Colgate Syllabus: Activist Media

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Editor’s note: Wondering what’s happening in the classroom at Colgate? Here’s a real-time glimpse into academic life on campus — a syllabus from a course underway this semester.

FMST 376 Activist Media
Eli Horwatt, Visiting Assistant Professor in Film and Media Studies
TR 1:20–2:35 p.m., Bryan Hall Classroom

Course description

This course outlines the historical roots of the contemporary activist media environment, examining the role of new media as a rhetorical tool for political transformation. This course will ground students in 20th-century histories and theories of activist media, with a focus on the role of student mobilizations from the civil rights movement in the 1960s to contemporary campus activism. A toolkit of techniques and strategies will also be evaluated and explored as potential sources for creative projects by student practitioners. Special attention will be paid to the contemporary landscape of activist media and its intersections with online activist movements, particularly as they pertain to higher education.

Major assignments

Professor Horwatt began the semester by asking his students “How does art change you, and how does activism transform your behavior?” The hope, according to Professor Horwatt, is that every assignment brings the students closer to being able to answer that question. Students conceptualize interventions that could be performed on campus, such as projections onto buildings to raise awareness for a cause, or “invisible theater” performances in busy areas such as the dining hall or the quad.

Class format

Splinter groups break off at the beginning of each class and create discussion questions based on the readings. When the class reconvenes, each splinter group is responsible for facilitating a dialogue. Professor Horwatt will provide examples and reframe questions, but the students are largely responsible for guiding class discussion.

The professor says

“In conjunction with this class and through a Colgate Arts Council grant, I’ve been able to bring four artist-activists to campus. These speakers that I was able to bring, including one of the original organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement, are giving workshops and very pragmatically engaging with these students. The students engage themselves with these movements and are able to learn a lot from the experiences of the artists. This opportunity provided by the CAC has really brought a new dynamic to the course.”