21L.715 | Spring 2007 | Undergraduate

Media in Cultural Context


Course Meeting Times

Discussions: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Description

This course explores the international trade in television text, considering the ways in which ‘foreign’ programs find places within ‘domestic’ schedules. Looking at the life television texts maintain outside of their home market, this course examines questions of globalization and national cultures of production and reception. Students will be introduced to a range of positions about the nature of international textual trade, including economic arguments about the structuring of international markets and ethnographic studies about the role imported content plays in the formation of hybrid national identities. Students will be encouraged to consider the role American content is made to play in non-American markets. This course looks at the specificities of local broadcasting environments and examines representational and rational politics in a globalised world. Issues include:

  • The economics of television production in the USA and internationally
  • Theories of international cultural exchange and the circulation of narratives and texts internationally
  • The rise of format trading, the creativity of translation, and the international circulation of light entertainment
  • Questions of local, national, international and global identity formation
  • Domestic content regulation strategies
  • Responses to cultural imports
  • Ideas of cultural and media imperialism
  • Notions of cultural discount and the economics of production industries
  • Theories of cultural translation
  • Notions of ‘mythic’ or universal texts
  • Strategies of domestic uptake by audiences and broadcasters
  • Specific trade flows within cultural-geographic and language regions (such as diasporic media use)

Course Objectives

The course is designed to provide students with a set of research skills that will equip them to draw together information from a variety of sources to examine cultural phenomenon. It requires students to move between cultural and media studies discourse and business discourse, encouraging students to consider topics from a variety of perspectives. An emphasis is placed on gathering a variety of resources, critiquing the value of information sources, and moving between multiple types of texts.


21L.715 is a HASS-CI-M (Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Communication Intensive-Major) subject. In this class, CI requirements will be satisfied by:

  1. A minimum of 20 pages of final-draft quality writing, in 4 assignments
  2. One class-led discussion on the course materials readings
  3. Revision and resubmission of at least one writing assignment


Program trade report 20%
Program trade analysis 15%
In-class discussion 20%
Annotated bibliography 15%
Discussion essay 20%
In-class participation 10%

Please see assignments for more detailed instructions for the written work.

In-Class Participation

Each student is required to source materials for the class for a particular week. The mechanics of this will be discussed in class. Smaller in-class written tasks will be undertaken in some weeks, and students are expected to complete all of these to complete the course.


The Literature section has formulated this statement and policy for all plagiarism cases:

Plagiarism—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 at the MIT Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Libraries Web site on Avoiding Plagiarism.


1 Course introduction  
2 International television trading: Selling American ‘culture’?  
3 Economics of the trade in text  
4 Local reception as response  
5 Genre and ’transparency’ - textual arguments for the trade in text Program trade report due two days after Ses #5
6 Scheduling international content Discussion essay due two days after Ses #6
7 Format trade Program trade analysis due one day after Ses #7
8 Taking texts elsewhere - translation, adaptation, and subtitling  
9 International texts and transnational identities  
10 Alternative trade routes: Diasporic media use  
11 World markets 1 - Latin America and India In-class presentations
12 World markets 2 - China, Egypt and the Arab World In-class presentations
13 World Markets 3 - Britain, Canada and Australia In-class presentations
14 Course review  

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2007