Mass Culture

Topics: Marshall McLuhan, Communication, Media studies Pages: 5 (1089 words) Published: April 4, 2013

CMNS 110: Introduction to Communication Studies – Spring 2013


The aim of this course is to provide a general introduction to a range of theories that seek to explain why we communicate as we do.

The first part of the course establishes a general overview of communication theory from both theoretical and historical points of view. We will examine the relation between communication and social consciousness, the development of alphabetic writing, and theories of orality and literacy. We will also review the concept of self in the context of communication studies.

The second part of the course will focus on specific fields within the area of communication, including the study of popular culture, media analysis, film studies, advertising, and the political economy of communication. We will also examine the rise of technology studies in communication and consider the way in which electronic media (in particular computers and the Internet) have refashioned both human consciousness and culture. In this context, we will discuss issues of privacy and democracy in the emerging digital culture.

Our main goal is to critically assess the images and messages of contemporary media. How do they create meaning? Do they enlarge our understanding of the world, or influence us to think about it in increasingly narrow ways?

Required Texts:

Courseware, available at the SFU Bookstore – CMNS 110 (compiled by Gary McCarron) **Note: NO other texts are required. Please check with instructor before purchasing any additional texts. You must purchase the Courseware package, and you MUST bring it to class each week.

Course Requirements:

Midterm Exam 25%
Essay Proposal5%
In-class Quizzes 10%
Final Essay25%
Final Exam25%
Attendance & Class Participation10%

** Note: reading schedule will be updated on the FIC Portal after the first week of class. Please check the Portal regularly for course notes, PowerPoint slides, and final essay guidelines.

Course Schedule:

Week 1 (January 8-10): Introduction
This first introductory class is MANDATORY. I will be going over the course outline and grading scheme in detail, answering all questions, and introducing the course material. ALL students MUST attend this class! Note: ANY student who misses the first class and who fails to notify the instructor with an acceptable explanation in advance, such as a medical emergency (which must be accompanied by a medical certificate from a Doctor), will automatically lose 5 marks out of a possible 10 for Attendance and Class Participation.

Week 2 (January 15-17): Communication Theory
Read: 'Conceptual Foundations: What is Communication?' (Miller, K.) Read: 'The Judgment of Thamus' (Postman, N.)

Week 3 (January 22-24): The Development of Writing
Read: 'Scripting the Future' (Fischer, S.)
Read: 'Monochronic and Polychronic Time' (Hall, E.)

Week 4 (January 29-31): Orality and Communication
Read: 'Legends on the Net' (Fernback, J.)
Read: 'How is the KKK Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?' (Levitt, S.)

Week 5 (February 5-7): McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication Read: "Marshall McLuhan" (Morrison, J.)
Read: "The Medium is the Message" (McLuhan, M.)

Week 6 (February 12-14): Communication and Identity
** Note: Readings for this week will be distributed during Week 4 and 5. No assigned readings from the courseware package

Week 7 (February 19-21): MIDTERM EXAM (in class)
No Readings. Exam is in class, for FOUR HOURS.

Week 8 (February 26-28): Television (History and Future)
Read: 'Fear and Self-loathing in Couchland' (Kingwell, M.)
Read: 'An Alternative Current' (Doyle)

Week 9 (March 5-7): Studying Popular Culture
Read: "High, Popular and Low Cultures in Everyday Life"
Read: "The History of Popular Culture"

Week 10 (March 12-14): Hollywood and Global Cinema
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