Community Media/MARAA/Media Culture

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This module is being prepared for Jyoti Nivas College, in Bangalore, as an interdisciplinary course for undergraduate students. This is a tentative course outline, and we will be tweaking it in the near future, based on discussions with other organizations and interactions with students.


The “Rethinking Media and Culture” course is an attempt to establish interdisciplinary dialogue and learning amongst undergraduate spaces, wherein fundamental and contemporary aspects of both media studies and culture studies are woven together. This course will aim to give students some tools and mechanisms to understand and negotiate different contexts within the city that they live in, as well as inculcate a sense of critical thinking in order to go beyond a mere vocational skill based approach. This course will judiciously blend practice with theory, wherein students will have opportunities to translate these concepts in to action.


The course will follow an extremely participative methodology wherein classroom sessions will have many guest lectures by well known speakers, as well as encouraging ideas and opinions from students themselves. Further, the course will also engage students in doing a fair amount of practical work, like film screenings, public talks, plays as well as hands on activities like media monitoring. The course will involve collaborations with other organizations in the city like Alternative Law Forum, Vimochana, Centre for Study of Culture and Society, and Centre for Internet and Society


To create a space for students to engage in political dialogue and expression by providing informed choice and to build forum(s) for open exchange and learning

Syllabus at a Glance

Sesmester I

Unit I - Introduction to Media and Culture

Duration: 4 hours

  • An introduction to the course,
  • Aims, objectives of course,
  • Need and context of course
  • Etymology of both media and culture: History, definitions and relationship between
  • Understanding Media and Culture in Indian Context

Detailed Notes

Class I will primarily deal with an introduction to culture and media through re-tracing the words- media & culture. Through this retracing process, it is expected that students will begin to deconstruct the enormous baggage which these words carry on their shoulders. Also, it could give the students some historical background on some of the earlier meanings of these words and how these words have evolved, thus reflecting how society and people have changed over the years. For the word culture, the module uses texts by Raymond Williams who deconstructs the word from its inception.

The word medium (or its plural form, media) comes from Latin which means "one in the middle", and this helps to understand a little bit of how media is constructed, applied and used even in today's context. Primarily the module will attempt to just give a glimpse of how a medium (in communication theory) is the middleman so to speak, between two individuals or groups of people. Perhaps an interesting exercise would be to retract how this "media" was used over the ages, with corresponding changes in the technology. For instance, perhaps the oldest medium was that of signs or through drawings on rocks, walls, ground etc. A giant leap for media would be the invention/discovery of language as a tool for communication, and subsequently early intellectual forms of media such as storytelling. This would mean that now memory can be stored, packaged and then retransmitted across time. Of course, from there it was only a short step forward to the written word. Books were written in copious amounts, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why religion, science and arts could progress so rapidly. Precisely, because it was no longer necessary to attach physical human presence at each instance of transmission/distribution. Early societies were very well aware of how cultures and societies are prone to the influence of new knowledge and easy access. This is why redistribution and mass printing was strictly considered an exercise in heresy. It was only with the Gutenberg Bible that the word mass began to be associated with media. Here we can take a conceptual break, i.e. the meaning of the word medium undergoes a slight modification. Now books, the new hero of communication, is no longer the middleman but an active component of the communication process. The "middleman" inspires creation and consumption of knowledge at an unprecedented rate.

Exercise - Ask the class to take the story further, and imaginatively extend the story of communication and media further till the present date. Prompt if need be. From physical media, came the Renaissance, and thus the revolutionizing of human thought processes. From the irrational and emotional to the rational, and subsequently with the Industrial Revolution, came the industrial thought. These two revolutionary stages, when considered in combination, had a profound effect on media. Consider the bringing of science to media technology and from the physical and mechanized printing press to the radical shift towards the electrical and electronic. With Marconi, Alexander Bell and others talking about "wire-less" communication, it was possible for instantaneous communication. Talk about telegraph, telephone, and subsequently, the first real mass tool, i.e. the radio. How did the meaning of the word media change with radio coming about? How did it influence societies around us? Ex: Hitler's effective use of radio for the rise of Nazi Germany. The rise of music through radio broadcast, and the birth of the music "industry". Cut to photography, locking the visual information to permanency. (See Let the students explore the birth, rise of media, corresponding shift in technology till present day with the likes of internet, cell phone, wi-fi etc. The exercise should also get students to look at corresponding shifts and changes in social structures as well, perhaps with the aid of famous historical events.

Reading Lists - Raymond Williams Nation and its pasts

Possible Exercise - Get students to create media products corresponding to historical rise of media. First each group tells a story around a particular topic of their choice. They they get to "write" the story, either as an article, or a short story, essay whatever form. Next, they will try and make a radio program out of it. Next, they can represent it through photographs, then film.

Unit II - Analysing Media

Duration: 6 hours

Unit III - Analysing Culture

Duration: 4 hours

  • Introducing Culture and its origins (Raymond Williams)
  • Mass Culture (Dwight Mc Donald)
  • Introducing Culture Studies (See here)
  • Introducing tools of Culture Studies – Colonialism and Gender (Anup Dhar)

Unit IV - Culture in Post Colonial Context

Duration: 2 hours

  • Orientalism (Edward Said)
  • Nationalism as a response to Colonialism – addressing concepts of fundamentalism and communalism (Partha Chatterjee, Ashis Nandy)

Unit V - Applying Culture to Media

Duration: 6 hours

  • Patterns of Control – Media controlling Culture (Lawrence Liang)
  • Television and Print media in India today
  • A political history of theatre in India (Safdar Hashmi and Habib Tanvir)
  • Films and popular Culture (Ashish Rajadhyaksha)
  • Radio - Tracking history pre and post Independence
  • New Media – Censorship, information sharing, “virtual” culture – post 90s
  • Community Media – policy, democracy and rethinking community

Unit VI - Introduction to Production of Space and Gender Studies

Duration: 4 hours

  • Country and the City – public and private sphere, rural and urban spaces – Nishant Shah
  • Femininity and Masculinity – gender concepts, patriarchy, androcentrism, ethnocentrism, identity and gender – Anup Dhar

This semester will be followed up by the next semester which will exclusively address gender and identity. The next semester will also be for 25 hours and will be interdisciplinary.

Practical Sessions

Film screenings

Media Monitoring

Television and print, internet


Students maintaining a blog

Talks, plays and Lectures

Participating in talks and engaging in public dialogue

Possible Speakers

  1. Anish Victor
  2. Anup Dhar
  3. Ashish Rajadhyaksha
  4. Lawrence Liang
  5. Nishant Shah
  6. Siddharth Narrain
  7. Shakun

The course will be facilitated and organized by Maraa, a media collective based in Bangalore.