Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, On
Department of Communication Studies
Conceptual Issues in Communication and Culture
Winter 2016

Quick Links: Class Schedule ... Assignment Information

Instructor: Dr. Penelope Ironstone
Lecture: Mondays, 4:30 - 6:20 pm
Location: BA102
Office: DAWB 2-138
Office Hour: Wednesdays 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, other times by appointment
Email: click here

Course Website: www.penelopeironstone.com

Calendar Description:

“An analysis of key perspectives in communication theory with a focus on central concepts. Concepts may include: communication, representation, ideology, hegemony, culture industries, the public sphere, self and other, power, discourse, social difference, globalization and the network society. Primary source readings will be used.”

Prerequisite: CS100 and CS101 (with a grade point of at least 5.0 in each)



Course Description:

“Theory, when we get it, organizes our thoughts,
and helps us see patterns we might otherwise have missed.”
Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Taleata

“Theory – that small mountain of ideas and complaints about
words, social institutions, ‘selves,’ history, and sex ....
represents our willingness to try and
understand one another
and to insist on the ethical implications of human interaction.”
Rebecca Brittenham

“Each day seems like a natural fact/
And what we think changes how we act.”
Lyrics from "Why Theory?"
Gang of Four

“Theories are maps of reality.
The truth they depict may be objective facts ‘out
there’ or subjective meanings inside our heads.
Either way, we need to have theory to guide us
through unfamiliar territory”
Em Griffin

This course is designed as an introduction to theories of culture and communication. It  provides students with a broad survey of a number of theoretical perspectives as well as their historical background. We will approach these theoretical perspectives by means of a series of central concepts that will guide our explorations and serve as the frame for both lectures and tutorials. As much as is possible, we will be focussing on primary sources, although additional secondary resources, many of them online, will also be made available. The central aim in this course is to provide students with access to the critical and theoretical vocabulary necessary in upper-year courses in Communication Studies. Another aim will be to demonstrate the ways theory can help us analyse cultural phenomena.

As the etymological root of the word “theory” (Ltn. “theoria”) tells us, theory can provide us with ways of looking at, viewing, or contemplating the world around us. In the context of this course, we will explore the different ways that theorists have viewed various aspects of communication and culture. We will work through a number of theories including structuralism and semiotics, Marxism and Marxist analysis, critical theory, post-structuralism and discourse analysis, theories of cultural difference (including gender and critical race studies), and theoretical approaches to globalization, the network society, and the public sphere. The concepts guiding our explorations will be: communication; representation; ideology and hegemony; commodity; culture industries; the public sphere; power and discourse; social difference; communicative capitalism; and, globalization and the network society. Throughout this course, students will be encouraged to both apply the theoretical toolkit we will be developing and consider the ways in which these tools may be problematised.

This course will:

· provide students with a critical and theoretical vocabulary necessary to upper-level courses in communication and cultural studies;
• introduce students to a wide range of theoretical perspectives;
• will encourage students to reflect on the ways theory can both ground and advance their work in the field of communication studies;
· promote critical reading, thinking, and writing;
· foster skills in analysis and synthesis
• encourage expanded cultural knowledge;
· promote self-reflection and analysis;
· provide opportunities to practice and develop written and oral language skills;
· encourage the development of a pedagogical community through group work and discussion.


Required Texts:

All readings will be made available through MyLearningSpace. Students must download and print all readings at the start of the class to ensure they are available when needed throughout the term. Students will be expected to bring hard-copies of the readings to their tutorial sessions. (Why read the readings in hard-copy format? Check out: Jabr, Ferris. 2014. “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens,” Scientific American, 309(5). <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-reading-brain-in-the-digital-age-why-paper-still-beats-screens/> Accessed: August 22, 2014. click here)


Evaluation and Grading:

Mid-Term Take-Home Examination .... 25% .... Due: February 8, before 2:30 pm
Research Paper ... 25% ... **EXTENSION ** Due: March 28, before 2:30 pm
Final Take-Home Examination ... 30% ... **EXTENSION** April 11, before 4 pm
Tutorial Attendance and Participation ... 20% ... Ongoing

Description of Assignments:

Mid-Term Take-Home Examination (25%):
Due: February 8, before 2:30 pm
The mid-term will be distributed in class on October 3. LATE EXAMINATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED WITHOUT A NOTE FROM YOUR PHYSICIAN WHICH ATTESTS TO ILLNESS. Examinations are to be submitted to the MyLearningSpace Dropbox for this course in PDF format.


