Course Description & Outline

This course provides an overview of the foundations of the theoretical approaches to the study of communications. Special attention will be paid to mass communication theory, medium theory, audience research, semiotics, and the political economy of media.

The course is organized as a weekly seminar that will combine some lecture and some organized class discussions. The objectives of the course are to present the major conceptual models which underpin communication knowledge and research, and to encourage an analytic and critical application of these models to the study of issues in communication studies. No particular background beyond a general familiarity with the concepts in communication studies and upper-year standing in an undergraduate program.

Since Communication Studies deals with a wide range of topics, the models and theories that will be discussed in the course will be treated as part of the broader field of social theory; this means that it will be necessary to think about the theories and concepts in communications as part of theories and concepts about society and its structure as a whole. And since many of theories we will discuss are the product of the development of ideas over long periods of time, the course will also be placing many of these theories in their historical context. By the end of the course students will be expected to be able to use these broader social theories to more fully understand the implications of claims made about communications.

The course is part of a pair of related courses. The second of the pair, COMN 3101: Contemporary Communications Theory, is offered in the Winter Term.

Course Outline can be found here for the first part of the term and here for the second.