Critical Approaches to Digital Media Studies

This course introduces graduate students to the growing body of theoretical discourse defining the field of digital media studies. The class will establish some of the major historical, cultural, sociopolitical, philosophical, and other critical trends in this field. We'll conduct discussions both within the traditional classroom setting and in various networked formats. Class assignments will utilize digital writing, publishing, and communication media, including word processing software, HTML, asynchronous discussion formats, and blogs. Assignments will emphasize the importance of written content, theoretical development, and verbal presentation and dialogue.

In addition to an online writing assignment and your turn as a class discussion leader, you will be required to complete one critical paper for print and/or hypertext by the end of the quarter. This paper should establish your ability to sustain a detailed discussion of digital theory and practice.


Course Schedule, DMST 4200

Please note: this schedule is subject to change.

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10

•  The Organizing Theories of New Media

Week 1, Thursday Jan 3:

Introductions and class goals

View: Michael Wesch's _The Machine is Us/ing Us:

What is web 2.0? (Michael Wesch, Kansas State University )

Web apps for students:

Story of a memory app:

Web 2.0: utopia or curse? Andrew Keen debates David Weinberger:

Videos at:

Week 2, Tuesday Jan 8:

  1. Technological vs. Cultural Determinism:

Brian Winston, “How are Media Born and Developed?,” in John Downing, Ali Mohammadi, and Anabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi, Eds., Questioning the Media: A Critical Introduction , 2 nd . Ed. Sage, 1995, 54-74.

  1. Technologies of Freedom

Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom: On Free Speech in an Electronic Age . Harvard University Press, 1983.

•  Ch. 1: A Shadow Darkens, 1-10

•  Ch. 8: Electronic Publishing, 189-225

•  Ch. 9: Politics for Freedom, 226-252

On Pool's legacy:


I. The Organizing Theories of New Media, cont'd

C. Technologies of Control

Wk 2, Thursday Jan 10:

James Beniger, The Control Revolution , Harvard University Press, 1988.

***** Saturday, Jan. 12: Chili Supper at Professor Clark's house (significant others and kids invited) *******

D. Technology: Freedom and Control in Historical Context

Wk 3, Tuesday Jan 15:

Mark Poster, What's the Matter with the Internet? , University of Minnesota Press , 2001.

•  Ch. 3: Capitalism's Linguistic Turn, 39-59

•  Ch. 4: The Digital Subject and Cultural Theory. 60-76

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Available Online:

Click Here

E. Freedom/Control, Technological/Cultural Determinism: Digital Media and the Human Body:

Wk 3, Thursday Jan 17:

N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Post-Human: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

•  Ch. 1: Toward Embodied Virtuality, 1-24

•  Ch. 3: Contesting for the Body of Information: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, 50-83

•  Ch. 10: The Semiotics of Virtuality: Mapping the Posthuman, 247-282

Review of Hayles' book that appeared in The Village Voice :

Discussion Leaders: Katie H, M.A.

Respondents: Carolyn M, Liz S

I. The Organizing Theories of New Media, cont'd

E. Freedom/Control, Technological/Cultural Determinism: Digital Media and the Human Body, cont'd

Wk 4, Tuesday Jan 22:

Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet , MIT Press, 1995.

•  Ch. 3: Making a Pass at a Robot, 77-101

•  Ch. 10: Identity Crisis, 255-270

Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Available online:

Kunzru, Hari. "You Are Cyborg." Wired Magazine . 5:2 (1997) 1-7. Available online:

Lisa Nakamura, “Race in/for Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet,” in Cybertypes , Routledge, 1999.

Discussion Leaders: Liz S, Erica L

Respondents: M.A., Linda B

Wk 4, Thursday Jan 24:

Catch up and introduction to Manuel Castells

Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture , Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford , UK : Blackwell (1996) (second edition, 2000)

•  Prologue: The Net and the Self, 1-27

•  Ch. 1: The Information Technology Revolution, 28-76

Discussion Leader: Lynn Clark Respondent: Jan

Part II. The First Classic in New Media: Manuel Castells

A. Digital Media and Social Change:

Wk 5, Tuesday Jan 29:

Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture , Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford , UK : Blackwell (1996) (second edition, 2000)

•  Ch. 2: The New Economy: Informationalism, Globalization, Networking, 77-162

•  Ch. 3: The Network Enterprise : The Culture, Institutions, and Organizations of the Informational Economy, 163-215

•  Ch. 4: The Transformation of Work and Employment: Networkers, Jobless, and Flex-timers, 216-354

Discussion Leaders: Linda B, Liz C

Respondents: Catlyn K, Kate D

Wk 5, Thursday Jan 31:

Castells, _ The Rise of the Network Society

•  Ch. 5: The Culture of Real Virtuality: The Integration of Electronic Communication, the End of the Mass Audience, and the Rise of Interactive Networks, 355-406

•  Ch. 6: The Space of Flows, 407-459

•  Ch. 7: The Edge of Forever: Timeless Time, 460-499

•  Conclusion: The Network Society and Summary of the Contents of Volumes II and III, 500-511

Discussion Leaders: Jenn B, Jessica C

Respondents: Erica L, Molly E

Part II. The First Classic in New Media: Manuel Castells, cont'd

B. Digital Media and the Human Self

Wk 6, Tuesday Feb 5:

Castells, The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. II. Cambridge , MA ; Oxford , UK : Blackwell (1997) (second edition, 2004)

•  Prematerials (i-xxiii, 1-4)

