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COMM 5000 (formerly 500)


Various Instructors
  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

Introduction to the field of communications study and to the graduate program in communications. Required of all degree candidates. Open only to graduate students in communication.

COMM 5010

Governing the Internet: Critical Perspectives on Online Trust and Safety

  • Spring 2024

Who decides what’s allowed (or banned) online — and how are these choices made and implemented? Online platforms have become a ubiquitous part of how people socialize, do their jobs, find love and romance, and express their political views; they shape virtually every part of human experience for billions of people around the world. But their governance — the rules that structure what people can and can’t do on online platforms — remains obscure and poorly understood. This interdisciplinary course examines the histories, theories, policies, and technologies of internet governance that make up the emerging field of online trust and safety. You will learn about the different harms online platforms have to contend with — from governments meddling in elections to abuse and harassment — and the strategies platforms have employed to contend with these challenges. You will also have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience writing and implementing policies, including through the use of generative AI and other emergent technologies.

COMM 5020

The Politics of Code

  • Fall 2024

This course allows students to think through the concept of “code” from several critical vantage points, focusing particularly on both how codes carry politics and how those politics determine and define relationships of power. Code, as we will see, can be based on a wide variety of phenomena, from coding as categorization, to coding as passwords, and to coding as computer programming languages and software. These varied understandings of code force us to consider how exactly the politics of code may interact with—and determine—the everyday.

COMM 5220 (formerly 522)

Introduction to Communication Research

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

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 5230 (formerly 523)

Qualitative Ways of Knowing

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

How do social scientists create new knowledge? What are the qualitative processes and philosophies of knowing for communication scholars? This course provides students with a range of theories and frameworks for gathering data and developing claims, as well as understanding the limits of social science inquiry. Key areas of focus are identifying research questions, research ethics, understanding evidence, making causal claims and scholarly writing. COMM 5230 is required of all degree candidates and open only to graduate communication students.

COMM 5300 (formerly 530)

Advertising and the Digital Age

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 5400

Discourse Analysis

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2024
  • Spring 2023

Discourse Analysis examines both verbal and non-verbal communication to explore the making of claims of meaning, truthfulness, and authority, in everything from political speech to advertising to scientific reports. The course presents a range of methods and theoretical frameworks for analyzing discourse in a wide variety of social contexts (journalistic, legal, political, medical, familial). Readings and exercises draw from theories of signs, symbols, gestures, and language to analyze communicative acts and events. The goal of the course is to provide a solid grounding in the theories of speech, writing, symbols, and images, and to survey a broad array of empirical studies that have grown out of these theoretical frameworks. The course is appropriate for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

COMM 5500

Introduction to Computational Text Analysis With R

  • Fall 2024

This methods course is intended to introduce computational social science skills to students with no computer programming background. Students will apply these skills to an individual research project that analyzes, visualizes, and draws meaningful conclusions about digital text data. By the end of the course they will be prepared to conduct basic computational social science research as well as continue their computational education in other classes or independently.

COMM 5610 (formerly 889)

Cultural Sociology

  • Fall 2024

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 5630

Doing Media Studies: Theories, Frameworks, and Methods

  • Fall 2023

This seminar provides an introduction to theoretical and methodological developments in media and critical-cultural studies from the 1960s until the present. We will examine how a range of theoretical frameworks and methods that are central to media and communication research – textual and discourse analysis, ethnographic techniques, archival and historical research, memory studies, science and technology studies, postcolonial studies, and so on – emerged in conversation with broader philosophical and theoretical debates across the humanities and the social sciences. Taking a comparative approach – reading scholarship that addresses a range of media forms and technologies, cultural contexts, and historical periods – we will map the development of the field by exploring four distinct but overlapping terrains: ‘texts’ and discourses; audiences, users, and publics; industries and institutions; and media history and historiography. Throughout, we will pay close attention to research design, the promises and limits of various qualitative and interpretive research methods (in-depth interviews, participant observation, close reading, etc.), and most importantly, connections and disjunctures across theoretical frameworks, types of evidence, and narrative style and argumentation.

