home  •    about us  •    courses  •    student work  •    alumni news  •    what's new

Film and Media: Educational Areas and Skills

Film and Media emerged in academia, including Queen's University, at precisely the moment that the explanatory power of isolated disciplinary work began to be questioned. Initially staffed by people trained outside film (in areas such as literature, communications, fine arts, and sociology), Film and Media became one of the principal sites of interdisciplinary exploration, representing a shift from the study of separate art forms to the analysis of cultural representation in general. More specifically, Film and Media began to address the relationships among representation, social structure, the individual-as-cultural- consumer, and the production and reproduction of power. For this reason, it evolved as an "inter-discipline," integrating aesthetics, semiotics, psychoanalysis, literary theory, theories of political economy, feminism, and socio-cultural theory. Moreover, the breadth of its theory has yielded a corresponding breadth of inquiry, so as Film and Media has evolved, it has come to address not just cinema but the larger landscape of twentieth- century cultural representation.


  • Aesthetics. Cinema has frequently been called the most important art of our time, and for much of the twentieth century it has been the most popular and innovative form of major aesthetic expression--lending itself to radical experimentation and undergoing evolution at breathtaking speed. One of the formative goals of Film and Media has been the analysis of cinema's importance, popularity, originality, and evolution. Now, television has joined film as a dynamic form of contemporary technological/aesthetic expression, with its own potential for creativity and rapid evolution. Inquiry into the aesthetics of the moving image--and of technological production itself--remains one of the crucial sites of contemporary intellectual inquiry.

  • History. Via film and television, Film and Media addresses the history of representation in the twentieth century. At the same time, given the extensive reproduction of pre-twentieth- century history made possible by film and television, we are inevitably engaged in an analysis of the construction of history as a mediated, fictionalizing, process. In other words, we are vitally concerned with history itself as representation. This in turn engages us in issues central to the "New Historicism" and debates about history vs. historiography ("fact" vs. modes of writing/creating history).

  • Philosophy. Debates within film about the nature of perception have, inevitably, been tied to theories of epistemology, while discussions of photography, realism, and "the real" have been debates about ontology. More recently, the reformulation of film theory along poststructuralist and feminist lines has ensured the centrality of philosophical issues to the study of film. Both poststructuralism and feminism constitute a profound quarrel with the Western philosophical tradition, and this quarrel is at the centre of contemporary theorizing about reference, representation, narrative, spectatorship, sexual difference, ideology, and the effects of cinema as technology and institution.

  • Science. Though we do not "do" science, Film and Media does address technology as an "applied science." We also address science/technology as an ideological axis that has been crucial to the development of film. Through courses such as "Culture and Technology" and "Culture and Representation" we examine the ways in which science and technology both engage in representation (through imaging systems, information technologies, as well as media) and are constructed as objects of representation (what we know as "Science" and "Technology" we know largely through cultural representation).

    Of course, as a programme engaged in filmmaking and video production, we also have a hands-on approach to technology--not only with cameras and editing equipment, but, as a result of recent developments, with highly sophisticated computer equipment.

  • Axiology. Our focus on representation, ideology, and the production of meaning constitutes, above all else, an inquiry into cultural value. Supported by the weight of contemporary cultural theory, we believe that representation is the mode in which cultural values are most effectively produced (whether to the benefit or the detriment of the "consumer"). Only by scrutinizing what our society represents and how it represents itself can we determine what it deems important.


  • Literacy. The Department of Film and Media educates students in technology- and computer-based audio-visual literacy. Moreover, it is not a "how to" programme so much as a "how/why" programme. Literacy in Film and Media means not just using the equipment, but knowing what its use entails aesthetically and ideologically.

    Also, consistent with the role of the university as a whole, the Department is committed to the development of strong verbal skills, both written and oral. We do not feel one can divorce technical and audio-visual literacy from language literacy. Three of our full-time faculty have degrees in English literature, and our language and literature training is reflected in our emphasis on intensive writing assignments and oral presentations.

  • Problem Solving. Our production courses offer an opportunity unique within the faculty for developing practical skills and a strong sense of fiscal responsibility. Students learn to develop budgets and precise working schedules, and obtain funding from private, government, or community sources. They do this through the development of culturally and economically relevant projects which are then effectively presented to prospective sponsors. They learn to organize human resources and to work under extreme pressure to meet tight deadlines. This is not a matter of mere academic simulation. Students bear the full financial responsibility for their projects, and deadlines are often non-negotiable: determined by sponsoring organizations and by the annual public screening date for student films at the Princess Court Cinema.

    Along with other departments in the Faculty, we instill traditional academic problem-solving skills in our students through an emphasis on research, peer cooperation (group work), and the development of projects which address theoretical problems and propose both theoretical and practical solutions.

  • Critical Thinking. Critical methodology is central to pedagogy and learning within the Department of Film and Media. The various theoretical approaches we employ ensure that our students develop a strong analytical orientation toward contemporary culture. They are especially directed to the role of media in the social construction of knowledge. Moreover, the Department is unique in requiring students to gauge (and engage) their own cultural production (film- and video-making) in the light of ideology and social conditioning. Perhaps most important, the Department insists that students apply critical methods from several disciplines to objects of inquiry that themselves cross disciplines (e.g., television as political, social, psychological, economic, and aesthetic force). We feel that this kind of flexible, "global," thinking is fundamental for problem-solving in our multi-informational society.

  • Communication. Not only is the Department of Film and Media engaged in developing communication skills on every level--verbal, aural, visual, and technological--it is vitally concerned with the multiple roles of communication as an industry, a political tool, a means of accessing information, and a principal source of cultural meaning in our daily lives. To a large extent, this means addressing film and television as part of the history and modern fabric of communications. However, with the numerous recent alliances of communications companies and companies engaged in new information technologies, it is also clear that traditional distinctions between information and communication are disappearing. Through courses such as Culture and Technology, the Department of Film and Media is keeping abreast of this shift and making sure that Communication, both in relation to film and television and in terms of its evolving contemporary manifestations, is an important part of the program.

Go to Introduction to the Department.

Go to Programs in Film and Media.

Queen's University