Professor Walker Explores the Relationship and Meaning of Media and the Environment in Two Fall Quarter Courses


A world-renowned film and media scholar, Professor Janet Walker has taught in the Film and Media Studies Department for nineteen years. Dr. Walker’s research and teaching focuses on documentary film, trauma studies, media history and historiography, genre studies and feminist film theory. Most recently, her research on spatial and environmental media studies has helped to define this new area that is boldly interdisciplinary. She has published widely on these various subjects, has produced documentaries and served on many doctoral committees. Since 2010, Dr. Walker has also been co-convener of the Environmental Media Initiative Research Group for the Carsey-Wolf Center, a research collaborative that provides an important intellectual contribution to the campus, the community and beyond. Professor Walker’s leadership has also been important in our department as both Chair of the Department and Director of Graduate Studies and in her instrumental role in getting our Graduate Program off the ground.

This fall Professor Walker is teaching two courses that explore the relationship between media and environment. “Films of the Natural and Human Environment,” FLMST 183, which is being taught once again, is a rich and careful look at a category of filmmaking and critical practice that deals with topics such as inter-species communication, e-waste, and climate change among other prominent issues of our day. The course draws on concepts from visual anthropology, deep ecology, cultural geography, philosophy and the environmental justice movement to engage “not only the non-human ‘natural’ environment, but also the urban, human-built environment and spaces of protection and pollution, exploitation and risk.” Walker hopes to encourage Film and Media Studies students to gain a greater understanding of environmental films, and of media itself as “an environment in and with which we constantly interact.” Past students have found the course to be a great learning experience that has inspired them to carry forward their ideas and even their scripts, as in the cases of students who went on into Film and Media Studies 118: Environmental Film Production (GreenScreen) with Professor Chris Jenkins. No doubt, students leave with a new perspective on this proliferating area of filmmaking.

Also during the fall quarter, Professor Walker will teach Media and Geography, FLMST 242MG, a graduate-level seminar that “considers the efficacy and implications of space/place/media as a complex topic and set of spatial research tools for the humanities.” The course has had great success in past years and she notes that several students have investigated modes of media that we otherwise ignore on a daily basis. For instance, one graduate student Alston D’Silva researched the camera focused on the UCSB bus loop and the open source software through which the images it and other cameras capture are made publicly accessible for viewing. The course has been inspirational to our graduate students as is evident in our own Media Fields Journal.

Walker notes that both courses are great outlets for students who wish to develop their creative criticality through a theory-based course. “I want to encourage all of my students to think ecosystemically about the work they do in these courses.”

Last year Professor Walker also co-led a major interdisciplinary research collaboration and public program called “Figuring Sea Level Rise: Comparative Cultures of Knowledge, Environmental Media, and Active Response” that featured the i (heart) H20: Love Your Sea Level initiative (http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/emi/criticalissues/mar10). A fan of this project, Professor Walker encourages all interested studentsand anyone else!to take the online “How’s Your Water Relationship?” quiz through the Carsey-Wolf Center website. She describes the quiz as a humorous dating-website take on each one of our special relationships with this liquid resource and on the water-relationships of our beautiful campus.

Take the quiz here!

FLMST 183 #54601 - Films of the Natural Environment meets Tuesday-Thursday 4:00-5:50 PM (SSMS 2013) with screenings on Wednesdays at 5:00-7:50 PM.

FLMST 242MG #54643 - Media and Geography meets Monday 11:00 AM - 1:50 PM and Monday 5:00-6:50PM (SSMS 2017).