Fall 2023 - CMNS 210 D100

Media History (3)

Class Number: 1122

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Nine CMNS units with a minimum grade of C-.



An assessment of the social implications of developments in information technology from prehistory to the middle of the 20th century. Topics include: the origins of symbolic representation; the oral tradition; the significance of different systems of writing and numeration; the consequences of print; and the initial changes brought about by electronic media.


Our goal in this course is to develop a cultural framework for thinking about media historically, and for thinking about history through media. The course takes a focus on media in their moments of newness, when their meanings and uses are not yet fixed, and are up for negotiation, debate, and experimentation by the people and cultures who use them. We will begin by introducing the concepts of “mediation” and “technology” and then spend the rest of the course exploring these concepts through specific transformations—technologies such as the printing press, telegraph, and computing will be considered alongside less obvious forms such as electric light, surveillance technologies, and basic infrastructures like cables. We will situate media in specific geographies and communities of use, for example, by studying the role of print in settler colonialism in Canada, and by looking at undersea telecommunications cables in relation to globalization. Throughout the course, we will explore how media have been constitutive of hierarchies related to race, gender, ability, and other forms of social difference. By taking this perspective, we will be able to situate media technologies within larger social, political, and economic histories, and relations of power.


  • Article Worksheet 15%
  • Paper Proposal 20%
  • Paper 30%
  • Mid-Term Exam 20%
  • Contributions to Tutorials and other Activities 15%



Course readings will be made available as PDFs through the course CANVAS site.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.