c MIT Course Catalog: Comparative Media Studies/Writing
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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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Comparative Media Studies/Writing

Comparative Media Studies/Writing combines the study of contemporary media (film, television, social media, and digital interactive forms) with the study of creative and journalistic practices of producing these and other forms of modern fiction, poetry, film, and non-fiction prose.  The section offers two undergraduate majors, one in Comparative Media Studies and another in Writing, as well as two graduate SM degrees in Comparative Media Studies and Science Writing. The curriculum seeks to encourage students to think across various forms of media and to learn about contemporary forms of media through the practices of creating and producing them.

Bachelor of Science in Comparative Media Studies/Course CMS
[see degree chart]

The program leading to the Bachelor of Science in Comparative Media Studies degree is designed to integrate the study of contemporary media (film, television, digital systems) with a broad historical understanding of older forms of human expression. The program embraces theoretical and interpretive principles drawn from the central humanistic disciplines of literary study, history, anthropology, art history, and film studies, but aims as well for a comparative synthesis that is responsive to the distinctive emerging media culture of the 21st century. Students explore the complexity of the media environment by learning to think across media, to see beyond the boundaries imposed by older medium-specific approaches to the study of audio-visual and literary forms. The undergraduate program serves as preparation for advanced study in a range of scholarly and professional disciplines and also for careers in media or industry.

The comparative and cross-disciplinary nature of both the undergraduate and graduate programs is reflected by the extensive participation of faculty drawn from Art and Architecture; Anthropology; Global Studies and Languages; History; Literature; Music and Theater Arts; Philosophy; Science, Technology, and Society; Media Arts and Sciences; Political Science; and Urban Studies and Planning.

The SB in Comparative Media Studies requires 10 subjects. Majors are required to take 21L.011, CMS.100, one Tier II subject, one Tier III subject, and six electives. A pre-thesis tutorial (CMS.THT) and thesis (CMS.THU) may be substituted for one elective.

Minor in Comparative Media Studies

The minor requires six subjects that reflect the comparative study of media, including 21L.011 or CMS.100, one Tier II subject, one Tier III subject, and three electives. Each student designs his or her own plan of study in consultation with a field advisor.

HASS Concentration in Comparative Media Studies

The HASS Concentration component consists of four subjects that reflect the comparative study of media. Each concentrator designs his or her own plan of study in consultation with a field advisor.

Joint Degree Programs in Comparative Media Studies

The joint undergraduate degree program in CMS (21E or 21S) requires eight CMS subjects, plus six subjects in an engineering or science major. Students are required to take 21L.011 or CMS.100; one Tier II subject; one Tier III subject; and five CMS electives. A pre-thesis tutorial (CMS.THT) and thesis (CMS.THU) may be substituted for one CMS elective. Students must obtain approval for their subject selection from an advisor in their engineering or science field, and must also file a petition with the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement. See joint degree programs under the Department of Humanities section.

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Graduate Study in Comparative Media Studies

The graduate program is a two-year course of study leading to a Master of Science in Comparative Media Studies. The program aims to prepare students for careers in fields such as journalism, teaching and research, government or public service, museum work, information science, corporate consulting, media industry marketing and management, and educational technology.

The graduate degree program in Comparative Media Studies places extensive emphasis on student participation in collaborative sponsored research of one or more of its research groups, including the Center for Civic Media; the Open Documentary Lab; the Education Arcade; the MIT Game Lab; the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory; HyperStudio; the Trope Tank, and the Mobile Experience Laboratory. Typically graduate students spend 15-20 hours per week on funded group-project work during their two-year program, for which they receive funding that supports their graduate study at MIT. For further information on CMS research, see http://cmsw.mit.edu/research-groups/.

CMS graduate students usually take three 12-unit subjects per term, plus a 3-unit colloquium. All students take three introductory seminars (Media Theories and Methods I and II, and Major Media Texts) during their first year, as well as two terms of Workshop, a subject that offers hands-on experience in media. In their final term they take a 24-unit subject devoted to completing the master's thesis, plus the 3-unit Colloquium in Comparative Media. Typically, students will graduate with a total of 144 units; however a minimum of 139 units is required for the master's degree in order to accommodate some electives that are 9-unit instead of 12-unit subjects.

Students may enter the program with a degree from a wide range of undergraduate majors, including the liberal arts, the social sciences, journalism, computer science, and management.

