In 2023, I believe instructors have an ethical imperative to teach students that no medium is ideologically “neutral” or a direct reflection of reality. Across all my classes, I work with my students to defamiliarize the technologies they engage with every day by excavating their material and cultural histories. My teaching is heavily influenced by anti-racist and inclusive pedagogy: that is, the need to develop alternatives to traditional syllabus structures and grading norms that continue to penalize or exclude students—particularly students of color, first-generation students, and disabled students—who have historically been denied access to higher education. I design my classes for a wide range of learning styles and lived experiences by scaffolding assignments in a way that gives students many continuous, low-stakes ways to engage and participate.
As someone who comes from an art practice background myself, my teaching style is multimodaI, and I like to implement creative activities using both analog and digital tools alongside more traditional analytical writing assignments. My assignments often have a creative component or send students out into the world. Whether this involves reproducing exercises from Josef Albers’ 1963 Interaction of Color using paper, scissors, and glue; creating a satirical Pantone press release to engage in socio-political critique; or watching an hour of broadcast TV—not streaming—on an actual television set, these often playful exercises push students to think historically and critically about their personal uses of technology as they intersect with questions of power, materiality, and labor.
Below you can find a selection of courses I've taught and developed at the University of Michigan and UC Berkeley, which include freshman writing seminars, lecture-based major requirements, more experimental upper-division electives, and pedagogy courses for first-time graduate student instrucuctors. You can find a more comprehensive list of courses taught on my CV and I'm happy to provide sample syllabi and assignments by request.
From Prisms to Pantone:
Color, Race, and Technology
In this class, we will take a deep dive into the rich, fascinating, and sometimes overwhelming topic of color as it is mediated by technology, culture, and politics. By doing so, we’ll open up a larger conversation about how technology shapes our perception of the world and ourselves. A major conceptual thread running throughout the course will be around the complex relationship between so-called "abstract" color in the arts and sciences and color as a tool of racial classification and oppression. Throughout the semester, we’ll look critically at the ways in which color technologies from photography to biometrics have historically been calibrated in a way that perpetuates racial bias. With readings from media studies, critical race studies, anthropology, the history of science and technology, and architecture and design studies, some questions we will grapple with include: Is color an objective or subjective phenomenon (or both)? How does the way we perceive and understand color change with the emergence of new technologies? Is digital color really all that distinct from analog color? How does one go about mediating color on screen, and what kinds of technological and social compromises are involved? Who benefits from these compromises, and who is left out? Film screenings, as well as video artworks, paint charts, and memes, will help us flesh out ideas using concrete examples. Students will have the option to propose a creative or hybrid theory/ practice final project in lieu of a traditional written paper.
TV After TV
In 1996, cultural critic Susan Sontag announced the “Decay of Cinema”: whatever had made film unique and worthy of the love of so-called cinephiles was ending. In 2015, FX CEO John Landgraf referred to the unprecedented numbers of scripted series being produced for American television as “peak TV.” These statements may appear to describe opposing phenomena— one medium in decline, the other at its highest ever point— but might they be closer than they sound? What does it mean for a medium to reach its “peak”? Is it the beginning, middle, or end of the story of television? How do we know? And what counts as “television” today anyway? In this course, we will take a long view of the history of television in America, from early broadcast and moving image history to current online streaming platforms. We will consider which features define television as a medium— for example, liveness, commodification, or the conditions of viewing in the home— and analyze their relevance for how we define television today. We will discuss television in the context of other media and technologies, and debate the extent to which it can be separated from devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. All the while, we will keep an eye toward the ways in which television can reflect, reproduce, or challenge existing power dynamics within society. We will pair more theoretical readings with close analysis of individual films and television shows that will function as case studies for the broader ideas we are discussing.
Taste: The Senses on Screen
The release of Juzo Itami’s “Ramen Western” Tampopo in 1985 marked the beginning of an emerging genre: the food film. Whereas food had previously been pushed to the sidelines or treated as prop, with films such as Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987) and Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994), it became thematic. In this course, we will embark on a transcultural and historical exploration of food and cooking on screen, with genres and media forms ranging from cult films, animation, and documentary to reality TV and Youtube tutorials. What is the relationship between food on screen and viewer participation? How can a two-dimensional image call attention to or activate the senses of taste, smell, and touch? Are there such things as “natural” or “authentic” flavors for the 21st century palate, or is this merely a nostalgic fiction? We will read texts by scholars who challenge the “ocularcentrism” of media studies to open up a larger conversation about spectatorship, sense perception, and platform economies that go beyond the visual. Additionally, this course asks you to challenge prior assumptions you may have held about the politics of postindustrial food and consumption. Food is often said to be universal, yet differences in cuisine and eating habits have also been used to demarcate cultural, ethnic, sexual, and class-based differences. Some of the topics we will consider are: excess and hedonism, food and eroticism, taboo, globalization and the commodification of the senses, and food’s relationship to nationalism, orientalism, and colonialism.
