The notions of ‘media’, ‘medium’, ‘mediation’ or ‘mediatization’ have occupied authors in the humanities for decades and have led to the emergence of new university programs as much as they initiated debates about the boundaries of already existing disciplines. Recently, different authors from the Anglo-American branch of the field have spoken of a newer brand of “German media theory”. In this course, we will scrutinize this labelling by discussing different historical and contemporary examples where cultural critics, philologists, philosophers, and artists have undertaken research about media and communication in Germany and, more specifically, in Berlin.
We will focus on the period from the 1920s onwards and increasingly move towards the present. As we go along, we will build bridges between historical positions and contemporary ones, providing a sense for continuities and discontinuities in media theoretical positions and formats of media critique. Through the collective experience and critical discussion of texts, films and field trips, students will gain a wide understanding of the problems and objects of media-theoretical inquiry and of its historical and geographical context.
The overarching questions this course seeks to answer are: "What are common themes and issues in media theory and media critique?", "How did they develop in or refer to the particular context of Berlin?"
Altogether, this course has three intents: It serves as an introduction to problems in media studies for newcomers; it particularly focuses on media studies in Germany and Berlin for those already more familiar with questions in the field; it enquires about Berlin as both production site and object of media research.
This course is suitable as an introductory course for everyone who is interested in (cultural) theories about media and communication. For those who already have a background in media studies or related disciplines, the course might provide additional information about the German and Berlin context of the discipline. For all others, the course might serve as a general albeit selective introduction into repeating themes of media studies. The course is interdisciplinary in nature and particularly suited for undergraduate students from the fields of cultural studies, social theory, communication studies, comparative literature, art history, anthropology, and philosophy.
A general openness towards the engagement with conceptual abstractions and artistic practices is expected, but no prior knowledge is required.
You are required to attend and actively participate during the sessions, to introduce into one of the readings and organize its discussion, and to write an essay at the end of the course.
Text presentation and discussion organization
Texts are provided in the course reader and we will discuss the allocation of the texts in the first session. Depending on the size of the group, each text will be introduced by one or two students. The introduction should include a general summary of the text as well as additional biographical information about the author. In addition, you are asked to identify key concepts that are relevant in the text and to select paragraphs that provide information about those concepts. After the introduction, we will split into groups, read the paragraphs you provided and collectively gather what those concepts are about. You are asked to channel and store our discussion, for example by writing down our ideas in a pad and guide us if we have not recovered all necessary information from the paragraph.
On the last day of the course, you will be given short text fragments that describe recent developments in media culture. You will be asked to analyse and interpret those fragments in relation to the authors or theories we discussed during the course. Details about the length and form of the essay will be given in class.
A course reader will be provided at the orientation meeting.