person assistance with writing your papers?

The Writing Center at Queens College offers in-person tutoring with your writing assignments. You can schedule recurring weekly sessions or a one-time “drop-in.” You can also stop-by the Writing Center to consult with a tutor. Students can also submit work online via the Writing Center’s e-tutoring service.

  • Monday-Thursday: 10 am–2 pm and 3–8 pm
  • Friday: 10 am–1 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am–2 pm

The Writing Center is located in Kiely Hall, Room 229 and can be reached at 718–997–5676.

G Suite for Education

This course will use G Suite for Education using your QC CAMS (often referred to as the QC Active Directory) account. Below are instructions for how to activate your QC G Suite for Education account (titled “Step 1” below) and how to join our course on Google Classroom (titled “Step 2” below). New QC students and students enrolled at another CUNY campus will have to take an additional, first step (titled “Step 0” below).

About Google accounts

You can have more than one Google account. If you use Gmail, you already have a Google Account: it is likely a personal Google account. Google offers organizations, businesses and educational institutions G Suite accounts for its users. Since you’re enrolled at Queens College, you have access to a QC G Suite for Education account.

You cannot access QC G Suite for Education using your personal Gmail or another G Suite account.

You can be logged into both accounts at the same time, but you will likely have to switch between accounts to access your QC G Suite for Education account versus your personal G Suite.

Step 0: Activate your QC Username

Students New to Queens College, Recently Transferred to QC, or Enrolled at another CUNY Campus.

You must first activate your Queens College username and email account at https://cams.qc.cuny.edu.

The process takes about three (3) business days so please start this process as soon as possible.

Step 1: Activate Your QC G Suite for Education account

Information Technology at Queens College offers detailed instructions for activating (or claiming) your QC G Suite for Education account. The process comes down to four steps.

  1. Go to https://gdrive.qc.cuny.edu/.
  2. Log in with your complete Queens College username (e.g., jmonroy100@qc.cuny.edu).
  3. From the QC authentication page, sign in with your QC CAMS account. Use your QC CAMS username (e.g. jmonroy100) and your QC CAMS password. (If you’re having trouble contact the QC CAMS Help Desk at 718–997–4444.)
  4. Accept the terms of service.

You can access your QC G Suite for Education account at https://google.com/a/qc.cuny.edu.

Your Google G Suite for Education username is [Your QC AD username]@qc.cuny.edu, for example, jmonroy100@qc.cuny.edu.

About Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a barebones, learning management system that you will use to submit your assignments and I will use to grade your work. We will not be using Blackboard.

I will also post announcements to Google Classroom instead of emailing everyone in class. However, you should use email to contact me, instead of the private commenting system in Google Classroom because it doesn’t work properly.

Step 2: Join Google Classroom

Google has instructions for joining a course in Google Classroom. The process basically comes down to four steps:

  1. Go to Google Classroom.
  2. Sign in using your QC CAMS login.
  3. Click the “+” to “Join class.”
  4. Enter the code I provided at the first meeting (for face-to-face classes) or via email (for online classes).

I highly recommend downloading the Google Classroom mobile app for iOS or Android. If you allow push notifications, you will immediately receive important announcements from me and learn when assignments are posted.

Use the QC G Suite for Education Apps

We will be using some QC G Suite applications in this class.

  • Google Docs is a cloud-based, word-processing application. It is comparable to Microsoft Word on your personal computer except that all your documents are stored in your Google Drive. Be sure you’re using your QC G Suite account, not your personal Google account. Download the Google Docs mobile apps for iOS or Android.
  • Google Meet is a video-based, communication platform used for remote office hours. Download the Google Meet mobile apps for iOS or Android.
  • Google Forms is a survey and data collection platform that we will use for quizzes in some courses. There’s a bug in Forms that requires you to authenticate using your QC G Suite account on a web browser if you navigate to the quiz from the Google Classroom apps. To avoid this bug, I recommend taking the quizzes on a desktop computer.
  • Google Drive is a cloud-based file storage platform. Your QC Google Drive offers unlimited storage, compared to 15 GB with your personal Google Drive. Download the Google Drive mobile apps for iOS or Android.

Troubleshooting

A majority of access issues can be resolved switching to your Queens College Google account. This article describes how to switch between Google accounts.

Another resolution that always works is to log out of all your Google accounts in your web browser and then logging back into your QC G Suite account at https://google.com/a/qc.cuny.edu.

