Professor: Tim Williams
We live in an era of social media. The advent of the internet in the late twentieth century dramatically changed how individuals receive and disseminate ideas. Yet while the technology is "new" (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Kindle, for example), the purposes of using media for social connection and the exchange of information are not. A defining feature of the modern era, in fact, is the way in which literacy and print media shaped individuals' attitudes about self and society, as well as their interactions (for good or bad) within families, communities, peer groups, and social "others" in everyday life. As we today face the changes technology has wrought, it therefore becomes imperative to step back in time and contemplate past media revolutions and their influences on society and culture. Because this focus is conceptually vast and complicated, we will focus on the modern Atlantic World, particularly North America and the United States, from the Columbian era to the present day. The course will begin with a cross-disciplinary, theoretical discussion of media's role in defining modernity (especially print media). We will define what it means to produce and consume media individually and socially. We will then delve into more focused topics including (but not limited to) cross-culture interactions in the "New World"; print, politics, and nationalism; democratization, literacy, and education; social reform, slavery, and race; and popular entertainment, social inclusion, and exclusion. As we examine these topics, we will read primary sources such as essays, pamphlets, diaries, letters, autobiographies, as well as popular culture sources such as novels; we will also consider radio, television, and film. At the same time, we will read scholarly books and articles on each topic and write frequent analytical essays in response to what we read and discuss.