MDST 4111 Crime, Media and Contemporary Culture
Douglas K. Wagner, PhD
About the Course:
Inquiry into the relationships between crime and the media of communication has a long and complex history, spanning diverse subject matter, institutional realms, and academic disciplines. The origins of crime and media as a topic of discourse and inquiry in the modern age can be located in the early part of the 20th century as a response to concerns that portrayals of sex, violence, and generally bad behavior on then-new media of film and broadcast radio would lead to moral corruption, violence, and criminal behavior, especially among the young and less-well off classes and ethnicities. These and related concerns linking media to the degeneration of social norms and high culture and to vulnerability to political manipulation have persisted over time, in crude as well as nuanced versions, as the focus of inquiry shifted to television, computer games, and internet-based platforms, while the focus of inquiry broadened from “media effects” to address relationships between crime and media in social and cultural contexts.
MDST 4111 Crime, Media and Contemporary Culture introduces students to the various theoretical and methodological approaches to investigating the relationships between crime and media, and at the same time provides focused analysis of some of the more frequently-researched topics and questions, including those relating to how media professionals construct news coverage of crime, what is explained by the concept of “moral panics,” how media deal with age and gender (in informational and entertainment content), how media portrayals of the police are constructed and influenced, and how the development and institutionalization of the Internet and Internet-based platforms has, on the one hand, provided new avenues for crime and law enforcement and transformed aspects of the fundamental relationships between crime and media, while on the other hand, has reinforced some existing aspects of this relationship
To provide opportunities for in-depth inquiry, each student will select one or more case studies of specific crimes that have been covered in the media and/or one case study (real-life or fictional) that has been represented in the media of popular culture (i.e., a novel, movie, video series, etc.) to serve as the bases of a multi-part project that includes research, critical writing, discussion with classmates, and presentation to classmates.
Course Prerequisites: List course prereqs here: n/a
By the end of the course you should be able to:
- Explain the theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks that commonly underlie media studies- and criminology-based scholarship, both historical and contemporary.
- Apply selected theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks that commonly underlie media studies-based and criminology-based scholarship to case studies of media coverage and popular culture representations of crime events.
- Critically assess how representations of race, gender, social class, youth, and other socio-cultural categories are constructed and “manufactured” (along ideological lines) in media coverage and representations of crime.
- Discuss how the concept of deviance is implied and defined by media coverage and representations of crime.
- Analyze the social, cultural, and political forces that shape the construction of the police image.
- Critically assess the meanings and ideological assumptions implicit in examples of popular culture media such as crime and prison movies, true crime documentaries, and crime fiction.
- Explain the implications of surveillance culture for coverage and representations of crime in the media, both historically and contemporary.
- Explain how the development and institutionalization of the Internet and Internet-based platforms has, on the one hand, provided new avenues for crime and law enforcement and transformed aspects of the fundamental relationships between crime and media, while on the other hand, has reinforced aspects of this relationship.
Jewkes, Y. and Linnemann, T. W. (2018). Media and Crime in the U.S. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN 13: 9781483373904 (print), 9781483373911 (eText).