Undergraduate Course Descriptions

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COMM 0025

Fellows Proseminar I (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Fall 2024

The SNF Paideia Fellows Proseminar I introduces sophomore SNF Paideia Fellows to academic research and practice related to the civic engagement mission of the SNF Paideia program. We engage diverse perspectives on the purpose of higher education, the nature of citizenship, the value of civility, and the relationship between individual and community wellness. Students will develop their personal civic identity and wellness goals through intentional course exercises and assignments. The goal of the course is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical frameworks for healthy, sustainable and robust civic leadership at Penn and in their local, national, and global communities. This course is open only to SNF Paideia Fellows, who are required to take it during the fall of their sophomore year.

COMM 0026

Fellows Proseminar II (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Fall 2024

In the SNF Paideia Fellows Proseminar II, Fellows engage in deeper exploration of the themes of dialogue, citizenship, wellness, and service, especially considering potential connections with their chosen major. In this course, junior Fellows investigate engaged scholarship in their home discipline and reflect on the ways their designated SNF Paideia courses influence their research, career, and service trajectories. Building on the course materials from Proseminar I, Fellows will delve deeper into the scholarship that evaluates dialogue strategies for the ways they contribute to service, citizenship and wellness. Moving beyond Penn, the course invites several researchers or practitioners at the national or international level to share how they put theory into direct practice addressing real world problems. The culminating assignment is to develop a draft proposal for a capstone project that in some way incorporates SNF Paideia themes. Fellows in this course also develop their leadership skills by mentoring students in the sophomore Fellows course. The goal of the course is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical frameworks for healthy, sustainable and robust civic leadership at Penn and in their local, national, and global communities. This course is open only to SNF Paideia Fellows, who are required to take it during the fall of their junior year.

COMM 1230 (formerly 123)

Critical Approaches to Popular Culture

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

Popular culture has been alternately condemned as too trivial to warrant attention and too powerful to resist. Its consumers have been dubbed fashion victims, couch potatoes, and victims of propaganda. This course considers these critiques, as well as those that suggest that popular culture can be emancipatory, allowing for the creation and renegotiation of meaning. Over the course of the semester, we consider the impacts of various forms of popular culture and discuss their effects on how we see ourselves and others. We explore the ever-shifting distinctions between high, middlebrow, and low culture and analyze how power and resistance structure the production and consumption of popular texts. This course fulfills one of the two introductory core survey courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors.

COMM 1250 (formerly 125)

Introduction to Communication Behavior

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

This course introduces students to social science research regarding the influence of mediated communication on individual and collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Throughout the semester we explore the impacts of various types of mediated content (e.g., violence, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, politics and activism, health and wellbeing); genres (e.g., news, entertainment, educational, marketing); and mediums (e.g., television, film, social media) on what we think and how we act. The aim of the course is to provide students with (1) a general understanding of both the positive and negative effects of mediated communication on people’s personal, professional, social, and civic lives; and (2) the basic conceptual tools needed to evaluate the assumptions, theories, methods, and empirical evidence supporting these presumed effects. Class meets twice a week as a lecture and once a week in smaller discussion groups led by graduate teaching fellows. In addition to a midterm exam and occasional short assignments, students have the option of producing a multi-media capstone project or a final term paper on a media-effects topic of their choice. Group projects or final papers are permitted, with approval of the instructor. This course fulfills one of the two introductory core survey courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors. Fulfills Sector I: Society.

COMM 1300 (formerly 130)

Media Industries and Society

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

The aim of this course is to prepare you to work in the media business as well as to be an informed citizen by acquainting you with the work and language of media practitioners. The class also investigates the exciting, and (to some employed there) scary changes taking place in the news industry, internet industry, advertising industry, television industry, movie industry, magazine industry, and several other areas of the media system. In doing that, the course ranges over economic, political, legal, historical, and cultural considerations that shape what we see when we go online, use social media, watch TV, read books, play video games, and more. This course fulfills one of the two introductory core survey courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors. Fulfills Sector I: Society.

COMM 2011

The Art and Science of Story-Centered Research

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2024

Stories are a powerful communication tool that can be used to entertain, connect, inform, and inspire. Stories also play varied and vital roles in communication research. This course explores the relationship between storytelling, inquiry, and knowledge production. Engaging with interdisciplinary and multi-modal scholarship, students will learn how stories can be used to formulate and answer research questions, shape and share knowledge, and create meaningful change. Students will develop foundational knowledge in a variety of qualitative methods (e.g., interviewing, observation, textual analysis), and foster their skills producing accessible, ethical, critical, and creative research.

COMM 2013

Black Journalism in/and Philadelphia

  • Spring 2024

What is the “Black” in Black journalism? How do questions about “Blackness” complicate how we think about and study journalism globally, locally, and especially in the city in which we live? This course provides: 1) an overview of theories about journalism’s relationship to race; 2) varied perspectives on how Black journalists have thought about and practiced journalism in their specific social and political contexts; 3) an opportunity to consider what this all means for Black journalists and for journalism in Philadelphia. The course is ideal for students who want to be more critical news consumers and/or media makers and provides opportunities to learn about diverse approaches to journalistic practice that center Black media makers and audiences. In addition to weekly analysis of relevant scholarship, news, and popular materials, we will engage with local journalists and news media institutions throughout the semester. For their final assignment, students will be able to choose between submitting a paper or a multimedia project.

COMM 2014

Visibility, Circulation, and the Everyday Life of Images

  • Spring 2024

This course begins with the question: what do images do in the world? Images can be interpreted, read, and decoded. Their meanings also shift, as images are mobile, fluid, and plastic objects, taking on a life of their own as they circulate. Images operate in diverse media ecologies, as photographs and advertisements, in films and videos. They are reproduced on multiple media technologies including TV, cinema, and the internet. Images can further ideologies including but not limited to colonialism, nationalism, imperialism, producing racialized, sexualized, classed, and gendered differences. At the same time, images are mutable forces and can be bent for purposes of self-fashioning as well as disrupting, subverting, and exposing structures of power. Through close readings, assignments and in-class activities, students in this class will learn to critically evaluate and contextualize images both historically and in contemporary forms of circulation. Students will develop a nuanced understanding of images as potent objects of communication with powerful political and social effects, and of the ways in which people incorporate them in daily practices.