COMM 5770 (formerly 577)

Attitude and Behavior Prediction

  • Fall 2024

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 5800

Global Digital Cultures

  • Spring 2023

What do histories of media technologies and the production, circulation and consumption of media artifacts reveal about cultural and political developments across the postcolonial world? What happens when media and communication technologies become the site of intelligibility instead of serving as a conduit for investigating some other questions(s) (globalization, nationalism, secularism, etc.)? What new life-worlds come to the fore when we think the postcolonial world with digital media? With these broad questions in mind, this seminar offers a critical introduction to the unfolding impact of digitalization across the postcolonial world. Situating digital infrastructures and platforms in relation to diverse media forms and cultures across print, national and regional cinemas, television, and pirate and other non-formal media circuits, readings and assignments are designed to help students locate the digital turn in relation to broader political-economic, social, and cultural forces that transformed the ‘rest of the world’ beginning in the 1980s. Drawing on scholarship from global media and communication studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, cultural anthropology, and science and technology studies, we will adopt a trans-regional and connected histories approach to examine how digital media are positioned in relation to existing media infrastructures, changing urban environments, the ongoing transformation of established sound and screen industries, and emergent forms of everyday media practice and use that are reconfiguring socio-cultural, political, and economic terrains. From massive state-driven digital identity projects to YouTube influencer cultures, from Twitter and primetime television to WhatsApp and political rumors, readings and discussions will reflect on enduring concerns of representation, identity, and power while grappling with logics of algorithmic curation, datafication, and user-participation.

COMM 6000

Advocacy in Emergent Technology, Digital Media and Society

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

This course is designed to build a critical foundation for understanding the interplay of digital technologies and society and the important role of advocates in this space. Providing an overview of the history, students will investigate and critique contemporary emergent technologies in a social context, and explore their use in advocacy efforts. The course uses interactive lecture, discussion, readings, and guest speakers from technologists in the field.

COMM 6030

Journey to Joy: Designing a Happier Life for Social Work, Social Policy and Non-Profit Leadership

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

What does joy really mean? Could joy be an intervention for complex trauma, pain, grief, and loss? How does joy show up in policy making and leadership? This innovative new course combines cutting-edge research, practical techniques, and real-world examples to help you understand the power of joy and develop community-informed, anti-racist strategies for promoting it. From exploring the latest in clinical intervention, popular ideas around manifestation, self-care, and #Blackjoy, to examining the role of technology and cultural differences, you will gain a culturally humble and comprehensive understanding of what it takes to design a happier life. This course includes a blend of immersive, hands-on activities, short lectures, and engaging reflexive discussions that will leave you feeling inspired and empowered. Whether you are social work, non-profit leader or social policy student, or someone who wants to increase their own experiences of joy and happiness, this course is a perfect way to jump start your journey to joy.

COMM 6110 (formerly 811)

Neurobiology of Social Influence

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 6120

Meaningful Measures in a Data-Driven World

Knowledge cannot proceed without observing and measuring. And knowledge is necessary to transform society. Today we can observe a larger share of behaviors, from the individual to the collective, but extracting scientific meaning from that data, and connecting that meaning with insights and applications, is still a challenge. New approaches to the management, use, and analysis of social data are required to transform new forms of quantification into meaningful understanding of human and social behavior. This seminar will discuss and evaluate new forms of data representation and the conceptual, computational, and ethical challenges they create. We will discuss how our theories can keep up with rapidly changing realities and our capacity to analyze those realities, focusing on the central principles of measurement and questions of access and ethics.

