Graduate Curriculum and Course Descriptions

An Overview of the Curriculum 

The Annenberg Ph.D. program represents a five-year commitment. The classroom experience is structured around courses designed to help the student become an expert in a chosen research area.​​ School practices are listed in addition to all University of Pennsylvania policies for doctoral students.

  • Twenty classes are required; up to five of these may be transferred from a previous Master’s program with approval from the student’s academic advisor. (Please note that transferring three or more classes will reduce funding by one semester.)
  • All students are required to take a noncredit proseminar as well as introductory classes in research methods and statistics.
  • All Ph.D. students must take at least one separate class with each of at least five different members of the ASC standing faculty. The intent of this is to foster students’ knowledge of a diverse range of approaches to communication.

​​​​A typical course plan for a student entering ASC without a Master’s degree includes these components:

  • Seven semesters of courses, typically three courses per semester
  • Three required classes: Proseminar, research methods, and statistics
  • A Qualifications Evaluation (see below) at the end of semester 4
  • A dissertation proposal defense in semester 8
  • Dissertation research in semesters 8 through 10
  • Dissertation defense and graduation at the end of semester 10

Annenberg offers more than a dozen graduate courses each semester, drawn from a master list of over 60 courses covering a wide range of topics related to communication and media. These courses are taught by our standing faculty, as well as visiting faculty from around the globe. In consultation with their faculty advisors, students may supplement their Annenberg classes with those from any of Penn’s 12 graduate and professional schools.  

Beyond the Classroom

Work in the classroom is just part of what makes learning at Annenberg a rich experience. As they move through the program, students extend the knowledge they gain through their class experiences via:

  • Research and teaching fellowships
  • Meetings as part of research teams in the School’s centers and working groups
  • Attendance at School and University conferences, lunch talks, and professional development workshops
  • Casual interactions with standing, adjunct, and visiting faculty
  • Activities organized by the Annenberg Graduate Student Council

Program Milestones

  • Qualifications Evaluation (QE) is a review conducted to ensure doctoral students have the requisite skills, creativity, initiative, and plans to successfully complete their degree, including their dissertation. The QE must be completed at the end of the semester during which the student accumulates 12 classes (at least eight of which must be acquired at Penn) toward the degree, but no earlier than the end of the first year.
  • Comprehensive Exams: In order to advance to candidacy, become eligible to defend the dissertation proposal and to receive a dissertation research fellowship (DRF), students must successfully pass a comprehensive examination. These exam cover theory, methods and research in the student’s field of expertise. 
  • Dissertation Proposal and Oral Defense: Before becoming eligible for a dissertation research fellowship and beginning work on the dissertation, the student must submit and defend a proposal for dissertation research to his or her Dissertation Committee. The proposal is a full statement of the research problem, including its theoretical rationale and methodology. 

Spring 2019 Classes 


COMM 525: Introduction to Political Communication (Lelkes
This course is designed as a Ph.D.-level introduction to the study of political communication, and is recommended as a foundational course to be taken early in ones course of study for students interested in political communication as a primary or secondary area of research and teaching. As an introduction to the field it is structured to cover a wide-range of topics and approaches, including media institutions and the effects of both mass mediated and deliberative communications. While no single course can provide comprehensive coverage of a subfield with as long and diverse a history as political communication, our hope is that you will leave this course with a strong grasp of the major theories, trends, methods, findings and debates in this area of study, as well as the gaps in our knowledge and promising directions for future research.

COMM 553: Research Seminar on Computational Social Science (Centola
This is a graduate research seminar in which top researchers in the field of Computational Social Science will present cutting-edge research. Our focus will be on carefully reading the speaker’s work, and discussing in detail their theoretical models, empirical methods, and overall scientific contribution. Participants will also present in the seminar, which will help to prepare them for professional presentations of their work at conferences and job talks. This seminar will meet weekly.

COMM 577: Attitude & Behavior Prediction (Jemmott
This course surveys classic and contemporary theory and research in the area of attitude formation and change and examines the principles of social information processing that underlie attitudes. We cover some of the basic concepts of the psychology of attitudes, including attitude structure and measurement at both conscious and unconscious levels. After this introduction, we will review persuasion approaches, the role of affect and fear in communication, influences of past behavior, to finally turn to models that explain behavioral change and allow researchers and practitioners to design ways of modifying recipients' actions.​

COMM 660: Content Analysis (Krippendorff)
An introduction to content analysis, the analysis of large bodies of textual matter, also called message systems analysis, quantitative semantics, propaganda analysis, and (computer-aided) text analysis. The course inquires into the theories, methods, and empirical problems common to these analytical efforts: sampling, text retrieval, coding, reliability, analytical constructs, computational techniques, and abductive inference. It illustrates these problems by studies of mass media content, interview or panel data, legal research, and efforts to draw inferences from personal documents typical in psychology and literature. Students design a content analysis and do the preparatory work for an academic or practical research project. They may also use the opportunity of forging available theories into a new analytical technique and test it with available texts, or solve a methodological problem in content analysis research.

