Lexicon of Media Studies Terms

Edison, Kinetophone

This project launches a student-produced online glossary of key terms in film and media studies. Through a growing number of illustrated entries, the Film & Media Lexicon will provide a descriptive and critical vocabulary for analyzing the form and content of moving images from the birth of cinema to present-day digital media culture.

The first set of terms comes from the work of students in FILM 251 “History of Cinema” (Fall 2017) taught by Brook Henkel. In their “Media Archeology Projects,” students assembled descriptive and reflective entries on the connections between early film history and their more familiar world of web-based media. Strikingly, the long history of diegetic absorption in cinema––losing oneself in the world of films in a darkened movie theater––has given way to the interactivity and brief attractions of online moving-image culture, which resembles far more the early non-narrative cinema of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With entries on keywords like “3-D,” “actuality,” “animation,” “attractions,” “immersion,” “interactivity,” “loops,” and “synchronization,” this work links the effects of past and present moving images and encourages us to reflect critically on both the promise and anxieties that arise with the introduction of new media.

Building on this small selection of initial keywords, the Film & Media Lexicon will hopefully expand to include a full range of illustrated entries on basic terms for film and media studies, including entries on shot types, editing, sound, etc., so that students have a handy resource for becoming knowledgeable in the ways that moving images profoundly shape and influence our experience of the world. Developing this vocabulary and helping students to become “fluent” in the languages of audiovisual media are the long-term aims of the project.

Project team