•  Ch. 1: Communal Heavens: Identity and Meaning in the Network Society, 5-70

•  Ch. 2: The Other Face of the Earth: Social Movements Against the New Global Order, 71-167

•  Ch. 3: The Greening of the Self: The Environmental Movement, 168-191

•  Ch. 4: The End of Patriarchalism: Social Movements, Family, and Sexuality in the Information Age, 192-302

Discussion Leaders: Catlyn K, Molly E

Respondents: Carolyn M, Jenn B

Wk 6, Thursday Feb 7:

•  Ch. 5: Globalization, Identification, and the State: A Powerless State or a Network State ?, 303-366

•  Ch. 6: Informational Politics and the Crisis of Democracy, 367-418

•  Conclusion: Social Change in the Network Society, Methodological Appendix, Summary of Contents of Volumes I and III, 419-465

_____. End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. III. Cambridge , MA ; Oxford , UK : Blackwell (1998) (second edition, 2000). (no readings from this book, but we will read a review online)

Review from H-Net (of all three, but especially critical of the third):

Discussion Leaders: Loosineh, Ethan

Respondents: Liz C, Alexis

Final Paper/Presentation Topic due today!

Part III. Digital Media and Globalization

A. “New” Media and Theories of Cultural Imperialism:

Wk 7, Tuesday Feb 12:

Mohammadi, Ali. "Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Identity." Questioning the Media: A Critical Introduction. Ed. John Downing, et al. Newbury Park CA : SAGE, 1990. 267-280.

Seongcheol Kim, “Cultural Imperialism on the Internet,” The Edge: The E-Journal of Intercultural Relations Fall Vol. 1 (4). Available online:,0

Discussion Leaders: Carolyn M, Alexis

Respondents: Katie H, Loosineh

Annotated Bibliography due

Wk 7, Thursday Feb 14:

Arjun Appadurai, “Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology,” in Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization , University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Benjamin Barber, “Introduction,” in Jihad Vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World , Ballantine Press, 1995.

Ziauddin Sardar, “Alt.Civilizations.Faq: Cyberspace as the Darker Side of the West,” in David Bell (Ed.), A Cybercultures Reader 2 nd ed., Routledge, 2007.

Discussion Leaders: Kate D

Respondent: Jessica C, Ethan

Discussion of Assignment #3: Digital Media and Intercultural Communication

Part III. Digital Media and Globalization, cont'd

B. Digital Media and Intercultural Communication:

Wk 8, Tuesday Feb 19:

Chen, Guo-Ming (1998). Intercultural Communication via E-Mail Debate. The Edge: The E-Journal of Intercultural Relations , Fall Vol. 1 (4). Available online:

Donald Ellis and Ifat Maoz, “Online Argument Between Israeli Jews and Palestinians,” Human Communication Research 33(3): 291-309.

Digital Media and Intercultural Communication Assignment Part I Due

•  Current Debates and Key Sources in Digital Media Studies

A. Cultural Studies and Industry/Fan Convergence Culture:

Wk 8, Thursday Feb 21:

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University Press, 2007.

•  Introduction: Worship at the Altar of Convergence: A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change (ALL)

•  Ch. 1. Spoiling Survivor: The Anatomy of a Knowledge Community

•  Respondent 1:_______Katie____ Respondent 2: ____Liz C_______

•  Ch. 2. Buying into American Idol: How We are Being Sold on Reality TV

•  Respondent 3: __Jenn______ Respondent 4: ____Kate D______

•  Ch. 3. Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling

•  Respondent 5: __Erica L______ Respondent 6: ________________

Wk 9, Tuesday Feb 26:

•  Ch. 4. Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars: Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry

•  Respondent 7: _Alexis____ Respondent 8: ____Jessica________

•  Ch. 5. Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars

•  Respondent 9: __Linda_____ Respondent 10: __Catlyn______

•  Ch. 6. Photoshop for Democracy: The New Relationship Between Politics and Popular Culture

•  Respondent 11: _Molly _____ Respondent 12: __________________

•  C. 7. Democratizing Television? The Politics of Participation

•  Respondent 13: __Ethan____ Respondent 14: __________________


Lynn Schofield Clark, “Sustaining the Mystery, Developing Cross-Religious Understandings: Religion, Philosophy, and Convergence Culture Online in ABC's Lost . Northern Lights (Special Issue on Mediatization and Enchantment, January 2009).

Digital Media and Intercultural Communication Assignment Part II Due

IV. Current Debates and Key Sources in Digital Media Studies, cont'd

B. Cultural Studies, Digital Media, and Families

Wk 9, Thursday Feb 28:

Sonia Livingstone, “Childhood, Youth, and the Changing Media Environment,” in Young People and New Media . Routledge, 2002, 1-29.

Lynn Schofield Clark, Christof Demont-Heinrich, and Scott Webber, “Parents, ICTs, and Children's Prospects for Success: Interviews Along the Digital ‘Access Rainbow,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 22(5): 409-426, December 2005.

Lenhart, Amanda. (2005). Teens and Technology. Report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Available online:

Lynn Schofield Clark, “Technology, Authority, and the Generation Gap,” in Digital Media and the Generation Gap (manuscript in preparation).

Wk 10, Tuesday March 4:

NO CLASS TODAY: Work on final papers/presentations

Literature Review due

Wk 10, Thursday, March 6:

Final paper presentations

Final exam period: Tuesday, March 11:

Final paper presentations and reflection papers