COMM 2100 (formerly 210)

Quantitative Research Methods in Communication

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2024
  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2023

This course is a general overview of the important components of social research. The goal of the course is to understand the logic behind social science research, be able to view research with a critical eye and to engage in the production of research. It will cover defining research problems, research design, assessing research quality, sampling, measurement, and causal inference. The statistical methods covered will include descriptive and inferential statistics, measures of association for categorical and continuous variables, inferences about means, and the basic language of data analysis. Course activities will include lectures, class exercises, reading published scientific articles, using statistical software, and discussing research featured in the news. This course fulfills the research methods course required of Communication majors. Fulfills Foundational Approaches: Quantitative Data Analysis.

COMM 2160

Games, Globalization, and Social Justice

  • Fall 2024

How can playing games intervene in socioeconomic and cultural systems at a global scale? By engaging with critical scholarly readings and gameplay sessions, students in this course will become familiar with the methods and theories for investigating both gaming cultures and theories of globalization. Class discussions will explore the political stakes of communicating and simulating global issues (such as colonialism, migration, warfare, or climate change) through the medium of games. In addition to weekly assignments, students will pursue a semester-long project that includes choosing a social issue of importance to them, researching it in-depth, and producing a creative intervention that explains how that issue could be addressed through games. No prior experience with gaming is needed, but a willingness to spend several hours of the semester playing games and thinking critically about them is necessary.

COMM 2230

Social Media and the Self

  • Fall 2024

This course invites students to explore the performance of identity on social media apps. We begin by tracing the emergence of the idea of an individual self in early modern Europe and examine two competing ideals in particular: authenticity and self-possession. We will then look to the rise of consumer culture, alongside new visual and electronic media, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as crucial context for a “performing” self to emerge. The balance of the course will focus on the online self, from the emergence of the internet to today’s social media era and its multiple forms of managed self-disclosure, from blogs to tweets, from reels to videos. We will explore changing definitions of public and private, algorithmic memory, emotional labor in the workplace, gender and sexuality, and the economics of sharing. A major question the course will pose throughout: How do users balance (or blend) competing demands to be authentic and to promote oneself strategically?

COMM 2250 (formerly 225)

Children and Media

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

This course examines children's relationships to media in their historic, economic, political, and social contexts. The class explores the ways in which "childhood" is created and understood as a time of life that is qualitatively unique and socially constructed over time. It continues with a review of various theories of child development as they inform children's relationships with and understanding of media. It reviews public policies designed to empower parents and limit children's exposure to potentially problematic media content and simultaneously considers the economic forces that shape what children see and buy. The course also provides a critical examination of research on the impact of media on children's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Students in this course produce a proposal for an educational children’s media product as their final project.

COMM 2260 (formerly 226)

Introduction to Political Communication

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

This course is an introduction to the field of political communication and conceptual approaches to analyzing communication in various forms, including advertising, speech making, campaign debates, and candidates' and office-holders' uses of social media and efforts to frame news. The focus of this course is on the interplay in the U.S. between media and politics. The course includes a history of campaign practices from the 1952 presidential contest through the election of 2020.

COMM 2300 (formerly 230)

Advertising and Society

This course explores the historical and contemporary role of the advertising industry in the U.S. media system. The course will cover the social history of advertising; the structure of today’s advertising industry; the workings of advertising in digital media; and critical analyses of advertising’s role in society. In addition to academic writings, the class will read industry reports to understand contemporary strategies and processes.

COMM 2320

Gender and Media

  • Fall 2024

This course examines various images and performances of gender in media focusing on the late 20th century to the present. Using theories from cultural and media studies, film and gender studies, and communication studies, we will explore different processes and practices of gender, specifically in terms of media representations of femininity, masculinity, and other genders. The purpose of the course is to gain insight into the ways in which gender, and its intersections with race, ethnicity, and class, is enacted, represented, and has an impact on cultural formations and communication. We will explore the socio-cultural mechanisms that shape our individual and collective notions of identity and essentially teach us what it means to be gendered masculine or feminine or align with other identifications. The media plays a major role in "constructing" gender, and popular views of what “appropriate” gendering is, in turn, shape how we communicate with each other. In examining cultural myths about gender as well as ongoing debates on gender construction, we will consider how gender is tied in with notions of power, identity, voice, and other defining identity categories (race, socio-economic status, sexuality, etc.) Throughout the course, we will examine a variety of media forms, from film to television to streaming platforms, as well as social media such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

COMM 2410

Introduction to Network Dynamics and Collective Behavior

How do new ideas spread online? Why do some take off and others fail? What determines when people will cooperate and when they will be selfish? Where do our social norms come from, and what happens when they are disrupted – as they were during the first year of the pandemic? How did ‘wearing a face mask’ and ‘getting vaccinated’ become political issues and what role did social media play in this? Why is communicating about climate change so challenging? The last several decades in social science have seen remarkable breakthroughs in our answers to these and other profound questions about societal communication and evolution. One of the most powerful and influential tools behind these breakthroughs is computational modeling. Models are used to simulate the spread of COVID, and to test strategies for halting the pandemic. They are used to test strategies for international relations, and to predict the emergence of new terrorist cells. Models are also used to predict voting outcomes and create better forms of political representation. This class does not involve coding and no programming experience is necessary. Instead, students will be introduced to a range of computation models and learn how they work to guide our governments and businesses. You will learn about the big ideas and simple formulas that are used to predict the future of our economy, our society, and our ecology.

COMM 2510 (formerly 290 and 2991)

Good Talk: The Purpose, Practice, and Representation of Dialogue Across Difference (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Spring 2024

This course is an exploration of dialogue across difference through three lenses: theoretical, practical, and representational. Rather than prescribe a particular model of what dialogue should look like and accomplish, the course exposes students to a diverse range of ideas, narratives, and practices related to dialogue. By the end of the course, you’ll have begun to develop and apply your own working theory and model of dialogue that is aligned with your values and meaningful for the kinds of work you are most invested in doing personally, professionally, or academically.

