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- Fall 2021
An introduction to the field of Communication study and to the graduate program in Communication. Required of all degree candidates. Open only to graduate students in Communication.
Introduction to Media Policy
This interactive and discussion-oriented course provides an introduction to key media policy debates, ranging from policies affecting news and entertainment media to telecommunications and the Internet. The course traces the history and politics of media policy through the development of radio, television, telecommunications, and digital media. Understanding these policies in relation to democratic theory and ethical concerns, the course examines how media policy is shaped in and outside Washington, D.C., and it considers the central role policy plays in structuring the kinds of media that we consume and create.
Introduction to Communication Research
- Fall 2020
- Fall 2021
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.
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 523 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
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.
Research Seminar on Computational Social Science
- Fall 2020
This is a graduate research seminar in which top researchers in the field of Computational Social Science will present cutting-edge research. Our focus will be on carefully reading the speaker’s work, and discussing in detail their theoretical models, empirical methods, and overall scientific contribution. Participants will also present in the seminar, which will help to prepare them for professional presentations of their work at conferences and job talks. This seminar will meet weekly.
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.
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 & Behavior Prediction
- Spring 2021
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.
Introduction to Networks
- Fall 2020
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.
Experimental Design and Issues in Causality
- Fall 2021
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
- Fall 2021
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.
History of Media Research, 1890-1990
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.
Public Health Communication
- Spring 2021
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.
Communication and Cultural Studies
- Fall 2020
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.
An introduction to content analysis, the analysis of large bodies of textual matter, also called message systems analysis, quantitative semantics, propaganda analysis, and (computer-aided) text analysis. The course inquires into the theories, methods, and empirical problems common to these analytical efforts: sampling, text retrieval, coding, reliability, analytical constructs, computational techniques, and abductive inference. It illustrates these problems by studies of mass media content, interview or panel data, legal research, and efforts to draw inferences from personal documents typical in psychology and literature. Students design a content analysis and do the preparatory work for an academic or practical research project. They may also use the opportunity of forging available theories into a new analytical technique and test it with available texts, or solve a methodological problem in content analysis research.
Digital Media and Social Theory
This course explores critical issues in contemporary society through the lens of digital media studies and social theory. The goal is to build constructive dialogues between digital media studies and contemporary social theory. Special attention will be given to how social theory may inform the theorizing and empirical analysis of digital culture, politics, and practices. We will read monographs on globalization, power and control, dissent and protest, self and community, and the public sphere as they relate to digital media technologies. They include works by McLuhan, Castells, Turkle, Papacharissi, Lievrouw, Bimber, W. Chun and more. These monographs will be examined alongside the works of Gramsci, Foucault, Williams, Habermas, Bourdieu, Giddens, and Melucci. Students are required to submit weekly reading reports, make oral presentations, and complete a term paper.
(Prerequisite(s): COMM 575) Current research, theory and statistical methods for assessing the effects of messages. Specific focus on messages designed to have a persuasive effect on attitudes, beliefs, opinions, or behaviors. Experimental and non-experimental research from mass and interpersonal communication, health, social psychology, advertising, political science and journalism will be considered. Unintended effects - such as the consequences of violent pornography - are not considered.
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.
Popular Culture and Politics
- Spring 2021
The rise of the digital age has put enormous pressure on so-called legacy media industries. Those are businesses that rose to fame and fortune in the 19th and 20th centuries but are now having to fundamentally rethink their plans regarding audiences, subsidies, and delivery technologies. This class will focus on four legacy media industries: music recordings, newspapers, books, and television. For each, we will consider the history of the industry, the challenges it has faced in the evolving digital environment. Students will write a paper on a topic related to one of these media or another legacy medium in transition.
Advanced Project in a Medium
Proposal written in specified form and approved by both the student's project supervisor and academic advisor must be submitted with registration. Open only to graduate degree candidates in communication.
Introduction to the Political Economy of Media
- Spring 2021
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.
