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- Fall 2022
- 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.
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.
Introduction to Communication Research
- Fall 2022
- 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.
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.
Introduction to Political Communication
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.
Advertising and the Digital Age
- Fall 2022
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.
- Spring 2023
- Spring 2024
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.
Research Seminar on Computational Social Science
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.
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.
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.
Social Psychology of Communication
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.
Communication and Public Opinion
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.
Attitude and Behavior Prediction
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.
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.
Introduction to Networks
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.
Advocacy in Emergent Technology, Digital Media and Society
- 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.
Contemporary Sociological Theory
- Fall 2023
This is a graduate-level seminar structured around the main theoretical debates of contemporary sociology, including the interplay of rationality and emotion, the relationship between structure and agency, the nature of power, and the role of chance and contingency. In considering alternative positions on these debates, we will encounter the major theorists of the past fifty years, including Parsons, Merton, Goffman, Homans, Schutz, Coleman, Bourdieu, Luhmann, Habermas, Collins, and Giddens. Requirements include intensive primary source reading, writing, and participation. The course assumes, and does not provide, prior familiarity with the main theoretical perspectives, and thus does not substitute for the undergraduate theory course (SOCI 126).
Journey to Joy: Designing a Happier Life for Social Work, Social Policy and Non-Profit Leadership
- 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.
Neurobiology of Social Influence
- Fall 2022
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.
Meaningful Measures in a Data-Driven World
- Fall 2022
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.
Experimental Design and Issues in Causality
- 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.
Health Psychology Seminar
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.
Historical Trends of Mass Communication Research
An introduction into the field of mass communication research covering classic studies from the late 19th century through 1990s. Emphasis is on the societal, organizational, political, and other considerations that shaped the field.
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.
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.
Public Health Communication
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.
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.
Communication and Cultural Studies
- Fall 2022
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.
Autoethnography in the Age of Online Profiles and Selfies
- Spring 2023
What drives people to make work about themselves? What qualifies as autoethnography, and what distinguishes autoethnography from other forms of autobiographical storytelling? We all have stories to tell. Long before people curated semi-public and public personas through selfies and online profiles on numerous corporate digital platforms, marginalized people were driven to make visual media about themselves that circulated via mail and festivals. Media becomes autoethnographic when media-makers connect their personal experiences and life trajectories with larger societal and global issues, understanding themselves to be implicated in broader historical processes. Autoethnography is an activist performance of the self that seeks to destabilize imposed forms of identity and dominant representations. Historically subaltern groups have used autoethnographic filmmaking to challenge negative representations and power dynamics. This course provides a hands-on approach to learning the ethics, practices, and methods of autoethnographic filmmaking in conjunction with a survey of the history of the genre, including how it has evolved in the digital age. We will interrogate the power dynamics inherent in the filmmaking process and knowledge production more broadly, focusing specifically on the roles and relationships of filmmakers, researchers, and subjects. We will explore the possibilities and pitfalls of representing others and ourselves (and our communities) publicly. Course readings will draw from the growing literature on how to establish researcher/activist partnerships, as well as from case studies that exemplify the controversies, debates, and pivotal moments in the history of non-fiction film. Students will develop and produce their own autoethnographic films, while learning to think critically about the stakes of this kind of media-making. These films will be showcased at the end of the semester.
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. Prerequisite: COMM 5750 Social Psychology of Communication
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filter Bubbles, Long Tails, & Information Cascades: Methodology for a Fragmented Media Environment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Diversity and the End of Average
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Black Public Sphere, from Freedoms Journal to Black Lives Matter
- Fall 2022
- 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.
The Social Neuroscience of Communication
This interdisciplinary course focuses on understanding the mechanisms of social thinking, media effects and interpersonal communication across multiple levels of analysis. We use the brain as one powerful window to understand and predict outcomes that are challenging to predict otherwise. The course will cover foundational readings and involve weekly, seminar style discussions of recent papers in social neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and communication science.
The Performance Society: Readings in Social and Media Theories
- Fall 2022
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?
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.
- 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.
Ethnography & the Internet
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.
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.