COMM 2530 (Formerly 253)

Divine Mediation: Media and the Shaping of Religious Identity and Practice

  • Fall 2024

This course surveys how religious groups interact with media, and how media texts and institutions have played a role in defining religions. The intersections between media and religion are numerous, from the mediated growth of national identities, the rise of online religious extremism, the ingroup/outgroup dynamics within and among religious groups, and the ways in which media is used to legitimize/delegitimize theological positions. We examine how media institutions have played a role in propping up religious norms (both explicitly and implicitly) and the shaping of religious identities. This course looks at media as both enforcer and disruptor, as well as the ways in which religions have been challenged by those with media literacy and access. The evolution of religious practice and social norms can also be linked with technological innovations such as the mass distribution of Bibles in the 15th and 16th century thanks to the printing press, the rise of radio and television messiahs in the 20th century, and the individualization of religious practices through new apps.

COMM 2550

Foundations in Data Science for Communication

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2023

Acquiring and demonstrating data literacy, namely, the ability to find, appropriately handle, analyze, and communicate insights from the rapidly growing spectrum of data in all aspects of modern life, is now a vital skill for virtually all workers and researchers. This course provides a foundation in the concepts, methods, and applications of data science (including network science) to questions in Communication. The course will build data literacy and help you start to develop skills working with large and complex datasets of relevance to communication behaviors in the digital world. Students will become familiar with basic programming skills for data analysis using the R and Python programming languages, along with some of the common tools used for network and data analysis and visualization. It will provide an introduction and overview of the key elements of applied data science, including the analysis of networks and machine learning (ML). The practical and ethical challenges of 'big data' and the increasing use of algorithmic (ML) decision systems will also be explored. No prior programming or data analysis experience is required.

COMM 2600 (formerly 211)

Media Activism Studies

This seminar provides an introduction to the politics and tactics underlying various types of media activism. The class will examine interventions aimed at media representations, labor relations in media production, media policy reform, activists' strategic communications, and "alternative" media making. The course will draw from an overview of the existing scholarship on media activism, as well as close analysis of actual activist practices within both old and new media at local, national, and global levels. We will study how various political groups, past and present, use media to advance their interests and effect social change. Each member of the class will choose one case study of an activist group or campaign to explore throughout the semester.

COMM 2620 (formerly 263)

Social Movements

  • Fall 2023

This course examines the main sociological theories and concepts in the analysis of revolutions, popular protest, and social movements. Special attention will be given to three theoretical traditions: resource mobilization, political process, and cultural analysis. We will study narratives, symbols, performances, and old and new media forms in the construction of identities and solidarities and the mobilization of publics. Historical and contemporary cases from the U.S. and around the world will be examined. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cross Cultural Analysis.

COMM 2640 (formerly 203)

Media, Culture, & Society in Contemporary China

  • Spring 2023

This course covers Chinese media, culture, and society from the 1970s to the present. It examines the causes and consequences of social and institutional transformation, with an emphasis on civic engagement, cultural change, and the impact of digital media. In analyzing these developments, the course pays special attention to historical contexts and draws on concepts and theories from sociology, communication, and related fields. The course helps students develop nuanced and sophisticated approaches to the understanding of contemporary Chinese media, culture and society, and cross-cultural phenomena more broadly. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cross Cultural Analysis.

COMM 2750 (formerly 275)

Communication and Persuasion

  • Spring 2024

This course examines theory, research, and application in the persuasive effects of communication in social and mass contexts. The primary focus is on the effects of messages on attitudes, opinions, values, and behaviors. Applications include political, commercial, health and public service advertising, propaganda, and communication campaigns. Students will develop their own communication campaign over the semester. The campaign will include identifying and analyzing the persuasion problem, the target audience’s characteristics and media habits, and then creating a persuasive message consistent with research and practice targeted to the problem and its solution.

COMM 2760

How We Change: Social-Psychological and Communication Dynamics (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Spring 2023

Have you wondered why people undergo religious conversion, change their political affiliation, suddenly endorse conspiracy theories, alter their taste in music, or seek hypnosis to quit smoking? What is common to these processes of change, and how does resistance to change play out across these seemingly different contexts? In “Why We Change,” we will ask unique questions such as how religious change might highlight methods of transforming public health communications or how the study of attitude change might yield new theories about the impact of life experiences on personality. Broadly speaking, the class will provide an opportunity for students to learn theories of belief formation, attitudes and persuasion, normative influence, and behavioral change. For example, we will work to understand how specific beliefs, such as group stereotypes, or specific attitudes, such as trust and values, change in response to variations in the environment and communication with other people. We will cover culturally based and professional approaches to change, from fear appeals to motivational interviewing, to hypnosis. Students will read empirical studies and conduct observational projects about potential sources of social, cultural, or psychological change and resistance to change in Philadelphia. This is an SNF Paideia Program course.

COMM 2820 (formerly 282)

Sick and Satired: The Insanity of Humor and How it Keeps Us Sane

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

This course will examine how and why humor, as both an instigator and peacemaker, might be considered one of the most influential and profoundly useful forms of communication devised by human beings. The unique ability of jokes and satire to transcend familiar literary and journalistic forms for the purpose of deepening (or cheapening) socio-philosophical arguments and to inspire (or discourage) debate and participation in public conversations about innumerable political and social issues will be explored. The fearless analytical nature of both high and lowbrow comedy will be examined, as well as its deflective qualities. The course will enable students to consider, through analysis of both contemporary and historical examples, the political and cultural satirist’s unique role in society as a witness, a predictor and, in some circumstances, an instigator of public and private debate. We will examine the role of satire in revealing and mediating differences between disparate social groups based not solely on language differences, but also on political affiliation, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender, religious fellowship, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic caste.