Analysis 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
- Fall 2021
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 & Journalism
- Fall 2021
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
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.
Media Ethnography: Theory and Practice
This course will allow students to conduct 'critical readings' of ethnographic engagements with television, radio, and film as cultural phenomena. We will examine how ethnographers use their method and genre to understand the production, reception, and circulation of mass media. We will also draw on contemporary social/critical theory to unpack some of the epistemological assumptions organizing and anchoring such qualitative work. (The internet will also be discussed.)
Discursive Constructions of Realities
- Spring 2021
This seminar develops qualitative methods for critical inquiries into what language does. It explores linguistic tropes and social interactions in which realities come to be constructed, contested, and maintained. We critically evaluate the epistemological entailments of several dominant theories of language, and settle on conceptions that enable us to examine the cognitive and social consequences of talk, text, and social interaction. These conceptions provide powerful alternatives to the representational theories that dominate popular discourses. For example, we take language as performative: focusing on how narratives are enacted in the presence of others, ranging from speech acts, instructions, individual stories in therapy to nationalism and war. We develop analytical vocabularies that reveal and try to overcome questionable ontological claims, highlighting actionable possibilities in preference to merely describing facts. We rely on dialogical, socially interactive, and constructive conceptions, ranging from conversations and computer interfaces to discourses, whose artifacts make differences to different communities. The methods that this seminar develops are fundamentally emancipatory and liberating. Realizing that most experiences of power and oppression results from linguistically constructed cognitive or disciplinary traps enables us to explore linguistically informed alternatives. Communication research cannot be undertaken without language but theories have largely failed to reflect on their consequences.
- Spring 2021
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 scientific and translational purposes. For example, students will explore different ways to explore and visualize their data, write about their data (e.g., a conference abstract vs. a blog post), present present their data (e.g., a conference talk vs. a pop talk) and make their data more reproducible. Students will also read scholarly work (oversampling, though not limited to work on media effects) and critique their work in relation to what is known about effective communication and reproducibility. Students should come prepared to engage with art, science and computer programming.
Research Seminar on Internet Experiments
- Fall 2020
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.
Filter Bubbles, Long Tails, and Information Cascades: Research Methods 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
- Spring 2021
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.
Neurobiology 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.
Digital News and the Consumption of Information Online
Access to news and political information is at the heart of democratic societies. Citizens need to stay informed of the actions taken by their representatives if they are to hold them accountable and demand political response. Digital technologies emerged to democratize the production of news content, but they have also disrupted legacy media models and, most importantly, how the public perceives the credibility of news. Social media platforms have become an easy target for misinformation campaigns and online networks are likely conduits for the dissemination of fake news. At the same time, digital technologies are encouraging new forms of decentralized reporting that increase audience fragmentation – thus potentially eroding the common ground on which democracies depend. These two effects (misinformation and fragmentation) could have pernicious consequences for our normative understanding of democratic life. This course will discuss recent research casting light on the role that online networks are actually playing in the consumption of political information - as well as the empirical limitations of the available evidence. The goal is to give students the theoretical and analytical tools to determine (a) the extent to which access to news is changing in this digital age; (b) the consequences of those changes; and (c) how many of the observed trends can be generalized across countries and media systems.
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.
Media Criticism and the Future of Journalism
This course is divided into two parts. Drawing from critical traditions such as the Frankfurt School, British Cultural Studies, and Marxian political economy, the first half of the semester will focus on systemic, ideological, and cultural critiques of news media systems. The second half of the semester will address the “what is to be done” question, and will focus on issues related to economic and democratic theories of journalism, as well as public policy approaches to the future of news media.
