Who Needs Comparative Media Studies?

So you want proof of concept of this whole “Comparative Media Studies” thing?

A look at the reports coming from our alumnae demonstrates that our community has done very well indeed. With positions in consultancy (Price Waterhouse, HSBC and Ogilvy Mather), Ph.D. programs (London School of Economics, Wisconsin, UCLA, NYU, Georgia Tech), university teaching, and editorial and producer slots on the cutting edge of the television, film, radio, photography, book publishing, and online advertising industries, CMS graduates have delivered on our goal of applied humanism.

Early on, Greg Shaw, one of our earliest backers, told us to prepare students for jobs that didn’t even have names yet. And so, just reading the job titles only gives part of the picture.

Look closer at the specifics of our alumnae’s interventions, from organizing the annual Prague Bollywood Festival, to finding fresh ways of extending public radio’s newsgathering activities to its listening community, to designing new mobile technologies and applications.

Our Global Community

Ours is a global community, active not only in North America, but in Greece, Chile, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and elsewhere. It is as dedicated to theory as practice, to intervention as implementation, to critical insight as creative innovation. And it is engaged with media users and producers, with educators and activists, with scholars and ordinary folk. Our students are mapping the future of media.

CMS is an academic program with a difference. Of course we have the usual (and often rather unusual) proseminars and workshops. But the pages of our website and In Medias Res offer an insight into those other parts of the program that do so much to help our students achieve their goals. The weekly CMS colloquium series and the Communications Forum, for example, bring a regular stream of visitors to our community, helping us to bridge the concerns of the academic program with the experiences and insights of practitioners, innovators, activists, and scholars. The mix is crucial to extending ideas from the classroom to the larger world and helping students build networks that they will take with them upon graduation.

So, too, our various research initiatives: New Media Literacy, the Education Arcade, the Convergence Culture Consortium (C3), Metamedia, and the Beijing Film Academy Initiative. Together, these projects provide ways for CMS to collaborate with colleagues across MIT, helping link the Humanities to the core missions of the Institute, giving substance to our commitment to interdisciplinarity. Our research projects offer working alliances with partners from the corporate world, foundations, schools, and media industries. And they help us to go beyond critical reflection to play an active role in shaping cultural policy, media futures, and cultural education in the broadest sense.

But most importantly of all, they create a context for partnership between the academy and all of the other sectors that are currently being reshaped by waves of media change. The colloquium series together with the various research projects complement our academic work, where we also do our best to “mind the gap” through courses like the week-long intensive Sony IAP games workshop, or CMS.600, which brings key players from the games industry to the seminar room, or Introduction to Media Studies where Beth Coleman has students using wikis and podcasts to pool knowledge and share what they are learning with the world and, yes, they also learn a great deal in subjects where they study Homer, Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll.

Our Students’ Work on Display

One of the best measures of how the program brokers the predictable theoretical domains with the concerns of the larger world can be found in our students’ research—their theses in particular. Here, again, you see topics that range from the art world to advertising to education. You see students exploring questions that might fall through the cracks in a different academic context but which will shape their future academic and professional careers. We hope you will join us on April 21 and hear them share their findings with the larger CMS community. Listen to those students and then ask us again why we need a Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.

Years ago, we produced T-shirts that proclaimed somewhat self-mockingly, “I have seen the future of media studies at MIT—and it works.” Now, you can dig them out of your closets and wear them with pride.

Henry Jenkins

About Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He arrived at USC in Fall 2009 after spending the previous decade as the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities. He is the author and/or editor of twelve books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Cultureand From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. His newest books include Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. He is currently co-authoring a book on“spreadable media” with Sam Ford and Joshua Green. He has written for Technology Review, Computer Games, Salon, and The Huffington Post. - See more at: http://henryjenkins.org/aboutmehtml#sthash.ev25qsgl.dpuf

 

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