COMM 2860 (formerly 286)

Masculinity and the Media

  • Fall 2023

This course examines the construction of masculinity in American and global media, highlighting how masculinity developed in parallel to social, cultural, economic, and political norms. Using case studies and multiple theoretical approaches, we will seek to understand how constructions of masculinity across the world have served to uphold – or challenge – the status quo. Analysis of individual texts across time periods and different cultural contexts will also help us better come to terms with the idea of masculinity – and its proliferation across media platforms. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cultural Diversity in the U.S.

COMM 2920 (formerly 292)

WARNING! Graphic Content: Political Cartoons, Comix, and the Uncensored Artist

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

This course examines the past, present, and future of political cartooning, underground comix, graphic journalism and protest art, exploring the purpose and significance of image-based communication as an unparalleled propagator of both noble and nefarious ideas. The work presented will be chosen for its unique ability to demonstrate the inflammatory effect of weaponized visual jokes, uncensored commentary, and critical thinking on a society so often perplexed by artistic free expression and radicalized creative candor.

COMM 3010

Global Media and Society: Perspectives on Africa

  • Fall 2023

This course offers an introduction to media, culture, and society in postcolonial Africa. It takes into account diverse media forms and cultures across the continent, to examine ways in which media interconnect with globalization, colonialism and imperialism, development, and social change. The course is designed to train students to do critical comparative analyses of media across nations. Suggested readings, activities, and assignments are designed to help students situate media technologies, forms, and artifacts in relation to broader political, economic, social, and cultural contexts. At the end of the course, students will be able to contextualize media across national borders paying attention to the ways in which media both shape and are shaped by social, political, religious, and economic factors. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cross Cultural Analysis.

COMM 3011

Media, Medicine, and the Art of Mortality

  • Fall 2023

This seminar explores how death has shaped and been shaped by modern communication, healthcare, and the arts. We’ll examine the politics, ethics, and aesthetics of mortality in film, television, journalism, digital media, and literature. Our methodological approach will build on insights from media studies and medical humanities. Topics may include the emergence of the “end-of-life” as a life stage in popular culture and medical care; protest, activism, and other political movements against death and injustice; and the creation of knowledge, media, and art in the wake of mourning and loss.

COMM 3012

Media, Aging, and Adulthood in Modern America

  • Spring 2024

This seminar course examines how mass media reflect and resist norms of adulthood and aging. Frequently defined as an endpoint -- a biological inevitability, a completion of development, an achievement of maturity -- adulthood is neither simple nor static. Media for children and adolescents, for example, often depict adulthood as a paradox: both exciting and boring; free of oversight and burdened by responsibility; the beginning of real life and a kind of death. Students will learn interdisciplinary and multimodal humanistic methods for understanding the mediated history of adulthood. Topics include the emergence of young adulthood as a life stage, a key demographic in consumer culture, and a popular genre; fantasies of nonlinear aging like intergenerational body-swaps, aging backward, and agelessness; quarter-life, midlife, and end-of-life crises; infantilization and other discriminatory exclusions from adulthood; gender and rhetorics of proper aging; and failures and refusals to age appropriately, from the man-child to the Golden Girls.

COMM 3091 (formerly 491)

Communication Internship Seminar

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2024
  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2023

This seminar provides a scholarly counterpart for students' internships in various communication-related organizations. Through individually selected readings, class discussion, and individual conferences, students develop their own independent research agendas which investigate aspects of their internship experience or industry. In written field notes and a final paper, students combine communication theory and practice in pursuit of their individual questions. This course is restricted to Comm majors.

COMM 3100 (formerly 310)

The Communication Research Experience

In this hands-on course students will work with active researchers in the Communication Neuroscience lab at Penn to gain experience in how research works. Students will have the opportunity to interact closely with a mentor and will gain experience conceptualizing research questions, designing experiments, and collecting and analyzing data. Prerequisite: COMM 2100 or HSOC 2002 or INTR 3500 or MKTG 2120 or SOCI 2000 or URBS 2000 or permission from the instructor.

COMM 3120

Studying Digital Worlds: Qualitative Social Science for Research

This course will prepare students to design and conduct qualitative research projects that seek to understand the social life of digital technologies and digital media. Students will learn about inductive research design and key qualitative methods such as interviewing, ethnography, and content analysis. We will also explore the ethical challenges of research in digital worlds. This qualitative methods course will equip students to analyze interaction in digital media environments, with apps, and elsewhere in everyday life.

COMM 3130 (formerly 313)

Computational Text Analysis for Communication Research

  • Fall 2024

In this 'big data' era, presidents and popes tweet daily. Anyone can broadcast their thoughts and experiences through social media. Speeches, debates and events are recorded in online text archives. The resulting explosion of available textual data means that journalists and marketers summarize ideas and events by visualizing the results of textual analysis (the ubiquitous 'word cloud' just scratches the surface of what is possible). Automated text analysis reveals similarities and differences between groups of people and ideological positions. In this hands-on course students will learn how to manage large textual datasets (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, news stories) to investigate research questions. They will work through a series of steps to collect, organize, analyze and present textual data by using automated tools toward a final project of relevant interest. The course will cover linguistic theory and techniques that can be applied to textual data (particularly from the fields of corpus linguistics and natural language processing). No prior programming experience is required. Through this course students will gain skills writing Python programs to handle large amounts of textual data and become familiar with one of the key techniques used by data scientists, which is currently one of the most in-demand jobs.

COMM 3180 (formerly 318)

Stories From Data: Introduction to Programming for Data Journalism

  • Fall 2023

Today masses of data are available everywhere, capturing information on just about everything and anything. Related but distinct data streams about newsworthy events and issues -- including activity from social media and open data sources (e.g., The Open Government Initiative) -- have given rise to a new source for and style of reporting sometimes called Data Journalism. Increasingly, news sites and information portals present visually engaging, dynamic, and interactive stories linked to the underlying data (e.g., The Guardian DataBlog). This course offers an introduction to Python programming for data analysis and visualization. Students will learn how to collect, analyze, and present various forms of data. Because numbers and their visualizations do not speak for themselves but require context, interpretation, and narrative, students will practice making effective stories from data and presenting them in blogs and other formats. No programming experience is required for this class.