Film and Media Theory
In this course, we will learn to think critically about audio-visual media. We will analyze major media of the 20th and 21st centuries, from photography and film to television and digital media. Throughout the course we will explore the following questions: What formal attributes and types of engagement are unique to each medium? What different types of sensory involvement do they invite? How do different media technologies reorganize time, space, and other aspects of everyday experience? Crucially, this class will also give you the theoretical and analytical tools necessary to mine various technological media for their ideological implications and the ways in which they produce power relations and difference in racial, gendered, class-based, and nationalistic terms. The course is organized around the reading of major works of 20th century media and cultural theory. It is reading intensive; one of the aims of the course is to learn how to appreciate (rather than being intimidated by) the challenge of reading dense theoretical material, and how to construct compelling and well-informed analytical arguments in writing. Films, television screenings, and artworks will help us flesh out abstract ideas using concrete examples.
Circa 1995, media theorist Lev Manovich made the bold assertion that digital cinema was no longer “cinema” at all, but rather “a particular case of animation that uses live-action footage as one of its many elements.” Though almost 30 years have passed since Manovich’s claim, the digital still has a peculiar relationship to preexisting art forms and technologies such as painting, film, and television. Are digital artworks and films a continuation of older aesthetic traditions, or do they represent a rupture in how we think about the relationship between art and technology? In this course, we will consider the relationship between artistic form and digital media, paying particular attention to their points of intersection. We will take seriously the idea that all media were once “new,” opening up a larger discussion of what constitutes “new media” in our current moment. Though this class will primarily focus on audiovisual media and moving images, our goal is to begin a larger conversation about visual representation in the here and now. We will also keep in mind our geographical proximity to Silicon Valley as we discuss the circulation of images in contemporary networked culture.
Pedagogy + New Course Development
Teaching Reading and Composition Through Film & Media
(Lead instructor: Professor Mark Sandberg, UC Berkeley)
This introductory pedagogy course for Graduate Student Instructors exposes students to current research on teaching student writing, examines how R&C courses can use both critical-reading and critical-viewing strategies; and creates a structured space for current GSIs to workshop and troubleshoot issues from teaching situations that arise during the semester’s instruction. Upon completion of the course, students should: 1.know effective practices, current directions, and resources for engaging students in writing about film and media; 2.be able to create and evaluate the effectiveness of lesson plans and assignments that employ active learning strategies (e.g., discussion, collaborative problem solving, applied practice) in the study of moving-image media materials and attendant secondary literature; 3.know the standards of ethical conduct by which they and their students must abide and how to provide a welcoming and respectful learning environment for a diverse student body; 4.know general and field-specific University policies and resources for teaching film and media composition courses on the Berkeley campus, such as those pertaining to students with disabilities, students in distress, student athletes, sexual harassment, academic integrity, and instructional technology; 5.understand how to incorporate anti-racist pedagogical strategies into the teaching of composition; 6.know how to assess student learning and grade student work fairly, consistently, and efficiently, with special attention to the structural and cultural differences in preparation that present barriers to learning effective writing; 7.be able to use feedback and assessment tools such as mid-semester evaluations to improve teaching; 8.be able to reflect upon teaching and learning and explain why they make the choices they do as teachers in their field; 9.know how to effectively communicate and collaborate with members of a teaching team (e.g., faculty instructor, head GSI, co-instructors, fellow GSIs, Readers, course support staff).
Intermediate Film Writing
(Lead instructor: Dr. Emily West, UC Berkeley)
Moving-image media are compelling sites of cultural work. Writing about motion pictures poses peculiar challenges —and offers distinct pleasures—for students in disciplines across the university. Yet it is unusual for a course that analyzes the moving image to teach students how to do so with clarity and confidence. What vocabularies do students writing about film, television, YouTube, or TikTok need to know? How do we engage texts in these mediums on their own terms, as visual objects of analysis? How do we do so in a way that is academically rigorous, drawing on scholarly interlocutors to contribute to a broader intellectual conversation? This writing-intensive course will use weekly writing assignments of 750 to 2000 words as a space to explore and find answers to these questions, each of which corresponds to a type of essay we will read and write together. We will start with the basics: examining the attitudes and practices we bring to the process of academic writing, including how we perceive our academic voices, assess the assignments we receive, and plan and complete our writing projects. As a community of practice, we will engage in real conversations about the challenges of academic writing, including time management and how to confront writer’s block. From here, the course will move to identify the specific skills and processes that facilitate positive – even pleasurable—academic writing experiences. As we read and write together, we will build the skills and confidence that make writing as a process of intellectual exploration satisfying for its own sake.