Written Assignment (25%):
** EXTENSION ** Due: March 28, before 2:30 pm
This component of your grade will be based on a written assignment that will be roughly five (5) pages in length. Further details will be provided at the end of October. Papers are to be submitted to the drop-box for this course in MyLearningSpace in PDF format.


Final Take-Home Examination (30%):
Due: April 8, before 4 pm EXTENSION: April 11
An examination addressing course materials covered in the second half of the course. Examinations will be distributed in class on April 11th. LATE EXAMINATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED WITHOUT A NOTE FROM YOUR PHYSICIAN WHICH ATTESTS TO ILLNESS. Examinations are to be submitted to the MyLearningSpace Dropbox for this course in PDF format.


Tutorial Attendance and Participation (20%):
Based on participation in tutorials and group discussions. Attendance at tutorial sessions is mandatory. Students must bring hard-copies of readings to tutorials for a portion of the tutorial grade. Missed sessions will be reflected in your grade for participation. Tutorial sessions are designed to help students clarify course materials. Since this course poses particular challenges and introduces students to material with which they will have little familiarity, attendance at tutorial sessions is especially important. Students should have completed the required readings for each week before the tutorial session. Lack of preparation for tutorial sessions will be reflected in the tutorial grade.

Remember: Being part of an intellectual community requires that you attend both lectures and tutorials regularly, read required readings in advance and with care, and involve yourself in discussions in ways that will help you and other students to learn. It means being prepared for each and every class and tutorial and being respectful and attentive to others.

Nota Bene: Tutorials WILL be held in the first week of classes

Tutorial Locations and Times:

CS203 Tut B1 Wednesday              8:30- 9:20 am               BA305           P. Ironstone
CS203 Tut B2  Wednesday            9:30-10:20 am             BA305          T . Rowe
CS203 Tut B3  Wednesday           10:30-11:20 am          BA305      J. Heydon
CS203 Tut B4   Friday            10:30-11:20am          2C16            N. Ray
CS203 Tut B5  Friday             12:30-1:20 pm            2C16            N. Ray


Ground Rules:
Deadlines for assignments have been laid out clearly in this syllabus. Work must be submitted before the time stipulated on the date it is due. Exceptions will be made only for reasons of illness, and only with proper documentation from your physician. Late take-home examinations will NOT be accepted without a note from a physician attesting to illness which prevents work from being completed. Apart from examinations, which must be submitted on the day and before the time outlined above, there will be a penalty of 5% per day on the research paper only. The last day any assignments will be accepted for this course is April 15th.

I am more than willing to entertain questions or concerns during class, and will also be available to provide individual guidance and advice during my office hours. If you need to meet with me outside my office hours, you must set up an appointment. It is best to do so by email at pironstone [at] wlu.ca or click here


Email Policy
1. Email is an important part of communication in the university context, much as it is in other professional contexts. It is to be treated by students as a form of professional communication at all times. It is part of our official record and must be treated as such.

2. Emails should be professionally addressed (as opposed to being addressed to a generic “Yo prof”), and should be written with care to communicate clearly.

3. Emails that are not properly addressed, are informal or colloquial in content, or are difficult to decipher are not appropriate. You will be asked to rewrite them to send again.

4. Be sure to ALWAYS identify the course (CS203b) in the subject area of your message. This will ensure that your email can be sorted from the hundreds your professors receive every day.

5. Email should not be used as a short-cut to answer questions that can be addressed by reading the syllabus or other course materials, such as assignment instructions.

6. If you send an email with a request that is larger and more complex, you will be asked in for a meeting, either during office hours or at another mutually agreeable time. Be proactive. If you have an issue of this sort, set up a meeting to discuss it.

7. You must give us at least 72 hours to respond to email messages.

8. These contact rules apply to both the instructor and your tutorial leader.

9. Do read Laurier’s Policy Governing the Use of Information Technology to find out about your rights and responsibilities. It is here: http://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=2505&p=11440



Academic Misconduct:
I am notoriously intolerant of any breach of academic honesty. Should any student be found to have breached the Student Code of Conduct and Discipline, and more particularly the policy concerning Academic and Research Conduct, I will pursue charges of academic misconduct. Not only do you do a disservice to yourself when you cheat or plagiarize, you also do a disservice to your colleagues who work hard to complete their assignments and examinations on their own. When one person does not respect these guidelines, we all suffer.

