Making Media Theory
Making Media Theory
Marcel O’Gorman University of Waterloo
Jason Lajoie University of Waterloo
This course is an investigation and demonstration of hands-on approaches to the study and practice of Media Theory, a field that lives on the borderland of the Digital Humanities. We will look at various research methods, including critical making, applied media theory, and speculative design, before crafting our own media theoretical projects and asking whether or not they qualify as Digital Humanities practices. This a course that recognizes how the term “hands-on” itself invokes simultaneously the neoliberal politics of contemporary maker culture, Heidegger’s concept of ready-to-hand, and a disability studies critique of hackathons. Put otherwise, participants in this course will look critically at experimental research methods, engage carefully in media analysis, and develop critical making skills without leaning on naïve statements about the value of physical labour. Above all, this course invites scholars and students of media to engage directly with the materiality of their field of study, transforming them from technology consumers to technology developers and activists. As the playful title indicates, the course is about both the creation of media theory as an academic practice (making Media Theory) and also about the transformation of media into theory (making media theoretical).
The course will be built on a critical handbook called Making Media Theory that is currently being authored by the instructor. In the first class, we will take apart the words making, media, and theory, to establish a ground upon which methods and projects can be built. Over the course of the week, we will consider multiple perspectives on making, guided by readings in queer theory, feminism, disability studies, critical race studies, Indigenous studies, and the philosophy of technology. Participants will produce a project in the course that will involve soldering and light fabrication. They will come away with an expert knowledge of the practices of critical making, and they will be prepared to pursue their own hands-on projects to complement their research in the Digital Humanities and beyond.