Media, Culture, and Society

Feb 2015

This is one of those classes that you didn't realize you loved until you walk out of the final. Professor V's methods are unconventional to say the least, but if you want deep class discussion and a solid explanation of modern media theory, this is the way to go. For a lot of classes, you get out what you put into it, but that is especially true with this one. Do the readings if you want to do well, but--more importantly--if you actually want to take something from this course.

Jul 2013

These reviews are unnecessarily harsh. While the professor was strict (ok very strict, he had minimal tolerance of phone/internet use in class) and unconventional, I can honestly say that this was one of the most useful classes I took in my time at Columbia. I work in social media now and have to say there isn't a week that passes that I don't feel compelled to reference Shirky, Lessig, Surowiecki (names you'll come across a lot throughout the course, they are all top scholars of the online/digital world) or topics we discussed in class related to online communities, privacy, and crowdsourcing. I got a B on the midterm (uncurved) and ended up with an A in the class... you'll be fine.

May 2013

The problem with Venkatesh is that you feel like you are being manipulated for his own gain instead of being in the class to learn. When you walk into Professor Venkatesh, you will like him. He is charismatic, humorous, and articulate. Everything he says will appeal to you for about five minutes until you realize that he is just talking out of his ass and says absolutely nothing of substance. He almost never moderates discussion, to point that irrelevant tangents consumer a huge portion of class time. In essence, he is the poorest example of the Socratic method that I have ever come across. Not only is Venkatesh unprofessional because he often shows up to class late, and tries to lecture via Skype under some pretty flimsy pretenses, it is also clear that he cares very little about the class. That being said, the TA's were exceptional and the readings were interesting for anyone who is not a sociology major. Honestly, if you care about this stuff, just get a copy of the syllabus and use Wikipedia. P.S. the TA's said they had never seen a un-curved test graded so harshly.

May 2013

I'm pretty sure Prof. Venkatesh was too busy trying to find new ways to steal money from Columbia to actually put effort into teaching this course. Too long, don't want to read? In short, for the course evaluation question: What improvements could be made to the course? I responded with don't offer it. This course felt like a drag the whole semester. Most of the readings were dull, and in no way made me want to engage with the material or participate in class. We spent a long time on some subjects than seemed irrelevant to the course. I felt like some of them readings and assignments had more to do with the instructor's interest and what his friends were working on than with their relevance to the course. The instructor often had mistakes on his power points that were distracting, and sometimes made the material incomprehensible even to himself. Sometimes he literally couldn't understand HIS OWN power points. He struggled to start videos on the internet sometimes, and this is a MEDIA class. Come on, he should really know how to work the sites he is teaching about. He gave a multiple Skype lectures that were obnoxious and didn't benefit the course. It was clear he just didn't want to show up for his own class, while still enforcing a strict attendance policy for his students. He once showed up 40 minutes late to class, and had the T.A.s teach until he arrived. I never really got the impression that he cared about this class at all. He only ever succeeded in engaging a handful of students who participated in lecture for the rest of the semester. Lectures were often dull, and just presented the material from the readings without raising interesting questions. The assignments were graded on a 0-1 scale, so even if you did the assignment you could potentially receive no credit for it. The exams were graded so harshly it felt like he wanted us to do poorly on them. Even the mean T.A. said she had never seen someone grade an exam so harshly. You had to use specific words in your short answers in order to get full credit. He also included quote identification without informing us before hand that it would be included on the exam. Do not take this course.

Apr 2013

Professor Venkatesh is not nearly as bad as everyone is making him out to be. His class is captivating and he really grabs the attention of his students for the entire hour and fifteen minutes. Yes he might have a bit of an ego but that just adds to the class. His lectures are full of information and the information is actually meaningful. Another reviewer said he's strict about computers but that is not applicable anymore. He lets students have their computers out for most classes. Sometimes with guest lecturers he feels this is inappropriate. His classes are filled with lots of reading which is pretty essential to do if you want to do well in the course. There are 2 memos (2-3 pages) that have 2 questions. They are not horribly difficult. If you go to class you should be able to answer them no problem. Success on the midterm depends on if you're doing the reading, attending class, and attending weekly discussion sections. Overall I would highly suggest Venkatesh for any student that wants a very engaged professor. He is definitely not the cookie cutter kind of teacher. He can be controversial at times but this makes class even more worth coming to (i.e. brought a prostitute for a guest lecturer).