By Livvie Avrick ’19

“Whenever I teach a class, I want students to make use of  contemporary technologies as a way to understand concepts we are talking about in class.”
—Professor Kim


The world transformed with the advent of the internet; it has altered our economy and the ways we interact with others, and has spurred new developments in technology. In the course New Media Theories and Practices, some of these most contemporary media developments—and their implications for society—are discussed, from reality television and surveillance to aesthetic entrepreneurship.

Taught by John Kim, associate professor and chair of Media and Cultural Studies, this course asked the question, “To what extent is new media technology empowering or exploitative?”

The virtue of the internet lies in its democratizing ability: widely available to the public at a low cost, the internet gives everyone the opportunity to participate in media production and critical conversations. At the same time, these new media developments can make people’s information vulnerable to hacks and other security breaches.

Students studied YouTube beauty vloggers and early reality television shows such as Big Brother to explore this question. The popularization of home security systems and smart home products such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa brought the topic of surveillance to the discussion.

The class discussed questions such as “To what extent should we have ethical or critical issues with the passive surveillance conducted by smart home technologies?” Some say yes because they did not consent to having their information collected beyond what the product advertises. Others say no because for many this surveillance is of no concern to them.

Another topic of the course was President Donald Trump’s use of social media during his most recent campaign. Kim was interested in studying how entertainment has become politics with the election of a reality television star to the presidency of the United States. “I taught an earlier class about Barack Obama’s use of social media in constructing political enthusiasm for his candidacy,” he says. “I was really interested in the ways Donald Trump was making similar use of the particular nature of the internet and news media, but using it to a very different political end.”

Trump called out the mainstream media in an unprecedented way, challenging the concept of truth with his “fake news” accusations. This sparked a central question for the course: “What role does the media have in constructing our conceptions of reality?”

While engaging in theoretical and philosophical discussions on concepts such as the virtual, spectacle, and reality, students made use of 3D modeling software and 3D printers provided by the Idea Lab on the second level of the library.

“Whenever I teach a class, I want students to make use of  contemporary technologies as a way to understand concepts we are talking about in class,” Kim says.

Students created virtual models of their dorm rooms and learned how to 3D print a favorite item from their rooms, from couches and desks to makeup palettes and car keys.

Building on the enthusiasm for the Idea Lab, Kim hopes to increase the media practice component of the course in the future. In fact, the department has plans to renovate the film and television studio on the fourth floor of Neil Hall into a space for performance, exhibition, and multimedia production.

April 30 2018

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