We will be engaging with an array of film and media texts and objects to understand the mutual entanglements of media and environment. Media Infrastructures like fiber optic cables are part of the environment and elements mined from the environment find themselves in digital media devices. In this course, we ask: In what ways does the environment shape media? How can we connect the aesthetics and politics of ecocinema? How are theories of viral media and microbial contagion related? How do vulnerable communities document their struggles against resource extractivism? The course is organized in three sections. In the first part, we will be engaging with mediated representations and visualizations of the environment including depictions of ecological disasters and GIS modeling of climate change. The second section shall deal with the environmental impact of media infrastructures such as the energy dynamics of data servers/cloud computing. Towards the end of the course, we examine ways of conceptualizing media as environment with a particular focus on media geology and media ecology as research methods to study media phenomena.
We will read essays by philosophers of science, environmentalists, media theorists, geographers, and cultural critics such as Karen Barad, Jussi Parikka, Vandana Shiva, Lisa Parks, Donna Haraway, Kathryn Yusoff, Cristina Venegas, John Durham Peters, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Priscilla Wald, and others, as well as watch/feel films and artworks by Michael Madsen, Anand Patwardhan, Hito Steyerl, Saman Salour, Louie Psihoyos, and Carolina Caycedo. Works of fiction that we will read in the Fall include Helon Habila's atmospheric novel Oil on Water and Mahasweta Devi's inimitable novella about interspecies intergenerational belonging titled Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha.