What remains of people is what media can store and communicate.
Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks, 1800/1900
[M]edia studies [try] to explore … practices that produce meaning….[T]he question of the circulation of meaning almost immediately involves the question of power. Who has the power, in what channels, to circulate which meanings to whom?
Stuart Hall, “Representation & the Media”

“Stop Blaming The Media” read a Huffington Post headline from 2016.
Whilst it cannot be denied that we are almost continually exposed to a flow of media content in our daily lives, penetrating and saturating our private and public spheres, it also has become somewhat of a platitude to point towards ‘the media’ as this omnipotent, and yet rather abstract culprit.

As Stuart Hall remarked, to investigate the complexities of power within media ecologies is a fundamental task for any media scholar. We look at production practices (who and how?), analyze media texts (what meanings do they produce?) and examine how different audiences (users, spectators) engage with and consume media.

At UCU, media are explored from a critical, theoretically informed perspective, encompassing the study of visual art and culture (photography, cinema, graphic novels, advertising, to name but a few), social media, news media, and digital media culture.

Media studies is firmly grounded in society and culture, and consequently a multidisciplinary field of inquiry. Imbued by philosophy, history, literature studies, art history, linguistics, anthropology, and sociology, media studies at UCU provides the analytical and theoretical tools for understanding both the forms and conditions of specific media and their embedding in the diverse personal and institutional settings of our lives. 

As you struggle to understand phenomena such as fake news, selfies, meme culture or a ‘Twitter president’, you will acquire the research techniques to systematically and critically study the media involved in shaping these developments. You will also deploy these techniques to explore artistic work such as films or installations as well as content situated within popular culture (e.g. music videos).

At UCU we teach the most relevant, canonized theories, authors and methods, but we also incorporate cutting-edge research methods such as creative praxis or data walks.

All courses will guide you towards identifying and aptly framing the research problem, choosing the best methods for your research and applying your Liberal Arts and Sciences mind set to examine a particular phenomenon or object.

Media studies can add depth and dimension to virtually any other discipline within the Humanities, but also to the Sciences (e.g. ‘neurocinema’) or the Social Sciences (e.g. the political economy of the media industries or the anthropological study of mass media).

If you are unsure about how media studies could possibly intersect with your other curricular interests, do not hesitate to contact the track coordinator.

Media studies is relatively new at UCU (2015) and will be expanding in the future. Currently three courses are taught at UCU:

  • ‘Introduction to Comparative Media Studies’ (level 1)
  •  ‘Visual Culture Studies’ (level 2)
  • ‘The Digital Citizen’ (level 3) – an interdepartmental course (Humanities & Social Sciences)

The introductory course is mandatory for students who wish to take one of the advanced courses. If you are interested in taking an off-campus-course (e.g. at the University of Utrecht), you are best advised to contact the track coordinator.

A liberal arts and sciences curriculum at UCU, particularly when majoring in the humanities and/or the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, political theory), will equip you with the expertise and skills needed for pursuing Master programs in or related to media studies. Relevant off-campus courses (e.g. at Utrecht University) will strengthen the position of the student in competitive application procedures.

Our graduates have entered the following master programs

  • Mst in Film Aesthetics, Oxford University
  • MA in Media, Art and Performance Studies, Utrecht University
  • MA in New Media & Digital Culture, Utrecht University
  • MA in Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
  • MA in Filmmaking, The London Film School

UCHUMMES11: Introduction to Comparative Media Studies (Fall)
Our contemporary world is deeply permeated with media and new technologies that inherently influence the way we communicate, transfer knowledge, exchange information, offer representations, and experience reality and its possible imaginaries. This course traces the development of such media technologies (print media, telephony, radio, television, film, internet, mobiles, games) and accounts for their historical transformations, while focusing on their intermedial character and their relation to other arts (literature, photography, performing arts, painting, architecture, music).

In particular the course addresses fandom and popular culture, gender and race in networked spaces, convergence culture, intellectual property, the role and function of social networks in the redefinition of the public sphere, notions of citizenship and democracy, and the future of digital humanities.

UCHUMMES21: Visual Culture Studies: Studying Images, Still & Moving (Spring)
Spaces without images are rare in today’s world. One could even claim that our everyday lives are inundated by visuality, by images which circulate meaning we often consume habitually and unquestioningly. Taking the form of paintings, photography, film, advertising, television, GIFs, virtual reality, fashion ‐ visual culture can be entertaining and afford us pleasure, influence who we are and who we aspire to be. However, it also mediates and regulates power relations and determines who is visible and who remains unseen.

In this course students will be equipped with the analytical methods and critical tools necessary to tackle some of the central themes in the field of visual culture theory. Discursive scholarly research output (essay‐writing) will be expanded to include creative practices (a photo or video essay) as methods of inquiry.

UCINTMES31: The Digital Citizen: Mapping Spheres of Change (Interdepartmental – Spring)
Digital technologies have become ubiquitous, pervading our lives even when we are unaware of them. When these technologies and platforms generate information about us, translating all aspects of our lives into digital data, we become ‘datafied’: our identities and actions become track-able, catagoriz-able, forecast-able, transmit-able and stor-able. This ‘datafication’ not only affects our individual behaviour, it also challenges our traditional notion of citizenship, our public sphere as a site of liberal democratic practice, and our sense of community.

This interdepartmental course is designed to examine digital citizenship from a variety of disciplines and fields of inquiry such as Media Studies, Critical Data Studies, Political Theory, Human Geography, Economics, Law, Gender and Postcolonial Studies.

Level Fall Spring Summer
1 HUMMES11: Introduction to Comparative Media Studies    
2*   HUMMES21: Visual Culture Studies: Studying Images, Still & Movingx  
3   INTMES31: The Digital Citizen: Mapping Spheres of Change i  

i interdepartmental
* it is adivised to follow Humanities Lab course, or one of the other indicated methods courses

Nina Köll, MA
Coordinator Media Studies
PhD Researcher at Utrecht University

Cinema Studies
Visual Culture Studies
Digital Culture & Critical Data Studies
Cultural Studies

Imar de Vries, PhD
New Media and Digital Culture
Virtual 3D worlds and mobile telephony
Innovation discourses, wireless technologies
Social media, augmented realities

Contact person

Nina Köll is the Media Studies track coordinator at UCU and has her office in Newton–Ll.