COMM 6150 (formerly 615)

Experimental Design and Issues in Causality

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2023

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 6310

Social Cohesion in the Age of Social Media

  • Spring 2023

Social media platforms have created an information infrastructure that decentralizes the curation of content, reinforces selective exposure to like-minded sources, and offers very loose moderation policies to govern interactions. As a result, social media platforms have created an environment prone to conflict, polarization, incivility, and information disorders. But how much do we actually know about the role social media play in undermining social cohesion? Do social media reflect larger societal trends or is there something specific to these platforms that creates or aggravates conflict? Do the effects of social media vary by platform or by affordances within platforms? The goal of this seminar is to evaluate existing empirical evidence about the role social media plays in eroding social cohesion, and to connect this evidence with ongoing policy discussions on how to regulate social media companies.

COMM 6330

Climate Change and Communication: Theories and Applications

  • Spring 2024

This course will focus on understanding the multiple ways in which climate science is communicated to publics and how they come to understand it. In the process, we will explore ways to blunt susceptibilities to misconceptions, misconstruals, and deliberate deceptions about climate science. Forms of communication on which the class will focus include consensus statements, manifestos, commentaries, court briefs, news accounts, fact checks, op-eds, letters to the editor, speeches, and media interviews. Students will have the opportunity to interact with guest lecturers, among them leading journalists, climate activists, and climate survey analysts. Students will write letters to the editor and fact checks and will participate in mock interviews designed to increase their understanding of the nature of the interactions between journalists and climate scientists. As a class project, students will collaborate on a white paper on climate discourse fallacies to be distributed at the April 3-7 Society for Environmental Journalists annual convention (hosted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and Media). Students will interview attendees at that conference as part of the class project.

COMM 6372

Public Health Communication Research and Evaluation in the Digital Age

  • Spring 2023

This research seminar focuses on formative and evaluation research methods used to design and examine the effectiveness of public health communication interventions in the digital age. Students will learn about behavioral change theories and program planning frameworks used to inform communication intervention design; mechanisms of how communication interventions influence health behaviors; formative research used in determining targeted beliefs, message themes, and message effectiveness; research designs to measure campaign exposure and effects. The course will emphasize unique affordances, ethical considerations, and limitations of communication interventions using digital technologies. We will explore these research topics across different settings, health issues, and populations including public health communication to promote vaccinations, tobacco cessation, mental health care utilization, cancer screening, healthy nutrition and physical activity among others.

COMM 6390 (formerly 639)

Communication and Cultural Studies

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 6500

Re-reading Canonic Texts in Media Research: Whose Canon? Which Texts? Why Now?

  • Fall 2024

Can a field of study as cross-disciplinary as media studies have a set of canonic texts? Should there be a canon? And if so, which texts and scholars would we regard as canonic to the field? In 2002, Elihu Katz et al. answered these questions with a book that mapped five schools of thought - Columbia, Frankfurt, Chicago, Toronto, and Birmingham (British Cultural Studies) - and explored how they came to define areas of research and shape the formation of distinct scholarly communities. Yet two decades ago, media and communication studies scholars were only beginning to take seriously the critiques and interventions being developed by scholars of race, gender, and postcoloniality. Now, students and scholars in media studies and other allied disciplines in the humanities and interpretive social sciences are grappling with the epistemic, ideological, and moral flaws of Eurocentric thought and in the process, re-vitalizing keywords, concepts, and theories. In this seminar, we will read and engage with canonic texts, delve into the historical conditions of the production of those texts, their afterlife and varied impact(s) on the field, and engage with critical responses that help recast their theoretical and analytic value for us today. Scholars who have done this work of re-imagining canonic texts/schools of thought - for instance, Armond Towns on Marshall McLuhan, Roopali Mukherjee on the Frankfurt School, and Paula Chakravartty on critical political economy - will join class sessions as guest speakers.

