COMN 1310 9.0
INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATIONS
Course Director: David Skinner Office: 3019 Tel
Phone: 33853 e-mail: [email protected]
Office Hours: Mon. 12:30-2:20 or by appointment.
This course introduces students to the study of communication. It is designed to provide a critical
overview – or survey – of the main themes and issues in the field of communication and mass
media. It looks at communication from both the personal and social levels and considers the
myriad ways in which forms and processes of communication are implicated in our knowledge
and understanding of the world.
The course is structured to introduce students to the four sub-fields of the Communication
Studies Program – Media and Culture, Politics and Policy, Technology and Society, and
Interpersonal and Organizational Communication. In the first term, we will consider the roles of
language, culture and, particularly, the mass media, in the production of meaning and the
construction of our social environment. In the second term, we will examine the roles of the
state, civil society, institutions, organizations, and technology in the production and distribution
of culture and social power.
The basic objectives and anticipated learning outcomes of the course are: i) to provide a critical
understanding of the structures and practices of communication, and particularly the mass media;
ii) to develop a critical understanding of communication as a cultural form; iii) to encourage the
use and appreciation of social theory in reflecting on the study of communication and mass
media; iv) to build an appreciation of the social political and economic dimensions of mass-
mediated communication; v) to develop an understanding of the Canadian context of mass
As this course is part of the Foundations program, lectures and assignments are designed to
enhance students’reading, writing, and analytic skills. Students are advised that because this is a
9 credit course the work load is proportionately greater than that of a 6 credit course.
The lectures will be supplemented with both video materials and in-class assignments to
illustrate the relationships between personal experiences of the media and the theoretical and
critical perspectives discussed in class.
Please note that students with medical conditions, physical, learning, or psychiatric disabilities
may require accommodation in teaching style, evaluation methods and other course
requirements. Students are encouraged to contact the Course Director and/or the appropriate
university office supporting students with disabilities early in the term so that appropriate
arrangements can be made. Failure to notify the Course Director of your needs in a timely
manner may jeopardize the opportunity to arrange for academic accommodations. Required Reading
Regan Shade, Leslie. Mediascapes: New Patterns in Canadian Communication (3rd edition).
Scarborough, Ontario: Nelson, 2010.
Grossberg, Lawrence, Ellen Wartella, and D.Charles Whitney. MediaMaking: Mass media in
popular culture (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2006.*
Lorimer, Rowland, Mike Gasher, and David Skinner. Mass Communication in Canada (6th
edition). Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2008.*
Reading Pack (Available in the Book Store)
* Please note: Only these editions of these textbooks may be used for this course. Previous
editions do not contain the necessary material.
Two hour lecture and two hour tutorial.
Participation andAttendance 10%
Tutorial Presentations 10%
Reading Summaries 10 %
Term Paper Outlines 10%
End of Term Exams 30%
Term Papers 30%
Cheating on an exam or assignment is punishable by a minimum of failure of the assignment and
may result in failure of the course.
Exams and Assignments
There will be exams at the end of each of the two terms. The exams will be comprised of
multiple choice and short answer questions and they will cover material from the text, readings
and lectures. Rewrites will not be permitted.As a general rule, deferred exams are only granted
in exceptional circumstances with prior permission of the course director. Deferred exams will
not necessarily be the same format. The course director will provide a study guide for each of the
exams at least one week prior to the exam.
Seminar Working in small groups, students are expected to give one seminar presentation in each of the
two terms. Each presentation is worth 5% of the final grade. (See accompanying “Seminar
Adjudication Form.”) Presentations should be 15-20 minutes in length and include questions for
class discussion at the end of the presentation. Topics are to be chosen from those described on
the week by week outline and must be presented in the week scheduled. (AV equipment requests
must be made to your TA at least one week prior to your presentation.) 10% of the grade will be
allocated to tutorial attendance and participation.
Students are required to complete three types of written assignments: i) 10 one page summaries
of weekly readings (5 per term); ii) two term paper outlines; iii) two term papers.
