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3 About the Course

Lectures and Tutorials

Lectures are Weeks 1-13 and Tutorials are Weeks 2-13. The lecture for Week 1 is an important introductory lecture. You should also look through some of the introductory materials. After that each week’s lecture and tutorial are usually on the same topic. However, some of these topics are quite broad and can cover a range of smaller topics within them.

Lectures are in a “flipped” format.

The first lecture is in the lecture theatre as per the timetable. That is, the Science Theatre (K-F13-G09). A version of this lecture will be online by the same time this lecture happens on Monday, February 26. I would prefer that everyone is at that first lecture, as it’s the only time we’ll be meeting as an entire course group. However, if you can’t come then, you can listen online. You will really need to do one of these, however, as you will be lost otherwise. There will be no lectures in the timetabled lecture theatre after week one.

Lectures for weeks 2-13 will be online—here on Moodle—by 5pm on the Thursday before the week involved (usually before this). You’ll find them in the section for each week. You are required to listen to/engage with the materials in these lectures. They will include both recordings of my own shortish lectures and other materials (short videos and links for example). It will become clear fairly quickly if you’re unprepared for class. Engagement with the online lectures is what counts as lecture attendance. Please note that I may slightly edit, add to or re-record some lectures as we go, although this shouldn’t stop you getting ahead if you want to (as I won’t do anything too dramatic).

Most weeks, I’ll be lecturing on the topic, required materials and some of the extra resources. There will not always be powerpoints.

Tutorials will include open discussion and quite a bit of active learning, together with various forms of group work. This will be determined week by week. If you have something you’d like to do, try out, or that you’d like to do more of, let us know. We’ll be very happy to consider it.

The details for specific weeks (topics, required readings and preparations, etc) are in the Moodle sections below.

Main Concerns of this Course

Media and communications have always been tightly interwoven with cultural and social life. Indeed, we have records from both Ancient Greece and Ancient China which tell us that many important philosophers were, even then, deeply troubled by the impact of “new media” (way back then, they worried about the impact of “new media” such as writing on memory, or the “wrong” kind of music on social order). With the invention of a number of key media technologies in the nineteenth century—such as the telegraph and photography, not to mention electricity—the relations between media change and social change became a lot more complex.

More recently, especially but not only with digital and network technologies, the dynamism of this has been dramatically enhanced. All of us are more “interwoven” with and through media, but this seems to lead to as much “unravelling” of the fabric of everyday life as it does to new ways of coming together. On top of all this, media now change increasingly rapidly, and this perhaps speeds up related social changes (and vice versa). There were no iPads less than six years ago, for example. Or, to take another example, you will have thought about the ongoing changes that occur when digital formats and networks meet older style media, in journalism for example, whether mainstream, “citizen” or “hyperlocal”. Media now diversify dramatically, into many unfamiliar, often unstable forms. And these forms find new niches—new aspects of the social to occupy. “Media ecologies” become more involved with mental, social and, yes, environmental “ecologies”.

Today we constantly see, for example, new forms of social organisation that are at least in part using quickly evolving social media. Indeed, social media are now often implicated in dramatic social changes, even overthrowing governments. Or think of media technologies in science. Think of the new understandings of our brains and ourselves we now have, via brain imaging. Think about the networking of medical records. Think about the growing social impact of media technologies such as robotics, the internet of things, augmented or virtual reality, or 3D printing.

The impacts on the arts has been just as dramatic. Think of music making and distribution, VJing (live video mixing), or the complex body-technology interactions in contemporary dance and performance, or the way that AI (artificial intelligence) is starting to impact writing and visual analysis, or Virtual, Augmented and Mixed realities as new media forms.

Through all this, the more we do in partnership with media and communications, the stranger the whole mix seems to be. Indeed, you could say the stranger we are to ourselves. Media and communications have become a little like the weather. They are all around us, close to our very skins. Yet, like the weather and climate, as media and communications change, everything they are involved with begins to seem unfamiliar, sometimes strikingly so. Sometimes we “know ourselves” better. At other times, we perhaps no longer quite know where, who, what or how we are.

So understanding new media, cultural and social change is perhaps the key to contemporary life (and often to an understanding of history and the future), not least to the kind of work you will face in the future.

Several things makes this even more interesting.