For your information, the Wilfrid Laurier Policy on Academic Misconduct reads as follows:
"Academic misconduct is an act by a student, or by students working on a team project, which may result in a false evaluation of the student(s), or which represents a deliberate attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to, the following acts which are presented as examples or a guide since not every possible circumstance can be anticipated:
1. plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged presentation, in whole or in part, of the work of others as one's own, whether in written, oral or other form, in an examination, report, assignment, thesis or dissertation;
2. cheating, which involves the using, giving, receiving, or the attempt to use, give or receive unauthorized information during an examination in oral, written or other form; or, copying an essay, examination or report, or allowing someone else to copy one's essay, examination or report;
3. submitting the same piece of work, or a significant part thereof, for more than one course without the permission of the instructors involved in each course; or, submitting an essay or other work which has been submitted elsewhere, previously or at the same time, without the written permission of all academic units or institutions involved in the submissions;
4. impersonating another person in an examination or test;
5. buying or otherwise obtaining term papers or assignments for submission of another person's work as one's own for evaluation;
6. falsifying, misrepresenting or forging an academic record or supporting document."
If you are still not certain about the guidelines for academic honesty, consult the university calendar. The penalties for any form of academic misconduct are severe and will be enforced at all times. The Student Code of Conduct and Discipline, and the procedures for investigating and determining appropriate disciplinary measures for breaches of the Code are given in the current Undergraduate Calendar here: http://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=2505&p=11452

NB. Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism. Students will be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.

**Please note that Dr. Ironstone reserves the right to conduct an oral examination on the content of any written assignment for which there is suspicion of academic misconduct. Failure to pass the oral examination will result in pursuit of charges of Academic Misconduct and punitive measures as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and Discipline. Read it here: https://legacy.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=2505&p=11452 **



Guidelines for Technology use During Class and During Course Assessments

Laurier’s “Policy on the Classroom Use of Electronic Devices” (http://www.wlu.ca/documents/50202/9.3_Electronic_Device_Policy.pdf) reads:

“Obligations of Students. Students are encouraged to make informed decisions regarding technology use during class and assessment. Some devices are distracting during learning and can disrupt the learning of others. Off-task use of technology (e.g., communicating with friends or family; using social networking sites; playing games; accessing the internet on websites that do not relate to the course; reading an electronic book that is not related to the course; playing music or video, etc.) during instruction which are distracting to self or others are prohibited.”

Students who use electronic devices “off-task” create a difficult learning environment not only for themselves, but also others, including the instructor. All students are required to turn off cellphones, iPhones, or other smart phones and stow them out of sight for the entirety of the lecture. Laptops or other tablet devices may not be used in this class for anything but note taking. Students must turn off their wireless access or wifi at the start of class. Any student who is in breach of this policy will be required to turn off their electronic devices altogether and stow them out of sight for the duration of the class. Repeated disruption will result in ejection from the class. These penalties will be levied at the discretion of the instructor. Keep your electronic use on-task at all times or, if you don’t think you can, put your devices away or don’t bring them to class at all.

Given the nature of this course, and the manner in which materials will be made available to students before lecture, I would encourage you to consider going “old school” with your notes for this course. Students who have achieved the strongest results in this class over the last 4 years have all taken notes by hand.

Reasons why taking hand-written notes is tied to improved learning may be found in the following articles:

May, Cindy. 2014. “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop,” Scientific American, June 3. < http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/> Accessed: August 22, 2014. Click here

Meyer, Robinson. 2014. “To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand,” The Atlantic, May 1. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/to-remember-a-lecture-better-take-notes-by-hand/361478/>Accessed: August 22, 2014. click here

Association for Psychological Science. 2014. “Take Notes By Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension.” April 24. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html> Accessed: August 22, 2014. Click here

Where does the policy come from? When it boils down to it, this policy is derived from a strong desire to promote your learning and the learning of the students around you. You may think that your own use of electronic devices doesn’t distract you, and it may well not, but it does distract others even when you think it doesn’t, as studies have shown:

Montgomery, Marc. 2013. “New Study Shows Computers in Class Distract Both Users and Non-Users,” Radio Canada International, August 20. < http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2013/08/20/new-study-shows-computers-in-class-distract-both-users-and-non-users/>. Accessed: August 22, 2014. click here

Sana, Faria, Weston, Tina, and Cepeda, Nicholas J. 2012.  “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers,” Computers and Education, 62: 24-31.

My advice to you is to leave the laptop at home or in your bag, to print out the lecture pages from my website (which are actually ideal for writing notes in the blank spots), and to write your notes by hand. While this may not be something to which you are accustomed, rest assured that this promotes active listening and learning and is one way to work toward success in this class.



Course Schedule (Subject to Change):

NB: All readings may be found in the content section of the MyLearningSpace for this course.



