SCREEN LiFE:  The Course

We are increasingly swimming through a seemingly endless ocean of screens.  Consider the following:  PAmericans now spend over 44.5 hours per week in front of a screen; is just over four years old, and it is already the 4th most visited website in the world; In 2006 YouTube served 100 million clips per day, in 2009, it served 1.2 Billion per day; PIn just two years, the number of cellular subscribers in the U.S. increased eight-fold to 225 million, or 84 percent of the population; PWorldwide, 3 billion people have mobile service;  PNeilsen reports that a U.S. teen's average daily media consumption consists of 200 minutes of television, 52 minutes of computer usage, 6 minutes of mobile voice activity, 96 text messages exchanged, and 25 minutes of console gaming;  PIn one four month period in 2009 the Google corporation made $1.35 Billion, PYouTube recently signed five major film/TV studios to show full length films with break advertisements; PIn 2009, Twitter had a monthly growth of 1,382% with 55 million users per month; PA study of Twitter found that 40% of the messages sent via it are "pointless babble"  and only 8.7% of messages could be said to have informational "value"; PGPS enabled cell phones are now being used to track buying habits of users; PU.S. Internet ad revenue is projected to increase from $25.5 billion today to $51.1 billion in 2012; PRecent estimates suggest that Internet video advertising will jump from $.05 billion in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2012; PJohnny Depp, last year’s highest paid actor, made $92 million for one film; POprah Winfrey, TV talk show mogul earned $275 million;

So how do we make sense of such a screen culture? Do we? Why do we create and immerse ourselves in so many different forms of screen images? What do we get from them and how do they shape how we think about ourselves, others, or life itself? Is there a “language” or “grammar” to our visual representations? What are the ethics of image-making? How do different media technologies shape our creation and perception of our screen images? What are some of the social, political, and ecological implications of our “imagistic” tendencies? Can we escape this screen culture?

Course Format
In order to help us grapple with these questions, we will be looking at our contemporary visual culture in three complementary ways. (1) Critical Readings/Screenings analysis--Throughout the course we will be reading, screening, and deconstructing the arguments of a variety of prominent researchers and writers who have tackled some significant issues related to screen life. Our aim will be to critically assess both the merits and limitations of each author’s research methods. (2) Research--At the same time, each of you will be performing some basic/exploratory ethnographic research about the "screen lives" of yourself and others (both near and far. And finally, throughout the course, you will be learning to produce short films and online video packages to merge the ideas you've learned from the readings, screenings, and research into aesthetically entertaining and informationally engaging film projects.