COMM 701: Introduction to the Political Economy of Media (Pickard)
This course has two aims. First, assuming that communications are central to any society, it situates media systems within larger national and international social relationships and political structures. Second, this course critically examines the structures of the communication systems themselves, including ownership, profit imperatives, support mechanisms such as advertising and public relations,and the ideologies and government policies that sustain these arrangements. Considering case studies ranging from traditional news and entertainment media to new digital and social media, the course provides a comprehensive survey of the major texts in this vibrant sub-field of media studies.

COMM 710: Rhetorical Criticism (Jamieson
Drawing on the 2008 election for materials, the course will focus on two themes: the relationship between the rhetoric of presidential campaigns and the rhetoric of governance and the rhetorical role of biography, age, race and gender in the construction of a candidate's political identity.

COMM 727: Evaluation of Communication Campaigns (Hornik)
The various roles of research in campaign work: foundational research, formative research, monitoring research, summative evaluation research, policy research. The place for a theory of campaign effects. The ethics of evaluation research. Alternative designs, measurement, statistical and analytic approaches.

COMM 814: Doing Internet Studies (Lingel)
This is a project-based seminar with two key objectives: introducing students to core theories and methods in internet studies and completing a research project that uses digital media, broadly construed. Comprising many methods and research approaches, Internet studies is inherently interdisciplinary, and this course is designed to provide a practical set of guidelines for doing work in this diverse and growing field. Students will have a lot of independence in developing a final research project for the course – they may work individually, in pairs or in small groups, and the final project can take the form of a research paper, an art project or a piece of long-form journalism, as long as these projects use both digital media and critical theory from internet studies.

COMM 815: Labor, Communication and Technology (Ticona) 
Debates about the “future of work,” automation, and the working conditions of “on-demand” work have opened up new questions rooted in long intellectual lineages. This course introduces students to key theoretical perspectives and concepts in the study of labor, communication, and technology from the 19th and 20th centuries and examines their relevance to 21st century issues. We will examine the meaning of labor from Marxist, post-industrial, cultural, and sociological perspectives as well as the place of labor in communication scholarship. We will also examine the relationship between digital transformations of the workplace and new forms of surveillance, social stratification and inequality. 

COMM 817: Regulating and "Self Regulating" Social Media (Price)
The seminar involves an interdisciplinary inquiry into one of the most challenging communications issues of our time: how to conceive and structure accountability in the new technology of social media. The course deals with the complex but standard approaches to regulation and self-regulation. This includes a study of the framing of social media institutions and the prevailing discourse concerning justifications for intervention. It also includes a discussion of the struggle to define which states have  jurisdiction or power to design and implement systems of accountability. The seminar will identify a canon: leading scholars and how the academy, business and governments interact to articulate regulatory approaches. Various case studies will be pursued, including the struggle to exclude disinformation or certain conspiracy theories, aspects of "dehumanization," and propaganda. With respect to this last category, we will inquire whether my market for loyalties approach works in understanding modern social media regulation.

Visiting Scholar Class For Spring 2019

COMM 816: Propaganda and Media in Democracies and Dictatorships (Ben-Ghiat)
This course will look at media policy and the use of propaganda in democracies and dictatorships of the 20th and 21st century. The course will be thematically organized. Topics to be covered include censorship, persecution of the press, how propaganda works in different political contexts, visual propaganda, how autocrats use the media to build cults of personality, and strategies of resistance. Case studies include fascist and Communist regimes; America during World War Two, after 9/11, and under Donald Trump; Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Italy under Silvio Berlusconi; Russia under Vladimir Putin; propaganda techniques of the global new right

 

The following is a list of all graduate courses at the Annenberg School. Courses may not be offered every academic year, so refer to the list above for current course offerings.


500 Level


COMM 500: Proseminar (Various Faculty)
Introduction to the field of communication study and to the graduate program in communication. Required of all degree candidates. Open only to graduate students in communication.

COMM 506: Introduction to Media Policy (Pickard)
This interactive and discussion-oriented course provides an introduction to key media policy debates, ranging from policies affecting news and entertainment media to telecommunications and the Internet. The course traces the history and politics of media policy through the development of radio, television, telecommunications, and digital media. Understanding these policies in relation to democratic theory and ethical concerns, the course examines how media policy is shaped in and outside Washington, D.C., and it considers the central role policy plays in structuring the kinds of media that we consume and create.

COMM 522: Introduction to Communication Research (Delli CarpiniHornik; Lelkes)
The logic of scientific inquiry and the nature of research. Hypothesis development, research design, field and laboratory observation and experimentation, measurement, interviewing and content analysis, sampling, and basic statistical analysis. Required of all degree candidates. Open only to graduate communication students. 

COMM 525: Introduction to Political Communication (Lelkes
This course is designed as a Ph.D.-level introduction to the study of political communication, and is recommended as a foundational course to be taken early in ones course of study for students interested in political communication as a primary or secondary area of research and teaching. As an introduction to the field it is structured to cover a wide-range of topics and approaches, including media institutions and the effects of both mass mediated and deliberative communications. While no single course can provide comprehensive coverage of a subfield with as long and diverse a history as political communication, our hope is that you will leave this course with a strong grasp of the major theories, trends, methods, findings and debates in this area of study, as well as the gaps in our knowledge and promising directions for future research.

