Fall 2019 - CMNS 130 E100

Communication and Social Change (3)

Class Number: 3347

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
    SWH 10081, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 11, 2019
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    RCB IMAGTH, Burnaby



An introduction to the forms, theories and institutions of communication as they relate to broader social change, with a focus on the political, economic and regulatory shifts characterizing Canadian and transnational media systems. This course is required for a major, honours or minor in communication.



This course offers an introduction to the forms, technologies, techniques, theories and institutions of communication as they relate to broader social change. Central topics of this course include: Anthropocene and the deep time of media; cyber-war and digital mobilization; work in the context of information industries; the relationship between media and globalization; algorithmic cultures and political economy of information.  

We will focus on the era of mass communication and some of the more influential approaches to its study to examine the following questions: What is mass communication? What is the role of mass media in a democracy? How has mass media been regulated in the past? What are the differences between critical, liberal-democratic, and neoliberal understandings of mass communication?  

Then we will explore networked forms of media and perspectives that seek to explain what is often called the “network society”. Are we in the midst of a transition from an era of mass communication to an era of networked communication?  What are the implications of this shift for social inequality?  What role can we play in this transformation? What regulatory approaches are being applied to digital media?  How does concentration of ownership affect media content? How have media production, distribution and consumption changed with the arrival of the World Wide Web and social media?


Learning Objectives:
·         To introduce some of the key concepts and theoretical approaches used in the study of communication.
·         To provide a foundation for many second-year CMNS courses.
·         To consider the role played by communication within broader social change.
·         To develop the capacity to critically assess and intervene within the media environment.


  • Tutorial Attendance and Participation 20%
  • Mid-Term Exam 20%
  • Term Paper Proposal, Outline and Annotated Bibliography 20%
  • Term Paper 20%
  • Final Exam 20%


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades.  In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline.  [Note: As of May 1, 2009, the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]



Peters, Benjamin (Ed.), Digital Keywords. A Vocabulary of Information, Society & Culture. Princeton University Press, 2016. 
ISBN: 9780691167343

The rest of the readings will be made available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html