Media, Culture, and Society

Excerpts from my course syllabus for "Media, Culture, and Society":


"Once you have learned how to ask questions–relevant and appropriate and substantial questions–you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know." –Neil Postman


How does our media-environment shape the way that we perceive,  think, feel, act, and relate to each other?

What is media? We talk about "the media" a lot, whether it’s the news, or cultural entertainment, or advertising. But what is it exactly? and what is the relationship between media and the human mind and behavior? Do media have any influence on how we think, feel, perceive the world, relate to others, or behave day-to-day? Or is the media we consume essentially apart from us and psychologically insignificant, a lot of noise without much consequence? And are there any meaningful relationships between media, democracy, and equal rights? 

While we don’t have all the answers, research over the last four decades has begun to shed some light.  However, first we must start asking questions…

For example:

    -Is freedom of speech a human right? Are human rights the same as corporate rights? Do you believe in freedom of speech for all views, or only views that you agree with?

    -Who decides which news stories and facts are important and how are these stories and facts presented? What is the difference between news and propaganda? What are the interests and perspectives of news media organizations?

    -How do images of different groups (e.g., gender, race, religion, ethnicity,…) get portrayed in commercial and entertainment media? How much do they reflect society and culture and how much do they influence society and culture?

    -Are there any known psychological or behavioral effects of exposure to media sex and violence? What about playing video games? Watching television? Using pornography? Advertising to children? Surfing the internet? Using an iPhone? Joining Facebook? How will new media in the future affect us?


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