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Why I Majored in Media Studies

The Pomona College Media Studies Podcast explores what Media Studies is, why it matters, and the experiences of the people who study it at Pomona. Listen to episodes about the Media Studies Capstone Project, as well as what Media Studies is via the Media Studies 101 episode.

Daniel Park ’20

I was sold on the major after taking Introduction to Media Studies with Professor Friedlander during my first semester at Pomona as a sophomore transfer student. It was in this highly nuanced yet digestible class, that I first learned to conceptualize media as not just digital spaces or products – but also as a network of ideological forces that carry large social implications. I was committed to learning more about the ways in which our individual practices in global media consumption can aid in either extending, or deconstructing, the harmful forces within media that impact culture, economics, politics, and consequently, our ways of knowing.

After my intro class, I became passionate about stirring tangible change in the medium of film. I started taking introductory production classes because I really wanted to shoot my own stories. This allowed me to take my knowledge into practice, utilizing documentary production to amplify powerful voices and represent communities that mainstream productions consistently marginalize.

Approaching my senior year, I wanted to negotiate my financial and creative needs with the socio-political responsibilities to which I feel obliged as a critical storyteller. I studied abroad in Prague, where I got to shoot a short film on an ancient 16mm camera. That definitely confirmed that I love this stuff. Once I returned, I took Critical Race Theory, Representation, and the Rule of Law with Professor Phillis Jackson – and this class absolutely shattered my imposter syndrome, and helped me fully realize the immense power I possess as an individual consumer, intellectual and multimedia artist. I currently work for a film advertising agency in Los Angeles where I learn a ton every day, and feel one step closer to my goal of eventually producing stories that prioritize representation and aim to stimulate critical thought in audiences.

Through my media studies education at Pomona, I have come to believe that everyone has stories that are innately valuable and worth listening to. I believe that through community and collaboration, we can spread narratives that unite rather than separate, question and illuminate rather than stereotype – stories that combat the global damage that mass media has done, and deconstruct the walls between and amongst ourselves.

Schuyler (Skye) Mitchell '20

I’m an English and media studies double major, and though I always thought I wanted to major in media studies, taking Intro to Media Studies with Prof. Thomas Connelly in the fall of my freshman year cemented that goal. We got a broad overview of media history and critical theory, covering topics from hegemony to remediation to textual poaching. “Media” is everywhere, lying at the foundation of our society and culture from its inception. I felt like my doors had been opened—for the first time, I found myself with the language and knowledge to name and analyze the various societal phenomena and conditions I’d observed. I’m majoring in media studies with a concentration in critical theory because I’ve discovered that a media studies degree at Pomona provides the analytical tools I think are essential for being a conscious consumer and creator in the modern world.

“Media studies” is a vague term, and the major is wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. This can be daunting at first, but I think it’s exactly what makes the program so valuable. Your media studies degree will really be what you make of it, and the major allows you the freedom to really explore. This past semester, in an upper-level theory course called Drone Theory, we discussed everything from drones to Amazon to Cambridge Analytica. The class completely blew my mind and pushed me to think in new ways, seeing the intersections between these seemingly different areas. Going into the course, I was afraid that it would be too “theoretical,” but I’ve found the “real-world” or “professional” applications to be numerous as well. I never would have anticipated that I’d be able to incorporate my knowledge from a course about drones in my internship at an independent record label. I am so excited to take more media studies classes in the next two years, and see how the major continues to challenge and shape my worldview!

Luke Meares '21

I am a media studies and politics double major but came into college interested in studying only politics. After taking an Intro to Media Studies course with Professor Elizabeth Affuso, that all changed.

That class was one of the many media studies classes that left me reexamining the way I viewed not only my own position in a landscape increasingly saturated by the digital, but the form of the landscape itself. Media is something that shapes every aspect of life yet is often left unnoticed or unmentioned. The media studies major at Pomona College teaches you to examine media in a way that takes away its urge of normalcy and rather forces one to contend with its possible primacy, tackling ideas of hegemony, semiotics, representation and form itself in a multitude of ways.

My favorite part of the media studies major is that it is both theoretical and very real-world, and the course offerings reflect this; it is a major that has allowed me to combine the theoretical approaches of critical theory (my critical studies seminar with Professor Jennifer Friedlander) with the context-dependent approaches of analyzing media content and digital production (both my Anthropology of Media course with Pitzer Professor Ruti Talmor and Black and White Photography with Professor Anne Auerbach come to mind here) itself into a lens to further examine the world, from advertising to class liberation. By preparing yourself with the tools to see the implications a force rooted as deeply as media has on ways of knowing, you are able to come at virtually any issue within modern life in a much deeper, more nuanced way.

This has rung most true for me through my work as a documentary photographer. As a part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), I was able to use my media studies major to create a representation of queer rural community in Appalachia that I hadn’t seen before, one that was focused on the perseverance and love of place that exists in queer communities where I’m from rather than the dehumanizing, individual approach many have taken to showcase their views as an outsider of what queer life in Appalachia must be. It was something that meant a great deal to me to do and showed me just how vital the things I am learning are to being a media maker.