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SS 355.01 & .

02 Mass Media and Society

Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies — Spring 2011
Wednesdays: Sec 1 9:30 am - 12:20 pm Room: Eng 32; Sec 2 2:00 – 4:50 pm Room: NH 110
Office: 419 DeKalb Hall E-mail: izatzdia@pratt.edu
Hours: Wednesday, 8:55-9:25 & 12:35 – 1:05 and 1:20-1:50 and 5-5:30 and by appointment
3 credits. Elective Course. No prerequisites.

Bulletin Description
An examination of the psychological impact of the modern mass media. Basic models of
communication, persuasion, motivation, and attitude formation are presented and applied to the
study of the effects of the media on mental and emotional development and on the formation of
social attitudes. The course also examines the social implication of the effects of commercial and
political propaganda and the "marketing" of political figures as well as the social consequences
of the development of a "post-literate" society. Sections of this course are reserved for
undergraduate students. May not be repeated.

Course Description
The course will examine the theoretical implication of the nexus of mass media and mass
society. A brief theoretical introduction will indicate basic tools of semiological and
sociological analysis. This will be followed by several weeks in which the historical
development of Taylorized mass production is shown to be matched by mass media in the United
States, primarily. The final part of the course will analyze “postmodern culture” and its
connection to mass media. The overall consideration throughout the course will be the
construction of society with and through media, ranging from the Big Screen of the cinema to the
small screen of tv, computers and interactive hand held devices.

Teaching Objectives
• To establish a working vocabulary and a pedagogical method that allows students to
understand the connection between media and society in a dialectical and non-causal way
• To establish a working environment for the development of analytic and critical tools

Learning Objectives
Local Outcomes
Knowledge: The students will gain skills to utilize the precise terminology to express a growing
awareness of the social context of media production and consumption
Comprehension: The student will connect their experience with mass media and the production
of social relations in specific historical periods
Application: The students will relate critical analysis to their own assumptions resulting from
their experience in a media saturated society
Global Outcomes
Analysis: The students shall be able to break down visual and textual messages in mass media
Synthesis: The students shall be able to group together a set of analytic tools to assess and
explain the media mechanisms that foster or hinder the production of the social fabric
Evaluation: The students shall be able to support their own assessment of the relation between
media and the production of social relations
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Course Requirements

The final grade consists of in equal parts of the following:

1) Regular attendance and promptness. Repeated absences or lateness will result in lower grade. 2)
Journal entries for each week of the course. 13-14 in total. These submissions should be one or
two, typed and double-spaced pages, and are due the last day that our class is scheduled for the
semester. No late submissions will be accepted. You are free during the semester to present as
many of these entries as you feel are needed, if you wish to get the instructor’s feedback on your
work. These entries will consist of your own analysis of ALL films and also readings for this class,
and your own interpretation of issues presented class discussions, should you deem it appropriate or
necessary. Note that: 1) these journals require BOTH the films AND the assigned texts (doing only
one will not give you a full grade for that part of the course); 2) the journals also require YOUR
analysis, not mere high-school book reporting or repeating what was already discussed.
Each requirement counts equally towards the final grade. No late work will be accepted.
Additionally, students who demonstrate strong and relevant participation in class may obtain
bonus points towards their grade.

IMPORTANT: Also note that handing work in your name but done by others is plagiarism and
it is punished with a failure in this course and possible expulsion from the school. If you copy a
short passage from somebody else’s work, it is expected that it will be duly referenced in
standard citation form. Consult the Student Handbook for Pratt Institute’s Policy on Cheating
and Plagiarism.

Required Reading and Viewing: Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire; Jerzy
Kosinski, Being There; selections on reserve (specified below). The books are available at Book
Culture (536 W 112th St., bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Aves. in Manhattan) or through a
provider of your own choosing. The scheduled films are required viewing.
Suggested Additional Reading: Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public
Sphere; Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney, The Global Media; Walter Lippman,
Public Opinion; Marshal McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, Understanding Media, and The
Global Village; Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man; Nathaniel West, Miss Lonelyhearts

Schedule of classes

1/19 Introduction and Overview - Mass Media and Social “Meanings”

I Analytic Introduction

1/26 Reading: Barthes, Elements of Semiology (segment in

Hall, “Encoding/Decoding” in Media Studies: a reader [MSR] and also Media
and Cultural Studies [MCS], ed. Durham and Kellner; Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure
and Narrative Cinema” from Visual and Other Pleasures and also in MSR
Film: Hitchcock, Rear Window (fragment)
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2/2 Reading: Lasarzfeld and Merton “Mass Communication, Popular Taste and
Organized Social Action” in MSR and in Mass Communications, ed. Wilbur
Schramm; Habermas, “The Public Sphere (An Encyclopedia Article)” in MCS
Film: Achbar and Wintonick, Manufacturing Consent (selection)

II A Brief History of Mass Media (case studies from Europe and the US)

2/9 Reading: Marx and Engels, “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas” and
Gramsci, “(i)History of the subaltern classes … etc” in MCS
Film: Chaplin, Modern Times (segment)

2/16 Reading: Ewen, Prologue and Part 1 – 3

Film: Selection of silent films

2/23 Reading: Kracauer, “The Mass Ornament” and Kracauer, “The Cult of
Distraction” from The Mass Ornament and Benjamin, “The work of art in the age
of mechanical reproduction” from Illuminations and also in MCS
Film: Berkely, “On the waterfall” (segment); Clair, Ballet Mecanique;
Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (segment)

3/2 Reading: Horkheimer and Adorno, “The Culture Industry” from Dialectic of
Enlightment also in MCS [but the translation from Dialectic… is preferable];
Williams “Advertising, the Magic System” in MSR
Film: Redford, Quiz Show

3/9 Reading: McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (on reserve) also MSR & CSR;
Ewen, Part 4 – 5
Film: Wexler, Medium Cool

3/16 Spring Break – NO CLASS

III Globalization, Postmodernism and Media: An Analysis

3/23 Reading: Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacrum” in Simulacra and

Simulation and in MSR; Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in
MCS and online; Ann Gray, “Behind Closed Doors: Video Recordings in the
Home,” in MSR
Film: Egoyan, Family Viewing

3/30 Reading: Kosinski, Being There

4/6 Reading: Hebdige, “From Culture to Hegemony/Subculture the Unnatural

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Break” in MCS; Dyer, “The Role of the Stereoptype” in The Matter of Images and
also in MSR
Film: Cox, Repo Man

4/13 Reading: García Canclini, “Hybrid Cultures, Oblique Powers” in MCS

Film: Subiela, Man Facing Southeast

4/20 Reading: Poster, “Postmodern Virtualities” in MCS and Sadie Plant, “On the
Matrix: Cyberfeminist Simulations” in MSR
Viewing: Selections from the Internet

4/27 Reading: Virilio, selections from Crepuscular Dawn

Viewing: Selections from the Internet

5/4 Final journals due