Policies

Attendance

For in-person classes, regular attendance is required. Attend twelve or more classes and receive five bonus points added to your final grade. Students missing more than four classes will not be permitted to take the final exam.

For hybrid course, regular attendance is required. Attend seven or more classes and receive five bonus points added to your final grade. Students missing more than three classes will not be permitted to take the final exam.

This policy does not apply to online courses.

Verification of Attendance

You must be present or participating in class during the verification of attendance period. Otherwise, I will report you as not attending and you will be dropped from the class.

The verification period is as follows:

  • fall and spring semesters: the first three weeks of classes
  • summer and winter semesters: the first four days of classes

Academically-related activities include, but are not limited to:

  • physically attending a class where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students;
  • submitting an academic assignment;
  • taking an exam, an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction;
  • attending a study group that is assigned by the school;
  • participating in an online discussion about academic matter;
  • engaging in an online academically-related activity, or initiating contact with the instructor to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course or ask a course-related question.

Note: Logging into an online class is not sufficient, by itself, to demonstrate participation in an academically-related activity by the student.

Professionalism

Digital devices are prohibited in class. Unfortunately, students in the past have failed to use computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. in a professional, responsible, or productive manner, and, as such, you are not allowed to use these devices in class after the first class session.

You’re welcome to print out the slides ahead of time—they are available on this website—and to take notes on paper. I recommend buying a spiral notebook, some nice pencils, and a portable pencil sharpener to do this.

Further, if I find you engaging in any other disruptive behavior, such as passing notes, instant messaging, chatting, photographing, or texting, I will remove you from the classroom and have you withdraw from the class.

Late Work

Please submit your work on time. Late quizzes and take-home final exams will not be accepted. In some cases, assignments due at the end of the term will not be accepted. In-class exams must be taken at the date and time listed below unless other we make other arrangements.

All other work will be penalized as follows:

Fall and Spring Courses
After a 24-hour grace period, late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After one calendar week, the assignment will not be accepted, and you will likely fail this class.
Summer and Winter Courses
After a one-hour grace period, late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction up to 24 hours after the deadline. Late work will not be accepted after 24 hours.
All courses
No work will be accepted after the last class session.

“Incomplete” Grades

There are no incomplete grades for this class except in the case of a documented emergency in the final weeks of the semester. If you experience such an emergency, please contact me immediately, and we will work out a schedule for you to complete the outstanding work before the beginning of the following semester.

But aside from these circumstances, no late work will be accepted and no “incomplete” grades will be granted. If you have difficulty keeping up with coursework, consider giving yourself extra time to complete assignments, reducing your overall course load, and/or taking this class at a later semester.

No Extra Credit Assignments

There are no opportunities for extra credit. As a matter of fairness, your grade will be based on the work assigned to all students.

Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York. Penalties for academic dishonesty include academic sanctions, such as failing or otherwise reduced grades, and/or disciplinary sanctions, including suspension or expulsion. Examples of Academic Dishonesty include cheating, plagiarism, obtaining an unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents.

Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise. Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own. Obtaining Unfair Advantage is any action taken by a student that gives that student an unfair advantage in his/her academic work over another student, or an action taken by a student through which a student attempts to gain an unfair advantage in his or her academic work over another student.

For tips and information on how to maintain academic integrity, consult Writing at Queens document, “What is Plagiarism?”.

Computers, Tablets, and Mobile Phones

Please refrain from using your digital devices during class. Also remember to silence your mobile phone, or turn it off to save your battery.

It is particularly rude to use your devices in class because it distracts not only me but also the students around you. And others can see what you’re doing.

Students must surrender mobile phones, tablets, and computers on exam days.

QC Email

Do not use the commenting system in Google Classroom to communicate with me.

Always use your QC email account (student@qmail.cuny.edu). This is the only way I can communicate with you, other than face-to-face meetings or via video conferencing.

Students with Disabilities

Queens College has a history of commitment to the enhancement of education of students with disabilities. The Office of Special Services for Students with Disabilities was established in 1974 to provide equal opportunities for a college education to academically qualified students with physical disabilities. The office offers comprehensive support services to students with various disabilities. Queens College prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and it ensures full access and equal opportunity to qualified students with disabilities to all academic programs and social activities on campus.

To receive these services, a student must first register with the office in Kiely 171. To do so, you must bring proper documentation pertaining to the nature of your disability from a qualified professional. To learn more about CUNY Assistive Technology Services and the office located at Queens College, call (718) 997–3775 or visit Kiely Hall 173. For more information, visit The Office of Special Services.