COMM 6840 (formerly 684)

Data Visualization for Research

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 7010 (formerly 701)

Introduction to the Political Economy of Media

  • Spring 2023

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 7020

Media, Capitalism, and Democracy

  • Fall 2023

In this course we critically examine the complex and often-invisible relationships between political-economic structures and information/communication systems. Drawing from various schools of economic and democratic theory, we will explore historical and international case studies of how capitalism shapes media systems, infrastructures, and institutions. In doing so, we will interrogate how commercial logics affect media organizations’ ability to provide for democratic society’s communication and information needs. As we unpack and denaturalize the ideologies, imaginaries, and unexamined assumptions that undergird these relationships, we also will consider structural alternatives, always asking the utopian but necessary question: Is another media system possible?

COMM 7060 (formerly 706)

Analysis of Election Data

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 7220 (formerly 722)

Theories and Methods in Qualitative Research

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 7270 (formerly 727)

Evaluation of Communication Campaigns

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 7390 (formerly 739)

Collective Memory and Journalism

  • Fall 2023

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 7410 (formerly 741)

Media Effects Research Design

  • Fall 2023

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 7650 (formerly 765)

Digital Inequalities

This graduate course will introduce students to key approaches to understanding digital inequalities across communication, media studies, and sociology. From divides in access and skills, to institutional and intersectional approaches, this emerging research area utilizes different types of theories about social inequalities and social scientific methods to understand novel issues arising in our increasingly digitally mediated society. Over the course of the semester, students will develop a research proposal that will prepare them to utilize and contribute to theory and methods discussed in the course.

COMM 7700

Feminist Theory and Communication

  • Fall 2024

This course focuses on both historical and contemporary feminist theory as a site for the restructuring of knowledge, exploring the theoretical and methodological questions that arise when gendered dynamics of power are placed at the center of study. This course is designed to historicize and conceptualize past and current developments, as well as recurrent themes and movements, in feminist methodology and theory. The course material provides an overview of feminist theories as they have developed in Western and non-Western contexts, over the last two hundred years (though there is particular emphasis on the period since the 1960s), thus positioning feminism beyond the West in terms of global and transnational perspectives. It places works and scholars in conversation with others, both contemporaries who act and speak from other standpoints and predecessors who belong to the same tradition or trajectory. The organization of the course responds to the inadequacy of previous categories (liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, etc.) that do not encompass the complexity of feminist thought from the perspective of the early 21st century, given the impact of intersectionality, queer studies, globalization, political backlash, authoritarianism, and so on.

COMM 7830 (formerly 783)

Describing Your Data

This course is for students who have collected empirical data and will explore ways of describing data for scholarly and translational purposes. For example, students will explore different ways to explore and visualize their data (e.g., a conference abstract vs. a blog post), present their data (e.g., a conference talk vs. a pop talk) and make their findings more reproducible. Students will also read scholarly work (oversampling, though not limited to work on media effects and the science of science communication) 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 7880 (formerly 788)

Research Seminar on Internet Experiments

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

In the last decade, new studies have used Web-based experimentation to identify previously unobservable features of communication networks –from processes of cumulative advantage, to the spread of innovations, to the emergence of cooperation. This course offers a deep-dive into the design, creation and execution of Web-based experiments. Students will learn the core principles of Web-based experimental design, which will prepare them to design their own Web-based studies. Students will learn the relationship between theory and methods through a careful analysis of the theoretical implications of past Web-based experiments (both in terms of their value for some scientific problems, and their limitations for others). To this end, students will explore Web-based experiments through the lens of the theories that motivate them. Discussions and assignments will focus on eliciting both the strengths and limitations of this approach with specific emphasis on identifying the scientific potential for new studies. Longstanding debates concerning the value of identification and replication in social science, along with the relationship between theoretical models, observational data and experimental data, are given careful consideration throughout. Students will be exposed to new ways of conducting empirical research that will prepare them to design their own Web-based experimental studies.

COMM 799-001

Health Communication Inequalities in the Digital Age

This course will introduce concepts and frameworks including the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis, Structural Influence Model, digital divide, and the Health Equity Promotion Model, that are relevant to understanding health communication inequalities and the implications on improving health equity in the digital age. Through this course, students will 1) gain familiarity with communication inequalities in the form of information exposure, knowledge, health information seeking, message processing, and ability to take action among vulnerable and traditionally marginalized communities, with a specific emphasis on digital health communication, 2) learn how various methods and study designs are used to examine the impacts of communication inequalities on population health and health disparities, 3) learn about recent innovations in digital health communication interventions to address communication inequalities and effectiveness of these interventions in improving health equity, and 4) develop a proposal to design a digital communication intervention to improve health outcomes among health disparity populations. Throughout the course, we will draw upon examples pertaining to communication inequalities and digital interventions addressing the needs of a wide range of populations (in relation to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic position, sexual orientation and gender identity, those who experience language barriers, immigrant populations, physical disabilities, and mental illness), across the life course, and in diverse health conditions including tobacco and other substance use, infectious diseases, cancer care, and other health issues. We will discuss challenges of operationalizing and measuring communication inequalities, considerations when designing and implementing equitable digital interventions, and potential unintended impacts on population health.

COMM 8080 (formerly 808)

The Portrait as/in Ethnography

When cameras are ubiquitous and millions of people post pictures of themselves online, what counts as a portrait today? In an age of selfies, surveillance, biometric "smart" identity cards, and movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and indigenous decolonization, can the portrait do a different kind of representational work? How do visual portraits (whether photographic, painted, drawn, or sculpted) operate differently from textual portraits (such as biographies, life histories, or profiles)? This seminar aims to resituate and rethink the portrait in ethnography, and by extension, the practice of portraiture as an ethnographic method, by exploring portraiture as a culturally conditioned, socially resonant form of knowledge production. All portraits, even self-portraits, rely upon a relationship: between the portrayed and the portrayer, the sitter and the artist, the interlocutor and the ethnographer. We will interrogate how portraits have shaped identity politics, and how portraiture, as a scholarly and artistic act, can radically re-theorize forms of social engagement. Drawing on multimodal and decolonial turns in anthropology, seminar participants will produce portraits of their own, using whatever medium/media might be best suited for their interpretive work.

COMM 8140 (formerly 814)

Doing Internet Studies

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 8150 (formerly 815)

Labor, Communication, and Technology

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 8370 (formerly 837)

The Meaning of Measures: Quantification, Culture, & Digital Technologies

It’s been said that what’s counted counts. Numbers and other measurements communicate meaning and create hierarchies of value. As such, measurement is a political act. From prices to ratings, risk scores to the 2020 Census, quantification projects surround our daily lives. This class will ask, how do numbers and other metrics communicate meaning throughout the social world? Specifically, we’ll focus on the role of technologies and data in the process of quantification and the construction of cultural meaning and conflict about knowledge and truth. How do our ideas about data shape what we know about ourselves? How we seek to know others? This course will engage in an interdisciplinary conversation about the past and present of culture and quantification, from the cultural pre-history of “big data” technologies’ appeals to objectivity and efficiency, to current conflicts over privacy and platforms.

COMM 8410 (formerly 841)

The Ethics of Forgetting: Media at Risk of Deletion

Digital information is continually being created and circulated, but it is also forgotten, deleted, and otherwise lost. Whether from the perspective of journalists, activists, artists, or academics, how do we deal with the deletion or loss of media? Where is information archived and what politics guide its organization, curation, and erasure? Where do our media live and die? This course begins with theories of institutional and individual archiving. It then moves to concepts of remediation and machine learning to complicate how information travels, data is stored, and archives are 'retrieved'. Finally, using case studies of arts-based digital archiving projects, the course focuses on the politics of forgetting media.

