Thinking Media

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While the Thinking Media FIG in particular will engage you in the pursuit of critical and reflective engagement with life and society through the lenses of popular culture and mass media, our larger goals will be to help you to get your undergraduate career at the University of Oregon off to the best possible start. We will introduce you to some of the most valuable resources on campus that you will want to take advantage of right away. We will set you up to make some great new friends, working together in and outside of class on shared, creative projects that you will help to design. We will also work to help you to establish valuable relationships with your instructors and set you up to take an active role in the wider campus community of faculty, staff and students.

Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package*:

UGST 109 First-Year Experience Seminar - 1-credit

J 201 Media and Society - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Introduces the history, nature, and issues of the various media of mass communication and their effects on society. Why did media systems evolve as they did? Who determines the nature of media messages? Provides an overview of professional fields, including print and electronic news, magazine journalism, advertising, and public relations.

PHIL 130 Philosophy and Popular Culture - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Socrates, often regarded as the founder of Western philosophy, famously asserted that an "unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." A major recent force in determining both the form and content of human life, and thus demanding the critical, philosophical reflection that Socrates termed "examination", is popular (or “mass”) culture. The aim of this course will be to enable students to engage in the critical reflection central to the discipline of philosophy (the love of wisdom)--that which would facilitate living an examined, and hence worthy and properly human, life--about, in, and through popular culture. What is popular or mass culture? Is it something merely "manufactured" by special interests, or is it still in any way genuine culture, the product of free and spontaneous human interaction? Are the products of popular culture (movies, music, games, sports, etc.) merely sources of entertainment or distraction, or might they serve other purposes such as providing for a sense of community and identity? Do they serve merely to bypass (or even undermine) critical reflection, to inculcate particular perspectives or values into those who are exposed to or who participate in them without their conscious awareness? Might they rather, upon scrutiny, provide the basis for the kind of critical reflection commonly regarded as facilitated only by "high" culture? 

By way of testing the last of these hypotheses, of the capacity for popular culture to facilitate genuinely critical reflection--the examination of life--a range of products of popular culture will be examined alongside texts that seek to illuminate and reveal the ideas at work in those products, and in relation to some works of classical philosophy, ancient and modern. As a result, students should expect to develop an enhanced capacity for intelligent reflection upon popular culture, and through it, upon a range of central issues that have been the subject of traditional philosophical examination, and ultimately to live more fully examined lives.