What is Comparative About CMS?
Many universities offer programs in media studies, but CMS sets itself apart through its comparative nature. There are six key areas of comparison at the heart of CMS.
Comparison Across Media
The present era of media convergence demands knowledge and expertise across a diverse range of media technologies and systems. We live at a moment when every important idea, story, brand, image, sound, and relationship is apt to travel across every available channel of communication. This spread of media content is fueled top-down by the consolidation of the media industry and bottom-up by popular access to new tools of grassroots media production and distribution. Yet, there is no moment in human history when a single medium operated in isolation. Each medium has its own affordances, its own market, and its own cultural status. Yet, these different media interact with each other to constitute the communication environment.
By design, we define media in the broadest possible terms going back to traditional print and oral culture and forward to emerging forms of digital expression. Students are encouraged to develop deep understandings of specific media traditions but also to develop a broad knowledge of how different media interact with each other. The goal of comparison is to identify both similarities and differences, continuities and discontinuities.
Comparison Across National Borders
Advanced telecommunications and the worldwide expansion of media markets create an urgent need to understand our emerging "global media culture," the cross-pollination of national and international cultural traditions, and the new styles and genres developing in this context. Yet, we also recognize that the same media technologies operate differently in different national contexts as they get absorbed into different cultural traditions, economic contexts, and political structures. Our faculty has expertise on media in a range of European, Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and American contexts. Students are encouraged to reflect upon the interplay between globalizing and localizing forces in defining the contemporary and historic media landscape.
Comparison Across Historical Periods
While most contemporary conversations about media focus on contemporary technologies, CMS recognizes a need to consider media's roles and functions in a broader historical context. At CMS, we consider unique moments in media history, as well as the continuum of media evolution, exploring the roles and functions media plays in a variety of historical, cultural, and social contexts. We believe larger historical framings pose alternative questions and offer alternative answers which enable us to better address contemporary concerns about media content, context, and change.
Comparison Across Disciplines
The CMS approach is characterized by radical interdisciplinarity: our goal is to encourage students to mix and match approaches taken from the humanities and the social sciences in search of answers to driving questions about the cultural and social impact of media on the world around us. The humanities offer a tradition of thinking about media content, genre, storytelling, and pedagogy, while the qualitative social sciences have an equally rich vocabulary for discussing media context, culture, society, and community. CMS promotes a pragmatic style of humanistic and social scientific scholarship that prepares students to think critically and productively about media form, content, and context.
Comparison Across Making and Thinking
We strongly believe that hands-on learning and production experience is essential to a full understanding of modern media. We encourage students to apply their theoretical knowledge by helping to build usable products, then to evaluate and challenge these tangible projects through critical inquiry. We recognize an increasingly blurring line between media producers and consumers. Not every CMS student will become an expert media maker but all will understand how media get made and come away with an appreciation of how to express oneself across many different kinds of media.
Comparison Across Perspectives
We want to expose our students to front-line perspectives on the current moment of media change and to foster conversation across industry, government, education, the arts, and public instutitions. Our goal is to create a salon culture where important media issues can be debated and discussed among a diverse array of participants. We regularly bring entrepreneurs, artists, activists, policy makers, and educators into our classes to share their perspectives on media change. Our students are encouraged to assume roles as public intellectuals, adopting a citizenly discourse which allows them to more effectively intervene in the core debates which will define how media gets used in our society. Our students are urged to do internships which may allow them to combine practical experience with the theoretical and historical vantage points they are developing through their classes. Through the program's many research initiatives, students learn to think pragmatically, applying what they have learned to specific design challenges, testing their ideas against real world observations.