COMM 530: Advertising and the Digital Age (Turow
It is impossible to understand the development of the contemporary digital era without understanding the role played by the advertising industry, broadly understood. From the launch of first popular web browsers in the mid-1990s, various forms of marketing communication have shaped the most popular activities—from search to social to apps—and redefined the ways companies think about individuals in society. The aim of this course is to study these developments historically and contemporaneously. First we will range across the history of advertising and its related social force, consumerism, through the late 20th century. We will next investigate the forces that guided the rise of the internet as a commercial medium in the face of an earlier ethic that decried that very idea. Then we will dive into the ways marketers attempt to guide the internet and other digital media to their benefit by exploring a range of key contemporary activities: the rise of the smartphone as a marketing device, programmatic advertising, personalization strategies, location and cross-platform targeting and attribution, online retailing, the responses of brick and mortar retailers, advertisers’ roles in the cratering of print media, native advertising/branded content, the rise of “influencers,” and the transformation of “television” as a product, an activity, and an industry. We will read industry documents and other materials to assess how all these activities actually “work” and what drives them. Then we will consider their societal implications through a variety of lenses, including surveillance, privacy, pluralism, and democracy.

COMM 553: Research Seminar on Computational Social Science (Centola
This is a graduate research seminar in which top researchers in the field of Computational Social Science will present cutting-edge research. Our focus will be on carefully reading the speaker’s work, and discussing in detail their theoretical models, empirical methods, and overall scientific contribution. Participants will also present in the seminar, which will help to prepare them for professional presentations of their work at conferences and job talks. This seminar will meet weekly.

COMM 575: Social Psychology of Communication (Cappella)
Contributions of social psychology to understanding communication behavior: message systems; social cognition; persuasive communications; attitude formation and change; face-to-face interactions and small group situations; strategies of attributional and communicative interpretation; mass communication effects; social influence and networks.

COMM 576: Public Opinion (Delli Carpini)
An exploration of enduring research questions concerning mass communication and American public opinion. The course introduces students to the literature on public opinion, with a focus on the role of communication in public opinion formation and change.  Important normative, conceptual and theoretical issues are identified and examined by reviewing some early writings (ca.  1890-1930) in social philosophy and social science. These issues are then investigated further through a review and discussion of relevant research in sociology, political science, social psychology and mass communication.

COMM 577: Attitude & Behavior Prediction (Jemmott
This course surveys classic and contemporary theory and research in the area of attitude formation and change and examines the principles of social information processing that underlie attitudes. We cover some of the basic concepts of the psychology of attitudes, including attitude structure and measurement at both conscious and unconscious levels. After this introduction, we will review persuasion approaches, the role of affect and fear in communication, influences of past behavior, to finally turn to models that explain behavioral change and allow researchers and practitioners to design ways of modifying recipients' actions.​

COMM 594: Introduction to Networks (González-Bailón)
Much of what we think and do is shaped by social interactions, by the behavior we see in other people, or the information we receive from them: we pay attention to what our friends or we monitor news through the feeds of social media, and we are more likely to use technologies already embraced by other users. Networks are behind those (and, by extension, most) dimensions of social life. They offer the language to capture the invisible structure of interdependence that links us together, and the means to analyze dynamics like diffusion, influence, or the effects of media in an increasingly diverse information environment. The aim of this course is to introduce networks and the relational way of thinking. Students will gain the necessary literacy to read, interpret, and design network-based research; learn how to go from concepts to metrics; and draw and interpret networks through the lens of substantive research questions. We will pay equal attention to the theory and the empirics of network science, and set the foundations for more advanced work on networks. 


600 Level


COMM 615: Experimental Design and Issues in Causality (Mutz)
The main goal of this course is to familiarize students with experiments, quasi-experiments, survey experiments and field experiments as they are widely used in the social sciences. Some introductory level statistics background will be assumed, though this is a research design course, not a statistics course. By the end of the course, students will be expected to develop their own original experimental design that makes some original contribution to knowledge. Throughout the course of the semester, we will also consider how to deal with the issue of causality as it occurs in observational studies, and draw parallels to experimental research.

COMM 623: Health Psychology Seminar (Jemmott)
Seminar members shall critically review current applications of psychosocial theory and methodology to health-related issues with the goal of suggesting new directions that research might take. Preventive health behavior, HIV risk-associated behavior, psychosocial factors and physical health, practitioner patient interactions, patterns of utilization of health services, and compliance with medical regimens are among the topics that will be studied. 

COMM 637: Public Health Communication (Hornik)
Theories of health behavior change and the potential role for public health communication; international experience with programs addressing behaviors related to cancer, AIDS, obesity, cardiovascular disease, child mortality, drug use and other problems, including evidence about their influence on health behavior; the design of public health communication programs; approaches to research and evaluation for these programs.

