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COURSE NAME: "Media, Culture and Society"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Donatella Della Ratta
EMAIL: ddellaratta@johncabot.edu
HOURS: MW 1:30-2:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: COM 111

This course examines the mass media as complex social institutions that exercise multiple roles in society—none more crucial than the circulation and validation of social discourses. Introducing students to a variety of theoretical approaches, the course focuses on media operations and textual analysis.
The course is divided in three main parts. The first part will focus on the analysis of the main elements of the media (media technologies, the organization of the media industry, media content and media users). The second part, Media, Power and Control, addresses questions of media power, manipulation, the construction of news, public service broadcasting, censorship, commercialization. The third and final part, Media, Identity and Culture, will focus on issues of media and ethnicity, gender, subcultures, audiences and fans.
The course aims to encourage students to understand the relationship between media representations and society. By the end of the course students are expected to:

•       Be competent in the different models of analysis for the study of media organisations, media representations and media audiences

•       Understand key theoretical perspectives and research traditions within media studies 

•       Have acquired advanced competences for the analysis of social and cultural functions of the media

•       Have a certain understanding of the media structure (industry and technology)

•       Understand the relationship between the mass media, society and culture on a basic theoretical level.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Media, Culture and Society: An IntroductionPaul HodkinsonSage978-1473902367  

Midterm examClassroom test with short answers and one essay question.25%
Final ExamClassroom test with short answers and one essay question.25%
Attendance and participationAttendance includes attending a mandatory session with the Library. Please read attendance requirements here below. Participation includes doing the assigned readings and actively contributing to class discussions. Each student (alone or in team with another, depending on total number of students) has to lead at least one group discussion during the semester based on the assigned readings.10%
Final paper and oral presentation Students are required to write a research paper between 2000-3500 words (20% of the grade) and present it (10% of the grade). Detailed guidelines will be provided.30%
"Bring your own example": a short paperDetailed guidelines will be provided.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Please note that the library session on citing (calendar will be provided) is mandatory and absences will automatically lower your participation grade. 
Also please consider that more than 4 absences will automatically result in lowering your participation grade by one letter grade for each absence. Anything above 8 absences will result in failing the course.

If you have a serious health problem which causes you to miss more classes than allowed here, please contact the Dean's Office.

Lateness: If unexcused, students more than 10 minutes late are marked as absent. Late arrival (less than 10 minutes) is marked as such, and 3 late arrivals are counted as one absence. 

Class procedure:  Use of cell phones and laptops affects your participation grade and is strictly forbidden during class.
Please make sure that your cell phone is turned off (and not just muted) when class starts. Kindly note that any infringement of such policy shall automatically result in a F grade in participation.
No laptops allowed during class.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Week 1. Course Overview and introduction: What is media? What is culture?



From the textbook: “Introduction”, pp. 1-6


Watching: selected clips from YouTube 



Week 2. Media Technologies




From the textbook: Introduction pp.7-12

Chapter II “Media Technologies” pp. 19-31


Recommended readings:


McLuhan, Marshall, “Media Hot and Cold”, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis”, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 24-35; 45-52.


Watching:selected clips from “Annie Hall” (1977) Woody Allen; “Videodrome” (1983)


Week 3. Media Industries




From the textbook: Chapter III “Media Industry”.


Holt, Jennifer & Perren, Alisa (eds), “Introduction”, in Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2009), 1-16.


Week 4: Political Economy of Communication part one




Selected readings from

Mosco, Vincent The Political Economy of Communication (London: Sage, 2009).

Classroom case study: the political economy of a TV network


Week 5. Political Economy of Communication part two

* first short paper due 


Michael Curtin "Thinking Globally: from Media Imperialism to Media Capital"

David Hesmondhalgh "Politics, Theory , and Method in Media Industries Research"

in Holt, Jennifer & Perren, Alisa (eds), Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2009), 95-107, 108-119, 245-255.


Classroom case study: the political economy of a global media company


Week 6. Ideology Critique & Frankfurt School

*second short paper due 



From the textbook: Chapter VI “Media as Manipulation?Marxism and Ideology”.


Exercise: how to apply ideology critique to media texts


Week 7

Midterm exam


Watching: “The Stuart Hall Project” (2013)


Week 8. Introducing Cultural Studies part one



From the textbook: Chapter V “Media Users”, pp 92-99.

Longhurst, Brian, et al. Introducing Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 2017): Chapter I, pp. 3-22, 31-33.


Week 9. Introducing Cultural Studies part two



Longhurst, Brian, et al. Introducing Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 2017), pp 76-83; 323-359.

Hall, Stuart (1974) “The television discourse; encoding and decoding”, in (2002), McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory (London: SAGE), pp. 303-308.


Week 10 Semiotics, Ethnography & Reception Studies



From the textbook: Chapter IV “Media Content”; Chapter V “Media Users”, pp 82-92.

Longhurst, Brian, et al. Introducing Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 2017), pp 73-76, 164-187


Week 11 Globalization, Orientalism and Postcolonialism



From the textbook: Chapter X “Media, Ethnicity and Diaspora”.

Longhurst, Brian, et al. Introducing Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 2017), pp 191-231


Week 12 Habermas and the public sphere


From the textbook: Chapter IX.

Shirky, Clay, “The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change”, Foreign Affairs, (2011 January/February 2011).


Week 13 Wrap up and review of main concepts

*Final paper due


Week 14 

*Oral presentations


Final exam: classroom test