Comprehensive Exams Reading Lists

It’s time for my comprehensive exams in my Ph.D. program, meaning I get to spend the next few months reading non-stop. I’ve decided to share my comprehensive exam lists in the interest of helping anyone looking for resources to understand digital media industries and culture. A.J Christian undertook a similar task in 2010 because he had difficulty finding lists in media industry studies, and things haven’t changed much.

The following lists provide a non-comprehensive account of key issues in each of my five comprehensive exam areas (Digital media studies; global media industry studies; labor, participation, and exploitation; neo-Marxist cultural theory; and qualitative methods. Because each section of my comprehensive exams focuses on a unique area, it would take years to read through everything written on the topics.

Primary focus: Digital media studies


Baym, N. (2010). Personal connections in the digital age. Malden, MA: Polity. p. 24-56

Davis, J. L., & Chouinard, J. B. (2016). Theorizing affordances: From request to refuse. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society36(4), 241-248.

Gaver, W. (1996). Affordances for interaction: The social is material for design. Ecological Psychology, 8(2), 111–129.

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (pp. 127–143; “The Theory of Affordances”).

Hutchby, I. (2001). Technologies, texts and affordances. Sociology, 35(2), 441–456.

Nagy, P., & Neff, G. (2015). Imagined affordance: Reconstructing a keyword for communication theory. Social Media + Society, 1(2), 1–9.

Norman, D. A. (2002). The design of everyday things (2nd edition). New York: Basic Book. (pp. 1-33; 81-92).

Shaw, A. (2017). Encoding and decoding affordances: Stuart Hall and interactive media technologies. media, culture & society39(4), 592-602.

Audience Measurement, Big Data, and Programming Decisions

Ahlkvist, J. A. (2001). Programming philosophies and the rationalization of music radio. Media, Culture & Society23(3), 339-358.

Andrejevic, M. (2007). Surveillance in the digital enclosure. The Communication Review10(4), 295-317.

Ang, I. (2006). Desperately seeking the audience. Routledge.

Baym, N. K. (2013). Data not seen: The uses and shortcomings of social media metrics. First Monday18(10).

Christian, A.J. (2018). Scaling Open TV. In Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television. (pp. 212-252) NYU Press.

Fuchs, C. (2012). The political economy of privacy on Facebook. Television & New Media13(2), 139-159.

Gitlin, T. (2005). Inside prime time. Routledge. (Selections on producers’ relationships with audiences).

Gray, J. (2017). Reviving audience studies. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 34(1), 79-83.

Havens, T. (2014). Media programming in an era of big data. Media Industries Journal1(2).

Kelly, J. P. (2017). Television by the numbers: The challenges of audience measurement in the age of Big Data. Convergence, Online First.

Napoli, P. M. (2011). Audience evolution: New technologies and the transformation of media audiences. Columbia University Press.

Powdermaker, H. (1979). Hollywood, the dream factory. Ayer Company Pub. (Selections on producers’ relationships with audiences).

Smythe, D. W. (1981). On the audience commodity and its work. Media and cultural studies: Keyworks, 230-56.

Turow, J. (2012). The daily you: How the new advertising industry is defining your identity and your worth. Yale University Press.


Bucher, T. (2016). The algorithmic imaginary: Exploring the ordinary affects of Facebook algorithms. Information, Communication & Society, Online First.

Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. J. Boczkowski, & K. A. Foot (eds.), Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society. (pp. 167–193). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hallinan, B., & Striphas, T. (2016). Recommended for you: The Netflix Prize and the production of algorithmic culture. New Media & Society18(1), 117-137.

Napoli, P. M. (2014). Automated media: An institutional theory perspective on algorithmic media production and consumption. Communication Theory, 24(3), 340–360.

—. (2014). On automation in media industries: Integrating algorithmic media production into media industries scholarship. Media Industries Journal1(1).

Noble, U. N. (2018). Algorithms of Oppression. (pp. 1-63) NYU Press

Pasquale, F. (2015). The black box society: The secret algorithms that control money and information. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Secondary focus: Global media industry studies

Anderson, C. 2008. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion.

Caldwell, J. T. (2008). Production culture: Industrial reflexivity and critical practice in film and television. Duke University Press.

Caves, R. E. (2000). Creative industries: Contracts between art and commerce (No. 20). Harvard University Press.

Cunningham, Stuart, & Flew, Terry. (2015). Reconsidering Media Economics: From Orthodoxies to Heterodoxies. Media Industries Journal, 2.1, 1-18.

Curtin, M. (2007). Playing to the world’s biggest audience: The globalization of Chinese film and TV. Univ of California Press.

Curtin, M., Holt, J., & Samson, K. (2014). Distribution revolution: Conversations about the digital future of film and television. Univ of California Press.

Dahlgren, P. (1996). Media logic in cyberspace: Repositioning journalism and its publics. Javnost-the public3(3), 59-72.

Doyle, G. (2013). Understanding media economics. SAGE Publications Limited.

Fitzgerald, S. W. (2011). Corporations and cultural industries: Time warner, bertelsmann, and news corporation. Lexington Books.