COMM 8490 (formerly 849)

Labor in the Digital Economy

Long before the rise of platforms, scholars connected the role of media and communication technologies in the re-organization of labor. This course introduces students to key concepts and theories 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 ways that technological transformations have prompted scholars to reconsider the meaning and value of work; from Marxist, cultural, and feminist perspectives, as well as the place of labor in communication scholarship. Key areas of focus will include the relationship between digital transformations of the workplace and precarity, control, resistance, and inequality.

COMM 8510 (formerly 851)

Social Media and Political Information

Is social media good or bad for democracy? This seminar will unpack this question through the lens of empirical research casting light on how different actors create and consume content on social media – and the broader consequences of that content for political behavior. The discussion will center on current controversies, including the political impact of bots, the role of algorithms in radicalization dynamics, the susceptibility of different groups to misinformation, the consequences of incivility and hate speech, or the predominance of clickbait over factual news.

COMM 8520 (formerly 852)

It’s About Time: Problematizing Time in Social Science Research

  • Spring 2023

Human experience is characterized by a complex interplay of processes that play out across multiple timescales: from second to second, from week to week, and from generation to generation. We will critically examine an expansive literature touching on emotions, personality, media engagement, health communication, political communication, and more, all in the service of identifying notions of time that are often implicit in theories of human experience. In doing so, students will become accustomed to identifying and evaluating notions of change, accumulation, speed, timing, tempo, sequences, and applying the following questions to the topics they encounter in their everyday readings and their own research: What timescale(s) are addressed by a theory, either implicitly or explicitly? Is the timing of measurement matched to the timescale(s) over which phenomena are unfolding? Seminars will be accompanied by a data science laboratory in which students will gain hands-on experience in describing, visualizing, and analyzing intensive longitudinal data, data consisting of 5 or more repeated measures over relatively short (seconds, minutes, hours, days) timescales. Intensive longitudinal data are increasingly feasible to collect due to the widespread availability of smartphones and come with both data wrangling and analytic challenges as well as opportunities to operationalize complex, time-related concepts. Some familiarity with linear regression is recommended but not required.

COMM 8530 (formerly 853)

Gender, Media, and Culture

This course focuses on contemporary feminist theory as a site for the restructuring of knowledge, exploring the theoretical, methodological, and intersectional questions that arise when gender and race are placed at the center of study. This course is designed to historicize and conceptualize past and current developments, as well as recurrent themes and movements, in feminist methodology and theory, as well as to gain insight into the ways in which gender, and its intersections with race, ethnicity and class, is enacted, represented and mediated, and has an impact on cultural formations and communication. The course material provides an overview of feminist theories as they have developed in the West, especially the United States, with a particular emphasis on the period since the 1960s. It also suggests that we must consider feminism beyond the West in terms of global and transnational perspectives. It places works and scholars in conversation with others, both contemporaries who act and speak from other standpoints and predecessors who belong to the same tradition or trajectory.

COMM 8540 (formerly 854)

A Sociopolitical and Intellectual History of the Communication Field

This course combines close readings of canonized works as well as lesser-known scholarship with a critical sociology of knowledge. A key theme of the course is that to understand how our field evolved, we must understand the historical context and the power relationships that shaped its intellectual and ideological contours. Although we will include some contemporary criticism of the field's historical lacunae--especially along racial, gender, sexuality, and class lines--much of the course's emphasis will be placed on the field's development during the twentieth century. As a class, we will consider the relevance of research paradigms that emerged during the print and broadcast eras for today's digital age.

COMM 8550 (formerly 855)

Polarization and Partisan Discord

In this course we examine the nature, causes, and consequences of polarization and incivility. We pay special attention to the role that the media and information plays in exacerbating these problems, as well as ways in which technology can be redesigned to ameliorate incivility and polarization.