COMM 639: Communication and Cultural Studies (Zelizer)
This course tracks the different theoretical appropriations of "culture" and examines how the meanings we attach to it depend on the perspectives through which we define it. The course first addresses perspectives on culture suggested by anthropology, sociology, communication, and aesthetics, and then considers the tensions across academic disciplines that have produced what is commonly known as "cultural studies." The course is predicated on the importance of becoming cultural critics versed in alternative ways of naming cultural problems, issues, and texts. The course aims not to lend closure to competing notions of culture but to illustrate the diversity suggested by different approaches.

COMM 660: Content Analysis (Krippendorff)
An introduction to content analysis, the analysis of large bodies of textual matter, also called message systems analysis, quantitative semantics, propaganda analysis, and (computer-aided) text analysis. The course inquires into the theories, methods, and empirical problems common to these analytical efforts: sampling, text retrieval, coding, reliability, analytical constructs, computational techniques, and abductive inference. It illustrates these problems by studies of mass media content, interview or panel data, legal research, and efforts to draw inferences from personal documents typical in psychology and literature. Students design a content analysis and do the preparatory work for an academic or practical research project. They may also use the opportunity of forging available theories into a new analytical technique and test it with available texts, or solve a methodological problem in content analysis research.

COMM 665: Digital Media and Social Theory (Yang)
This course explores critical issues in contemporary society through the lens of digital media studies and social theory. The goal is to build constructive dialogues between digital media studies and contemporary social theory. Special attention will be given to how social theory may inform the theorizing and empirical analysis of digital culture, politics, and practices. We will read monographs on globalization, power and control, dissent and protest, self and community, and the public sphere as they relate to digital media technologies. They include works by McLuhan, Castells, Turkle, Papacharissi, Lievrouw, Bimber, W. Chun and more. These monographs will be examined alongside the works of Gramsci, Foucault, Williams, Habermas, Bourdieu, Giddens, and Melucci. Students are required to submit weekly reading reports, make oral presentations, and complete a term paper. 

COMM 671: Computational Social Science Seminar (Centola
This is an advanced graduate research seminar in which guest speakers will present cutting-edge research in Computational Social Science. Our focus will be on carefully reading the speaker's work, and discussing in detail their theoretical models, empirical methods, and overall scientific contribution. Participants will also present in the seminar, which will help to prepare them for professional presentations of their work at conferences and job talks. This seminar will meet weekly.​

​COMM 673: Arts & Propaganda (Price
This course (seminar) deals with examples of controversy or struggles, through public art or exhibition, to define or proclaim, contest or reinforce national identities. Some are internal debates, within national boundaries, some are transnational and exist in a global frame. In most instances, there are sharp disputes- having to do with history and its interpretation and representation, about the role of museum and implications for legitimacy, about the relationship of patronage to power. Some sessions will be rooted in art history and iconography, some in the use of archival material to bring fresh perspectives to bear, some on aspects of law and regulation​.

COMM 675: Message Effects (Cappella)
Prerequisite(s): COMM 575
Current research, theory and statistical methods for assessing the effects of messages. Specific focus on messages designed to have a persuasive effect on attitudes, beliefs, opinions, or behaviors. Experimental and non-experimental research from mass and interpersonal communication, health, social psychology, advertising, political science and journalism will be considered. Unintended effects - such as the consequences of violent pornography - are not considered. 

COMM 684: Data Visualization for Research (González-Bailón)
Empirical research employs data to gain insights and build a theoretical understanding of the world. An appropriate visualization of data is key to illuminating hidden patterns and effectively communicate the main findings of research. This course will discuss the visualization strategies of published research, give recommendations of best practice, and discuss tips and techniques for specific research purposes (i.e. hypothesis testing, group comparison) and data structures, including temporal, geographic, and network data. The course will equip students with tools they can use to learn through visualization and to communicate more effectively their own research.

COMM 697: Popular Culture and Politics (Delli Carpini)
The rise of the digital age has put enormous pressure on so-called legacy media industries. Those are businesses that rose to fame and fortune in the 19th and 20th centuries but are now having to fundamentally rethink their plans regarding audiences, subsidies, and delivery technologies. This class will focus on four legacy media industries: music recordings, newspapers, books, and television. For each, we will consider the history of the industry, the challenges it has faced in the evolving digital environment. Students will write a paper on a topic related to one of these media or another legacy medium in transition.

COMM 699: Advanced Project in a Medium (Various Faculty)
Proposal written in specified form and approved by both the student's project supervisor and academic advisor must be submitted with registration. Open only to graduate degree candidates in communication.


700 Level


COMM 701: Introduction to the Political Economy of Media (Pickard)
This course has two aims. First, assuming that communications are central to any society, it situates media systems within larger national and international social relationships and political structures. Second, this course critically examines the structures of the communication systems themselves, including ownership, profit imperatives, support mechanisms such as advertising and public relations,and the ideologies and government policies that sustain these arrangements. Considering case studies ranging from traditional news and entertainment media to new digital and social media, the course provides a comprehensive survey of the major texts in this vibrant sub-field of media studies.