Havens, T., Lotz, A. D., & Tinic, S. (2009). Critical media industry studies: A research approach. Communication, Culture & Critique2(2), 234-253.

Hesmondhalgh, D. (2010). Media industry studies, media production studies. Media and society, 145-163.

Holt, J., & Perren, A. (Eds.). (2011). Chapters 7-11. Media industries: history, theory, and method. John Wiley & Sons.

Hoskins, C., McFadyen, S., & Finn, A. (1997). Global television and film: An introduction to the economics of the business (p. 34). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Pop cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of convergence. Fans, bloggers, and gamers: Exploring participatory culture. NYU Press.

Kraidy, M. (2017). Hybridity, or the cultural logic of globalization. Temple University Press.

Lobato, R., & Thomas, J. (2018). The informal media economy. John Wiley & Sons.

Lotz, A. (2014). The Television Will Be Revolutionized.

—. (2017). Portals: A treatise on internet-distributed television. University of Michigan.

Miege, B. (1987). The Logics at Work in the New Cultural Industries. Media, Culture and Society 9, p. 273-89.

—. (1989). The capitalization of cultural production. Intl General.

Miller, T. et al. (2005). Global hollywood 2. BFI Publishing.

Schiller, H. I. (1991). Not yet the post‐imperialist era. Critical Studies in Media Communication8(1), 13-28.

Straubhaar, J. D. (1991). Beyond media imperialism: Assymetrical interdependence and cultural proximity. Critical Studies in media communication8(1), 39-59.

—. (2015). Global, regional, transnational, translocal. Media Industries Journal1(3).

Tomlinson, J. (2001). Cultural imperialism: A critical introduction. A&C Black.

Wasko, J., & Meehan, E. R. (2013). Critical crossroads or parallel routes? Political economy and new approaches to studying media industries and cultural products. Cinema Journal52(3), 150-157.

Emphasis area: Labor, participation, and exploitation

Andrejevic, M. (2007). iSpy: Surveillance and power in the interactive era (p. 182). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

—. (2008). Watching television without pity: The productivity of online fans. Television & New Media, 9(1), 24–46.

Banks, J., & Deuze, M. (2009). Co-creative labour. International journal of cultural studies12(5), 419-431.

Banks, J., & Potts, J. (2010). Co-creating games: A co-evolutionary analysis. New Media & Society, 12(2), 253–270.

Baym, N. K., & Burnett, R. (2009). Amateur experts: International fan labour in Swedish independent music. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 12(5), 433-449.

Booth, P. (2010). Digital fandom: New media studies. Peter Lang.

Duffy, B. E. (2016). The romance of work: Gender and aspirational labour in the digital culture industries. International Journal of Cultural Studies19(4), 441-457.

Dyer–Witheford, N. (2005). Cyber–negri: General intellect and immaterial labor. In: T.S. Murphy and A.–K. Mustapha (editors). Resistance in practice: The philosophy of Antonio Negri. London: Pluto Press, pp. 136–162.

Fuchs, C. (2012). Class and exploitation on the internet. In Digital labor: The Internet as playground and factory. Routledge.

Gill, R., & Pratt, A. (2008). In the social factory? Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work. Theory, culture & society25(7-8), 1-30.

Gray, J., Sandvoss, C., & Harrington, C. L. (2007). Fandom: Identities and communities in a mediated world. New York: NYU Press.

Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The participation divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Community and Society11(2), 239-256.

Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. Routledge.

—. (2006). Introduction: “Worship at the Altar of Convergence”: A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change and “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars: Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry.” Convergence Culture.

Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2018). Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. NYU press.

Lazzarato, M. (1996). Immaterial labor. Radical thought in Italy: A potential politics1996, 133-47.

Marx, K. (1844). Economic and philosophical manuscripts. Early writings333.

Milner, R. M. (2009). Working for the text: Fan labor and the New Organization. International Journal of Cultural Studies12(5), 491-508.

Ross, A. (2012). In search of the lost paycheck. In Digital labor: The Internet as playground and factory. Routledge.

Sayers, S. (2013). Marxism and human nature. Routledge.

Schäfer, M. T. (2011). Bastard culture! How user participation transforms cultural production. Amsterdam University Press.

Scholz, T. (2012). Why digital labor matters now. In Digital labor: The Internet as playground and factory. Routledge.

Smythe, D. W. (1981) “On the audience commodity and its work.” In M. G. Durham & D. M. Kellner (eds.), Media and cultural studies: Keyworks. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 230-256

Terranova, T. (2000). Free labor: Producing culture for the digital economy. Social Text, 18(2), 33–58.

Van Dijck, J. (2009). Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media, Culture & Society, 31(1), 41–58.

Zwass, V. (2010). Co-creation: Toward a taxonomy and an integrated research perspective. International journal of electronic commerce15(1), 11-48.

Theory: Neo-marxism, class hierarchies, and distinction

Barthes, R. (1977). Death of the Author. Image-Music-Text.

Benjamin, W. (1935). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.

Bourdieu, P. (2013). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Routledge.

