Spring 2024 - CMNS 311 D200

Topics in Communication and Social Justice (4)

Media Revolutions

Class Number: 5107

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Fri, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    17 CMNS units with a minimum grade of C- or 45 units with a minimum CGPA of 2.00.



Topics pertain to issues of inequality, resistance and activism with a focus on entanglements with media and communication. Explores how relations of power are shaped and contested through media and communication. Topics include: racial justice, environmental policies, globalization, social activism, and labour. This course can be repeated once for credit (up to a maximum of two times).


Topic for Spring 2024:  Media Revolutions


Throughout modernity, social and political upheavals have been accompanied, and sometimes facilitated, by transformations in the nature and use of media technologies. From the epochal effects of the emergence of ‘print capitalism’ to the role of electronic, digital and social media technologies in shaping the tactics and strategies of social movements in the 21st century, political and social revolutions have always also been media revolutions. This course will explore the nexus of political change and communication technologies in theoretical, historical and empirical registers, combining ‘case studies’ of media revolutions (from the Haitian revolution of 1791-1804 to the Arab Spring and the George Floyd Rebellion), with inquiries into particular media (from print to social media platforms, from graphic design to digital visual media). Particular attention will be played to the role of media in anti-colonial, anti-racist and feminist liberation movements.

Course Themes:

  1. Media Revolutions: Introduction
  2. Rumours of Emancipation
  3. Circuits of Emancipation
  4. Print Capitalism and Print Socialism
  5. Counter-Public Spheres
  6. Prison Letters
  7. Revolutionary Graphics
  8. From Kino-Fist to Third Cinema
  9. Resistance literature and Resistant Media
  10. Social Media Revolutions
  11. The Digital Party
  12. Media Revolutions in the Age of Riots


  • Attendance/Participation (ongoing) 5%
  • Weekly Reflections (ongoing): (10 x 2.5%) 25%
  • Presentation (ongoing, beginning in week 4) OR 8-10 page essay (due in Week 7) 30%
  • Final Essay, 12-15 pages (due in Week 13) 40%


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). For further information see: www.sfu.ca/policies/Students/index.html.



Indicative readings:

Julius S. Scott, The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution (London and New York: Verso, 2020)

Thulani Davis, The Emancipation Circuit: Black Activism Forging a Culture of Freedom (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022)

Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt, Public Sphere and Experience: Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere (London and New York: Verso, 2016)

Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature (New York: Methuen Press, 1987)

Paolo Gerbaudo, The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy (London: Pluto, 2019)

Linda Herrera, Revolution in the Age of Social Media: The Egyptian Popular Insurrection and the Internet (London and New York: Verso, 2014)

Peter Snowdon, The People Are Not an Image: Vernacular Video After the Arab Spring (London and New York: Verso, 2020)


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 term 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.