COMM 702: Global and Comparative Media Systems (Kraidy)
Designed to explore the comparative approach to global media systems, this seminar pivots on several broad theoretical and epistemological questions: To what extent are taxonomies developed in and about North American and European media helpful to understand media systems and institutions in other parts of the world? What problems arise from using nation-states as units of analysis? How does the emergence of regional, multi-national, sometimes language-based media spheres (Latin American, pan-Arab, pan-Chinese, etc) challenge the comparative systems approach? To what extent does the advent of regionalization and globalization compel a rethinking of the comparative systems approach? Readings cover conceptual and epistemological issues in comparative research, in addition to media systems in America, Europe, and Asia.

COMM 703: International Communication: Power & Flow (Price)
The tumultuous rise of new media technologies, including the Internet and social media, combine with grinding geopolitical change to create dramatic changes in law and policy regarding speech and society. This course is an examination of current dilemmas in historical context; about strategic communications in contrast or challenge to goals of free expression and to the exercise of power over the flow of information. Taking relevant contexts, including societies in transition, authoritarian societies, states and societies in conflict, we explore the relationship of the state and other entities to the flow of words and images, and how these messages impact public opinion, stability, and democratic growth. We start with a theoretical orientation focused on two competing paradigms- the paradigm of free expression and the paradigm of national identity, conflict management, and sovereignty. The class will then explore several case studies viewed through the lens of narrative theory. Areas of discussion may include case studies such as Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Iran and, as well, the drama of the development of global internet policy.

COMM 706: Analysis Election Data (Mutz)
This course is intended to serve as a workshop for students interested in the empirical analysis of elections, public opinion and political communication more generally. The centerpiece of the course will be an original research paper produced by each student on a topic of his or her own choosing. The requirements for these papers are fairly open, but demanding: the research papers must a) involve empirical analysis of a major election data set, b) be oriented toward answering an original research question selected with the guidance of the instructor, and c) aim to be of publishable quality. There are no formal prerequisites for the course. However, if you have less than two semesters of statistical training, and/or no formal background in the study of elections, public opinion or political communication, then this is probably not the right course for you. In order to be able to formulate an original research question, you need some background in the literature, which is provided by other courses, but is not a formal part of this course.

COMM 710: Rhetorical Criticism (Jamieson
Drawing on the 2008 election for materials, the course will focus on two themes: the relationship between the rhetoric of presidential campaigns and the rhetoric of governance and the rhetorical role of biography, age, race and gender in the construction of a candidate's political identity.

COMM 712: Race, Media and Politics (Delli Carpini)
"Race" has and continues to play an important role in American politics. In this course we will critically  review the relevant Communication and Political Science literature with an eye towards understanding: (1) the role of the mass media in the construction and dissemination of race as a sociopolitical concept; (2) how race affects political attitudes, opinions and behaviors; (3) the unique methodological problems researchers face in studying racial attitudes and opinions; and (4) shortcomings in the existing scholarship on race, media and politics and how these shortcomings might be addressed.

COMM 715: Political Communication (Mutz)
This course examines the role of political communication in influencing political attitudes and behaviors. Because of the broad nature of the topic, course readings and lectures will be interdisciplinary, drawing on research in sociology, history, psychology, political science and communication research. There are two primary goals for the course. One goal is to acquaint graduate students with the wide-ranging literature on political communication. A second major goal is to stimulate ideas for original research in the field of political communication. Toward this end, by the end of the semester students will be expected to be sufficiently familiar with the field to propose original studies on topics of their choosing. The formulation of an original research question and research design will be an important component of the final examination.

COMM 721: Theory and History in Global Communication (Kraidy)
For more than a half century, global communication theory has been shaped by interaction between worldwide geopolitical developments on the one hand, and theoretical trends in the social sciences and humanities on the other hand. This course is designed to give you a firm grasp of the historical trajectory of global communication theory and to develop knowledge of the central debates that have animated the field since the mid-20th century. We will discuss how these debates have changed, under what circumstances, and how contemporary scholarship wrestles with them; and how language and jargon in the field has shifted from "international" to "global." We will also explore why some key issues and media have received relatively scant attention in global communication research, while others have arguably been over-emphasized. We will read a mixture of primary sources by luminaries in the different paradigms that have dominated global communication, complemented with secondary texts that are carefully selected to give you a sense of the architecture of the field, an understanding of what sub-areas of global communication scholarship are published and the journals and presses that publish in those sub-areas.

COMM 722: Theories and Methods in Qualitative Research (Lingel)​
The objective of this course is to ensure that students have a grasp of the fundamental theories and methods of qualitative research. After spending time immersing ourselves in the metatheories that shape social science research, we will address ethical issues that emerge in all human subjects research (qualitative and otherwise), focusing primarily on responsible treatment of participants and their data. Then we will work through a series of research techniques, including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, ethnography, discourse analysis and participatory mapping. With the goal of providing practical instruction on qualitative methods and a grounding in theoretical issues, this course is meant to prepare studies for conducting a broad range of qualitative research projects in communication and media studies.

COMM 727: Evaluation of Communication Campaigns (Hornik)
The various roles of research in campaign work: foundational research, formative research, monitoring research, summative evaluation research, policy research. The place for a theory of campaign effects. The ethics of evaluation research. Alternative designs, measurement, statistical and analytic approaches.

