Intercultural learning and the role of visual media

Date: 31 January, 2003
Location: CiLT
Event type: Seminar

Past Event Summary

An interdiscipinary event on the various uses, in undergraduate teaching, of visual media - film television and other visual representations - to promote intercutural awareness as part of a programme in area, transnational or postnational studies. The seminar explored the inter-disciplinary interfaces between film, media and cultural studies on the one hand and disciplines such as Geography, History and Politics on the other. It asked: How can visual media help to develop an understanding of cultural diversity, cultural difference and help advance intercultural awareness? The day comprised a keynote presentation and case study papers on aspects of this theme focussing upon examples of classroom practice.


10.00 - 10.30
10.30 - 11.00
Teaching American Mass Culture online: the example of Film Culture and Mass Consumption
Sue Currell (Nottingham)
11.00 - 11.30
From Fieldwork to Representation: A Framework for the Student Development of Multimedia Displays on Geographical and Historical Themes
M.W.J. Spaul (Anglia Polyterchnic University)
11.30 - 11.45
11.45 - 12.15
Teaching Television Across Languages : Common features and cultural differences in a specially designed module for European students
Christine Foulkes and Bernadette Hughes (Liverpool John Moore’s)
12.15- 12.45
Polish Political Broadcasts as a Issue of Media Transformation
John M Bates (Glasgow)
12.45- 13.45
13.45 -14.15
Advertising culture: outdoor advertising in France
Sally Wagstaffe (Durham)
14.15 - 14.45
The eyes have it – Spanish social, cultural and political contexts
Michael Shade (University of Brighton)
14.45 - 15.00
15.00 - 15.30
Representations of Italian Fascism in cinema
Donata Puntil (King’s)


Sue Currell (Nottingham)

Teaching American Mass Culture online: the example of Film Culture and Mass Consumption

This paper will describe some of the pedagogical and practical outcomes of teaching a course using online visual materials in American studies.

The paper discusses the progress of the module Film Culture and Mass Consumption which examines the impact of American consumer culture on the development of the modern film industry between the years 1890-1940. Emphasis was placed on the production and consumption of entertainment within social and historical contexts. Course materials, primary and secondary, were a combination of written texts, films and online multimedia materials collected together in a course web site at The films, texts and website materials illustrated how the culture industry negotiated with the emergence of mass leisure during a period of rapid modernisation. The course was divided thematically to examine how issues of race, gender and class emerged within the intersection of film culture with consumer culture. The course was structured by a series of seminars that were a mixture of lecture, seminar (one third) and weekly Internet workshop (two thirds).

This combination of texts, films, web resources and mixed teaching styles aimed to provide a dynamic ‘constructivist’ approach to learning, where the teaching style was a combination of instructor (lecture), guide (seminar) and facilitator (Internet workshop). I wanted to impart a certain amount of new information but at the same time I wanted the students to increase their independent learning skills and attempt to construct their own knowledge with the primary resources made available to them. In this way I hoped to give them the chance to follow conceptual learning patterns, to undertake document and visual analysis, to undertake a virtual field trip into the historical resources available, and to learn collaboratively by working in groups and also connect the theories that we read with the visual evidence we examined.

This paper will focus on how the students responded to the online collection of silent films at the Library of Congress and the pedagogical issues involved in using online archival materials to teach American culture.

Sue Currell is a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the School of American and Canadian Studies, University Park, University of Nottingham.

M.W.J. Spaul (Anglia Polyterchnic University)

From Fieldwork to Representation: A Framework for the Student Development of Multimedia Displays on Geographical and Historical Themes.

This paper addresses the problems involved the provision of an investigation and development framework which helps students of multimedia - whose subject focus is largely pragmatic and technical - to achieve a degree of cultural sensitivity and depth in treatments of geographical and historical themes. An acceptance that such students cannot be expected instantly to acquire the background knowledge of a cultural geographer or a historian leads to an approach based on providing a structured framework for investigation and development which distils - in the form of guidelines and questions - some of the experience which those in cultural disciplines might be expected to have acquired. The overall structure of the framework is derived from narrative theory, and leads the student through a process of the imagination of a social space or historical experience, to the plotting of a presentational strategy, and finally to the construction of a multimedia text. At each stage an emphasis is placed on the variety of perspectives and choices involved, so that the student is encouraged not to settle on unthinking, conventional representations.

Department and Courses: the department teaches a variety of multimedia courses, but the focus of this work is part of an undergraduate degree course which aims to produce multimedia generalists - equally at home in the use of technoogy and the design of content (in various media). In order to achieve this end, student work is focused on a series of projects which specify an application area, a desired product and a technology.

