Several guiding principles shape the intellectual projects of our Department:

  • A commitment to interdisciplinarity in the study of media and culture. Scholars and doctoral students engage with theoretical concepts and perspectives from a range of disciplines, including media studies, cultural studies, media history, visual culture, sound studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, in order to deploy interdisciplinary strategies of analysis
  • A multi-methodological approach that draws on a diverse array of research methods, including audience studies, semiotics, ethnography, qualitative and quantitative discourse analysis, in-depth interviewing, political/cultural economy, network analysis, and other interpretive and critical approaches
  • A historical perspective that situates the study of media, technology, and culture within historical contexts, comparative historical research, media archaeology, genealogy, and media history
  • A global, comparative approach in relation to cultural differences, media forms, historical frameworks, and theoretical paradigms

The doctoral program offers five research areas, which operate as guiding frameworks for intellectual inquiry across the Department. These areas of research are overlapping and interrelated, and we encourage students to take advantage of course offerings in all areas.

Global and Transcultural Studies

While all of our doctoral research areas integrate the study of media, technology, and culture in the context of an increasingly globalized world, this research area specifically centers on inflections of the global mediascape as cross-national, transnational, or transcultural. Specific areas include: critical theories of globalization, transcultural flows, international development and postcolonial studies, comparative media systems, cross-national comparative research design, global social movements, international and intra-national media and culture treaties and policymaking, critical cultural geography, alternative modernities, and global ethnography. Faculty areas of regional expertise include: the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South and North America, Africa, and Eastern and Western Europe.

Technology and Society

The study of technology as a political, cultural, economic, and aesthetic force is a crucial area of analysis for contemporary media scholarship. Our Department emphasizes the philosophy and politics of technology within cultural and social frameworks. Specific areas of focus include ethnographies of technological communities; philosophical, ethical, social and political dimensions of information and communications technology; information and communications policy; history of technological devices and forms of mediation; the history of science and technology; media archaeology and the study of "dead media"; the legal implications of technological regulation and change; copyright and intellectual property; information technologies, media, and privacy; the effects of digital and/or social media on society; visual technologies; and technologies of the built environment.

Visual Culture and Sound Studies

The study of visual culture recognizes the primary role of visual media in the enactment of power relations, the circulation of information and ideas, and the cultural practices that make meaning. Visual culture is about the study of images across a range of social arenas, from the news to art, advertising, science, fashion, television, film, digital images, architecture, and amateur media, acknowledging the experience of cross-mediation as a key factor in the contemporary visual realm. The study of visual culture is global, political, and engaged with interdisciplinary inquiries. Sound studies incorporates cultural, technological, philosophical, institutional, and interpretive approaches to practices of consuming and producing mediated sound. As an interdisciplinary field of study, it draws on media history, aesthetics, cultural analysis, formalist methods, ethnography, technological mediation, and an understanding of social and global activity determined by its auditory, sonic, and communicative materiality.

Media Industries and Politics

Mediated communication in all its forms is critically examined by exploring the relationships of power involved in its creation, distribution, and consumption. Specific areas of inquiry include: the political economy of media systems; legal and regulatory regimes of mediated communication; the professional practices and organizational routines of workers in the culture industries, including journalism, public relations, advertising, and the entertainment industry; critical discourse and content analyses of news; state-manufactured propaganda; media ecology; legislative debate and shaping of public policy; historical and contemporary social movements; processes of protest, public dissent and censorship; political campaign communication; media activism and advocacy; and other political uses of media and communication technologies.

Critical Theories of Media and Communication

The study of media and communication requires engagement with a variety of theoretical traditions, including historical materialism, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, pragmatism, the Frankfurt School of critical theory, gender and queer theory, critical race theory, critical legal theory, field theory, actor-network theory, speculative realism, speech-act theory, and the various strands of structuralism and post-structuralism. The Department approaches critical theory from the perspective of critique, that is to say, from an ongoing self-examination of how knowledge and culture are created, acquired, maintained, and transmitted. 

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