Required Subjects

CMS.790   Media Theories and Methods I
CMS.791   Media Theories and Methods II
CMS.796   Major Media Texts
CMS.801   Media in Transition
CMS.950   Workshop I
CMS.951   Workshop II
CMS.THG   Master's Thesis
CMS.990   Colloquium in Comparative Media

Graduate subjects in comparative media studies are described in the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule, http://student.mit.edu/catalog/index.cgi.


For more information on the undergraduate and graduate programs in Comparative Media Studies, contact the CMS/W Office, Room 14N-338, 617-253-3599, cmsw@mit.edu.

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Bachelor of Science in Writing/Course 21W
[see degree chart]

The writing major offers students the opportunity to study the craft, forms, and traditions of contemporary writing, journalism, and digital media. Some students explore writing as a means of artistic expression. Some learn how to write for a variety of media or to communicate the results of their science and technical work to broad audiences and members of their professions. Others work collaboratively within the evolving framework of digital media to become skillful in interactive and nonlinear forms of communication. All subjects in the major emphasize the development of the foundational skills, creative initiative, and critical sensibility necessary to become a good writer.

Subjects in the program's three areas of emphasis—creative writing (fiction, nonfiction prose, poetry), science writing, and digital media—are taught at both introductory and advanced levels. All subjects require extensive writing and revision. Student work is typically discussed in workshops and receives the written commentary of the instructor.

The writing major is an option for students interested in journalism, longer forms like the science documentary, and communication issues related to the public understanding of science and technology. It is also designed to work as a complementary major for students majoring in science, engineering, or another field of study at MIT. Students also fulfill an internship requirement, which provides in-depth practical experience.

The digital media emphasis offers in-depth study of emerging interactive and nonlinear styles of narrative, as well as individual and collaborative experience in producing digitally mediated forms, both aesthetic and utilitarian. Students may gain extensive experience in using a variety of authoring systems to develop large-scale websites, web-based hypertext products, computer games, interactive fiction and poetry, and digitally mediated visual worlds. Knowledge of programming is often helpful, but not necessary.

Minor in Writing

The Minor in Writing consists of six subjects focusing on one of the three areas mentioned above, arranged into two tiers of study as follows:

Tier I   One subject from the following:
21W.011–21W.015 Writing and Rhetoric
21W.021–21W.026   Writing and Experience
21W.031–21W.036   Science Writing and New Media
21W.041J Writing about Literature
21W.042J   Writing with Shakespeare
21W.755   Writing and Reading Short Stories
21W.756   Writing and Reading Poems

Tier II Five subjects from among the remaining writing subjects

HASS Concentrations in Writing

Concentrations in writing establish a course of study in fiction, prose nonfiction (including rhetoric), science writing, or digital media, and offer engineering or science majors an opportunity to develop skills that will play a key role in their professional careers. Each concentrator designs his or her own plan of study in consultation with a field advisor.

Joint Degree Programs in Writing

Joint degree programs are offered in writing in combination with a field in engineering or science (the 21E and 21S degrees). See the joint degree programs listed under Humanities.

Graduate Study in Writing

The one-year Graduate Program in Science Writing leads to a Master of Science in Science Writing, and is aimed at students who wish to write about science and technology for general readers, in ordinary newsstand magazines and newspapers, in popular and semi-popular books, on the walls of museums, or on television or radio programs. Students may be graduates of undergraduate science, engineering, journalism, or writing programs; experienced journalists and freelance writers; working scientists or engineers; historians of science and technology; or other scholars, including those already holding advanced degrees.

The program is built around an intensive year-long advanced science writing seminar. In addition, students choose one elective each semester, write a substantial thesis, observe in a lab, and complete an internship. Complete information is available at http://sciwrite.mit.edu/. The graduate program maintains links to MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society; and to the Knight Science Journalism Program. For more information, see the descriptions of the Science, Technology, and Society Program in Part 2; and Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3 for more information about the Knight Science Journalism Program.

Writing and Communication Center

The MIT Writing and Communication Center offers free individual consultation on communication on an appointment or drop-in basis to all members of the MIT community. In addition, the center gives mini-sessions each term on a variety of writing topics, and also offers workshops for people for whom English is a second language. For further information, contact the Writing Center at http://cmsw.mit.edu/writing-and-communication-center/.

Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication

The Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication (WRAP) staff of Comparative Media Studies/Writing helps provide the integration of instruction and feedback in writing and speaking in subjects in all undergraduate departments and programs. The writing tutor program supports enhanced writing instruction in Communication Intensive in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CI-H) subjects. WRAP lecturers collaborate with faculty in all schools in the teaching of Communication Intensive in the Major (CI-M) subjects.  For further information, see http://cmsw.mit.edu/education/writing-across-the-curriculum/.