COMM 3200

Common Sense vs. Data Science in Communications Research and Practice

  • Fall 2024

Policy makers, entrepreneurs, and marketers frequently rely on common sense when planning for the future; yet their predictions are often wrong, and their plans fail for reasons that seem obvious after the fact. In this course you will learn about the nature of common sense, when it should be expected to work effectively, and why we are tempted to use it even when we should not. The course will also introduce a data science perspective on explanation, understanding, and decision making, covering topics such as experiments, predictive analytics, forecasting tournaments, scenario planning, and epistemic humility. The course will be conceptual rather than methodological and so is equally appropriate for students with technical and nontechnical backgrounds.

COMM 3220 (formerly 322)

History and Theory of Freedom of Expression (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

If we were to fashion new laws for speech from scratch in our media-saturated, fake news world, would they be different laws from those we have? The rootedness of free speech in our civic DNA springs from enduring philosophical arguments over what truth and knowledge are, what human nature is like, and what we think society owes to and requires from its members. We explore foundational debates at the core of the First Amendment, the evolving interpretation of the amendment by the Supreme Court, its determined historical challengers, and struggles over its applicability to contemporary controversies. We address strong claims that unfettered speech is central to democratic societies and strong claims that society can be made more democratic by removing discriminatory speech from social media and public discourse more generally. Every society limits speech in significant ways. What are these limits in the United States, why are these the limits, and are they the ones we want? This reading and discussion seminar meets for lively, informed dialogue and debate. This is an SNF Paideia Program course.

COMM 3230 (formerly 323)

Contemporary Politics, Policy, and Journalism

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

This course focuses on how modern media intersect with politics and government in the 21st century. Case studies will include examining media coverage of the Gore v. Bush 2000 presidential election recount, 9/11, Barack Obama’s election and presidency, the Trump administration, and the 2020 election. The course will include several guest speakers, all of them prominent press/political figures. In addition, students will participate in a DC field trip where they will get to hear from, and interact with, Washington leaders in the fields of politics, policy, and journalism. Course materials, in addition to a number of books, will include the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, left- and right-wing social media sites, cable broadcasts, and network news shows. There will be three written assignments: an analysis of the first two weeks of the next Administration; a column or op-ed; and a final research paper. In this discussion-based seminar there will be a premium on class participation.

COMM 3280 (formerly 328)

Drawing the Blue Line: Police and Power in American Popular Culture (SNF Paideia Program Course)

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

The police are one of the most heavily imagined institutions in American popular culture. From Cagney and Lacey to Colors, Law & Order, The Wire and The Watchmen, evolving depictions of law enforcement help us to understand larger socio-cultural shifts that have occurred from the post-1968 riots to the dawn of the Black Lives Matter movement in the mid-2010s and police abolition in the early 2020s. Using case study and textual analysis approaches, students will examine how specific police procedurals, movies, and other cultural texts showcase police authority in relation to certain communities, and consider how these texts reflect, uphold and/or challenge prevailing views on law and order and criminal justice. Our explorations of how media and cultural industries have framed policing will pay particular attention to questions of power, race, gender, sexuality, class, and geography. These explorations will also include learning about and learning to dialogue, given the diverse – and often contentious – views about policing in America. Students will have an opportunity to interact with speakers representing different positions that relate to mediated perceptions -- as well as lived experiences of -- policing. Class assignments and activities will enhance students' abilities to productively discuss complex issues that are frequently sanitized or homogenized within U.S. popular culture. This is an SNF Paideia Program course. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cultural Diversity in the U.S.

COMM 3300 (formerly 330)

The Hidden World of Privacy Policies

The US Federal Trade Commission considers privacy policies essential for internet sites and apps. Lawyers for firms with internet sites and/or apps spend much time writing privacy policies. Yet surveys show that most Americans don't read the policies, and in fact cannot understand them because of their legal jargon. Moreover, surveys indicate, most Americans don't even correctly understand what the label privacy policy means. The aim of this course will be to examine this crucial but misunderstood aspect of modern life. You will learn how to read privacy policies, how to understand their strategic business purposes within the internet industry, and how to think about the implications for society when the key rules of surveillance and privacy are hidden from all but a relative few. You will also work with others in the class to create and carry out a survey of college students' understanding of privacy policies. There will be one exam and a paper related to the survey.

COMM 3360

Feminism and the Internet

From the earliest message boards and email chains, the internet has given people a way to connect, not just digitally but sexually. Porn, online dating, sex education: digital technology has made it easier for people to find each other and explore sexuality, but these same tools have also been used in relationships that are exploitative and criminal. In this course, we look at the different connections between sex, gender, queerness and the internet: changing policies regulating sex (like FOSTA and SESTA), the platforms that have created controversies around sex (for example, craigslist, tumblr and Grindr) and shifting norms around how sex and sexuality manifest online. This is an interdisciplinary course that brings together internet studies, queer theory, and cultural studies in order to understand the social and historical dimensions of sex, sexuality and digital technologies.

COMM 3370

Public Health Communication in the Digital Age

  • Fall 2024

This course is designed to explore the role of public health communication in the digital age to influence health behavior change in several areas: infectious disease pandemics, tobacco and substance use, mental health, cancer, nutrition and physical activity and others. Throughout the course, we will discuss a number of important considerations when designing and implementing public health communication interventions. Students will be introduced to theories of health behavior change, models of persuasive communication, practical issues in the design of effective health communication programs, countering misinformation, community engagement, audience segmentation, cultural tailoring to specific audiences, evaluation approaches, ethics, and communication inequalities. We will also explore the use of digital technologies and social media platforms, entertainment education, popular media, and social marketing in delivery of public health communication interventions.

COMM 3390 (formerly 339)

Critical Perspectives in Journalism

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

This course aims to provide students with a critical understanding of journalism. It combines theoretical perspectives on the making of news with primary source material produced by and about journalists. Students analyze theoretical material on journalism – about how news is made, shaped, and performed – alongside articles and broadcasts appearing in the media, interviews with journalists in the trade press, and professional reviews. Topics include models of journalistic practice, journalistic values and norms, gatekeeping and sourcing practices, storytelling formats in news, and ethical problems related to misrepresentation, plagiarism, and celebrity.

