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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.

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.

Kendall Packman ’22

The media studies major has allowed me to explore a wide variety of disciplines within media including theory, directing, acting, cinematography, editing, writing and graphic design, which I feel make me a very well-rounded student and gives me an advantage in the field not many schools can provide. The major offers so many versatile paths and professors with a wide variety of specialties that it's difficult to not find a way to study what you're interested in. The department's intercollegiate status, meaning majors can take courses in media studies at any of the 5Cs ensures this.

I'm particularly a fan of how the department blends theory and analysis. All of my classes have involved analyzing media from our own point of view and putting that in conversation with works of media theorists such as Carol Clover and Marshall McLuhan. The discussion-based nature of the courses makes class an incredibly dynamic experience and I always feel I walk out of the classroom with a new outlook on media. And, of course, it's worth mentioning that watching TV or playing video games is not the worst kind of homework you can be saddled with.