Subject Listings

Subjects in writing are described in the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule, http://student.mit.edu/catalog/index.cgi. Further information on subjects and programs may be obtained from the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Office, Room 14N-338, 617-253-3599, cmsw@mit.edu.

Faculty and Staff

Faculty and Teaching Staff

Edward Schiappa, PhD
Professor of Rhetoric and Media
Head, Comparative Media Studies/Writing

Edward Barrett, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Writing
Director, Undergraduate Studies

T. L. Taylor, PhD
Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies
Director, Comparative Media Studies Graduate Program

Thomas Levenson, BA
Professor of Science Writing
Director, Graduate Program in Science Writing
(On leave, fall)

Seth Mnookin, BA
Assistant Professor of Science Writing
Associate Director, Graduate Program in Science Writing
(On leave, spring)


Marcia Bartusiak, MS
Professor of the Practice of Science Writing

Ian Condry, PhD
Mitsui Career Development Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies
Section Head, Global Studies and Languages

Junot Díaz, MFA
Professor of Writing

Heather Hendershot, PhD
Professor of Comparative Media Studies
(On leave)

Helen Elaine Lee, JD
Professor of Fiction Writing

Alan Lightman, PhD
Professor of the Practice of the Humanities

Kenneth R. Manning, PhD
Thomas Meloy Professor of Rhetoric and the History of Science

James Paradis, PhD
Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing
(On leave, spring)

William Uricchio, PhD
Professor of Comparative Media Studies
(On leave, spring)

Jing Wang, PhD
Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies
S. C. Fang Professor of Chinese Language and Culture

Rosalind H. Williams, PhD
Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology

Associate Professors

Vivek Bald, PhD
Associate Professor of Writing and Digital Media
(On leave)

Federico Casalegno, PhD
Associate Professor of the Practice
Director, Mobile Experience Lab

Douglas A. (Fox) Harrell, Jr., PhD
Associate Professor of Digital Media
(On leave)

Nick Montfort, PhD
Associate Professor of Digital Media

Assistant Professors

Sasha Costanza-Chock, PhD
Assistant Professor of Civic Media
(On leave, fall)

Visiting Professors

Nancy Baym, PhD
Jesper Juul, PhD

Senior Lecturer

Suzanne Lane, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Writing
Director, Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication


Karen Boiko, PhD
B. D. Colen, BA
Erica Funkhouser, MA
Shariann Lewitt, MFA
Cynthia Taft, PhD
Andrea Walsh, PhD

Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication

Andreas Karatsolis, PhD
Associate Director, Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication

Atissa Banuazizi, MA
Jared Berezin, MA
Harlan Breindel, MA
Stephen Brophy, BA
Susan Carlisle, MFA
Mary Caulfield, MA
Jane Abbott Connor, MA
Jennifer Craig, MA
David Custer, BA
Nora Delaney, MA
JoAnn Graziano, MLA
Louise Harrison-Lepera, MA
Amelia Herb, PhD
Nora Jackson, MA
Sonal Jhaveri, PhD
Jane Kokernak, MA
Lucy Marx, MA
Janis Melvold, PhD
Marilee Ogren-Balkema, PhD
Karen Pepper, PhD
Kym Ragusa, MFA
Leslie Ann Sulit Roldan, PhD
Susan Ruff, BA
Juergen Schoenstein, MA
Jessie Stickgold-Sarah, PhD
Linda Sutliff, MA
Michael Trice, MA
Kim Vaeth, MA
Jeanne Wildman, JD

Writing and Communication Center

Elizabeth Fox, PhD
Robert Irwin, PhD
Marilyn Levine, MA
Thalia Rubio, MEd
Pamela Siska, MA
Amanda Sobel, MA
Susan Spilecki, MA
Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, PhD

Visiting Lecturers

Frank Bentley, MEng
Madeline Klink, MA
Marjorie, Liu, JD
Marie-Jose Montpetit, PhD
Christopher Weaver, CAS

MLK Visiting Scholar

Coco Fusco
Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow

Research Staff

Principal Research Associate

Kurt Fendt, PhD

Research Scientists

Mikael Jakobsson, PhD
Scot Osterweil, BA
Philip Tan, MS

Professors Emeriti

Anita Desai, BA
John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities, Emerita

Joe Haldeman, MFA
Adjunct Professor of Fiction, Emeritus

Robert Kanigel, BS
Professor of Science Writing, Emeritus

James H. Williams, Jr., PhD
SEPTE Professor of Engineering, Emeritus

Cynthia Griffin Wolff, PhD
Class of 1922 Professor of Literature, Emerita


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