Help with Writing

One of the most important skills you will learn throughout your education is writing. If you cannot write, you will not succeed at communicating your ideas and will endanger your professional development.

The Writing Center at Queens College offers free assistance to students with writing. Please visit the center at least once for each writing assignment you have for your classes this semester. You can schedule a one-hour session or drop in to consult an on-duty tutor.

Assignments

Reading Reviews

In Google Classroom, I will pose a question (or some questions) related to one of the assigned readings we covered in class that is intended to help you understand the reading in the context of our in-class discussion.

The question(s) will be available on Wednesday morning after our class and due by 5:00 PM on the day of our class. I will use your responses to review the readings in class the following week and to write the exam questions.

In-Class Presentation

Starting in week three, all students are to present one of the readings assigned this semester.

Do not summarize the entire essay. Instead, your presentation should follow these guidelines:

  • Identify the author and explain his/her biography.
  • Briefly summarize the central argument of the essay.
  • Identify and recount an example or case study that the author uses to illustrate his/her argument.
  • Explain how the example or case study illustrates that central argument.
  • Introduce your own example to illustrate the central argument of the essay.
  • Compare the essay to one essay we’ve already covered in this class.

Bring a written copy of your presentation:

  • a paragraph for each of the list items outlined above
  • a paragraph-by-paragraph outline of the essay you were assigned

You may use a presentation slideshow as long as it contains no text and you supply your own device that connects to a VGA projector. Your presentation should last about twenty minutes. Be prepared to answer questions from students.

  • We will randomly draw essays in class on Tuesday, February 5. Don’t miss this class
    • the first students to present on February 19 will receive two extra-credit points to their final grade
  • Schedule of Presentations
  • Weight: 10%

Essay 1: What is Popular Culture?

In their influential essay, “The Culture Industry,” Adorno and Horkheimer criticize newly emergent mass culture of the late–nineteenth and early-twentieth century as an industrial product that deceives its audiences.

Discuss how the author of the one of the following essays may agree or disagree with this argument by characterizing mass culture as popular culture, that is culture that is meaningful for the people that use it and engage with it.

  1. Walter Benjamin, “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
  2. Tania Modleski, “Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women”
  3. Lev Manovich, “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production”
  4. John Berger, “Ways of Seeing”
  5. Lynn Spigel, “The Domestic Economy of Postwar Television”
  6. Susan Douglas, “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World”
Assignment Guidelines
  • Consult my Guidelines on Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Citing Sources
  • Yes, this is a comparative essay
  • Your draft and final essay must be in the Google Doc attached to the respective Google Classroom assignments
  • Draft due Friday, March 15:
    • a one-paragraph summary Adorno and Horkheimer’s central argument about the culture industry and mass culture, including a relevant quote or two.
    • a one-paragraph summary of the argument made in the essay you selected, including determining whether the essay characterizes media as mass culture or as popular culture.
    • a provisional thesis statement that connects the essay you selected with Adorno and Horkheimer’s central argument.
    • a provisional outline—a list of topic sentences—of how you plan to support your thesis.
    • submit on Google Classroom
  • Schedule an appointment between March 18–29 to get your final thesis statement approved.
  • Your final essay will not be accepted without an approved draft.
  • Final due April 8:
  • Weight: 20%

Essay 2: Media and Culture Industries

Writing in the 1980s, Herbert Schiller observes the increasing control of culture by a decreasing number of corporations that prioritize profit over the artistic or cultural value of a work. Does this argument update and reinforce the “mass culture” argument made by Adorno and Horkheimer nearly fifty years earlier?

Discuss how the author of the one of the following essays extends Schiller’s argument about media and culture industries at the turn of the twenty-first century?

  1. Michael Curtin, “On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era.”
  2. Hector Amaya, “Citizenship, Diversity, Law and Ugly Betty.”
  3. Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart, “When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of Online Music Distribution.”
  4. Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of Self-Disclosure.”
  5. Lawrence Grossberg, “The Affective Sensibility of Fandom.”
  6. Mizuko Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange.”
Assignment Guidelines
  • Guidelines on Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Citing Sources
  • Yes, this is a comparative essay
  • Your draft and final essay must be in the Google Doc attached to the respective Google Classroom assignments
  • Draft due April 19:
    • a one-paragraph summary of how Herbert Schiller updates and/or reinforces the argument made by Adorno and Horkheimer nearly four decades earlier, including a relevant quote or two.
    • a one-paragraph summary of how the essay you selected agrees or disagrees with Schiller’s argument about media and culture industries, including a relevant quote or two.
    • a provisional thesis statement that connects the essay you selected with Schiller’s central argument.
    • a provisional outline—a list of topic sentences—of how you plan to support your thesis.
    • submit on Google Classroom
  • Schedule an appointment between April 29–May 10 to get your final thesis statement approved.
  • Your final essay will not be accepted without an approved draft and thesis statement.
  • Final due May 17:
    • submit on Google Classroom
    • Due to the accelerated grading deadline, no late assignments will be accepted
  • Weight: 25%

