Media History - Shlossberg

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Pavel Shlossberg

This is a survey, lecture-format course on the history of media forms, institutions, and technology from the origins of writing, invention of print technology, through the development of digital media. Attention to the specific characteristics of individual media, the changing role of media as a force in culture, and the continually transforming institutions and business of media will all be touched on. The role of media forms in the creation of public discourse and the social controls on media through censorship, legal constraints, and economic policies will also be examined, largely from within the context of the United States.

Required Books

  1. Ronald Deibert, Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia: Communication in World Order Transformation
  2. Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: The Political Origins of Modern Communication
  3. Daniel Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan
  4. Dan Schiller, How to Think About Information

Additional Readings

  1. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism
  2. Michael Schudson, Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers
  3. James Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society
  4. Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America
  5. Vincent Mosco and Dan Schiller (eds.), Continental Order: Integrating North America for Cybercapitalism


Topic 1: Introduction to Media History

Unit 1: Medium Theory and Technological Approaches to Media History

Topic 2: Parchment Codex, the Sacred Word, and the Medieval World

  • Ronald Deibert, “From the Parchment Codex to the Printing Press: The Sacred Word and the Rise and Fall of Medieval Theocracy” (chapter 2)


  • Robert Deibert, “Medium Theory, Ecological Holism, and the Study of World Order Transformation.” (chapter 1)

Topic 3: The Printing Press and the Constitution of the Modern Order

  • Ronald Deibert, “Print and the Medieval to Modern World Order Transformation: Distributional Changes” (chapter 3)

Topic 4: Print Capitalism, Imagined Communities, and Nationalism

  • Ronald Deibert, “Print and the Medieval to Modern World Order Transformation: Changes to Social Epistemology” (chapter 4)
  • Benedict Anderson, “Cultural Roots” and “The Origins of National Consciousness” (chapters 2 & 3)

Unit 2: Politics, the Production of Culture, and Sociological Approaches to Media History

Topic 5: The Political Origins of Modern Communication

  • Paul Starr, “The Political Origins of Modern Communications” and “Early Modern Origins” (Introduction & chapter 1)

Topic 6: Media and the Opening of the Public Sphere

  • Paul Starr, “New Foundations” and “America’s First Information Revolution” (chapters 2 & 3)

Topic 7: Capitalism and Democracy in Print

  • Paul Starr, “Capitalism and Democracy in Print” (chapter 4)
  • Michael Schudson, selections

Unit 3: Cultural Studies and Cultural-Critical Approaches to Media History

Topic 8: First Electronic Media: Telegraphy, Morality, and Community

  • Daniel Czitrom, “Lightning Lines and the Birth of Modern Communication, 1838-1900” (chapter 1)
  • James Carey: “Ideology and Technology: the Case of the Telegraph” (chapter 8)

Topic 9: Motion Pictures and Radio: Mass Consumption and the New Popular Culture

  • Daniel Czitrom, “American Motion Pictures and the New Popular Culture, 1893-1918” and “The Ethereal Hearth: American Radio from Wireless through Broadcasting, 1892-1940” (chapters 2 & 3)

Topic 10: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America

  • Lynn Spigel, selections

Unit 4: Political Economy Approaches to Media History

Topic 11: Culture, Information, and Commodification

  • Dan Schiller, “How to Think about Information,” and “Culture, Information, and Commodification” (chapters 1 & 2)

Topic 12: Media, Neoliberalism, and Globalization

  • Vincent Mosco and Dan Schiller (eds.), selections