CCTP-711 Semiotics and Cognitive Technologies
Fall for 2017-2018
*Fulfills Core Methods Requirement.

This course introduces major topics of current research and theory on human meaning systems, the nature of symbolic cognition, and the functions of technical mediation from an interdisciplinary perspective. The main objective is learning the major features of human meaning systems and their recent implementations in media, interfaces, and computational architectures for a better understanding of their core functions and design principles that have “open extensibility” for new and future developments. Motivated by research in the cognitive sciences, many disciplines are now converging on major questions surrounding the nature of human symbolic cognition and cognitive technologies (the technologies for symbolic representation, media, information, and communication). We will draw from key research and theory in several intersecting fields: linguistics; the study of meaning systems and human symbolic artifacts (semiotics); communication and information theory; media theory and human-computer interface (HCI) design; theories of computation; cognitive anthropology and archaeology; artificial intelligence; and philosophy of language and mind.

Research programs in these fields address the big questions that we will investigate:

1) What is the current state of research on the human symbolic faculties, language, and the brain/mind; that is, what are the consequences of being the “symbolic species”?

2) How and why are all our cognitive symbolic capabilities and their material encoding systems necessarily intersubjective and collective?
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None


CCTP-711-01 Documentary & American History
Fall for 2017-2018
Mascaro, Thomas
Documentaries & American History is a seminar that explores interrelationships between the documentary form in film and television and the course of American history. Although not a media production course, students interested in media creation and historical documentary production will find this course provides a solid foundation for understanding how directors and news producers have used the documentary to serve audiences—through subject selection, artistic interpretation, writing excellence, and by tackling popular and unpopular themes.

Through readings and selected viewings, we will consider the origins of English-language documentary, in Britain, Canada, and the United States. We will touch on key documentary forms, including photojournalism and radio, from the 1930s and the Roosevelt era. Most of the course, however, will address history and documentaries since WWII, which may include, for example, the Cold War, Civil Rights, the Kennedy years, Vietnam, 1968, social movements of the 1970s, the Reagan years, the Clinton impeachment, the first term of Bush II, and 9/11.

We’ll read some of the fundamental works of documentary history and criticism, as well as various examples of documentary theory. Some viewing excerpts will occur in class; others will be required outside of class, on a limited basis. We should be able to recruit a few interesting guest speakers from the D. C. area.

Each student will be required to complete the research/proposal report for a historical documentary project suitable for network review. This will involve choosing a subject of the student’s interest, reviewing and summarizing background material in existence on the subject, compiling a list of expert/knowledgeable contacts, interviewing and summarizing notes, reporting on existing or possible visual components, and writing an annotated proposal. No more than three short papers will be assigned.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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