Faculty Experiences - Rhonda Hammer

Rhonda Hammer - photoRHONDA HAMMER

Women's Studies

Center for the Study of Women

Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?

How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?


Relate theory to practice

Media literacy





Teaching Critical Media Literacies: Theory, Praxis and Empowerment

Indeed, since we are “immersed from cradle to grave” in media culture, it is essential that we teach and continue to learn about the multidimensional, and complex nature of media production and critical cultural studies.

We are immersed from cradle to grave in a media society. Thus, it is essential that students learn how to understand, interpret, and criticize meaning and messages of media culture. My course, “Critical Media Literacy and the Politics of Gender: Theory and Practice,” initiated at UCLA in 2002, is designed to meet these contemporary needs through the study of scholarly writings, media analysis and the creation of media texts. This course is a collaborative effort and is co-sponsored by Women’s Studies and Education, thanks to the support of Christine Littleton, Danny Solorzano, Sandra Graham, John Hawkins, and Kris Gutierrez. It is open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

This course meets 21st century needs for media literacies which involves teaching students to use technologies and theories in a critical and practical manner. Students are required to produce a final group critical media project which can be a video, web page, “zine,” or PowerPoint presentation using multiple technologies available through a diversity of UCLA resources, which they must formally present at the end of the class. They also complete a number of assignments which are designed to teach them technological and basic production skills. These include, camera shooting techniques, storyboard, video editing exercises and the production of an introductory web page, using I-Movie and Dreamweaver.

Because I believe so strongly in the dialectic of theory and practice, the students are required to do particular readings from the course reader, which I designed, as well as produce a short analytical final paper in which they discuss their group project within the context of critical media literacy. Many students use these papers when presenting their media projects in other forums and/or conferences.

The course has a three hour seminar and a one hour lab each week. In the readings and lectures, I draw upon cultural studies, feminisms, film, critical race and critical pedagogy theories and practices to advance critical media literacy and to enable students to become better ale to understand and produce works in the new technology and media environment which mediate our everyday lives. Moreover, many of these students incorporate these skills into pedagogical research, projects and careers.

Students are asked to incorporate course readings, guest lectures and films presented in the class in their final paper. Notions of ideology and hegemony as well as the “politics of representation” in media (which includes dimensions of sexism, racism, classism and homophobia, to name a few) are central concerns. Also the ideas and realities of resistance, social and political change and agency are emphasized. Guest lecturers have included independent film/videomakers as well as cultural studies, critical pedagogy and information science scholars.

Since 2002, media productions have included and examined the following: gendered stereotypes and children’s toys (this group also developed curriculum and taught an elementary class at Leo Polite Elementary School, based on their research); depictions and analysis of women in “Bollywood” films; women’s roles and male domination in the rock music industry (which emphasized dimensions of the LA environment); female sexuality and contemporary grass roots art; a mockumentary on “mixed race” couples; a video and web page presentation description three general “ages” of women (“maiden,” “mother,” and “crone”); a performance piece on young women, advertising and body image; an examination of plastic surgery and plastic surgery television programs; an examination of Sex In the City; depictions of queer sexuality in consumer and alternative media: same sex marriage; cinematic portrayals of Iranian women; sexualization of girls in media; cell phone culture; stereotyping of Asian students at UCLA; media representations of Muslim women; the politics of breast feeding; US politics and terror wars in Iraq as well as a number of web pages, including one on “Cultural Studies” and a power-point presentation on masculinity and presidential candidates, to name a few.

These productions are quite professional and provide for excellent pedagogical resources, given that most of the students had no prior technical experience before taking this class.

According to USC Dean Elizabeth Daley, “The greatest divide is between those who can read and write with media and those who can’t” (2005). This course addresses these most important concerns and provides students with opportunities to become literate in the ever evolving technological forms of our everyday lives.
  • For information regarding the full article: "Teaching Critical Media Literacies: Theory, Praxis and Empowerment" please contact Dr. Hammer at rhammer@ucla.edu

  • Article excerpt, May 2006