Spring 2024 - CMNS 802 G100

History of Communication Theory (5)

Class Number: 1146

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.



A survey of classic works, issues and debates in communication theory.


This course explores the emergence and development of key theoretical frameworks and concepts within the field of communication since the 19th century. We will also explore the field’s relationship to developments in adjacent disciplines like Science and Technology Studies (STS). The course situates communication theory within broader social, economic, political and cultural histories of western and non-western societies over the past two centuries in order to break away from ‘Eurocentric’ approaches to the study of communication and culture. We will explore influential ‘schools of thought’ – from Frankfurt to Toronto – as well as theoretical traditions that have been essential for communication – from psychoanalysis to cybernetics.


  • Participation and Engagement 20%
  • Opening Discussion 10%
  • Exploration of a Journal 30%
  • Final Research Paper 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.


Participation and Engagement

Consistent, thoughtful attendance and engagement with the course is expected in this in person seminar.

Opening Discussion

Each student will be in charge of a the “opening discussion” for an assigned text. This will involve offering an opening presentation about the text and raising a few questions for our discussion.

Exploration of a Journal

Each student will select an influential academic journal from communication (preferably one which has published content related to your research interests) and explore facets of its historical development from trends in content, to demographics of contributing authors, to editorial leadership. Students will write a report on the journal of their choice that explores the conversations that have unfolded there, and connect them with the theoretical landscape this course surveys.

Final Research Paper

Students will write a final paper that engages with theoretical frameworks we discuss in class in the context of your research area.



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.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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.