COMM 739: Collective Memory & Journalism (Zelizer
How do understandings of the past impact what academics know? Collective memory has emerged as one of the most widespread, yet least understood, manifestations of contemporary culture. This course uses the study of collective memory to better explain the charting of disciplinary knowledge about journalism. Students will consider major theories and histories of collective memory and explore the ways in which they have taken shape as disciplinary approaches to journalism's study. Considering disciplines as communities of memory, whose participants gravitate toward codified ways of approaching problems, issues and events, the course uses the idea of shared memory as a way to explain and evaluate how the academy develops and legitimates knowledge, how the past is strategically used to drive engagements with the present, and how simplified notions from the past stand in for complicated phenomena of the present. The course aims to develop student familiarity with the vagaries of collective memory, the workings of the academy, and the frames for understanding the study of journalism, all with an eye to improving students' skills as cultural critics on a variety of topics.​

COMM 741: Media Effects Research Design (Hornik)
​This course will include three components. Part one will focus on readings and lectures about media effects research design, with some emphasis on exposure measurement, and on constructing out-of-laboratory designs including natural and quasi experiments, longitudinal and time series designs and designs appropriate for evaluating persuasive campaigns. Part two will be case focused, asking for design critiques of current published research studies. Part three will provide an opportunity for development of designs relevant to students’ own interests.  

COMM 745: Media Ethnography: Theory and Practice (Jackson)
This course will allow students to conduct 'critical readings' of ethnographic engagements with television, radio, and film as cultural phenomena. We will examine how ethnographers use their method and genre to understand the production, reception, and circulation of mass media. We will also draw on contemporary social/critical theory to unpack some of the epistemological assumptions organizing and anchoring such qualitative work. (The internet will also be discussed.)

COMM 760: Language and Social Constructions of Reality (Krippendorff)
This seminar develops qualitative methods for critical inquiries into what language does. It explores linguistic tropes and social interactions in which realities come to be constructed, contested, and maintained. We critically evaluate the epistemological entailments of several dominant theories of language, and settle on conceptions that enable us to examine the cognitive and social consequences of talk, text, and social interaction. These conceptions provide powerful alternatives to the representational theories that dominate popular discourses. For example, we take language as performative: focusing on how narratives are enacted in the presence of others, ranging from speech acts, instructions, individual stories in therapy to nationalism and war. We develop analytical vocabularies that reveal and try to overcome questionable ontological claims, highlighting actionable possibilities in preference to merely describing facts. We rely on dialogical, socially interactive, and constructive conceptions, ranging from conversations and computer interfaces to discourses, whose artifacts make differences to different communities. The methods that this seminar develops are fundamentally emancipatory and liberating. Realizing that most experiences of power and oppression results from linguistically constructed cognitive or disciplinary traps enables us to explore linguistically informed alternatives. Communication research cannot be undertaken without language but theories have largely failed to reflect on their consequences.


800 Level


COMM 801: Filter Bubbles, Long Tails, and Information Cascades: Research Methods for a Fragmented Media Environment (González-Bailón and Lelkes
Scholars and pundits have made many claims in recent years about the impact that digital technologies, and social media in particular, play in shaping access to political information and the formation of beliefs. However, all these claims rely on specific measurement instruments and research designs that are not always appropriately scrutinized or evaluated. This course will discuss the different analytical approaches that can be used to measure media consumption, selective exposure, bias, opinion formation, and the diffusion of information in the online media environment. Our goal is to assess the strength and weaknesses of different research designs with an eye on how to best triangulate available evidence and advance in a cumulative fashion in this important research domain. 

COMM 811: Neurobiology Social Influence (Falk
A graduate level statistics course and ability to read primary research articles in cognitive neuroscience. (No course prereqs, but students with less background may need to do supplemental work at the front end.)
Considerable resources are devoted to constructing mass media campaigns that persuade individuals to change their behavior and individuals exert powerfully influence one another without even knowing it. Still, our ability to design and select optimal messages and interventions is far from perfect. This course will review investigations in social and cognitive psychology and communication sciences that attempt to circumvent the limits of introspection by using biological and implicit measures, with particular focus on neuroimaging studies of social influence and media effects.

COMM 812: Digital News and the Consumption of Information Online (González-Bailón)
Access to news and political information is at the heart of democratic societies. Citizens need to stay informed of the actions taken by their representatives if they are to hold them accountable and demand political response. Digital technologies emerged to democratize the production of news content, but they have also disrupted legacy media models and, most importantly, how the public perceives the credibility of news. Social media platforms have become an easy target for misinformation campaigns and online networks are likely conduits for the dissemination of fake news. At the same time, digital technologies are encouraging new forms of decentralized reporting that increase audience fragmentation – thus potentially eroding the common ground on which democracies depend. These two effects (misinformation and fragmentation) could have pernicious consequences for our normative understanding of democratic life. This course will discuss recent research casting light on the role that online networks are actually playing in the consumption of political information - as well as the empirical limitations of the available evidence. The goal is to give students the theoretical and analytical tools to determine (a) the extent to which access to news is changing in this digital age; (b) the consequences of those changes; and (c) how many of the observed trends can be generalized across countries and media systems. 

