Media and Materiality: How Technology Shapes Media and Media Shape Culture


Fall 2012


Digital Media Lab


Kimon Keramidas

The story of media is the story of mankind extending his reach through technology. The invention of the printing press has allowed us to easily fix knowledge in a format that could be exchanged, shared, and sent far away. Photography allows us to take a moment in time and space, capture it and store it. And, the digital era has seen us take information, break it into pieces of data, and then reassemble that data into new forms of knowledge. With each stage of increasing technical complexity, the relationship between materials and culture becomes more complicated, reflecting the role that technological delivery media play in shaping our experience of knowledge, information, and/or data. This course will consider the centrality of material things in the experience of culture by assessing the impact of different manifestations of media artifacts, such as books, film, records, tapes, disks, etc., on cultural development. Along with readings, discussion, and presentations, the class will include a study of the characteristics of different delivery media via object analysis and comparative media screenings. Readings will include work by Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Bruno Latour, Lisa Gitelman, Yochai Benkler, Matthew Kirschenbaum, etc. Students in the course will tell the story of cultural change, media and materiality by working together to construct an interactive digital timeline (along the model of the Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History) that will consist of entries about different delivery media and their relative impact. 3 credits.