COMM 8580 (formerly 858)

CHANGE: Networks and Policy

This course explores the policy applications of current network theories of social influence and behavior propagation. The course is developed around the book CHANGE focusing on the specific shortcomings of existing policies and the development of new policy strategies for collective behavior change. Students will engage with current thinking on topics including: influencers, virality, stickiness, social norms, motivated reasoning, organizational change, partisan bias, group problem-solving, and political change. This course focuses on implementation and evaluation strategies for applying the theory of network diffusion to current policy problem such as: COVID-19 vaccination, sustainable technology adoption, political campaign mobilization, justice system reform, implicit bias in medicine, the spread of political and health-related misinformation, #MeToo and changing gender norms in organizations, and other important topics. Students will engage in "translational social science," by developing theoretically motivated solutions to concrete policy problems.

COMM 8590 (formerly 862)

Diversity and the End of Average

  • Fall 2024

There are persistent inequities in academic experiences and careers between individuals from different demographic backgrounds. There are also differences in the extent to which certain groups of people are represented in our scholarship, preventing these groups from experiencing the benefits of our research innovations and, in turn, perpetuating inequity. The aim of this class is twofold. Seminar readings will provide insight into the long history of inequity, discrimination against, and lack of representation of groups marginalized because of their sex, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, intersectional identities, and more, that persists in our communities and our scholarship. A data science laboratory run in parallel with the seminar will introduce students to person-specific approaches to data collection, analysis, and intervention to provide students with a toolkit that allows them to circumvent approaches that rely on the presumption that empirical studies recruiting diverse samples produce an average result that is appropriately reflective of the individuals themselves.

COMM 8610 (formerly 861)

Surveillance Capitalism

This course explores the history, technologies, political economy, and regulatory tensions relating to the monitoring of populations and individuals in the contemporary digital media environment.

COMM 8620 (formerly 799-002)

Gendered Media Economies

This seminar introduces and traces feminist media studies over the past several decades, with a particular emphasis on media and cultural economies, which includes financial economies but also expands it to the production and circulation of reproducing inequalities, constituting norms, regulating and disciplining individuals and populations, commodifying difference and critique, and (potentially) enabling resistance, oppositional practices and cultural activism. Through this frame, we approach the power dynamics of gender alongside the power dynamics of race, class, sexuality, geopolitics and other social experiences. Along the way, we will examine a variety of gendered media economies from feminist media production to reality television to social media influencers and more. This course is being offered at both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California.

COMM 8630 (formerly 863)

Utilizing Mixed Methods in Communication Research

  • Spring 2024

This course will focus on applying principles and best practices in designing and conducting mixed methods research to address communication research questions and develop communication interventions to address diverse health, social, and behavioral priorities. Through this course, students will 1) learn how rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods can be integrated to answer complex research questions, 2) appreciate the relative strengths and limitations of qualitative and quantitative data, 3) understand the rationale, benefits, and tradeoffs of commonly utilized mixed methods study designs, and 4) obtain experience with a mixed methods investigation through field work with campus and local partners (e.g., Penn Wellness and community organizations). Each week, we will learn different aspects involved in developing, conducting, reporting, and evaluating mixed methods studies, and read examples of communication research studies that utilized mixed methods. We will review the best practices, strengths, and challenges of utilizing mixed methods to answer communication research questions drawing from these examples. Field work will include assignments to collaborate with partners to design or conduct a mixed-methods study or program evaluation, to be identified jointly with each partner. This course requires prior completion of introductory coursework in quantitative and qualitative research methods.

COMM 8700 (formerly 870)

Advanced Qualitative Research

An important milestone in every doctoral program is the successful defense of a dissertation proposal. But what does a good dissertation proposal look like? How can students craft a proposal that sets them up for success as they advance towards writing a dissertation? This course has one objective: to provide students with the tools they need to write a convincing, well-written and well-reasoned dissertation proposal. This means having a clear problem statement, a convincing answer to the "So what?" question, and a coherent plan for moving forward with writing a dissertation. Structured more as a workshop rather than a seminar, students will provide feedback on each other's work throughout the semester, collectively addressing common issues around writing, argumentation, reviewing literature, research ethics and outlining chapters. Because qualitative and interpretive work comes with specific expectations and challenges, this course is geared towards students who draw from these research techniques; students who are conducting mixed-methods dissertations may also be allowed to join.