Critical Race Theory
This course will attempt to engage students in an interdisciplinary conversation about how “race” and “racism” are theorized, operationalized and debated in both the academy and “the real world.” The offering’s goal is to articulate one fundamental (though multi-pronged) question: How do disputes about the ontological reality and epistemological utility of race and racism pivot on contestations around various themes/concerns, including (i) essentialism vs. anti-essentialism; (ii) the politics of culture and the semiology of politics; (iii) globalization and its links to mass-mediation; and (iv) a neoliberalist dispensation’s commodifications of social identities. This course examines the history of race as a socially meaningful category. Where did it come from? Why/how did it develop? What are some of its past and present manifestations? In which ways might it be inextricably linked to other forms of social differentiation (such as class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality)? Critical. Race. Theory. also requests that students think carefully about their own political, intellectual, and emotional investments in race as a social/biological claim. Race is a deceptively complicated construct (considering how much we all think we understand it), one that demands careful attention to culture and biology, mythology and history, science and superstition. This course seeks to unpack race-thinking in everyday life and popular media/culture.
Advanced Seminar in Collective Memory Studies
This class engages with the area of collective memory studies and offers students the opportunity to develop research in the area over the course of the semester. Some prior understanding of the scholarship on collective memory is recommended.
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.
Decoding the Social World
Have digital technologies, and the new data they provide, helped us advance old theoretical debates about communication and the role it plays in social life? How was social thought shaped by previous technological breakthroughs and how is the digital revolution shaping our theories today? What are the questions that are still open, the puzzles that require further research and more theoretical development? This seminar will consider these and related questions, offering a (personal) overview of the frontiers of communication research as seen through the lens of digital data and with a focus on the identification of social mechanisms. The discussions will be articulated around two forthcoming books: Decoding the Social World: When Data Science Meets Communication, and The Oxford Handbook of Communication in the Networked Age, which will offer a starting point to start thinking about theoretical problems and the best empirical strategies to solve them.
Labor in the Digital Economy
- Fall 2021
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
- Spring 2021
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 2021
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 & Culture
- Fall 2021
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.
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.
This class will look at various philosophical and sociological perspectives on privacy, put them into historical context, and explore some of the dynamics of the contemporary marketplace that may (or may not) affirm Sun Microsystem CEO Scott McNealy’s 1999 comment to reporters and analysts, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” The class will involve mainly reading and discussion, with possibly a paper that extends a stream of the readings in a particular direction.
CHANGE: Networks and Policy
- Spring 2021
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.
Global Media Activism: The 1960s
The long 1960s witnessed the explosion of media and activism on a global scale. From the French May Movement in 1968 to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, from the student protests in Zimbabwe, Germany, and Brazil to Women’s Liberation and the New Left in the United States, political radicalism was deeply intertwined with activist and alternative media and the mainstream press. The ideological divide of the Cold War not only failed to stop the transnational flows of the narratives and icons of radicalism, but gave them a fateful potency. In this process, the meanings and forms of political activism were transformed. This seminar analyzes this wave of political activism and its media practices while tracing its long-term consequences, memories, and legacies. Our goal is to understand media and activism in a pivotal period of global modernity as well as the historical origins of mediated activism in the 21st century.
- Fall 2020
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.
Utilizing Mixed Methods in Health Communication Research
- Spring 2021
This course will provide an introduction to mixed methods in health communication. 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) practice designing a mixed methods investigation.
The Racist in the Machine: Conspiracy Theories, Cultural Criticism, and Contemporary Mass Mediation
- Fall 2021
Philosopher Gilbert Ryle used imagery of a “ghost in the machine” to characterize that fundamental Cartesian separation between mind and body. Ryle also provided interpretive anthropologist Clifford Geertz his oft-cited distinction between thin and thick descriptions of social life. For scholars of communication, examining how debates about race are organized and framed can be a valuable way to reimagine what interventions the field might make into ongoing scholarly and popular disputes on the matter. With such a goal in mind, this course will ask students to consider (i) what kinds of dualisms organize racialist logics, (ii) whether conspiracy theories might be said to pivot on racialized understandings of difference and power, (iii) how people ground assertions of racial authority/authenticity, and (iv) the ways in which these inter-related themes are impacted by our decidedly new/social media moment.