COMM 813: Theory and History in Global Communication (Kraidy)
For decades, global communication theory has been shaped by interaction between worldwide political, economic, and technological developments and theoretical trends in the social sciences and humanities. This course is designed to give you a firm grasp of the historical trajectory of global communication theory and to acquire knowledge of the central debates that have animated the field since the mid-20th century. From development communication to global digital culture, we will discuss how these debates have  changed, under what circumstances, and  how contemporary scholarship wrestles with them. We will also explore why some key issues and types of media have received relatively scant attention in global communication research, while others have arguably been over-­emphasized. We will read a mixture of primary sources by intellectual leaders of different paradigms that have dominated global communication, complemented with secondary texts that are carefully selected to give you a sense of the architecture of the field, an understanding of what sub-­areas of global communication scholarship are published, and the journals and presses that publish in those sub­-areas. Required readings will be available on electronic reserves.

COMM 814: Doing Internet Studies (Lingel)
This is a project-based seminar with two key objectives: introducing students to core theories and methods in internet studies and completing a research project that uses digital media, broadly construed. Comprising many methods and research approaches, Internet studies is inherently interdisciplinary, and this course is designed to provide a practical set of guidelines for doing work in this diverse and growing field. Students will have a lot of independence in developing a final research project for the course – they may work individually, in pairs or in small groups, and the final project can take the form of a research paper, an art project or a piece of long-form journalism, as long as these projects use both digital media and critical theory from internet studies.

COMM 815: Labor, Communication and Technology (Ticona) 
Debates about the “future of work,” automation, and the working conditions of “on-demand” work have opened up new questions rooted in long intellectual lineages. This course introduces students to key theoretical perspectives and concepts in the study of labor, communication, and technology from the 19th and 20th centuries and examines their relevance to 21st century issues. We will examine the meaning of labor from Marxist, post-industrial, cultural, and sociological perspectives as well as the place of labor in communication scholarship. We will also examine the relationship between digital transformations of the workplace and new forms of surveillance, social stratification and inequality. 

COMM 817: Regulating and "Self Regulating" Social Media (Price)
The seminar involves an interdisciplinary inquiry into one of the most challenging communications issues of our time: how to conceive and structure accountability in the new technology of social media. The course deals with the complex but standard approaches to regulation and self-regulation. This includes a study of the framing of social media institutions and the prevailing discourse concerning justifications for intervention. It also includes a discussion of the struggle to define which states have  jurisdiction or power to design and implement systems of accountability. The seminar will identify a canon: leading scholars and how the academy, business and governments interact to articulate regulatory approaches. Various case studies will be pursued, including the struggle to exclude disinformation or certain conspiracy theories, aspects of "dehumanization," and propaganda. With respect to this last category, we will inquire whether my market for loyalties approach works in understanding modern social media regulation.

COMM 818: Media Criticism and the Future of Journalism (Pickard)
This course is divided into two parts. Drawing from critical traditions such as the Frankfurt School, British Cultural Studies, and Marxian political economy, the first half of the semester will focus on systemic, ideological, and cultural critiques of news media systems. The second half of the semester will address the “what is to be done” question, and will focus on issues related to economic and democratic theories of journalism, as well as public policy approaches to the future of news media.

COMM 829: Advanced Seminar in Collective Memory Studies (Zelizer)
This class engages with the area of collective memory studies and offers students the opportunity to develop research in the area over the course of the semester. Some prior understanding of the scholarship on collective memory is recommended.

COMM 848: Decoding the Social World (González-Bailón)
Have digital technologies, and the new data they provide, helped us advance old theoretical debates about communication and the role it plays in social life? How was social thought shaped by previous technological breakthroughs and how is the digital revolution shaping our theories today? What are the questions that are still open, the puzzles that require further research and more theoretical development? This seminar will consider these and related questions, offering a (personal) overview of the frontiers of communication research as seen through the lens of digital data and with a focus on the identification of social mechanisms. The discussions will be articulated around two forthcoming books: Decoding the Social World: When Data Science Meets Communication, and The Oxford Handbook of Communication in the Networked Age, which will offer a starting point to start thinking about theoretical problems and the best empirical strategies to solve them. ​

COMM 850: The Body: Theory, Method Discourse (Kraidy)
This seminar examines the body as a central communication problematic in theory and research. We will read a wide-ranging selection of essays, articles and books, examining a variety of research traditions that have focused on the body—phenomenology, feminism, biopolitics, etc—across the humanities and social sciences. We will explore how the body has been understood as tool, symbol, icon, battleground, and lived experience. In turn we will examine contemporary applications, ending with digital culture, of these approaches through notions of affect, aesthetics, materiality, embodiment, performativity, docility, social action, and creative insurgency. Though theoretical, this seminar has a strong methodological component focusing on discourse analysis.

