CMST 242--Communication, Culture, Consciousness

Take shortcuts to the following:


"When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me"--Counting Crows

"It's Jesus, like in the movies"--Christopher Sloop, age 4, when asked to identify the baby Jesus

"I'm OK with the still pictures, but the moving ones are alive"--Nicole Simpson's mother, discussing images of Nicole.

"The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own"--Susan Sontag

"Every new medium is a machine for the production of ghosts"--John Durham Peters

In this course, we reflect on the relationship between the primary means of communication within a culture and the consciousness of that culture and its members. We will read a number of different works ranging from those claiming to trace out the historical relationship between media and culture, those that attempt to speculate on contemporary shifts in consciousness, those that celebrate "postmodernity," those that condemn it. Our goal is not so much to learn ways of "reading" and critiquing specific texts (e.g., television shows, film) as some of you may have experienced in "Rhetoric of Mass Media"--although we will act as critics at times--but is instead an attempt to understand cultural epistemology and individual ontology as somewhat shaped, or influenced, by dominant modes of communication. During the semester, we will investigate film, television, and the Internet as sites of criticism/theory and will comment on the so-called "postmodern condition" and its implications.

Required Texts:

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin, 1984.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Science Fiction, 1984.

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Anchor, 1977.

Sunstein, Cass. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Swiss, Thomas, ed. Unspun: Key Concepts for Understanding the World Wide Web. New York: NYU Press, 2000.

There will also be reserved readings on electronic reseerve and some taken off the web.

Assignments and Grading:

  1. Discussion/Participation 20%
  2. Weekly Posts 10%
  3. Short Paper 10%
  4. Critical Essay 20%
  5. Exam 20%
  6. Projective Essay 20%

Course Structure:

Course Schedule (Tentative, of course)

Aug 28--Introduction to course (handout--DeLillo)
Aug 30--Meet in Computer classroom 119 D Garland (Assign Short Paper)
Sep 02--McLuhan "Medium," Ong "Some" (electronic reserve)
Sep 04--McLuhan, Ong continued. Short Paper Due.
Sep 06--Sontag, pp. 3-24.
Sep 09--Sontag, pp. 85-112.
Sep 11--Sontag, pp. 153-181. (Assign Critical Essay).
Sep 13--Benjamin (Read through link).
Sep 16--Horkheimer and Adorno (Read through link).
Sep 18--Discussion of Being There.
Sep 20--Lecture on Baudrillard and negotiating the posts
Sep 23--Discuss Baudrillards "Clone Story," "Advertising," and "On Nihilism" (electronic reserve)
Sep 25--DeLillo, pp. 1-53.
Sep 27--DeLillo, pp. 54-105.
Sep 30--DeLillo, pp. 109-182.
Oct 02--DeLillo, pp. 184-256.
Oct 04--DeLillo, pp. 257-320.
Oct 07--Natural Born Killers discussion. (Draft of Critical Essay due).
Oct 09--Gibson, pp. 3-69.
Oct 11--Gibson, pp. 71-121.
Oct 14--Critical Essay due. Discussion of essays.
Oct 16--Gibson, pp. 123-199.
Oct 18--Gibson, pp. 201-271.
Oct 23--Haraway lecture.
Oct 25--Haraway ("Manifesto"), Haraway interview (on-line).
Oct 28--Unspun, Intro, Chapters 5,6.
Oct 30--Unspun, Chapters 3,4,9.
Nov 01--A.I. discussion. (Projective Essay assigned). EXAM QUESTIONS POSTED.
Nov 04--Star Trek "Q Who?" viewing and discussion.
Nov 06--Internet nationalism. Read Fursich and Robins (electronic reserve)
Nov 08--EXAM.
Nov 11--Sunstein, Chaps. 1-2.
Nov 13--Sunstein, Chaps. 3-4.
Nov 15--Sunstein, Chaps. 5-6.
Nov 18--Sunstein, Chaps. 7-9.
Nov 20--Open
Nov 22--Unspun, Chaps 1 and 12.
Dec 02--Cassidy (electronic reserve).
Dec 04--Open.
Dec 06--Projective paper presentation. (Projective papers due).
Dec 09--Projective paper presentation.
Dec 11--Projective paper presentation.

YOU MUST ATTEND ONE OF THE FINAL TWO EXAM SESSIONS. We will use the normal and alternative exam sessions for final paper presentations. As such, you are required to attend one of the two meetings. Schedule your departure times accordingly, as I will accept no excuses. Missing the exam session will result in the loss of one full letter grade off your final grade. Missing half of the exam period (i.e., "leaving early") will result in the loss of half a full letter grade off your final grade. Again, there will be no "excused" absences for any reason, and you must attend the full exam period (e.g., you cannot ask if you can leave 15 minutes early to catch your flight or to attend another exam).

As now scheduled (but you are responsible for verifying this), our exam times are as follows:

Tue, Dec. 17---12-2 PM.
Sat, Dec. 21--9-11AM.

If you have questions or need to talk to me, call me at 322-2988, come by my office (213 Calhoun), or email me.

If you would like to see my other courses, you will find links on my homepage.