First, there is the dynamism of change in general. As suggested in the quote above by Brian Massumi, it’s not just change in itself, but that the very nature of ‘changing changes’ (most popular commentary, and even much academic work, finds this difficult to deal with). There are no stable frames through which to understand media and communications once and for all. This tells us that although in this course we will be looking at principles by which to understand and deal with cultural and technological change, these principles will have to be very flexible (and so will we!). Second, and related, this makes us rethink many basic assumptions. Some of the most basic of these involve the constancy, or lack thereof, of the like of the “mind”, “body”, or “world”. In this course we will begin by assuming mind-body-world relations as crucial to perception, feeling and thinking. We will then explore media and communications as powerful interventions in mind/body/world relations, and therefore in perception, feeling and thinking. Changing mind/body/world relations also means changing social structures, and important philosophical and political foundations (and perhaps the like of academic disciplines, even “Media Studies” – you will have to think across disciplines at many times in this course!). As the philosopher Spinoza put it ‘We do not yet know what a body can do’ [1], and therefore what we, as individuals or societies can do. Media technologies rework the potential of the body, allowing it/us to feel, act, think, engage, differently, with the world (and the world with/through us). Indeed, it is perhaps cultural and technological change that have lead us to realise that the human body itself (and following it human relations, societies and cultures as expressions of the human body) might be only semi-stable. What do I mean? I mean first that bodily structures and supports are complex, and extend beyond the body. Second, however, just as importantly, bodies are more than given structures. They are carry the potential to remake themselves and their relations to other bodies (human, social or even machine “bodies”). As again Massumi suggests, and as contemporary media technologies make more obvious, ‘… a body does not coincide with its present. It coincides with its potential’ [2].

This course is as concerned with this ongoing potential for change as with any given state of things. To really wrestle with this, we need to be willing to grapple with complex situations, sometimes subtle thinking and, just as important, detailed research of actual media and communications events, technologies and impacts. This is all as important for media industries and individual careers as it is for thinking theoretically about media.

Perhaps the most important question you might ask in this course is this: how we might live—communally and personally—in a quickly changing world increasingly soaked through with quickly changing and unpredictable, flexible, digital and networked media and communications technologies?

1. Spinoza, B. (2002) Complete Works S. Shirley (transl.), Indianapolis: Hackett [EIIIP2S]

2. Massumi, B. (2002) Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation Durham: Duke University Press: 200

You have to get organised when it comes to the readings and other materials for this course.

There is a very wide variety of materials and approaches in this course. There is “traditional academic material” in the form of academic article and book chapters. However, you will also draw on a wide variety of web site, videos, and other materials, with a wide variety of approaches to media, to life and to what learning and study might be. We want to give you the easiest way into important but often complex questions. We want to foster discussion in the class, on what are often complex issues we sometimes only touch on for a week. There’s also a mix of different levels of “academic” and “non-academic” difficulty/simplicity in the readings. I encourage everyone to begin work at the level with which they’re comfortable and develop your thinking and reading from there. Wherever you start, the course is designed so everyone can access the key ideas and issues week by week. However, all this means you might have to spend 10 minutes each week getting organised, or better, take some time at the beginning of the course to access all the readings you need (downloading those online for example).

Most of the readings, videos and other materials for the course are either pdfs you can download from this site, or links to other pages on the web. Sometimes you might need to download academic articles via the library site. Sometimes these readings are a collection of links that you need to spend some time exploring. For some weeks I have written brief, summary descriptions of the issues, and methods of approaching issues. So it is important that you complete reading the course outline for each week, the required online readings/explorations and the required readings from the study kit. You will also gain a great deal by actively exploring some of the extra resources towards which this outline directs you: on the web and in the library.

Please also note that I give instructions about the readings that should make it easier to read them. You should note these carefully. You often, for example, only need to read a small, selected part of the reading.

You may also have to buy a book (electronic or otherwise), or Upper One Games’ Never Alone yourself (they won’t be in the bookshop—I recommend buying the books cheaply and easily in Kindle format from Amazon.com and or buying the game for whatever platform suits you online). You don’t have to buy either of these if you choose another option for Week Six (see Week Six). 

There is no Study Kit for the course.

Once again, the lecture materials online that are required preparation. As with the tutorial materials, these will be a mix of materials that you will be able to access from the Course Moodle site. These are usually in addition go the tutorial materials, although they are found in the same section, with each week’s section below containing both lecture and tutorial materials.

