Genre: A Doorway to Cultural Studies


As a Communications Technology teacher, its of pressing importance to ensure that students are not only tech savvy but culturally literate. This is at the essence of a program that encourages students to be effective communicators who can decode media all while producing artifacts for and with meaning. All of this presents a unique opportunity for students to explore themselves and the world in which they live and at the same time, experience the deep satisfaction of creative output.

As a Communications Technology teacher for nearly 15 years, I would argue that there seems to be less focus on the Communications.  As a product of the program way back when I was in high school, the traditional classroom landscape tends to focus on the technology and less the “critical literacy” aspect of learning. Personally, I’m a firm believer that a students technical know-how in today’s digital accessible age is less impressive or pressing than their ability to be cultural astute. This is not to say that technology is not important. With many students readily exploring with creative ways to exploit technology, its important to recognize the need enriched opportunities to explore context and meaning.

Take for example, an encounter I had a few days ago with a supply teacher. Stopping by my classroom at the sight of Ghost-face from Scream 2 ( I love to teach /screen with the door open),the teacher asked what course I was teaching. When I said Comm-Tech, the teacher stood puzzled (literally in silence) for a moment. I then went on to explain that at the core of my program is a critical understanding of media artifacts through the lens of genre. He asked me why genre was so important in a Comm-Tech course. I went on to explain that genre, whether it be film, television or comic books, is a mirror to ourselves at any cultural time.

Genre is our shared experience. Genre is a cultural time capsule. To listen to the West Coast Rap of the 1980s is to be acutely aware of the black experience in ghettoized communities in California. To watch Hollywood action films of the 1980s is to be sold a strictly pro-American, hyper masculine narrative, in which colonial figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger were supreme. With this, I’m of the mindset that genre studies as cultural studies is a social science that serves the critical needs of students as global citizens. If anything, recent films such as Black Panther and Get Out prove this. 

So, as he remained curious about our exam screenings of Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3, I was reminded of the perception that Comm-Tech has in many schools. Frankly, it can and should be more than logo design and video production for the sake of production. It needs to be all that and more – logo design as it speaks to semiotics and video production as it speaks to genre and meaning. Such a framework will challenge students to produce with meaning and thus find themselves in their critical and practical studies.

Speaking about all of this, recently on May 29, I hosted the 5th Annual Ignite Digital Media Showcase. A celebration of all student work from Chaminade’s Communications Technology program, the highlight of Ignite is the screening of student short films on the big screen. From an understanding of Andrew Sarris’ Auteur Theory to exploring genre, the films are a testament to both student creative digital skills and deep critical thinking.

The screening can be found below – enjoy!

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