COMM 3450 (formerly 345)

Adolescence and Media

  • Spring 2023

How are adolescents represented in media and what effects do these portrayals have on developing teens? What makes adolescents a “jackpot market” to be targeted by advertising and how can they be swayed by mediated public health efforts to encourage health-promoting behaviors? Finally, what does the increasingly mediated nature of everyday life mean for adolescents, their friends, and their families during their journey into adulthood? We will explore these questions by reading key empirical studies and by critically analyzing film, music, and public service announcements portraying and/or targeting adolescents from the 1950s to the present day.

COMM 3510

Media and Migration in the 21st Century

  • Spring 2023

This seminar examines how media represent the lives and journeys of people who migrate from the Global South. We explore how migrant stories are framed and circulated across different media networks and we address how public perceptions of migrants shift based on factors such as gender, race, class, and disability. We also consider the affordances and pitfalls of heightened visibility when migrants turn to new media to represent themselves and advocate for rights and recognition. Course materials will include different types of non-fiction media (documentaries, news reports, online content, social media posts) created by a variety of stakeholders (e.g. corporate newsrooms, governments, NGOs, migration activists).

COMM 3600 (formerly 301)

Understanding the Political Economy of Media

  • Spring 2024

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

COMM 3650 (formerly 365)

Media, the Apocalypse, and the Undead

  • Spring 2023

Global media industries have long been fascinated with the idea of the apocalypse, particularly humanity's attempts at survival against (seemingly) mindless hordes. Whether in the form of zombies or infected masses, cultural industries' preoccupation with humankind's collapse - and potential resilience - has led to lucrative film, comic, and television franchise universes. Using texts from around the world, including - but not limited to - The Night of the Living Dead, The Walking Dead, Black Mirror, Reality Z, Dead Set, KL Zombie, The Road, Ravenous, Bird Box, Train to Busan, Kingdom, Adventure Time, and The Girl with all the Gifts, this course invites students to explore the ways in which media and cultural industries seek to define human existence through the Otherness of the undead/infected. Central to the course will be an examination of the ways in which post-apocalyptic portrayals of human survival amidst rampaging hordes include important commentaries and subtexts about race, gender, power, and class, as well as the connections to a political moment or era.

COMM 3662

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.

COMM 3670 (formerly 367)

Communication in the Networked Age

  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2023

Communication technologies, including the internet, social media, and countless online applications create the infrastructure and interface through which many of our interactions take place today. This form of networked communication opens new questions about how we establish relationships, engage in public, build a sense of identity, promote social change, or delimit the private domain. The ubiquitous adoption of new technologies has also produced, as a byproduct, new ways of observing the world: many of our interactions now leave a digital trail that, if followed, can help us unravel the determinants and outcomes of human communication in unprecedented ways. This course will give you the theoretical tools to critically analyze the impact that networked technologies have on social life and inform your assessment of current controversies surrounding those technologies.

COMM 3780 (formerly 378)

Journalism and Public Service

  • Fall 2024

In this course we examine links between journalism and public service by scrutinizing core concepts involved, practices that sometimes put journalism and public service in conflict (e.g., investigative reporting, coverage of war), and how journalism stacks up against other forms of public service from NGO work to government employment. Beginning with a reading of Robert Coles's classic The Call of Service, we dissect the notion of the "public," assess so-called public-service journalism by reading Pulitzer-Prize-winning examples, and reflect on the news media as a political institution. Individual weeks focus on such topics as the conflict that arises when a journalist's obligation to a confidential source clashes with a duty to the judicial system, whether the business of journalism is business, how journalism and NGO work compares as public service, and whether journalism by committed political activists (such as I.F. Stone) surpasses mainstream "neutral" journalism as a form of public service.

COMM 3880 (formerly 388)

Ritual Communication

  • Fall 2023

This course explores the power of ritual in contemporary culture. We examine how rituals help forge and strengthen social groups, be they generational, ethnic, religious, familial, regional, professional and/or institutional. We also consider how rituals create and communicate boundaries between "us" and "them" and between "desirable" and "deviant" behaviors. Students will have the opportunity to examine a diverse range of case-studies, from quinceañeras to rodeos, from weddings to reunions. We will explore rituals that unfold at the local level (proms, Thanksgiving dinners), as well as those that most of us experience only in mediated form (Oscars, Super Bowls, Presidential Inaugurations). We will also consider the profoundly disruptive impact of Covid-19 on ritual and explore the creative ways in which people hastily improvised online versions of vital rites of passage. From Gathertown graduations to Zoom memorials, the rapid rise of virtual rituals during the pandemic confirms their fundamental importance to our everyday lives and identities. Students in this interactive course will get to select their own ritual foci, will gain hands-on experience conducting original fieldwork, and will learn how to develop and present compelling research proposals.

COMM 3940

India on Screen: How Global Media Industries Shape Culture and Politics

  • Fall 2023

This course offers an overview of media, culture, and society in contemporary South Asia and the South Asian diaspora worldwide. Engaging with a diversity of media forms and cultures across the subcontinent – Hindi and regional-language cinemas, television, podcasts, social media platforms, and streaming video – we will explore what the histories of media technologies and the production, circulation, and consumption of media reveal about cultural and political developments in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora worldwide. Readings and assignments are designed to help students situate media technologies, forms, and artifacts in relation to broader political-economic, social, and cultural issues involving nationalism, religion, caste, gender, and sexuality. This course fulfills Foundational Approaches Cross Cultural Analysis.

COMM 3950 (formerly 395)

Communication and the Presidency

  • Fall 2024
  • Spring 2024
  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2023

This course examines the vital aspect of communication as a tool of the modern Presidency. Reading and class discussions focus on case studies drawn from modern Presidential administrations (beginning with FDR) that demonstrate the elements of successful and unsuccessful Presidential initiatives and the critical factor of communication common to both. This course is also an introduction to primary research methods and to the use of primary research materials in the Presidential Library system.

