Fall 2020 - CMNS 130 D100

Communication and Social Change (3)

Class Number: 6854

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 9, 2020
    9:00 AM – 9:00 AM
    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 broader social change.  The first section of the course introduces the era of mass communication and some of the more influential approaches to its study. We will examine questions such as:  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?

The second part of the course focuses on contemporary, networked forms of media and perspectives that seek to explain what is often called the “network society”. We will 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 have media production, distribution and consumption changed with the arrival of the World Wide Web and social media? What are reasons and techniques of the current militarisation and information war? What are the consequences of media production and consumption on the environment?

The course concludes by looking for the answers to these questions through case studies of media industries and practices, including:  how work has changed in the communication and cultural industries, the emergence of social media and mobile communication, the relationship between media and globalization, the militarization of communication and information economy, media and environment.


  • 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 Participation 10%
  • Reading Responses (2) 40%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 30%



All readings will be made available on Canvas.


All 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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).