History and Philosophy of Media

Subject MECM90015 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2011:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

On campus

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2
Total Time Commitment: 120
Prerequisites: Admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth-year honours in media and communication, Master of Global Media Communication, Master of Arts (Media and Communication) Advanced Seminar and Shorter Thesis
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Assoc Prof Ingrid Volkmer


Nikos Papastergiadis


Subject Overview:

When, how and why do media change? In an epoch of increasingly rapid innovation, our crucial resource for answering this question is our knowledge and ideas about previous transitions and innovations. This subject investigates the intertwined histories of media and ideas about media. How does media change relate to cultural construction and interpretation, discursive and social formations, political economy, technology and the laws of physics? Recent media historiography has increased the historical depth and geographical range of the field, in the process proposing new ways to pose old questions such as "what is the impact of media on society?" Drawing on current research projects in the Media and Communication program, the subject will address such topics as the genealogies of contemporary media technologies, mediated democracy, media temporalities and political communication. It will place such projects in the history of philosophical engagement with media, a history which stretches back to the Biblical ban on images and Plato's attacks on writing. Relevant contemporary theories, which might include biopolitical, autonomist, actor-network and complexity approaches, will be studied and applied to the historical processes of past and present media change.


On completion of this subject:

  • students will be equipped to undertake research into historical aspects of contemporary media and media philosophy as well as historical topics in media studies; and
  • be able to understand processes of innovation, dissemination and adoption in future media.
Assessment: Class presentation (1000 words equivalent) 25% (due mid-semester), final reflective essay 4000 words 75% (due end of semester). Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. All required written work must be submitted in order to pass the subject.
Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available including selections from the recommended reading and documentation on specific cases.

Recommended Texts:
  • Adorno, Theodor W (1998), Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans Henry W Pickford, Columbia Univerity Press, New York
  • Agamben, Giorgio (2002), The Open: Man and Animal, trans Kevin Attell, Stanford University Press, Stanford
  • Baudrillard, Jean (2005), The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact, trans Chris Turner, Verso, London.
  • Benjamin, Walter (2003), Selected Writings, vol 4, 1938-1940, ed Howard Eiland and Michael W Jennings, Bellknap Press / Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.
  • Cubitt, Sean (2004), The Cinema Effect, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
  • Debray, R (1996), Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms, trans. Eric Rauth, Verso, London.
  • Gitelman, Lisa and Geoffrey B Pingree (eds) (2003), New Media 1740-1915, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
  • Hassan, Robert (2003), The Chronoscopic Society: Globalization, Time and Knowledge in the Networked Economy New York: Lang
  • Flusser, Vil (2000), Towards a Philosophy of Photography, trans Anthony Matthews, intro Hubertus Von Amelunxen, Reaktion Books, London.
  • Harindranath, Ramaswami (2008, in press), Audience-citizens: the Media, Public Knowledge, and Interpretive Practice. New Delhi and London: Sage
  • Kittler, Friedrich A (1999a), Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans and intro Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford University Press, Stanford.
  • Marvin, Carolyn (1988), When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Mattelart, Armand (2000), Networking the World 1794-2000, trans Liz Carey-Liebrecht and James Cohen, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  • McQuire, Scott (1998), Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Cinema, Sage, London.
  • McLuhan, Marshall (1964), Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Sphere, London.
  • Mosco, Vincent (1996), The Political Economy of Communication: Rethinking and Renewal, Sage, London.
  • Papastergiadis, Nikos (2005), "Mobility and the Nation: Skins, Machines and Complex Systems", Willy Brandt Series of Working Papers on International Migration and Ethnic Relations 3/05, Malm University.
  • Volkmer, Ingrid (2006), "News in Public Memory". An International Study of Media Memories Across Generations New York: Peter Lang.
  • Williams, Raymond (1974 ), Television: Technology and Cultural Form, Fontana, London.
  • Young, Sally (ed), (2007), Government Communication in Australia, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zielinski, Siegfried (2006), Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, trans. Gloria Custance,Foreword Timothy Druckrey, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of key problems in media historiography;
  • recognise and explain differing methodologies for undertaking media historical research;
  • identify and critically engage with the history of media theory; and
  • demonstrate a capacity for critical thinking in relation to the the history and philosophy of media understand processes of change in the media.
Related Course(s): Bachelor of Arts (Honours)(Media and Communications)
Master of Arts (Media and Communication) Adv.Seminar & Shorter Thesis
Master of Global Media Communication
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Media and Communication)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Media and Communication
Media and Communications

Download PDF version.