Answer any of the two questions, each in 2 1/2 pages. The question is about a TV series called Mad Men.
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Due: Friday, May 8, on Blackboard by 5 pm
I. From Television to “New” Media
A. One could argue that Mad Men’s most critically celebrated quality is its
self-conscious use of historical and cultural touchstones, such as the Oswald
assassination footage (Season 3, Episode 2) or the As The World Turns special
summer storyline (Season 2, Episode 8), function within the show? What effect does
this use have on contemporary viewers, and how do we orient ourselves within the
show’s diegesis (the fictional world the show occurs in)? Discuss, using closereadings of specific scenes. It may help to think about collective memory as an effect
of media, and about television as its own archive of intergenerational memory.
B. In the two episodes we have viewed, examine how Mad Men treats
“liveness” and flow in its consistent attention to television as medium, and as object.
C. Gender and sexuality are of course central themes in Mad Men. Choose
ONE of the following characters: Joan, Peggy, or Betty. Examine the relationships
this character has to the following: other women, men, and visual culture of the
1960s, for example, advertising, television, film, etc. Does the character conform to
or confound expectations for women in the early 1960s? How is this represented
visually? Use specific textual evidence, such as an analysis of a specific scene’s miseen-scène, to support your argument.
D. Lynn Spigel explores the impact of television on mid-twentieth century U. S.
culture in terms of gendered discourse and the shifting boundaries of public and private.
Reconstruct her argument, paying special attention to her central metaphors and the
associations these carry. How does she relate the reordering of domestic space to
changes in the social space?
E. Anna McCarthy uncovers a fairly sustained dialogue between early reality TV,
as practiced by Candid Camera and the research and experiments of contemporary social
psychology—for example, the work of Milgram and Zimbardo.
terms/characteristic these projects share. Why is this interesting/important? What might it
tell us about postwar U. S. culture?
F. Reality TV: An American Family (excerpts available in Panopto Content on
Blackboard). Consider An American Family in light of Anna McCarthy’s analysis of
Candid Camera, and of social science’s impact on TV more generally. Does this
program function well as documentary? Make sure you can supply a working definition
of this term. How do you understand the “performances” these characters seem to stage?
G. According to Aubrey Anable, what has been the central division/debate—
expressed as a binary opposition—in gaming studies? Why is this important? How may
it be related to gender? How does she propose to resolve it or work it through?
H. Examine the importance of failure in games, as Anable analyzes it. Hoe does
repetition figure in such games? If you have experience with games of “failure,” by all
means discuss that experience.
I. According to Anable’s analysis, how are work and play related in “casual”
games? Where does waiting come into the picture? How does interruption—or
interruptibility–affect or shape the game? Why is “zaniness” an analytical term for
II. Theories of New Media
A. Examine Lev Manovich’s history of the screen. How does each configuration
of the screen relate both to vision—or the gaze—and to the human body? Be sure to
provide concrete evidence for each of your points.
B. In “What New Media Is Not” (49-61), Manovich makes an argument that
addresses several common assumptions about new media that may be partly, if not
largely, myths. Give a careful account of some of his points. Could one argue that his
analysis suggests that new media is not as new as we tend to think?
C. What does Peter Lunenfeld mean by “unfinish”? Why does he make this
term so central to his analysis of space, story, and time in digital media—the
“solvent” of the computer?
D. How does Florian Brody’s account of “external memory” relate to Lev
Maonvich’s reflections on the “externalization of mental processes”? Provide some
textual evidence to support you points.
E. Reconstruct some of Jaron Lanier’s argument in You Are Not a Gadget.
Specifically, how does he explore the question of our human adaptation to
computers? How, in other words, are our technologies shaping us as much—if not
more—than we are shaping them?
F. Provide a closely detailed analysis of the historical and contemporary
relationships between memory and forgetting that Victor Mayer-Schönberger
outlines in Delete. What collective anxieties does he identify?
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