Toward meeting the Foundation requirements of the course, students will be expected to hand in
5 two page double spaced typed summaries of weekly readings each term. (Ahandout describing
this assignment in more detail will be provided.) Each summary is worth 1% of the final grade.
Summaries must be written in full sentences – not point form – and clearly identify the major
themes/ideas covered in the chapter or article. They should include a paragraph that describes
and analyzes how the material covered in the reading is related to the process of mass
communication and the larger themes of the course. Two questions, suitable for class discussion,
that either call for clarification of some aspect of the article or challenge assumptions it makes
must be included with the assignment. Summaries must be submitted to T.A.’s the week the
reading is assigned. Late summaries will not be accepted.
The term paper outlines are due in Week 7 and Week 19. The outlines will be 3 pages in length
and include: a clear thesis statement on the subject of the paper; a detailed description of the
different sections or components of the work; an annotated bibliography of possible sources for
the paper. Papers must be based upon at least 5 sources and include references to: a scholarly
book (not a text book), a journal article, and a credible web based source.Adetailed description
of the papers and the outlines will be handed out in the third week of each term.
Based upon the term paper outlines, students are required to complete two papers. They will both
be 1750-2000 words in length (7-8 pages) and worth 15% of the final grade The first paper is due
at the beginning of the second to last lecture of the Fall term (Nov. 30). The second paper is due
at the beginning of the second to last lecture of the Winter Term (April 5). The purpose of these
assignments is to help students more closely consider some of the concepts, ideas and
terminology discussed in class and the reading. Topics for the papers will be drawn from a list
handed out in the third week of each term.
Late paper penalty: 1% or 1 mark per day (to be deducted after the paper is graded). In
extenuating circumstances, extensions may be awarded at the discretion of the T.A..
Plagiarism of any written assignment is punishable by a minimum of failure of the assignment
and may result in failure of the course.
Tentative Lecture Topics Term I
1. Orientation and Introduction
3. History of Communication
4. Communication Models/Communication Theory I
5. No Classes
6.Communication Models/Communication Theory II
7. Communication Models/Communication Theory III
9. From Mass Society to Popular Culture
10. Advertising as Cultural Form
11. Producing Content
12. Politics and Policy: Media, Publics, Democracy, Culture, and Society
14. Re-orientation: Cultural Industries and The Converging Mediascape
15. Newspapers and Private Broadcasters
16. Public Broadcasting in Canada and Beyond
17. Film and Video: Hollywood’s World?
18. Magazines and Book Publishing: Split Run and Run On
19. Political Communication: Is Canada’s Media System up to the Task?
20. Reading Week
21. Communication, Technology, and Society
22. Globalization and The Information Society
23. From NWICO to Now: Perspectives on Media Imperialism
24. Communication in DigitalAge: Promises and Problematics
25. Techno-Tantrums or New Democracy? New Social Movements in a DigitalAge
COMS 1310 9.0: Introduction to Communications
Lectures, Reading, and Seminar Topics
Date Tentative Lecture Topics Readings and Seminar topics for this week
Sept. 14 Orientation & Introduction Read: - Lorimer, Gasher and Skinner (L,G&S) Chapter 1.
Seminar: Review Course Outline
Week 2 Sept. 21 University Basics
Defining the Field Read: - L,G&S, Chapter 2
- Ong, Walter. The Orality of Language (Reading Pack)
Seminar: Drawing upon Ong’s “The Orality of Language” and Chap. 1 of L,G&S, compare some
of the differences between oral and literate society. Do you believe that as Ong (14-15) states,
“with out writing human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other
beautiful and powerful potentials.”
History of Communication
Read: - L,G&S, Chapter 3.
- Grossberg et al, Chapter 2.
Seminar: Outline the basic theories of the press described on pp 64-66 of Chapter 3 of L,G&S.
With specific reference to examples of media content , discuss which of these you think is most
applicable to the press in our society? Why?
Oct. 5 Communication Models/ Communication Theory I
2nd hour: researching and writing your term paper. Read: - L,G&S, Chapter 4.
- Grossberg et al, Chapter 1.