Modules Taught: two of the modules which develop the above strategy. These focus on:

  1. The representation of a social space seen through a chosen perspective. The student represents a part of a city in which use is contested between different groups (developers, old industrial units, young graffiti artists, ...), and a space of their own choosing.
  2. The representation of a heritage site or historical theme connected with a site in which they are encouraged to open up historical perspectives different from those treated in tourist guidebooks, etc.

Expertise: communication theory and multimedia, cultural geography.

Christine Foulkes and Bernadette Hughes (Liverpool John Moore’s)

Teaching Television Across Languages : Common features and cultural differences in a specially designed module for European students.

Television is a powerful tool for teaching language and culture at undergraduate level. Whilst it is a clear advantage that most students have a genuine interest in the medium, perception of the world tends to be naturally ethnocentrically-based (Van Ginneken 1998), therefore some form of reflection is required in order to raise awareness of television’s cultural specificities in a student’s native country. This can best be achieved by comparison with another country or countries, as common cultural television “language” can be identified along with contrasting approaches and differences.

In order to create opportunity for such reflection and cross-cultural comparison, the School of Languages has created a module entitled “ Television across Languages”, designed to foster cross-cultural communication between Home and European exchange students at Liverpool John Moores University . The module is topic-based, task-oriented, discussion-driven and team-taught. The tasks are set in the context of cross-cultural television analysis. In the main, students work in mixed language groups (French, German, Italian, English, and Spanish students) with English as the lingua franca.

This paper outlines the module’s content and selects examples used during the course and culminates with a sample of students’ work and reflections on the module.

The module Television Across Languages is a level 2 option available across a number of programmes open to both home and exchange students. The School of Languages has approximately 550 students and each year receives about 180 exchange students from 60 partner Universities in Europe. This particular module has 35 students of whom 30 are European Socrates Exchange students. Improving language skills is the prime consideration and in this course television is the focus with French, German, English, Spanish and Italian television examples used to study certain linguistic features and in particular the cultural features of television. A distinctive aspect of the module’s delivery is that a team of teaching staff are involved with varying levels of participation.

Christine Foulkes : Senior Lecturer in English to Speakers of Other Languages, with research interests in intercultural communication and the impact of the Socrates Programme on students and the university.Christine teaches courses in Coping with Culture, Language in British Television and International Business English.

Bernadette Hughes : Senior Lecturer in French, with research interest in using television in the classroom. Bernadette teaches French language including an oral-aural based course in mixed French-English groups and a special option in Language in Television.

John M Bates (Glasgow)

Polish Political Broadcasts as a Issue of Media Transformation.

The thesis of this paper is that the analysis of Polish party political demonstrates not only the post-communist transformation of Polish mass media but also aids the understanding of the degree to which that transformation may be seen in terms of the westernization/Americanization of Polish culture at large. Political advertising in Poland is a phenomenon of relatively recent date (post-1989, which, due to the presence of Western advertising companies, has rapidly achieved a high degree of sophistication. The viewing of these adverts constitutes part of the Polish element of the Slavonic Department's Honours courses in (lecture-driven) 'The Mass Media in Central and Eastern Europe' and (seminar-based) 'Further Issues Concerning the Mass Media in Central and Eastern Europe'. These are available to students both with and without any knowledge of one or more of the Slavonic languages (Czech, Polish, and Russian) taught within the department. Aside from the historical dimension - the study of the infrastructural changes that have occurred in the Polish media since 1989 - these courses seek to provide students with the opportunity to explore more deeply the content of media products of each of the three countries in question.

In the Polish case, the analysis follows a three-stage process. Firstly, this involves a brief overview of political advertising with particular reference to the American experience, with representative samples of Polish adverts from a recent campaign. Secondly, two longer excerpts (complete adverts from the same campaign: one slick, professional, Westernized, the other 'native') are presented as a prelude to discussion. Thirdly, the individual student's research contextualises these adverts by using a whole hour-long slot from the same campaign as analytical material. Although, on the surface, Polish adverts seem to be following a Western trajectory, mere duplication of those strategies, especially in respect of negative campaigning, do not so far appear to enjoy unalloyed success with the electorate. The reasons for this may be manifold - from technical ineptitude on the part of the users to the electorate's distrust of overt propaganda reminiscent of the communist era. The composition of the class, which includes British, continental as well as Central East European students, provides a dynamic from what may be usual in media studies. Certainly, one of the purposes of our courses is to understand the extent to which the post-communist transformation of the media scenes in Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic may be understood as conforming to Western models. At the same time we seek to challenge the notion that this is the eventual destination of post-communist media in these countries and, indeed, the very idea that a single Western model exists to which they may conform.

