Media and Cultural Studies

The Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) program emphasizes the study of media in their historical, economic, social, and political context. We examine the cultural forms created and disseminated by media industries and the ways in which they resonate in everyday life, on the individual, national, and global level. Focusing primarily on sound and screen media — television, new media, film, popular music, radio, video games — but reaching out across boundaries, MCS encourages interdisciplinary and transmedia research. MCS courses draw on a broad range of cultural theories spanning a spectrum of concerns all centrally relevant to the functioning of sound and screen media in a diverse and globalizing cultural environment. Through coursework in the Ph.D minor, graduates also can integrate study in such overlapping fields as history, ethnic studies, gender studies, sociology, and global studies.

Recent and forthcoming upper division and graduate level seminars include:

  • Cultural Studies of Kids' Media (Professor Derek Johnson)
  • Culture Industries (Professor Derek Johnson)
  • Digital Commodities (Professor Jeremy Morris)
  • Digital Game Cultures (Professor Derek Johnson)
  • Digital Methods (Professor Jeremy Morris)
  • Essential Digital Media Production for Graduate Students (Professor Eric Hoyt)
  • Feminist Media Studies (Professor Lori Kido Lopez)
  • Franchising in the Media Industries (Professor Derek Johnson)
  • Gender, Sexuality, and Media (Professor Lori Kido Lopez)
  • "Important" Media (Professor Jonathan Gray)
  • Media and Cultural Theory (Professors Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson)
  • Media Audiences, Voice, and Identity (Professor Jonathan Gray)
  • Media Historiography (Professor Eric Hoyt)
  • Production Cultures (Professor Derek Johnson)
  • Race and Racism in the Media (Professor Lori Kido Lopez)
  • Sound Cultures: Podcasting and Music (Professor Jeremy Morris)
  • Sports Media (Professor Jason Lopez)
  • Television Comedy (Professor Jonathan Gray)
  • Textuality: Beyond the Screen (Professor Jonathan Gray)

Recent and ongoing dissertation topics have examined:

  • East Asian media in Latin America as a reflection of hegemoic globalization and trans-peripheral dynamics
  • Disney Princesses and the circulation of meaning among industry, audience, and online discourse
  • The queer and feminist potential of television syndication
  • Vietnamese diasporic social media in urban spaces
  • Economies of identity construction and influence on social media
  • North American national public service radio from the age of television to the mobile media area
  • The identity politics of musicians' labor for the contemporary television industry
  • A cultural history of Internet radio
  • The circulation of radio drama in the digital age
  • Smart technologies, self-actualization, and mobile digital media
  • Regional lockout of digital media and the disjunctive cultural logics of global entertainment platforms
  • The emergence of videotape within the corporate workplace
  • A cultural geography of production and television textuality
  • The place of irony in recent American television comedy
  • The politics of net neutrality regulation and open internet infastructures
  • Television genres' treatment of difference
  • A cultural history of the promise of American public media
  • YouTube's redefinition of cultural production
  • Accessibility of the Internet for people with disabilities
  • New mediated spaces and the urban environment
  • Cross-promotional practices in contemporary television
  • Bollywood stars as sites of cultural mediation and negotiation
  • Sketch comedy and television's multichannel transition

In addition, a weekly graduate student/faculty colloquium gives students the opportunity to present their own work and to hear guest lecturers from a range of disciplinary perspectives, often in cooperation with other departmental areas. We also use this time also to present information and facilitate discussions of publishing, conference presentations, and the job search process.

The Velvet Light Trap is a semi-annual journal publishing work on film, television, and other media. It is edited entirely by graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Texas-Austin.

The MCS Graduate Program is designed to train future media scholars and university faculty; students are admitted with the assumption that they will carry on to the Ph.D. Terminal MAs are rare and not encouraged. Though courses in film, video, and new media production are offered, this is not a production program. Financial support is provided primarily through teaching appointments, so students must have a level of English competency sufficient for the classroom.

Our graduates teach at major universities across the country, and indeed around the world. See our recent Ph.D. page for examples.

The study of media and culture is enhanced at Madison by the presence of significant resources that aid critical inquiry and research. In particular, the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, founded in 1960, is one of the leading US centers for archival documentation in film, television, radio and theater history, containing over 300 collections and thousands of films, television programs, and audio recordings.

Andrew Zolides (2017)
Cult of personalities: the influence economy of digital culture
Xavier University

Anthony Tran (2017)
Digital diasporic cultures and everyday media: the Vietnamese diaspora in Vancouver, Canada
Boston College

Taylor Miller (2017)
Syndicated queerness: television talk shows, rerun syndication, and the serials of Norman Lear
University of Georgia

Christopher Cwynar (2017)
Waves of renewal: English-language North American Public Service Radio from television to social media
Defiance College

Alyxandra Vesey (2016)
“A Synchronous Process: Musicians’ Labor and Identity as Television Industry Practice”
University of Alabama 

Eleanor Patterson (2016)
“Radio Redux: The Persistence of Soundwork in the Post-Network Era”
University of Iowa

Sarah Murray (2016)
“Get Smarter: The Wearables, Carriables, and Shareables of Digital Self-Actualization”
University of Michigan

Andrew Bottomley (2016)
“Internet Radio: A History of a Medium in Transition”
State University of New York at Oneonta

Myles McNutt (2015)
"Location, Relocation, Dislocation: Television's Spatial Capital"
Old Dominion University

Kit Hughes (2015)
"Corporate Channels: How American Business and Industry Made Television Useful"
Colorado State University

Evan Elkins (2015)
"Regional Lockout: Geographic Restrictions, Digital Entertainment Platforms, and Global Cultural Difference"
Colorado State University

Danny Kimball (2014)
"Policies, Pipes, and Publics: The Politics of Net Neutrality Discourse and the Regulation of Internet Infrastructures"
Goucher College

Kyra Hunting (2014)
"Genre's Disciplining Discourses: Cultural Difference and Contemporary Genre Television"
University of Kentucky

Kim Bjarkman (2014)
"'Not The Cosby Show': Comedy in the Age of Irony and Political Incorrectness"

Josh Shepperd (2013)
"Electric Education: How the Media Reform Movement Built Public Broadcasting in the US, 1934-1952"
Catholic University

Josh Jackson (2013)
"Streaming Screens: YouTube and Redefining Cultural Production"
University of California, Berkeley

Dorinda Hartmann (2013)
"Reach in and Touch Someone: Communication Technology and Cultural Fears of Sexual Predation"
Library of Congress

Erin Copple Smith (2012)
"Cross-Promotion at Cross Purposes: Media Conglomerates and the Logics of Synergy"
Austin College

Sreya Mitra (2012)
"Screening the Nation: Producing the Bollywood Star in Contemporary India"
American University of Sharjah

Nick Marx (2012)
"From Bits to Bytes: Sketch Comedy in the Multi-Channel and Digital Convergence Eras"
Colorado State University

Germaine Halegoua (2012)
"New Mediated Spaces and the Urban Environment"
University of Kansas

Elizabeth Ellcessor (2012)
"Access Ability: Policies, Practices, and Representations of Disability Online"
Indiana University

Matt Sienkiewicz (2011)
"From All Directions: Globalization and the Struggle for Independent Palestinian Media"
Boston College

Amy Barber (2011)
"Woods of Their Own: Feminism, Community, Music and Politics at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival"
Northeastern University

Megan Sapnar Ankerson (2010)
"Dot-Com Design: Cultural Production of the Commercial Web in the Internet Bubble (1993-2003)"
University of Michigan