COMS 4800A – Media & Poverty
Fall Term, Wednesdays 11335-1425 – K. Dobson

This course introduces students to media representation of poverty, beginning by examining different definitions of poverty from government and non-government organizations, and providing an overview of poverty in Canada and around the world. Students will learn about the role of media framing and other journalistic practices, as well as the critical role of the political economy of the news industry, in how poverty is represented to the public. We will also look at poverty representation through social media and in popular culture, deconstructing widely circulated imagery and narratives and discussing the potential impact. The course will examine poverty and intersectionality, including race and gender. Students will also consider and critique the ‘futures’ of poverty and commonly proposed ‘solutions’ to this social problem, such as proposals for minimum guaranteed income, surveillance of those living on social assistance, or the ‘war on poverty,’ and media narratives around the potential role of automation and globalization in producing poverty. 

COMS 4800B – History of Photography
Fall Term, Mondays 1435-1725 – B. Berard

What is a photograph? How have photographic technologies changed over time? Are there social, political, and aesthetic consequences as a result of these changes? These questions animate this course, and structure an historical approach to the study of photography and the key issues and debates in the invention, proliferation, and changes in photography.

This course will provide an historical overview of the development of photography from its invention all the way to current developments in AI vision, and isolate key moments of political, social, philosophical, and aesthetic importance. This historical overview will ground the discussion of contemporary image practices and debates about the ethical and social implications of digital photography for contemporary political and social life. 

COMS 4800C – Mediating Religion
Fall Term, Mondays 1135-1425 – H. Dick

In this senior seminar we will think about religion and/as media, considering the ways that religion mediates social practices, engages with media technologies, and in turn becomes mediated via representations in mainstream or popular culture. We will take an outsider’s stance and critically examine the relationship between religion, media, and representation. We will consider a wide variety of traditions, including American Protestantism, Islam, Mormonism, and Scientology. We will also consider the role of media coverage in the emergence and growth of religious fundamentalisms. Students will be expected to engage in contemporary debates over the role of religion in public life and reflect on the historical significance of different forms of religious media. Students will have the opportunity to develop a research project around a religious movement of their choice.

COMS 4800I – Pop Culture & Audience Studies
Fall Term, Mondays 0835-1125 – J. Boland

From mass media and television ratings, to fan communities and civic participation, to memes and fake news—what happens to our idea of ‘the popular’ when we turn our focus to audience practices? This seminar will critically investigate the role that audiences have in constructing ‘the popular’ as well as the constraints which popular communication places on audiences. Students will learn to evaluate and apply different perspectives of audiences and popular culture, and to synthesize and communicate both established research and personal interests through course assignments.

COMS 4800D – Communication, Music and Regulation
Winter Term, Thursdays 1805-2055 – C. Allison

An investigation of music from a communication studies perspective, analyzed through a regulatory framework. Exploration of social, political, technological and economic conditions under which music has evolved as a tool of communication and a regulated cultural product since the 1500s. Investigation of key issues, including the emergence of, and relationships between, actors in the music industry, both past and present; the evolution of models of music distribution, production and consumption; the regulation, commoditization and promotion of music and its creators. Study of scholarly texts and popular literature related to music, communication and regulation through individual and group activities. Listening to and discussing diverse music genres and formats from the 1500s to 2019. Other activities include attendance at a live concert; a guest lecturer from the music industry; a tour of a music venue.

COMS 4800E – Piracy
Winter Term, Fridays 1135-1425 – S. Thorne

Piracy is a key concern in debates about the internet and its regulation. The internet has fundamentally changed how we access and distribute information, but it is not the origin of media piracy. This course examines the history of piracy and its influence on contemporary concerns about digital pirates. Students will critically examine piracy across a variety of media industries (publishing, music, video games, film, and television) to explore the legal, social, political, economic, ethical, and cultural implications of piracy, as well as issues concerning intellectual property, copyright law, and cultural production and distribution. Class topics will address key debates and questions concerning authorship; remix; participatory culture; collaborative peer production; gift economies; media industries; and alternative models of cultural production and ownership. Classes will also examine the rhetoric used by the media, artists, policy makers, and pirates to explore the politics of technology, digital media, and the tension between the cultural production and commodification of artistic content.

COMS 4800F – Communication and Public Diplomacy
Winter Term, Thursdays 0835-1125 – S. Smith

This course examines public diplomacy: the work of international actors to engage foreign publics. Public diplomacy includes activities like international broadcasting, student exchanges, and cultural initiatives—such as the prominent jazz diplomacy program run by the U.S. State Department in the mid-twentieth century to combat communism during the Cold War. The aim of public diplomacy is to convey new information in order to change perceptions of a particular community or nation. This course approaches public diplomacy as a means of “soft power,” a resource marshaled to attract support, in contrast to the “hard power” exerted by the state through military and economic means. In this course, students will engage with historic and contemporary case studies of public diplomacy. They will also gain an understanding of the increasingly diverse range of actors beyond the state engaged in public diplomacy, including non-governmental organizations, cultural producers, and activists. 

COMS 4800G – Satellites and Space
Winter Term, Tuesdays 1135-1425 – C. Dornan

Orbital satellites are essential elements of the global communications infrastructure.  This course will chart a history of satellite communication from the launch of Sputnik in 1957 to the present and what may come, assessing how orbital technologies of communication and surveillance have altered social practice on the ground, and examining how space communication has been inscribed in popular culture.

COMS 4800H – Social Issues and Public Relation
Winter Term, Wednesdays 0835-1125 – B. Gauthier

This course is designed to introduce students to key aspects of public relations planning and practice in the context of contemporary social issues. The focus will be on developing students’ ability to think strategically about the public relations challenges faced by different social groups, plan a complete public relations campaign to address those challenges and create effective communication vehicles for that campaign.

COMS 4800J – Platform Media
Winter Term, Thursdays 1135-1425 – M. Audette-Luongo

This course examines platform media, focusing on aesthetics, political economy, and user experience (UX). Drawing from the fields of media studies, software studies, and critical theory, students will understand and evaluate the place and power of platforms in today’s social and digital media milieus.