Spring 2021 - CMNS 488 D200

Selected Topics in Communication (4)


Class Number: 8342

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 25, 2021
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    Depends on topic; published before enrollment.



Intensive analysis of a particular topic in the general area of communication. This course can be repeated for credit up to a maximum of three times, if topic studied is different.


Surveillance is not limited to the familiar nexus of cops, terrorists and authoritarianism. Rather, surveillance describes the broader principle of social sorting, by which people are divided into different categories – whether in terms of targeted online advertising, or calculations of credit scores or welfare eligibility. The expansion of such surveillance is at the heart of new information technologies, and the promises of big data and artificial intelligence.

This course examines surveillance as a fundamental aspect of communication / information technologies. We will draw on key historical examples, theories, and plenty of contemporary debates. From 18th century prisons to COVID tracking apps, John Rockefeller’s credit score to Yelp and Uber driver ratings, we will examine how surveillance is not simply about detecting bad behaviour, but generating the societal norms by which we are governed. As Michel Foucault put it, it is a question of conduct of conduct.

Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, CMNS488 will be offered fully online, and mostly asynchronously. This means that the course will combine recorded lectures and online discussions, allowing you to participate on your own schedule. The only synchronous (set time) elements will be a monthly live Zoom session. CMNS488 will not use any form of online proctoring.

If you have any questions about the course content / setup during enrolment, I’d be happy to chat – just email me at sun_ha@sfu.ca


  • Weekly Participation 30%
  • Final Project – Proposal 15%
  • Final Project – Video Presentation 15%
  • Final Project 40%



No textbooks; all readings will be available online via instructor.

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 spring 2021 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).