Film and Technocultural Studies Join Forces to Form CaTS

Students and faculty at UC Davis will have to get accustomed to a new acronym on campus as CaTS makes its debut this fall. Long in the works, CaTS, with no relation to the Department of Animal Science, refers instead to the newly merged programs of Film Studies and Technocultural Studies.

Completed in July, the merger brought together the expertise and specialties of two popular programs and their faculty into one now known as Cinema and Technocultural Studies (CaTS).

The new program began to take shape through conversations among scholars from both programs. Faculty had a growing sense that the programs could be intellectually enriched by dialogue and by merging faculty, said Jaimey Fisher, director of CaTS and associate professor of German. The merger was driven by a groundswell of people recognizing that they could benefit from working together and pooling resources.

“This was the right time for the merger,” said Fisher. “Over the past century, we have seen film changing culture in many ways. Recently, it has become increasingly clear that digital technologies are making even more dramatic changes in our culture. These merged disciplines are asking important questions for the humanities as a whole at UC Davis.”

One of the most exciting things about the merger, said Fisher, is the way in which the disciplines build upon each other. Film studies is an established discipline with a long critical history, whereas Technocultural Studies is an exciting new discipline that is generating a lot of interest and asking challenging new questions, according to Fisher.

Film Studies addresses the history, theory, and culture of film and asks questions about films themselves as texts. Technocultural Studies concentrates on transdisciplinary approaches to artistic, cultural, and scholarly production in contemporary media and digital arts as well as concerns the arts share with scientific and technological disciplines.

Cinema and Technocultural Studies combines these areas of study. The new program integrates analysis of audio-visual and digital texts with their theoretical underpinnings and their methods of production. The program also addresses technology’s impact on culture in its many forms and fields. CaTS faculty interweave teaching and research on these histories, theories, and practices.

Current fields in CaTS include the history and analysis of film and video, film and video production, electronic music, digital content creation and design, the digital arts, community media and activism, animation, and photography– as well as the theories and politics of these various areas.

Practical and curricular concerns also played a role in the merger. According to Fisher, the Film Studies program has long wanted to offer film production courses, but had neither the facilities nor the faculty. The Film Studies program had no physical space. Technocultural Studies had faculty and the Art Annex facility, and they were already teaching film production. The fit seemed natural, said Fisher. When the renovation of Cruess Hall is complete, the CaTS program plans to have a home there.

Since the programs formally merged in July, faculty have been talking to each other in interesting and productive ways, said Fisher. The program committee is hard at work developing courses for the undergraduate major and minor, and hopes eventually to establish a graduate program. Fisher estimates that approval of the undergraduate major will take another year.

Students who are currently enrolled in either program should not be concerned about their ability to finish their coursework, Fisher noted. The two current majors in Film Studies and Technocultural Studies will persist as long as currently enrolled students are moving through them.

The merger will provide current and future students a greater variety of course offerings, including exciting new undergraduate courses driven by new faculty. Once approved, this will be a large major. Currently, Technocultural Studies enrolls roughly 70 undergraduate majors, while Film Studies has nearly 100.

“We want to emphasize that we are not discarding either side,” stressed Fisher. “Both programs have interesting faculty, students, and alumni who are doing excellent work. Rather, we are building a bigger structure so that both programs can augment each other.”

The two programs bring together some dynamic, high profile faculty. And since the merger, more faculty who were not previously affiliated with the programs have expressed interest. More information about the program appears on the CaTS website: http://catcs.ucdavis.edu/