understanding media

Week 1

Vehicle Strand: The Meanings of 'Media'
In this first part of the class participants are introduced to the aims and objectives, as well as to the content and concerns, of the module. We explore the two key meanings of the word 'media' as it is used in Media Studies, enlisting the help of Derren Brown and three pairs of underpants to do so.
Required Reading: none.

Environment Strand: The Medium is the Message
In this second part of the class we begin to look at the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, the notorious Canadian thinker whose work first prompted the study of media in their own right. Starting with a TV-deranged killer-mouse, we go on to examine what was meant by McLuhan's infamous suggestion that 'the medium is the message', and how media are both 'extensions' and 'environments'. Participants are shown how to register and post on the Module Forum, and we close with a look at the 1999 movie The Matrix.
Optional Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 26-41, 68, 82-85, 93, 114, 124-28, 142, 148.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 2, 3.

Module Forum
Four online seminars begin in the Module Forum this week: The Media, The Matrix, McLuhan and Miscellaneous. Topics under discussion include Derren Brown and the new breed of TV 'magician', the utility of watching The Matrix, the merits of considering media as environments, extensions or vehicles, and McLuhan's innovative approach to underpant odor.
For more information on the Module Forum see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Case Studies
If you choose to write a Case Study using this week's concepts you will need to focus on McLuhan's claim that media extend the body and create new environments. You should select a specific medium or technology - mobile phones, laptops, mp3 players, the walkman, pencils, spectacles, etc - and then analyse it as an extension and as an environment.
Useful Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 26-41, 68, 82-85, 93, 114, 124-28, 142, 148; Levinson, 1999, Ch. 3; Rae, no date, 'Extension'; Gordon, 2010, pp. 106-111; McLuhan, 1965; Lister et al., 2003, pp. 84-92; Gordon and Willmarth, 1997, pp. 42-45, 55-56; Berger, 1995, pp. 56-58; Duffy, 1969, Ch. 8; Federman, no date; Rosenthal, 1968; Stearn, 1967; McLuhan, 1964, Ch. 1.
Whatever you choose, you will probably want to arrange a tutorial with the Module Tutor. For more information on the Case Study see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Before Next Week's Class You Need To...
(1) Read the Module Handbook.
(2) Browse the Module Website.
(3) Obtain a copy of Branston and Stafford (any edition).
(4) Read Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 1: 'Approaching Media Texts'.
(5) Register on the Module Forum and with your real and online names.

If you're stuck or confused, post your problem on the Module Forum or .