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50 Years of Media Studies at NYU Steinhardt

Audience members sport 3-D glasses during the first screening of “Bwana Devil,” the first full-length, color 3-D movie, November 26, 1952, at the Paramount Theater in Hollywood.

"The foolhardy, presumptuous, and exhilarating effort we are making at NYU to elaborate a new perspective for studying communication."

— Neil Postman, keynote address to the Speech Communication Association, 1973


The Department of Media, Culture, and Communication is recognizing 50 years since Neil Postman founded the NYU graduate program in Media Ecology — what he referred to as “an exhilarating effort” to advance the field of communication in new directions. Some of this early history is being shared on the department's anniversary website

What was this new perspective that Neil proposed? Neil, along with his NYU colleagues, envisioned a new field of inquiry based on the paradigm that all communication is an environment. An emphasis on context would open up fruitful new avenues of research. Media ecologists would ask questions such as: how do media, technology, and information systems work in relation to one another and how do these interacting systems structure meaning, perception, and values? 

The NYU media program was founded from a desire to reimagine the study of communication with new analytical frameworks for understanding media’s role in social change. We continue this commitment to exploring the outer edges of media studies.

Susan Murray, Professor and Chair

The Department of Media, Culture, and Communication traces its scholarly roots to Neil’s early vision of a vibrant, highly interdisciplinary field of media inquiry. 50 years later, its faculty is made up of media scholars, historians, philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists who study the interconnections between media and global cultures. They work with an expansive definition of media that goes beyond traditional print, cinema, television, or internet. Media encompasses everything from video games to cryptocurrency, assistive technologies, wearable fitness, global political economies, architecture and the design of public space.

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