Hunting and Gathering, Exploring

When it first became possible, many of us thought that students would take to electronic readings like ducks to water. This is increasingly the case, but electronic readings and explorations sometimes require a little more discipline. In this course you need to be an enthusiastic gatherer, reader and explorer of online material. We will show you some ways to do this, but you will have to self-organise in the light of the guidance we give you. This is not only for your own good, although it is that. It’s also because the media issues we’re dealing with are constantly shifting. The most relevant material is often on the web. Of course, especially because they’re contemporary media issues, they often discussed in all kinds of media formats and forums. This means there’s a great wealth of material online, just waiting for you! Of course, it’s also the case that networked media, in a variety of formats, are very much at the heart of what we discuss in this course (and the key to shifts in the media and communications industries).

We will be adding links to the course web presence during the course. Hopefully by tagging items of interest that you find “ARTS3091” on social media sites, you will be adding to the pool of knowledge as well.

“Reading”

“Reading” in this course often means reading, in the old fashioned sense. Some people seem shocked by this, but the truth about the media industries is not that “everything has gone visual” or “is on the internet”, etc. We cannot simply forget about writing and reading. In fact, to be media literate today means you are required to have a high level of literacy across a range of different modes of expression (written, visual, aural, coded, data materials and engagements, etc … see <http://www.andrewmurphie.org/blog/?p=384>). So you need to read, carefully, and you need to engage with other materials (eg video, music, visualizations, data feeds).

Note also that although there are often quite a few required readings for a tutorial, these are often very short (often page or two). It’s rare that the total number of pages exceeds 40. Some weeks though there will be a lot more. This is a higher, level 3, course. The main week you will have to read more material is week six. This will involved reading some stories, extended theoretical material, and perhaps playing a game.

How to use the web for research for this course

Here are some of the tools/approaches you will find useful not only for this course, but for other courses, and indeed your working life. Remember that the tools/approaches below are powerful, new publishing tools. In using them, our advice is to:

1. Separate your professional (including student) life and publishing, from your private life (although we can discuss in classes how possible it is to do this now, eg, on Facebook).

2. Absolutely and always avoid: slander of any kind (do not insult anyone, ever), obscenity, or copyright violation. If in doubt, hesitate, and ask me, or your tutor, about the way forward.

If you’re looking for material you can legally re-use, try Tama Leaver’s Sources of Legally Reusable Media (thanks Tama!) at:

http://tamaleaver.pbworks.com/w/page/19139799/Sources-of-Legally-Reusable-Media

UNSW has provided some very good guidelines for your use of Social Media here:

https://student.unsw.edu.au/social-media-guidelines

Guided by the above, however, we encourage you to engage with the many new tools in publishing now available. It can be very empowering. These tools are of course at the heart of media and communications.

Personally, I use Diigo (http://www.diigo.com) to gather and tag links to sites (although I have to admit I use Evernote a lot more these days, and I recommend that too—if Evernote is too expensive for you I think Microsoft’s OneNote is still free and useful). You can find me on Diigo at <http://www.diigo.com/user/andersand/>. You’ll find very many useful links for the course here. You could start with the tag and <30912018>. There are some useful, short videos on how to use Diigo here <http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/diigo/>.

There are also many online, open access journals in the area. I edit the Fibreculture Journal at <http://fibreculturejournal.org>. A large list, provided by Medea in Sweden, of interesting journals, is here <http://medea.mah.se/2011/01/new-media-open-access-academic-journals/>.

Finally, the library now has an excellent ELISE tutorial online to help you with advanced library use. Highly recommended! You can find it here:

http://subjectguides.library.unsw.edu.au/elise

A note in passing: we are provided a very large number of links to the web here, which is not only a diverse but a constantly changing environment. We certainly do not mean to link through to anything you might find offensive. In fact, we actively avoid it, but occasionally it occurs anyway. We hope in these cases you will just move on, as we cannot take responsibility for such a large opening out of possibilities. Of course, we hope that your experience via these links and feeds will be one of enrichment.

A Note on tutorials

Tutorials work via your preparation and participation. Your tutors, while diligent and caring, can only create the conditions for the experience of learning. The rest is up to you! You will therefore have to take much of the responsibility for the quality of the classes. The tutorials are spaces for brainstorming, for play and serious reflective discussion. They are places of dialogue where you should feel free to express opinions and ask questions. But crucially tutorials are the place where you ‘get your hands dirty’, using the course materials … where you get to test your understanding and your ideas in a supportive collegial environment.

I hope you enjoy the course.