COMM 8760 (formerly 876)

The Black Public Sphere, from Freedoms Journal to Black Lives Matter

  • Spring 2024

The field of communication projects and encourages particular visions of deliberation and the public that have been critiqued for failing to represent groups whose citizenship and inclusion in democratic processes is not assured. In this course we correct this practice by centering scholarship on the Black public sphere, recognizing it as central to political and media theory on publics and counterpublics. We will connect “classical” theoretical works and epistemological schools to contemporary critical, cultural, and institutional analysis of Black media-making, geographies, innovation, protest, and deliberation.

COMM 8810 (formerly 881)

The Performance Society: Readings in Social and Media Theories

Social action has a performative character - people act as if on a stage in response to audience expectations, whether offline or online. This seminar examines the performative character of modern society and “performance” and “performativity” as key concepts in critical studies of media, culture, and politics. It traces the history of this line of critical thought from classical theorists to contemporary authors in sociology, anthropology, media studies, and performance studies. Special attention will be devoted to questions of performance as mimesis and as poiesis, and the relationship between media and performance. Another central issue concerns the will to perform. Why are individuals in modern society compelled to perform? What are the manifestations and forms of performance in institutional and non-institutional settings (such as revolutions and social movements)? How are performances related to emotion? How do the internet and digital media shape the forms and meanings of performance? What are the consequences of the performance imperative?

COMM 8820 (formerly 888)

Theories of Revolutions and Social Movements

  • Spring 2024

This seminar examines theories and concepts in the analysis of revolutions, social movements, rebellions, and everyday activism and resistance. To a field of academic study largely shaped by theories and concepts produced in and about North America and Europe, we will introduce critical perspectives from/in the Global South and aspire to expand social movement studies beyond the core. To this end, we will critically examine established theoretical models while also exploring alternative and indigenous perspectives, methodologies, and political practices. We will study narratives, symbols, performances, and old and new media forms in the construction and mobilization of issues, identities, and emotions. Special attention will be given to cultures, technologies, and tactics of resistance and protest. Historical and contemporary cases from the U.S. and around the world will be examined.

COMM 8910

Special Topics in Media at Risk // Media and Journalism in Central and Eastern Europe: Post-Communist Transition and New Directions

  • Spring 2023

The course explores media transformations in post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe against a backdrop of democratization processes and emerging challenges for journalism and media. The goal of the course is twofold. Firstly, it addresses theoretical approaches and concepts developed for the study of media and their role in democratization of societies facing a multitude of challenges on their transition path. Secondly, the course focuses on the study of current issues and challenges that shape the evolution of journalism and media in the post-communist European countries, including disinformation, propaganda, political polarization, censorship and others. The course also offers a comparative perspective to the analysis of case-studies from the region, with a special focus on Ukraine and Russia.

COMM 8980 (formerly 898)

Explaining Explanation

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

In the social sciences we often use the word “explanation” as if (a) we know what we mean by it, and (b) we mean the same thing that other people do. In this course we will critically examine these assumptions and their consequences for scientific progress. In part 1 of the course we will examine how, in practice, researchers invoke at least three logically and conceptually distinct meanings of “explanation:” identification of causal mechanisms; ability to predict (account for variance in) some outcome; and ability to make subjective sense of something. In part 2 we will examine how and when these different meanings are invoked across a variety of domains, focusing on social science, history, business, and machine learning, and will explore how conflation of these distinct concepts may have created confusion about the goals of science and how we evaluate its progress. Finally , in part 3 we will discuss some related topics such as null hypothesis testing and the replication crisis. We will also discuss specific practices that could help researchers clarify exactly what they mean when they claim to have “explained” something, and how adoption of such practices may help social science be more useful and relevant to society.