Spring 2020 - CMNS 452 D100

Race and the Media (4)

Class Number: 1045

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3220, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    75 units including one of CMNS 202 (or 262), 220, 221, 223 (or 223W), and at least two CMNS upper division courses.



Examines the contemporary construction and maintenance of race and ethnicity, through movies, music, and the Internet. Provides grounding in scholarship on media, race, ethnicity, and identity. Explores the historical role of entertainment in racialization. Investigates contemporary issues and forms of media and race. Students who have taken CMNS 486 with subtitle "Race and the Media" cannot take this course for further credit.


Race has shaped myriad aspects of our digital world—from the representations of social groups in entertainment media, to the infrastructures and policies that support technological development, to algorithms and the collection of data, to the interfaces that shape online engagement. Media such as networked television, streaming platforms, social media, and videogames saturate our everyday lives and social institutions. These media provide images and narratives that inform our social identities and understandings of other social groups. These mediated representations of race shape and are shaped by the technical designs and industry structures that enable their production, circulation, and appropriation. For these reasons, nondominant groups have sought to access and control technologies of media production and distribution to complicate and challenge dominant racial discourses that are reproduced through cultural texts, computational processes, and media industries. These groups have deployed digital media in ways that expand the public sphere, contest the status quo, and more meaningfully depict their concerns and desires.

This course uses digital media as a focal point to examine the mutual shaping of media representations and media infrastructures in the construction of race in our society. Through readings, discussions, screenings, demonstrations, and written assignments, students will ground themselves in the research on critical race studies of media and technology. By examining how race intersects with other axes of identity in media representations and infrastructures—such as class and gender—students will apply concepts from this scholarship to contemporary issues such as digital labour, algorithmic bias, predictive policing, mediated protest, and diversity and inclusion in tech. Students will analyse screenings and readings in conjunction with reflections on their own experiences, and build on this material to design, execute, and write up their own research projects.


  • Seminar Participation (Individual) 25%
  • Seminar Leadership (Group) 15%
  • Paper Proposal 20%
  • Final Paper 40%
  • *To be confirmed in class


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.]

Doctor’s Notes: 
Please see this website to view procedures to follow if you are sick.http://www.sfu.ca/students/health/see-a-doctor/missed-classes.html


A minimum CMNS CGPA of 2.25 and overall CGPA of 2.00, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses.



No textbooks; all readings will be 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