21L.015 | Fall 2003 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Media Studies


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Screenings/Labs: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Course Description

Introduction to Media Studies is designed for students who have grown up in a rapidly changing global multimedia environment and want to become more literate and critical consumers and producers of culture. Through an interdisciplinary comparative and historical lens, the course defines “media” broadly as including oral, print, theatrical, photographic, broadcast, cinematic, and digital cultural forms and practices. The course looks at the nature of mediated communication, the functions of media, the history of transformations in media and the institutions that help define media’s place in society.

Over the course of the semester we will explore different theoretical perspectives on the role and power of media in society in influencing our social values, political beliefs, identities and behaviors. Students will also have the opportunity to analyze specific media texts (such as films and television shows) and explore the meaning of the changes that occur when a particular narrative is adapted from print to visual forms in different time periods. We will look at the ways in which the dynamics of class, gender, generation and race influence both the production and reception of media. To offer different perspectives on media, several guest speakers from the MIT faculty will also present lectures. Through the readings, lectures, and discussions as well as their own writing and oral presentations, students will have multiple opportunities to engage with critical debates in the field as well as explore the role of media in their own lives.

Course Requirements

Lecture/Lab/Section Meetings

21L.015 meets every Monday and Wednesday for 1.5 hours. On Monday evening, there is a mandatory lab/screening/discussion section for 3 hours. Screenings take place for 2 hours, and discussion sections meet, for 1 hour. After our 1.5 hours - lecture #3, we begin with an extended discussion section for 2.5 hours. A handout on section assignments (number) will be distributed during lecture #3. These assignments may differ from those students already have from the registrar. Screenings begin on the evening of lecture #5.

Attendance and Participation

Attendance and participation in class and section are very important and count for 15% of your grade. Since our class functions as a learning community, it is essential that you attend class faithfully and participate regularly. If you have more than three absences, it will affect your final grade. Three latenesses (more than ten minutes) count as an absence. If you are absent because of a personal or medical emergency, please contact the instructor or your section leader (or have a dean contact us) as soon as possible and set up a plan for the completion of missed course work.

In the event that you miss a class or section, it is your responsibility to contact another student in the course or section to review the material covered.

Written and Oral Assignments

21L.015 is a Communication-Intensive (CI) course; writing and speaking are critical parts of the class. Essay assignments and shorter writing exercises enable students to make connections between the lectures, readings, screenings, discussion sections and their own lives. Over the course of the semester, we will stress strategies for effective writing and oral presentations in the humanities and social sciences. By the end of the semester you will have completed 25-30 pages of writing and three oral presentations. In addition, you will have the opportunity to practice the craft of revision in the preparation of your last essay.


It is very important that assignments (written and oral) be submitted or presented on or by their due dates; late submission or presentation of work may result in a lowered final grade. In the event of personal or medical emergency, please contact (or a have a dean contact) the instructor and your section leader as soon as possible.

At the end of the course you will be graded on your four essays, short writing exercises, oral presentations and general class and section attendance/participation.

Essays 1-3; Short Writing Exercises 50
Final Research Essay 25
Final Oral Presentations 10
Class/Section Attendance/Participation 15


The use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center. You may visit their website.

Writing Center

The Writing and Communication Center offers consultations on student writing. We encourage you to visit the Writing Center at any point in the writing process: prewriting, drafting or revising a piece of writing. The Writing Center also offers consultations on oral presentations. You may visit their website.

Communications Forum

The MIT Communications Forum often sponsors talks and conferences relevant to the subject matter of this course. Leading film and media scholars are frequent participants in Forum events. The Forum’s website is an archive on which you may wish to draw for your essays, oral presentations and class discussions.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2003
Learning Resource Types
assignment Written Assignments
assignment Presentation Assignments