About the Class

Spring 2018 | Mondays 4-5:50pm | 6 East 16th St, #611
NMDS 5026 | CRN 5954
Shannon Mattern | matterns [at] newschool [dot] edu
office hours by appointment (write me!)

 

The Official Course Description
This course explores the design of research methodologies for the systematic study of media, how and why media are made, distributed, used, and understood. Because media systems can be very complex, and studied from various perspectives, it is important for media researchers to be able to deploy a range of techniques, and especially to combine techniques, in ways that allow for meaningful, clear, and critical research. The course emphasizes the framing of questions, as well as the choice of best methods for research, and how the choice of methods influences the significance, meaning, and impact of the results. This includes ethical considerations of research, such as protecting subjects’ privacy and anonymity. The class will give a survey of various types of empirical methods, including qualitative ones, such as ethnography, participant observation, focus groups, interviews, auto-ethnography, and rhetorical analysis; and quantitative ones, such as sampling, surveys, content analysis, and audience analysis. We look at different examples of how these methods can be effectively combined, and at various resources or studying media, especially on-line information and data. Assignments will consist of several small research projects involving different methods, and a larger research project employing an original methodology.

Modified Course Description

This course explores the design of research methodologies for the systematic study of media in all its manifestations: as texts, objects, commodities, imaginaries, systems, environments, and so forth. We’ll also consider how media technologies can function as research tools, how media-making can serve as a research method, and how we can creatively employ media to share our research. Because media systems are complex and lend themselves to study from various perspectives, it’s important for media researchers to be able to deploy a range of techniques, and especially to combine techniques, in ways that allow for meaningful, clear, critical, and creative research. We’ll thus inventory a variety of approaches, including qualitative, quantitative, historical, critical, and design methods, as well as approaches drawn from other disciplines and practices. And we’ll see that every stage of the research process – from framing questions to choosing methods for the execution and dissemination of our work – is “designed,” and that research design shapes the meaning, reach, impact, politics, and ethics of our work. The course will include seminar discussions and workshops, guest speakers, and a field trip, enabling us to examine various methods in action. Students will complete several short assignments that lead up to the creation of a proposal for a larger research project, perhaps a thesis, in any of a variety of formats – from a traditional paper to a documentary film to an exhibition.

Image: Agnes Martin, Gratitude, 2001

Thanks to Noah Chasin, Annette Markham, and Alberto Corsín Jiménez for recommending some of the resources we’ll be using!