Spring 2016: Media and Politics

Rutgers University

This undergraduate course is designed for students to examine how media, publics and politics intersect in contemporary Western democracies.

We start by asking how the political process has been affected by developments in media over the last several decades. How have print media, television, and the Internet changed how we think about politics and political figures?

We use Andrew Chadwick’s book, The Hybrid Media System, to understand how older (pre-Internet) and newer media logics (“technologies, genres, norms, behaviors, and organizational forms” [p. 4]) work together in political life.

We draw on ideas from Evgeny Morozov, Eli Pariser, and Matthew Hindman to think about what it means for citizens to be politically engaged in the Internet age. Do our media platforms and protocols help or hinder democratic communication?

We also inquire into the relationship between politics and journalism. Students spend the semester tracking a political issue through different media outlets and thinking critically about how journalists cover and frame issues, tell stories and interact with political agendas. We read texts by Noam Chomsky, Sarah Sobieraj, and Brooke Gladstone (among others) to consider how journalists “make” politics.

We end the course with a careful look at how media leaks, hacks, and surveillance color political life, considering ideas from Biella Coleman, Luke Harding, and others.

Spring 2016: Promotional Media

Rutgers University

What is a promotional culture? This undergraduate course invites students to take a critical look at how our media and communications have become “promotionalized.”

We get inside the structure and strategies of ad agencies, branding gurus, PR people, market researchers and strategic communications consultancies to understand how they do their work and with what purpose.

We delve into both historical and contemporary texts that have claimed to offer an art and science of persuasion, from Machiavelli to Dale Carnegie to 21st century political advertising campaigns.

We look at how and why media platforms and screens have driven us to adopt promotional behaviors in our everyday lives, and how media industries themselves have become obsessed with promotion.

The aim of this course is for students to learn to be critical interpreters of promotional texts and devices, and reflexive participants in our contemporary promotional culture.