Media and Culture

From Mass Communication to Networked Communication
COMM 852
Professor Damien Smith Pfister
Department of Communication Studies
Spring 2011
Office Hours: Tuesday 1-3, Thursday 10-11, by appointment

Mission of the Department of Communication Studies
The role and mission of the faculty and students of the Department of Communication Studies is to examine human symbolic activity as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions, and societies. This work concerns the creation, analysis, and critique of messages. The department's research, teaching, and service devote particular attention to understanding the ways in which communication erodes and sustains collaboration within and among local, national, and global communities.
Course Summary and Objectives
Media and Culture: From Mass Communication to Networked Communication explores the intellectual foundations of two paradigms of communication research. The twentieth century witnessed an explosion of interest in the mass media, as radio and television joined print in circulating messages to large audiences. Mass media was theorized to have a democratic function that could help coordinate increasingly complex societies, but has often been used for the undemocratic purposes of propaganda. The twenty first century has coincided with developments in digitally networked communication: blogs, social networking sites, image and video sharing sites, microblogging have all reshaped how people communicate. But how? This course, by giving a broad overview of these two different systems of thinking about communication, will open up lines of inquiry to probe this question. Students should leave the course with a strong sense of the history of mass communication, the features of networked communication, and how different media forms shape culture.
Required Texts
John Durham Peters and Peter Simonson, eds., Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts, 1919-1968 (Lanham, MD: Rowman Littlefield, 2004).
Lisabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Knopf, 2003).
Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996/2010).
Course Requirements
20% of your grade will be determined by participation. Participation includes (1) regular in-class offerings to the conversation and (2) weekly “class contributions” to the course blog on Blackboard. Class contributions can include one or more of the following:
·      A question that synthesizes that week’s readings
·      Putting two or more authors in conversation with each other
·      Suggesting pedagogical applications of the readings
·      Tie-ins to contemporary political, cultural, or economic events
·      Media artifacts (e.g. YouTube video, editorial cartoon) that shed some insight into that week’s topic
·      A critique of one of the readings or theoretical assumptions behind multiple readings
·      Self-generated poetic or narrative artifact that assists our collective understanding of the readings
·      An in-depth response to a classmate’s class contribution
These class contributions are crucial because they will ground the conversation in the second half of each seminar. Each contribution should be submitted by the Monday before class.
15% of your grade will come from your group reports on selected readings in the Peters & Simonson anthology. The class will be divided into four groups, which will generate a detailed handout on the assigned readings (see Schedule of Readings below) and be posted to Blackboard. For each reading, select one short quotation that captures the essence of the reading followed by 3-5 bullet points about the main claims of the article. I anticipate each of these entries to be about a third of a page long. The idea is to lend comprehensiveness to our study of mass communication while also allowing a focus on selected readings. Each group will have ten minutes to orally present the main ideas and common threads at the beginning of class. Important: this oral presentation is not to be a regurgitation of the handout or, worse, a straight reading of the handout. This is a more macro effort to synthesize the readings and prompt conversation for the balance of the class.
15% of your grade will be determined by a book review that you will write and share with the class. Select a book that is relevant to the course, and write a 4-6 page review (look to book reviews in journals for exemplars.) Ph.D. students must choose an academic book (for example, Peter Simonson’s Refiguring Mass Communication: A History) while MCA students can choose an academic book or select popular press books (like Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More). Choose your book with DSP approval during the first month of class and we will assign you a class period to share some of the insights of your review.
50% of your grade will be determined by a final seminar paper, the first sentence of which should begin: The shift from mass communication to networked communication has changed culture by… Length expectation is 10-12 pages plus footnotes/bibliography. Any citational style is fine.
Procedures & Norms
Accommodations. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for a confidential discussion of their individual needs for academic accommodation. It is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to provide flexible and individualized accommodation to students with documented disabilities that may affect their ability to fully participate in course activities or to meet course requirements.  To receive accommodation services, students must be registered with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, 132 Canfield Administration, 472-3787 voice or TTY.
Plagiarism. The Student Code of Conduct defines plagiarism as “presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source) and submitting examinations, theses, reports, speeches, drawings, laboratory notes or other academic work in whole or in part as one's own when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person.” Obviously, plagiarism for a graduate student is functionally the academic death penalty.
Preparation. While demanding, the reading load is not ridiculous. My general philosophy on reading is that you should read early enough in the week so that you can return to the text(s) later in order to produce your class contribution. Students should be prepared to summarize the main points of each reading and provide a critical response to readings and to class contributions.
Decorum. This is a graduate seminar, and I expect academic expectations of decorum to be modeled with excellence. This inexhaustively means: paying full attention to the lecture and discussion and not becoming unduly distracted by electronic machines, arguing while operating under the principles of charity and civility, and attempting to extend the conversation rather than shut it down.
Attendance. I expect you to attend every class meeting, be on time, and stay throughout the entire period. However, should you have to miss a class, please contact me as soon as possible in person or by email. In the rare case that you miss two or more classes, you must schedule an appointment with me to discuss your progress in the course and your ability to meet course requirements. Students that miss more than 3 classes cannot receive an A in the course. Extensions and alternative accommodations will be granted only in cases where you are able to document extenuating circumstances. All other work will be penalized one letter grade for every 24 hours past the due date.