Summer 2023 - CMNS 210 D100

Media History (3)

Class Number: 4894

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Tue, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 11, 2023
    Fri, 8:30–11:30 a.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.


The goal of this course is to develop an understanding of the relationship between media technology and society through historical and cultural perspectives. This means thinking about media historically, and thinking about history through media. This course focuses on both the discursive and material constructions of media, particularly at moments of newness, when the meanings and uses of media are not yet fixed. We will begin by introducing the concepts of “mediation,” “materiality” 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, geological formations, and basic infrastructures like internet 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. We will also situate historical media in how they have been studied within the larger field of communication and media studies. 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.


  • Paper Proposal 10%
  • Paper 30%
  • Take Home Mid-term Exam 20%
  • Take Home Final Exam 25%
  • Tutorial Attendance & Participation 15%



Course readings will be made available online via Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


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