Media Studies 101

Pavel Shlossberg

This survey course examines the cultural, political, and economic significance of contemporary mass media. Media industries, the technologies of communication, and the content that they deliver are rapidly changing and diversifying. What are the social, technological, and economic reasons behinds these developments, and what do they mean to us as media consumers, media professionals, and local, national and global citizens? As we examine these questions, we will also try to define communication, and why it matters.

Class Format:
Lectures will comment on the readings, and provide additional information about each week’s topics. Ample time will be set aside for open discussions and questions. We will watch TV and film clips, listen to radio excerpts, browse the Web, and examine newspapers and magazines. We will do these things to develop, clarify, and question the ideas brought up in lectures, readings, and discussions.

There will be two take-home writing assignments (where you will have to discuss and analyze media content), 1 in-class writing assignment, 2 multiple choice tests, and a cumulative comprehensive final exam. Short pop quizzes on the readings will be given throughout the semester.

Grade Distribution:
Writing assignments and tests 12.5% each (50% total)
Participation and quizzes 10%
Final 40%

Required Text and Additional Readings:
Joseph R. Dominick, The Dynamics of Mass Communication, available at the college bookstore. Additional readings will be available on RESERVE at the library.

Week 1
Media Events and the Social Context of Mass Communication
Screening: JFK’s funeral, Princess Diana’s wedding, Sadat in Israel, etc.

Week 2
Transmission and Ritual: 2 Ways to Think About Communication
Reading: Dominick, pp. 3-28
Katz and Dayan, Media Events: On the Experience of Not Being There, excerpts

Week 3
Newspapers: Public Goods or Private Consumption?
Examine various newspapers and magazines
Reading: Dominick, pp. 84-117
Overholster, Editor, Inc. (

Week 4
Books and Radio: Comparing Mechanical and Electronic Forms of Communication
Listening: clips from radio programs
Reading: Dominick, pp. 146-166, 170-196
Twitchell, Paperbacked Culture: How Candles Became Shoes, excerpts
Assignment 1 Due

Week 5
Film, The Mouse that Roars
Screening: clips from Saving Private Ryan¸ Blue Velvet, The Matrix
Reading: Dominick, pp. 226-256

Week 6
Electromagnetics, Circuits, and Packets: the Infrastructure of Mass Communication
Reading: Straubhaar and LaRose, excerpts

Week 7
Broadcast Television, the Mass Disseminator
Screenings: clips from broadcast television
Reading: Dominick, pp. 258-297
Larson, Media and Minorities, excerpts
Test 1

Week 8
Cable and Satellite Television: Towards One Million Channels or One Channel?
Screening: clips from cable television
Reading: Katz, “And Deliver Us from Segmentation”

Week 9
The Internet and Other New Media: New in What Ways?
Reading: Dominick, pp. 300-323
Carey and Quirk, “The History of the Future”

Week 10
Recent Trends: Convergence, Conglomeration, and Globalization
Reading: Dominick, 458-478
Auletta, “The Pirate”

Week 11
Deregulation of Mass Communication: Dereliction or Wisdom?
Reading: Dominick, pp. 396-428
Herman and McChesney, The Global Media, excerpts
Test 2

Week 12
Journalism: The Pack is Bigger and More Diverse, But are the Watchdogs Becoming Puppies?
Screening: Broadcast news
Reading: Dominick, pp. 327-346
Kovach, Warp Speed, excerpts

Week 13
Putting It All Together: Personalized Communication in a Global Context
Assignment 2 Due

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