Summer 2019 - CMNS 130 J100

Communication and Social Change (3)

Class Number: 5823

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sa 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    HCC 1415, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 11, 2019
    6:31 PM – 6:31 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, 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, theories, and institutions of communication as they relate to social change. The first section of the course introduces the era of mass communication and some of the more influential approaches to its study. In weeks 1-7 we examine questions such as: What is mass communication? What is the role of mass media in a democracy? How has mass media been regulated? What are the differences between critical, liberal-democratic, and neoliberal understandings of mass communication? The second part of the course focuses on contemporary, networked forms of media and perspectives that seek to explain what has been called the “network society.” In weeks 8-13 we examine questions such as: 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 along with the arrival of the internet and social media? The course concludes (weeks 10-13) by investigating these questions through case studies of media industries and practices, including work in the communication and cultural industries, independent media, social media and mobile communication, and the relationship between media and globalization


Course Goals:

·         To introduce some of the key concepts, theoretical approaches and political perspectives used in the study of communication.

·         To provide a foundation for a number of second-year communication courses in the School of Communication.

·         To consider the role played by communication within broader social change.

·         To develop the capacity to critically assess, and intervene within, the media environment.  


  • Attendance and Participation 10%
  • Group Presentations (Weeks 10-13) 10%
  • Article Analysis (Due Week 5) 15%
  • Term Paper Proposal (Due Week 6) 5%
  • Midterm (Week 7) 15%
  • Term Paper (Due Week 11) 20%
  • Final Exam (During Exam Period) 25%


Seminar Attendance and Participation
Attending and participating in course seminars is an essential part of CMNS 130. In addition to the weekly lecture, seminars will include discussions of the course material and help prepare you for writing assignments, the midterm, and the final exam. Attendance alone is not enough however: you are expected to know the week’s readings before seminar, and to be prepared to participate in discussion every week. You will be expected to come prepared to discuss one news item which illustrates some of the issues that relate to the week’s topic. Beginning in Week 3 when the Canvas tutorial forums are set up, this news item should be posted on the forum before class along with a brief explanation of how and why it relates to the course material from that week. A discussion of these news items will get the seminar going.

This in-class, 1 hour and 45-minute exam will cover all course material (readings, screenings, lectures, and tutorials) for weeks 1-6. The format will consist of short answer and essay questions. Its purpose is both to give you an indication both of how you are doing so far and what to expect as far as the final exam is concerned.

Group Presentations
Tutorials in weeks 10-13 will include group presentations on class facilitation topics. Early in the semester, students will be divided into four groups of four or five and each group will be assigned a class facilitation topic (listed under Weeks 8-12 below). Your group’s task is to give a 10-15-minute presentation on the topic that stimulates conversation and gets the tutorial going. Your presentation should consider how the topic relates to the course material for that week, including the readings and lecture.

Article Analysis
One of the first goals of the course will be for you to critically analyze a text that exemplifies some of the writing you will be encountering in the field of communication as you move through your courses in the School of Communication. An article or chapter will be made available to you, and you will be expected to write a paper, of approximately 750-1000 words (three to four pages, double-spaced), in which you summarize the author’s thesis and evidence, and critically assess their argument.  

Term Paper
For the term paper you are required to write a longer exploratory or argumentative essay chosen from a set of general topics that will be made available to you by Week 2 along with detailed guidelines for the assignment. You have some leeway as far as the specific topic you would like to write about, but you must relate the topic to concepts, theories, events or debates discussed in the course. Students will need to hand in a brief term paper proposal (around 75 words long), in which they describe the topic they wish to write about, by Week 6. The term paper is due at the beginning of lecture in Week 11.    

Final Exam
This 3-hour exam will cover topics from all class material, including readings, screenings, lectures, tutorials, and class facilitation topics. If the material is covered in the lecture, readings, discussions, or film clips, then it may be on the final exam. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate the degree of your engagement with, and understanding of, the material we have explored during the course of the semester.  


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). For further information see:



·       All readings will be available digitally on Canvas at no charge.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.