Media and Social Movements
Examines the meanings and roles of media and communication in social movements; analyzes media reform activism; studies both historical movements and contemporary protests around the world (Arab Spring, Indignados, Occupy, etc); covers a broad range of theoretical perspectives, especially network and diffusion theories, political economy, narrative theory, and theories of performance. Students are required to submit a final research paper.
Ethnography and 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.
Advanced Qualitative Research
- Spring 2021
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 2020
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.
Anthromedialities: Experimental Theory and Practice
- Fall 2020
In recent years much has been made of the "beyond text" turn in anthropology, specifically the need to re-evaluate the singular authority of "writing culture." Several new approaches advocate for non-textual medialities, with representations originating in both sonovisual media and performance. Less, however, has been theorized and advocated about intermediality and the multicompositional practices of transmediality and plurimediality, specifically their more transgressive multisensory epistemology. This course will examine these radical approaches to interacting textual, visual, sonic and performative mediations, theorizing their epistemic and ethical implications, collaborative potentials, affordances in narrative and non-narrative representation, and political and aesthetic investments. Students will both critically engage histories of transmedial anthropology, and produce projects that are multicompositional.
The Performance Society: Readings in Social and Media Theories
- Fall 2020
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?
Democratic Theories of Media
Focusing on key texts, this doctoral seminar explores the normative foundations, and democratic theories of media systems throughout history and around the globe. From First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press, to communicate rights of media access and fair representation, the class will tease out the core values and ethics that purportedly gird our media and our society. The course will require extensive reading, engaged class discussions, and a journal-ready article by the end of the semester.
Theories of Revolutions and Social Movements
This seminar studies theories of revolutions and social movements from Marx to the present. We examine the role of class, ideology, organization, and state power in revolutionary and pre-revolutionary processes, the figurations of collective identities of race, gender, and the nation, as well as the uses of media and the repertoires of communication. Key theoretical issues are analyzed with reference to pivotal events in world history, from the "big three" revolutions (French, Russian, and Chinese) to the American civil rights movement, revolutions in Southeast Asia and Central America, the Arab Spring, and more. Readings consist of foundational works in this field. A term paper is required.
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.
Misinformation/Disinformation in the Age of Digital Media
- Fall 2020
This course is designed to help students have a better understanding of the issues regarding misinformation/disinformation in the digital age, with an emphasis on the role played by tech platforms. The course covers a wide range of forms (propaganda, [false] news, conspiracies, rumors) of misinformation/disinformation in different contexts (e.g., election interference; political campaigns; influence campaigns around public health issues) to address the question of a) where misinformation/disinformation originates and who exploits it; b) how misinformation/disinformation diffuses among the public and how prevalent it is; c) what impact misinformation/disinformation has on the public; and d) what we should do to address misinformation/disinformation. The course readings include a wide range of theoretical/conceptual and methodological approaches including historical, legal and policy analysis, but with an extensive (but not exclusive) focus on research and practices developed in the fields of social science such as Communication, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology. No prerequisite is required.
Networks, Theories, and Online Data: New Approaches to Social Change
How do fads and innovations spread across a population? Why do political parties polarize, or reach an unexpected consensus? How can social technologies help to promote the emergence of social movements and new democratic politics? This course examines theories of social change and innovation diffusion, in light of methodological advances in network science and computational social science. The new revolution in computing has creating remarkable opportunities for doing social science research, and understanding the dynamics of how collective behaviors emerge and spread. The goal of the course is to think carefully about how formal/predictive models can be connected with empirical data. This course addresses research at the forefront of social science and complex systems. Participants will get the most out of the material by aggressively pursuing questions that emerge from the readings, and from participating in hands-on research projects. The expectation is that students will develop research projects, or mature existing projects, which will be the focus of their work for the course. They should use this course as a foundation for developing publishable research. This course will also focus on the presentation of research - emphasizing clear, intelligible presentations, suitable for disciplinary conferences.
- Spring 2021
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.