Exams

Midterm Exam

The in-class midterm exam consists of questions related to the assigned readings and the attendant discussions from the first half of the course. Use the review guide posted on this course website to help you prepare for the exam, including surveying the format of the exam.

This is an open-book exam: you may use your copy of The Media Studies Reader for the exam, but no other material is permitted.

  • March 26, in class
  • Weight: 20%

Final Exam

The in-class final exam consists of questions related to the assigned readings and the attendant discussions from the second half of the course. Use the review guide posted on this course website to help you prepare for the exam, including surveying the format of the exam.

This is an open-book exam: you may use your copy of The Media Studies Reader for the exam and a printout of the Sasha Torres essay, but no other material is permitted.

  • May 21, in class
  • Weight: 25%

Course Schedule

January 29 • Getting Started

Assignments
  1. Buy the textbook: The Media Studies Reader
  2. Activate your QC G Suite account.
    • Students New to Queens College, Recently Transferred to QC, or Enrolled in another CUNY Campus: You must activate your email and Active Directory accounts before you can activate your G Suite for Education account. The process takes about three (3) business days so please start this process as soon as possible.
  3. Join our course on Google Classroom
    1. Go to Google Classroom
    2. Click on the “+” to join the course
    3. Enter the code: 78atbb
  4. Review Goals for Student Writing published by Writing at Queens College.
  5. Complete the Welcome Survey

February 5 • Mass Culture and the Culture Industry

Reading

As you await the arrival of your textbooks, I am providing the reading as a PDF and as an EPUB file. Use your QC G Suite login for access.

February 19 • Popular Culture: Mechanical Reproduction

Reading

As you await the arrival of your textbooks, I am providing the following reading as a PDF as an EPUB file. Use your QC G Suite login for access.

In-Class Screening
  • John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Episode 1 (1972)

February 26 • Popular Culture: Consumers and Producers

Readings
  • Tania Modleski, “Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women.”
  • Lev Manovich, “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production.”

March 5 • Media, Gender, Power

Readings
  • John Berger, “Ways of Seeing.”
  • Lynn Spigel, “The Domestic Economy of Television Viewing in Postwar America.”
In-Class Screening
  • John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Episode 3 (1972)

March 12 • Media Representation and Social Reality

Reading
  • Susan Douglas, “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World.”

March 19 • Media, Industry, and Political Economy

Reading
  • Herbert Schiller, “The Corporation and the Production of Culture.”

March 26 • Midterm Exam

We will take the midterm exam in class today.

April 2 • Media and Niche Marketing

Readings
  • Michael Curtin, “On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era.”
  • Hector Amaya, “Citizenship, Diversity, Law and Ugly Betty.”

April 9 • Media, Technology and Control over the Consumer

Readings
  • Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of Self-Disclosure.”
  • Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart, "When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of Online Music Distribution.”
In-Class Screening
  • Downloaded (Alex Winter, 2013)

April 16 • Media Audiences and Fan Culture

Readings
  • Lawrence Grossberg, “The Affective Sensibility of Fandom.”
  • Mizuko Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange.”
In-Class Screening
  • Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Fans of My Little Pony (Laurent Malaquais, 2013)

April 30 • Media, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere

Reading
  • Peter Dahlgren, “Mediating Democracy”
  • Stuart Cunningham, “Popular Media as Public ‘Sphericules’ for Diasporic Communities.”

May 7 • Media and Cultural Citizenship

Reading
  • Lauren Berlant, “The Theory of Infantile Citizenship.”
In-Class Screening
  • The Simpsons, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington,” September 26, 1991.

May 14 • Governmentality and Citizenship

Readings
  • Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, “Makeover Television, Governmentality and the Good Citizen.”
  • Sasha Torres, “Television and Race,” in Janet Wasko, ed. A Companion to Television, Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005. Also available as a PDF.
In-Class Screening
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, “The Harris Family,” April 11, 2004.

May 21 • Final Exam

We will take the final exam in class today.