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Fall 2012/Pasadena


DESCRIPTION: The course will investigate visual media culture, with an emphasis on both television and new social media, exploring the theological implications of various forms of mass media upon culture, and in turn seek a theological engagement with the diverse and varied contours of visual media. We live in an age where television is acquiring a renewed influence upon society, and social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are transforming the way we relate to each other in society. Cable networks, advances in media technology and access are making television a prime location for cultural reflection and impact.

SIGNIFICANCE FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY: Since the middle of the twentieth century television in particular, and visual media in general, have had an amazing impact on our lives, bringing the world into our living rooms and forever changing the way we view ourselves as human beings. As we entered the twenty-first century a new wave of social media has begun to challenge the ways in which we perceive our humanity and relate to each other. This class will equip those seeking to engage contemporary culture, be it in a pastoral ministry or social setting, by deepening our understanding of the nature of visual media culture and its role in our lives.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Through examination and investigation of seminal television shows and various aspects of social media, combined with an introduction to visual media literacy, interactive discussion, and class lectures, students will (1) gain a broad understanding of both the structure and social contexts of visual media; (2) be equipped to engage theologically with the most influential components of contemporary culture; (3) understand the ways in which television and media culture influences and shapes our social contexts.

COURSE FORMAT: Classes will be divided between lecture and interactive discussion, combined with multimedia approaches to understanding media culture. The course will meet weekly for three-hour sessions.


Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press, 2008. ISBN: 0814742955. Pub. price $19.95

Lynch, Gordon. Understanding Theology and Popular Culture. Blackwell, 2004. ISBN: 1405117486. Pub.price $36.95.

Lovink, Geert. Networks Without A Cause: A Critique of Social Media. Polity, 2012. ISBN: 074564988 Pub. price $22.95

McLuhan, Eric. The Essential McLuhan. Basic Books, 1996. ISBN: 0465019951. Pub. price $23.50.

Mittel, Jason. Television and American Culture. Oxford University press, 2009. ISBN: 0195306678. Pub. price $54.95

* Viewing a selection of television shows and programs, spanning the history of the medium, will be a required part of the curriculum (guidelines for this will be presented in class).

Bolz-Weber, Nadia. Salvation on the Small Screen: 24 Hours of Christian Television. Seabury Books, 2008. ISBN: 1596270861. Pub.price $17.00.

Brewin, Kester. Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbor in a World of Fractures. Hodder & Stoughton, 2010. ISBN: 0340996420. Pub.price $18.99.

Castells, Manuel. Communication Power. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780199567041. Pub.price $34.95.

Detwieiler, Craig, and Barry Taylor. Matrix of Meanings: Finding Faith in Pop Culture. Baker Academic, 2001. ISBN: 080102417. Pub.price $28.00.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media Culture. Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 041525549x. Pub.price $25.95.

Shields, David. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. Knopf, 2010. ISBN: 0307273539. Pub.price $24.95.

Zengotita, Thomas de. Mediated: How Media Shapes the World around You. Bloomsbury, 2005. ISBN: 1596910321. Pub.price $14.95.

  1. Three two-page book reviews (35%).

  2. A viewing journal chronicling personal reflection and class-directed responses to viewing material (30%)

  3. A twelve- to fifteen-page paper rooted in field research on one of the television genres covered in the course. Papers will forge a theological response to the research gathered. Students will study specific television shows (guidelines will be given in class) and include a plan for a theological presentation in their life and ministry (35%)


RELATIONSHIP TO CURRICULUM: Meets the MACL in Integrative Studies requirement for an interdisciplinary course (IDPL), and the MAT in Theology & Arts format requirement in Integrative studies.

This ECD is a reliable guide to the course design but is subject to modification. (July 2012)