I. Communication

January 4
What is Communication? Models of Communication CLICKHERE
Required Reading:
Course Syllabus
Hall, Stuart. 1996. “Encoding/Decoding,” IN Media Studies: A Reader, Second Edition. Paul Marris and Sue Thornham, Eds. New York: New York University Press, pp. 51-61.
Supplementary Reading:
David Morley "Communication" In New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society

II. Representation

January 11
How do we make meaning? Structuralism, Semiotics and Culture as Sign CLICKHERE, HERE, AND HERE
Required Readings:
Danesi, Marcel. 2002. “An Outline of Semiotic Theory,” Understanding Media Semiotics. London: Arnold, pp. 28-53.
Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1989. “Nature of the Linguistic Sign,” IN Contemporary Critical Theory, David Latimer, Ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 2-16.
Barthes, Roland. 1973.“Myth Today” (excerpts), Mythologies. London: Harper Collings/Palladin, pp. 117-142.

III. Ideology and Hegemony

January 11
What is ideology? How is ideology reproduced? Why do we seem to consent to “things as they are”? Marxism and Marxist Analysis CLICK HERE
Required Readings:
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. 2001. “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas,” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks, Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas M. Kellner, Eds. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 39-42.
Gramsci, Antonio.  2001. “(i) History of the Subaltern Classes; (ii) The Concept of ‘Ideology’;    (iii) Cultural Themes: Ideological Material,” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks, Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas M. Kellner, Eds. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 43-47.

IV. Commodification

January 25

What is a commodity? What role does it play in the organization of labour and exchange? What are media commodities? What is the “audience commodity”? CLICK HERE
Required Readings:
Marx, Karl. 1983. “Commodities,” The Portable Karl Marx. New York: Penguin, pp. 437-461.
Mosco, Vincent. 2009. “Commodification: Content, Audiences, Labor,” The Political Economy of Communication, Second Edition. London: Sage, pp. 127-156.

Mid-Term Examination To Be Handed Out in Class


V. Culture Industry

February 1
What is cultural (re)production? How does culture work in the service of ideology? click here
The Frankfurt School
Required Readings:
Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. 1999. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” The Cultural Studies Reader, Simon During, Ed. New York: Routledge, pp. 31-41.


VI. Mid-Term Wrap Up
February 8
Mid-Term Examination Due in MyLearningSpace Drop-Box Before 2:30 pm

February 15-19 -- Winter Reading Week, No Classes


VII. The Public Sphere

February 22
What about democracy? How do we express common interests and concerns?Click Here
Habermas and Critical Theory
Required Readings:
Habermas, Jürgen. 1974. “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” (Sara Lennox and Frank Lennox, trans.), New German Critique, 3: 49-55.
Fraser, Nancy. 1990. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text, 24/25: 56-80.


VIII. Power and Discourse

February 29
How do I know what I know and at whose expense? Knowledge, Power and Discourse Analysisclick here
Required Readings: 
Foucault, Michel. 1979. “Panopticism,” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, pp. 195-219.
Foucault, Michel. 1992. “From the History of Sexuality,A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. Anthony Easthope and Kate McGowan, Eds.. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 91-95.

Supplementary Reading:
Nikolas Rose "Normal" from New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society

March 4 – Last Day to Drop Courses Without Receiving a Failure and For Tuition Adjustment


IX. Social Difference I: Sex, Gender, and Desire                                                                   
March 7
Does gender make a difference? Gender in/as Critique click here
Required Readings:
Butler, Judith. 1990. “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire,” Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Gender. New York: Routledge, pp. 1-34.
Gill, Rosalind. 2007. “Post-Feminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility,” European Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2): 147-166.


X. Social Difference II: Race, Culture and Diaspora

March 14
Does difference make a difference? Critical Race Theories click here
Required Readings:
Said, Edward. 1978. “Orientalism,” Orientalism. New York: Pantheon, pp.1-28.
hooks, bell. 1992. “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” Black Looks: Race and Representation.  New York: South End Press, pp. 21-40.
Hall, Stuart. 1999. “Racist Ideologies and the Media,” IN Media Studies: A Reader, eds. Paul
            Marris and Sue Thornham. New York: NYU Press, 1999, pp. 271-282.
Supplementary Reading:
Ien Ang "Difference" from New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society


XI. Communicative Capitalism click here

March 21
Required Reading:
Dean, Jodi. 2005. “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics,”Cultural Politics, 1(1): 51-74.



XII. Term Wrap-Up and Review
March 28

Final Take-Home to Be Distributed in Class
Take-Home Due: April 8,, before 4 p.m.