COMM 3970 (formerly 397)

New Media and Politics

  • Fall 2023

This course examines the evolving media landscape and the political process from three perspectives: 1) the voter, 2) political campaigns and candidates, and 3) the evolving and expanding media environment. The course opens with a broad overview of the main theories of political communication and a historical review of the role played by new media technologies in U.S. political campaigns leading up to 1996, the year the internet debuted in presidential campaigns. The course then follows this evolution from the 1996 presidential campaign to the present. We will take a deep dive into the landmark changes brought on by new media technologies to mobilize, persuade, inform, and fundraise around modern presidential campaigns. Students will gain an understanding of the shifting role of social media and Big Tech as it relates to political content moderation, misinformation, campaign speech/ads, laws governing voting, measuring public opinion, media coverage and participation.

COMM 4000

Advocacy in Emergent Technology, Digital Media and Society

  • Fall 2024

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

COMM 4010

Governing the Internet: Critical Perspectives on Online Trust and Safety

  • Spring 2024

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

COMM 4040 (formerly 404)

Media and Politics

Media and Politics will examine multiple issues specific to the past and present political media environment in the United States. Focus will be primarily, though not exclusively, on the contemporary news media. Topics covered will include political primaries, how elections have been influenced by the rise of partisan media, selective exposure, freedom of political speech as it relates to elections, the theoretical purpose of elections, money and media, political targeting, etc. We will also explore the quantitative and qualitative methods underlying what is and is not known about how elections work. Under the supervision of the professor, students will write an original research paper examining a specific topic in greater depth.

COMM 4050 (formerly 405)

Media, Public Opinion, and Globalization

This seminar will examine American attitudes toward globalization and the role of the media in shaping public opinion toward events and people beyond our borders. Students will participate in original research on attitudes toward issues tied to globalization such as immigration, international trade, support for international organizations, isolationism, and so forth. Students will also spend time systematically studying the implications of American media coverage of these issues.

COMM 4070 (formerly 407)

Understanding Social Networks

Digital technologies have made communication networks ubiquitous: even when we can't really notice them, they mediate most aspects of our daily activities. Networks, however, have always been the backbone of social life: long before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or other similar platforms, communication created channels for information diffusion that linked people in myriad other ways. Through letters, commerce, or simply face to face interactions, people have always been exposed to the behavior of others. These communicative ties embed us into an invisible web of influence that we can make tangible and analyze. This course will teach you how to map those connections in the form of networks, and how to study those networks so that we can improve our understanding of social life. The goal is to help you grasp the consequences of connectivity, and how small changes in the structure of our ties can lead to big differences in how networks behave.

COMM 4110 (formerly 411)

Communication, Activism, and Social Change

  • Fall 2023
  • Spring 2024

This course examines the communication strategies of 20th and 21st-century social movements, both U.S. and global. We analyze the communication social movements create (including rhetorical persuasion, art activism, bodily argumentation, protest music, media campaigns, public protest, and grassroots organizing), and the role of communication in the identity formation, circulation, and efficacy of social movements. We also consider the communication created by forces seeking to undermine social change, define the study of social movements from a communication perspective, identify major historical and contemporary movements, and apply theories of communication and social change to “real world” activism. Students are required to research and design their own social movement campaign.

COMM 4190

Talking with AI: Computational and Communication Approaches

  • Spring 2024

Increasingly, our daily communications involve responding to and interacting with language produced by artificial intelligence models. On the surface, large language models (LLMs) and generative AI tools (e.g ChatGPT, Bard, etc.) appear to have crossed a milestone in terms of their human-like ability to generate coherent and idiomatic texts. This has significant implications (both positive and negative) for human communication systems and their products, from creative fiction to news, from academic texts to social media content. It also raises many questions around whether we can identify, trust, learn from, and use AI generated language. In this course, we will begin to answer these questions in two ways: 1) Analyzing Key Issues: Drawing upon relevant frameworks in communication and language theory we will explore the transformative nature of AI-generated communication and its impact on individuals and society. 2) Hands-on Application: In parallel, students will acquire skills using Python in implementing machine and deep learning models to better understand how they work and explore their abilities and limitations. We will code various AI models, such as a simple voice assistant, image classifier, misinformation identifier, and a basic text generative application. Through this course students will be equipped for a range of contexts impacted by developments in AI. The course requires students to have a basic experience in Python coding and using Jupyter notebooks.

COMM 4230 (formerly 423)

Communication and Social Influence Laboratory

Considerable resources are devoted to constructing mass media campaigns that persuade individuals to change their behavior. In addition, individuals powerfully influence one another without even knowing it. Still, our ability to design and select optimal messages and interventions is far from perfect. This course will review investigations in social and cognitive psychology and communication sciences that attempt to circumvent the limits of introspection by using biological and implicit measures, with particular focus on neuroimaging studies of social influence and media effects.

COMM 4280 (formerly 428)

Conventions, Debates, and Campaigns

  • Fall 2024

Offered every four years to coincide with the U.S. presidential election cycle, this course focuses broadly on the Democratic and Republican national conventions and the post-conventions campaign lasting until election day. Seminar members will travel to one of the two conventions where they will attend a variety of events and gain an in-person understanding of the convention process and the evolving role of conventions in relation to party nominee selection. Students will explore how political appeals are fashioned and presented; how campaign themes develop; how efforts are split between persuading the electorate versus mobilizing the party faithful; the role of political parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and political action committees (PACs); how the campaigns forecast governance and serve American democracy. Students will produce comprehensive group reports on the conventions, debates, or major aspects of the unfolding campaigns.

COMM 4320 (formerly 432)

Digital Inequalities

  • Fall 2024

Digital information and communication technologies are intertwined with our everyday lives, from banking, to working, and dating. They’re also increasingly crucial parts of our most powerful institutions, from policing, to the welfare state, and education. This course examines the ways that these technologies combine with traditional axes of inequality like race, gender, and class in ways that may deepen social inequality. We’ll consider major approaches to understanding digital inequalities and apply them to case studies of both problems and solutions. Students will learn to critically analyze policies and programs from a variety of perspectives, and to evaluate the promise of digital technologies against their potential perils.

