understanding media

Week 3

Vehicle Strand: Genres and other Classifications
In this first part of the class we look at the importance of genre for understanding media texts. We consider repetition and variation within a genre and the repertoire of conventional elements on which a genre depends, as well as two types of realism which inform our expectations of a genre: cultural verisimilitude and generic verisimilitude. We discuss the generic conventions of the romantic comedy Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and close with an examination of the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a hybrid text that combines a number of distinct genres.
Required Reading: Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 3: 'Genres and Other Classifications'

Environment Strand: Hot and Cool Media
In this second part of the class we look at McLuhan's notion of hot and cool media. We compare a number of overwhelming, high-definition hot media such as cinema, print and radio with involving, low-definition cool media like television and telephony. We go on to consider the icy interactivity of online communication. We close with a final look at The Matrix.
Optional Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, pp. 27-41, 111-20, 124-28.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 9.

Module Forum
Topics under discussion in the Module Forum this week include the module's set text Branston and Stafford, the utility of generic analysis, trailer mashups, generic verisimilitude and flying underpants, the temperature of text online, and whether McLuhan himself is hot or cool.
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 the concepts drawn from this week's vehicle strand you will need to concentrate on some aspect of genre theory. Perhaps you might analyse in detail the conventions which help you to identify a particular newspaper article, film, novel or TV series as belonging to one or more genres. You will need to consider a range of narrative, audio-visual and ideological conventions, as well as the generic verisimilitude of the text.
Useful Reading: Branston and Stafford, 2010, Ch. 3; Chandler, 1997; Thwaites et al., 2002, Ch. 5; Tudor, 2003; Grant, 2003; Creeber, 2001; Neale, 1990; Neale, 2000; Neale, 2002; Berger, 1995, pp.45-48; O'Sullivan, Dutton and Rayner, 2003, pp.52-59; O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2008, pp. 93-99; Rose, 2003.
If you would rather make use of McLuhan's discussion of hot and cool media you might like to choose a particular communications technology, such as print, instant messenger, DVD, online games, telegram, etc, and discuss whether it is best considered hot or cool. Are there any problems with McLuhan's temperature gauge for media?
Useful Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 9; Duffy, 1969, Ch. 7; Gordon, 2010, pp. 6-12; Gordon and Willmarth, 1997, pp. 50-52, 91-92; Boulding in Stearn, 1967; Berger, 1995, pp. 58-60.
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. 2: 'Narratives'.

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