Dr Sally Wagstaffe (Durham)

Advertising culture: outdoor advertising in France

Outdoor advertising is a striking feature of the urban landscape in France. The images employed by companies to promote their products and services and to build brand identity are based on extensive market research and can provide valuable insights into the evolution of French cultural values and attitudes. In a recently-introduced final-year undergraduate module, ‘Marketing and the Media in France’, students produce group reports and PowerPoint presentations based on research into the socio-cultural and economic background to recent outdoor advertising campaigns (complemented by detailed analysis of the images employed). This paper will use examples from sectors such as transportation, food, drink and clothing – illustrated by campaigns such as those produced for the RATP, Eurostar, McDonalds, Perrier and Eram – to suggest the potential of such images as resources to reflect on cultural difference and intercultural awareness and will conclude with a review of relevant material available on-line and elsewhere.

Dr Sally Wagstaffe is a Senior Language Instructor in the School of Modern European Languages at the University of Durham. She teaches on translation courses from first-year undergraduate to postgraduate level, is responsible for the final-year module mentioned above (‘Marketing and the Media in France’), and also coordinates the second-year core language module in which students prepare for their ‘year abroad’ and for the individual research project they will undertake during this year away. She has previously worked on a research project in the School of Education in Durham on ‘cultural awareness for advanced language learners’.

Michael Shade (University of Brighton)

The eyes have it

Many students following non-specialist post-A level language courses appear to have significant gaps in their awareness of the Spanish political, social and cultural contexts, and course requirements and limitations of time can preclude in-depth study of these areas. This talk discusses an attempt to use cinema as a vehicle for the introduction of aspects of the Spanish context into such courses, whilst retaining the focus on language development which is often their principal characteristic. The classes involved included both younger and more mature students, with varying levels of interest in film and a wide range of personal experience of Spain. Two main themes emerged from the selection of extracts used: the response of creative artists to dictatorship, censorship and the transition to democracy, and the seemingly all-pervasive imagery of the eye.

Michael Shade is a Senior Lecturer, teaching Spanish language at all levels, mostly on Institution-wide Language ProgrammeICT module to PGCE Languagesclass on Spanish Cinema within module on European Media


Donata Puntil (King’s)

Representations of Italian Fascism in Cinema

As a lecturer in Italian language, literature and cultural studies I make extensive use of films to introduce and explore the content of my lessons. I use cinema both as a subject in its own right and as a medium to convey other concepts, ideas and theories expressed in film. In addition to a specific class in Italian Film history I teach a class in Contemporary Italian Culture at King’s College London in which I use cinema extensively to convey aspects of the syllabus to students. By watching and analysing relevant films, students are encouraged to place them against their historical background. This brings them into contact not only with historical facts and events but with the whole social, economic and cultural framework of the period, providing a level of context which can be very difficult to glean from written sources.

In my experience students respond very positively to the use of film in the classroom because they experience a more engaging and stimulating approach to subjects which otherwise they may find hard to relate to.

The example I would like to present is a selection of films I use in the contemporary culture course to teach students about the period of Fascism in Italy. Through excerpts from selected films I would like to show students different representations of Fascism in cinema which give them far more than simple historical facts. In this way I try to engage them more actively in the understanding of an event or period which influenced not only Italian history but a whole way of living, from a social, ideological, economical and cultural point of view.

I will show short extracts from the following four films which give different perspectives on Italian Fascism.

‘Il giardino dei Finzi Contini’ 1970 by Vittorio De Sica
De Sica tells the story of an aristocratic jewish family in Ferrara who believe their status will protect them from fascism.

‘Una giornata particolare’ 1977 by Ettore Scola
Although this excerpt is set on the day that Hitler came to Rome to meet Mussolini, the event remains in the background of film which focuses instead on the life of a man and woman meeting and falling in love on that particular day.

‘Il conformista’ 1970 by Bernardo Bertolucci
Based on a work of literature, Bertolucci’s film examines the intricate and tyrannical system of hierarchy at the heart of fascist power.

‘SalÒ’ 1975 by Pierpaolo Pasolini
A provocative and controversial representation of the Republic of Salo: Hitler’s last attempt to save Mussolini’s power. Pasolini uses extreme sexual behaviour to symoblise fascism.