COMM 4330

Climate Change and Communication: Theories and Applications

  • Spring 2024

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

COMM 4360 (formerly 436)

Data Literacy in the Algorithmic Society

Algorithms regulate many areas of social life: they shape the information you see online, how resources are allocated, or how hiring and matching happen in private and public settings. In these and many other examples, algorithms rely on data informing the automated decisions they encode. Our ability to think critically about that data is, thus, paramount to understanding how the algorithms operate. In this course, we will discuss how data is transformed into information and actionable knowledge. You will learn how to question data to ensure their validity, reliability, and representativeness. Understanding how data are collected, analyzed, and used is key to being able to demand transparency in automated decision-making, and to exercising our democratic role of demanding accountability when decisions are made based on questionable data.

COMM 4460 (formerly 446)

Media Industries and Nationalism (SNF Paideia Program Course)

Media institutions have long played a central role in constructing national identity, particularly in the era of nation-states. As globalization increases, media industries have also helped countries project their national identities – and nationalism – for both domestic and international audiences. With contemporary nationalist movements in the spotlight, this course examines how media institutions and cultural industries help to shape nationalism while framing in-group/out-group dynamics for audiences. This course examines case studies in mediated nationalism, paying particularly close attention to – but not limited to - countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, Hungary, Israel, India, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine. Using Benedict Anderson’s idea of imagined communities as a theoretical basis, this course seeks to investigate how media industries affirm – and occasionally challenge – nationalistic sentiment, and how much of a role state intervention has played in the production of media texts. This course provides students with an understanding of the deep connection between media institutions and state-sponsored/populist nationalist movements, as well as the dynamics that shape nationalism in both wartime and peacetime eras. This course will also help students engage in constructive dialogue on the impact of nationalism domestically and internationally, while interacting with scholarship and speakers representing a wide range of viewpoints. Students will have an opportunity to learn more nuanced understandings about the ways in which nationalism and media intersect, reflecting the ideological, social, geographic diversity of what it means to be a part of community and nation. This is an SNF Paideia Program course.

COMM 4590 (formerly 459)

Social Networks and the Spread of Behavior

  • Spring 2024

This course explores the nature of diffusion through social networks, the ways networks are formed and shaped by social structures, and the role they play in health behavior, public policy, and innovation adoption. Topics include: the theory of social networks; the small world model of network structure; constructing models to represent society; the social bases of the adoption of innovations and the spread of new ideas; the role of social networks in controlling changes in public opinion; the emergence of unexpected fashions, fads, and social movements; and the connection between social network models and the design of public policy interventions. Students will learn how to use the agent-based computational modeling tool "NetLogo", and they will work directly with the models to understand how to test scientific theories. We will examine the basic theory of social networks in offline, face-to-face, networks, as well as the role of online networks in spreading new ideas and behaviors through social media. Long standing debates on the effects of social networks on changing beliefs and behaviors, their impact on social change, and ethical concerns regarding their potential manipulation will be given careful consideration throughout. Students will be taught new skills that will enable them to use and develop their own agent-based models.

COMM 4630 (formerly 463)

Surveillance Capitalism

Surveillance capitalism is a term academics and policymakers increasingly use to describe the world in which live: where businesses track and classify individuals in order to decide how to sell to them, or whether to sell to them at all. Companies that millions of people turn to every hour such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Pandora use the technologies of surveillance capitalism to drive their revenues. Critics point out that these activities are intimately bound with issues of discrimination and reputation. The “big data” analyses (often powered by artificial intelligence) may affect the ads people see, the discounts they receive, the jobs they may get offered, and far more. This course surveys the history of surveillance capitalism, how it works, and the key issues swirling around it. Students will write short (350 word) essays about each reading that will be key contributors toward their grades. Students will also a conduct research and write a paper that explores a contemporary or historical topic related to surveillance capitalism.

COMM 4640

The Industrial Construction of Audiences

  • Spring 2023

This course will explore the ways in which media companies, advertisers, and the ratings and/or analytics firms they hire (Nielsen, ComScore, Liveramp, 84.51°, Experian etc.) count, track, estimate, and label the people who make up their audiences. The descriptions they present are industrial constructions in the sense that they are portrayals of population segments and individuals that are based on data; they may or may not reflect the views that the populations or individuals have of themselves. The class will explore how internet giants such as Google, smaller internet firms such as The New York Times, multimedia companies such as NBC-Universal, connected TV manufacturers such as Vizio, and supermarkets such as Kroger construct their audiences. We will discuss the controversies such activities engender, and the possible implications the industrial constructions of audiences have for society as well as media industries.

COMM 4797 (formerly 494)

Honors & Capstone Thesis

  • Fall 2024
  • Fall 2023

The senior thesis provides a capstone intellectual experience for Honors students and Communication and Public Service Program (ComPS) participants. Students conduct a primary research study on a communication-related issue over the course of two semesters. Students should consult with and arrange for a faculty supervisor no later than the summer before senior year. Students must also file a designated form and topic statement, approved and signed by the supervising faculty member, no later than the first week of class. Required of all students planning to enroll in COMM 4897 or COMM 4997 in the Spring. All Honors students must have a 3.5 cumulative GPA at the end of junior year for eligibility. See the Annenberg website for complete eligibility requirements.

COMM 4897 (formerly 495)

ComPS Capstone Thesis

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

Second semester of two semester thesis course. Successful completion of COMM 4797 is required for enrollment. The capstone thesis is a requirement for all Communication and Public Service Program participants. Students complete the primary research project started during COMM 4797. For students graduating with a 3.5 cumulative GPA after completing COMM 4897 with a grade of 3.7 or higher, the capstone thesis may be designated as a senior honors thesis in communication and public service.

COMM 4997 (formerly 499)

Senior Honors Thesis

  • Spring 2023
  • Spring 2024

Second semester of two semester thesis course. Completion of COMM 4797 with a grade of 3.3 or higher and a 3.5 cumulative GPA at the end of the Fall semester of senior year are required for enrollment. The Senior Honors Thesis provides a capstone intellectual experience for students who have demonstrated academic achievement of a superior level. Students complete the primary research project started during COMM 4797.