understanding media

Week 2

Vehicle Strand: Interpreting Media
In this first part of the class we examine the key idea behind semiotics, the study of signs: that meaning depends on difference. We look at the concepts of paradigms and syntagms and set about tweaking the script for The Matrix.
Required Reading: Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 1: 'Approaching Media Texts'.
Optional Reading: Saussure, 1964, pp. 111-14.

Environment Strand: Visual and Acoustic Space
In this second part of the class we look at McLuhan's notions of visual and acoustic space. We trace the shift from a predominantly acoustic to a visual environment brought about by the new media of literacy and print. We look too at the suggestion that recent electronic media, especially the internet, bring us to a new acoustic environment. Participants are shown how to approach their Case Study, and we close with a second look at The Matrix.
Optional Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 48, 53-57, 63, 111-120, 125.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 4.

Module Forum
Topics under discussion in the Module Forum this week include binary oppositions and Titanic, the cultural connotations of colours, the use of image captions as anchors, the significance of the names of the major characters in The Matrix as well as that of colours within the film, and a McLuhanesque approach to cyberspace.
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 based on this week's class, you must address either semiotics or visual and acoustic space. If you select the former you will need to choose a particular media artefact - a short article from the Daily Mail, a scene from The OC or Annie Hall, a washing powder advert, a shop window display, a Seabrooks crisp packet, etc. - and analyse it in terms of key concepts from semiotics.
Useful Reading: Branston and Stafford, 2010, Ch. 1; Saussure, 1964, pp. 111-14; Chandler, 2005; Thwaites et al., 2002, Part 1; Storey, 1998, pp. 73-89; O'Sullivan, Dutton and Rayner, 2003, pp. 27-42; O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2008, Ch. 4, 7, 8, Appendix 1; Hall, 1997.
If you would rather employ McLuhan's concepts of visual and acoustic space you will need to choose some communication medium - telegraph, telephone, cinema, texting, email, picture or video messaging, audio books, etc. - and discuss the extent to which it creates a new visual or acoustic environment for its users.
Useful Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 48, 53-57, 63, 111-120, 125; McLuhan and Carpenter, 1960b; Duffy, 1969, Ch. 4, 5, 6; Levinson, 1999, Ch. 4; Rae, no date, 'Acoustic Space'; Gordon, 2010, pp. 91-95, 127-28; Gordon and Willmarth, 1997, pp. 31, 48-49; Tyler, 2009; Birkerts, 1994a; Spender, 1995, Ch. 3, 4.
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 Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 3: 'Genres and Other Classifications'.

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