COMM 854: Topics in Computational Communication Science (Cappella)
The topics covered will include: agent based modeling in network science; computational approaches to content analysis; and recommendation systems. The course will involve a series of speakers from the three universities as well as from other centers doing computation communication and social science. Sessions will be two hours at each location with one additional hour available for meeting with local participants only. All sessions will be recorded but the meetings will be synchronous through some shared meetings software.​

COMM 856: Privacy, Surveillance (Turow
This class will look at various philosophical and sociological perspectives on privacy, put them into historical context, and explore some of the dynamics of the contemporary marketplace that may (or may not) affirm Sun Microsystem CEO Scott McNealy’s 1999 comment to reporters and analysts, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” The class will involve mainly reading and discussion, with possibly a paper that extends a stream of the readings in a particular direction.​

COMM 860: Global Media Activism: The 1960s (Yang)
The long 1960s witnessed the explosion of media and activism on a global scale. From the French May Movement in 1968 to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, from the student protests in Zimbabwe, Germany, and Brazil to Women’s Liberation and the New Left in the United States, political radicalism was deeply intertwined with activist and alternative media and the mainstream press. The ideological divide of the Cold War not only failed to stop the transnational flows of the narratives and icons of radicalism, but gave them a fateful potency. In this process, the meanings and forms of political activism were transformed. This seminar analyzes this wave of political activism and its media practices while tracing its long-term consequences, memories, and legacies. Our goal is to understand media and activism in a pivotal period of global modernity as well as the historical origins of mediated activism in the 21st century.

COMM 867: Media and Social Movements (González-Bailón, Pickard, and Yang)
Examines the meanings and roles of media and communication in social movements; analyzes media reform activism; studies both historical movements and contemporary protests around the world (Arab Spring, Indignados, Occupy, etc); covers a broad range of theoretical perspectives, especially network and diffusion theories, political economy, narrative theory, and theories of performance. Students are required to submit a final research paper.

COMM 869: Ethnography and the Internet (Lingel)
This course covers qualitative and interpretive methods for investigations of socio-technical phenomena related to digital culture and online life. Concentrating on ethnographic methods, the course will cover methodological issues common to research on digital technologies, drawing on theorists from communication, media studies, information studies, sociology, anthropology and internet studies.  In addition to developing a sophisticated understanding of ethical and methodological issues surrounding ethnography and online life, students will complete a research proposal for a qualitative or interpretive study of online phenomena.

COMM 883: Describing Your Data (Falk
This course is for students who have collected empirical data and will explore ways of describing data for scientific and translational purposes. For example, students will explore different ways to explore and visualize their data, write about their data (e.g., a conference abstract vs. a blog post), present present their data (e.g., a conference talk vs. a pop talk) and make their data more reproducible. Students will also read scholarly work (oversampling, though not limited to work on media effects) and critique their work in relation to what is known about effective communication and reproducibility. Students should come prepared to engage with art, science and computer programming.

COMM 886: Democratic Theories of Media (Pickard)
Focusing on key texts, this doctoral seminar explores the normative foundations, and democratic theories of media systems throughout history and around the globe. From First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press, to communicate rights of media access and fair representation, the class will tease out the core values and ethics that purportedly gird our media and our society. The course will require extensive reading, engaged class discussions, and a journal-ready article by the end of the semester.

COMM 888: Theories of Revolutions and Social Movements (Yang)
This seminar studies theories of revolutions and social movements from Marx to the present. We examine the role of class, ideology, organization, and state power in revolutionary and pre-revolutionary processes, the figurations of collective identities of race, gender, and the nation, as well as the uses of media and the repertoires of communication. Key theoretical issues are analyzed with reference to pivotal events in world history, from the "big three" revolutions (French, Russian, and Chinese) to the American civil rights movement, revolutions in Southeast Asia and Central America, the Arab Spring, and more. Readings consist of foundational works in this field. A term paper is required.

COMM 889: Cultural Sociology (Yang
Studies culture as values, scripts, practice, performance, and style in the contexts of everyday life, social class and status groups, social movements, and changes of communication technologies. Approaches politics, society, institutions, identities, and social change as dynamic processes and complex interactions at both micro/meso and meso/macro levels. Examines the production, reception, circulation, and effects of signs, symbols, and stories. Readings include both classic authors (Elias, Simmel, Bahktin, Goffman, Foucault, Bourdieu, Raymond Williams, etc) and contemporary works from sociology and communication studies.

COMM 893: Networks, Theories, and Online Data: New Approaches to Social Change (Centola)
How do fads and innovations spread across a population? Why do political parties polarize, or reach an unexpected consensus? How can social technologies help to promote the emergence of social movements and new democratic politics? This course examines theories of social change and innovation diffusion, in light of methodological advances in network science and computational social science. The new revolution in computing has creating remarkable opportunities for doing social science research, and understanding the dynamics of how collective behaviors emerge and spread. The goal of the course is to think carefully about how formal/predictive models can be connected with empirical data. This course addresses research at the forefront of social science and complex systems. Participants will get the most out of the material by  aggressively pursuing questions that emerge from the readings, and from participating in hands-on research projects. The expectation is that students will develop research projects, or mature existing projects, which will be the focus of their work for the course. They should use this course as a foundation for developing publishable research. This course will also focus on the presentation of research - emphasizing clear, intelligible presentations, suitable for disciplinary conferences.