— (1993). The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature. Columbia University Press.

— (1996). The rules of art: Genesis and structure of the literary field. Stanford University Press.

Coombe, R. J. (1998). The cultural life of intellectual properties: Authorship, appropriation, and the law. Duke University Press.

De Certeau, M. (1984). Introduction. The practice of everyday life. University of California.

Foucault, M. (1979). Authorship: What is an Author?. Screen20(1), 13-34.

Gans, H. (2008) Popular culture and high culture: An analysis and evaluation of taste. Basic Books.

Greenberg, C. (2013). Avant-garde and kitsch.

Hall, S. (1986). The problem of ideology-Marxism without guarantees. Journal of Communication Inquiry10(2), 28-44.

— (1981). “Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Popular.’”

— (2001). Encoding/decoding. Media and cultural studies: Keyworks.

Hebdige, D. (2012). Subculture: The meaning of style. Routledge.

Horkheimer, M., Adorno, T. W. (2002). The Culture Industries. Dialectic of enlightenment. Stanford University Press.

Macdonald, D. (2011). Masscult and Midcult. Masscult and midcult: Essays against the American grain. New York Review of Books.

Levine, L.W. (1990) Highbrow/lowbrow: The emergence of cultural hierarchy in America. Harvard University Press.

Radway, J.A. (1997). A feeling for books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, literary taste, and middle-class desire. University of North Carolina Press.

Rubin, J. (1992). The making of middlebrow culture. University of North Carolina Press.

Veblen, T. (2017) The theory of the leisure class. Routledge.

Williams, R. (1991) Base and superstructure in Marxist cultural theory. Rethinking popular culture: Contemporary perspectives in cultural studies.

— . Culture is Ordinary.

— (1981). Culture. Fontana.

— (1977). Marxism and literature. Oxford Paperbacks.

Methods: Participant observation and interviewing

Approaches to Media Industry Studies Research

Davis, A. (2008). Investigating cultural producers. In M. Pickering (Eds.), Research Methods for Cultural Studies (pp. 54-67). Edinburgh University Press.

Havens, T., Lotz, A. D., & Tinic, S. (2009). Critical media industry studies: A research approach. Communication, Culture & Critique2(2), 234-253.

Epistemologies of Qualitative Methods for Cultural Studies

Creswell, J. W. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1998). Introduction: Entering the field of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 1–34). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2003). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The landscape of qualitative research (pp. 1–47). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hockey, J., & Forsey, M. (2012). Ethnography is not participant observation: Reflections on the interview as participatory qualitative research. The interview: An ethnographic approach, 69-87.

Machin, D. (2002). Ethnographic research for media studies. London: Arnold Hodder.

Murphy, P. D. & Kraidy, M. M. (2003). Towards an ethnographic approach to global media studies. In P. D. Murphy & M. M. Kraidy (Eds.), Global media studies: Ethnographic Perspectives (pp. 3-20). New York: Routledge.

Research Design: Interviewing, ethnographic methods, researcher positionality, evaluation

Atkinson, P. & Hammersly, M. (1998). Ethnography and Participant Observation. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 110-136). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Bourdieu, Pierre. (2003). Participant Objectivation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9(2): 281-294.

Brennan, B. (2012). Ethnography and participant observation. In Qualitative Methods for Media Studies.

Darling-Wolf, F. (2003). Negotiation and position: On the need and difficulty of developing “thicker descriptions.” In P. D. Murphy & M. M. Kraidy (Eds.), Global media studies: Ethnographic Perspectives (pp. 109-124). New York: Routledge.

Emerson, R.M, Fretz, R.I, & Shaw, LL. (2011). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Geertz, C. (2008). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In The Cultural Geography Reader (pp. 41-51). Routledge.

LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (1999). Designing and conducting ethnographic research. Rowman Altamira.

Mayer, V. (2008). Studying up and f** cking up: Ethnographic interviewing in production studies. Cinema Journal47(2), 141-148.

Murphy, P. D. (2008) Writing media culture: Representation and experience in media ethnography. Communication, Culture & Critique, 1(3), 268-286.

Nader, L. (1982). Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from Studying Up. In Cole, J.B. (Ed), Anthropology for the Eighties. New York: The Free Press.

Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and social sciences. New York: Teachers College Press.

Te walvaart et al. (2018). Production perspectives on audience participation in television: On, beyond and behind the screen. Convergence (pdf)

Voyer, A. & Trondman, M. (2015). Between theory and social reality: Ethnography and interpretation and social knowledge: Introduction to the special issue. Ethnography 18(1): 3-9.

Case Studies:

Banks, M. J. (2015). The writers: A history of American screenwriters and their guild. Rutgers University Press.

Dornfeld, B. (1998). Producing public television, producing public culture. Princeton University Press.

Havens, T. (2006). Global television marketplace. British Film Institute.

Martin, S. J. (2016). Haunted: an ethnography of the Hollywood and Hong Kong media industries. Oxford University Press.

Neff, Gina. (2012) Venture labor: Work and the burden of risk in innovative industries. MIT press.


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