Graduate Courses in Communication Studies 2014-2015

Fall 2014

COMS 608 (CRN 18660) Sound Studies (3 credits), Prof. Jonathan Sterne, T, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

Sound, Vision, Action: The Course

Built around the November 2014 Media@McGill Symposium Sound, Vision, Action (, this course stages an encounter between the burgeoning fields of sound studies and visual culture. The course will combine the intellectual substance of the conference with a basic education in multimodal methods from the digital humanities. We will engage work by the scholars and artists who will present at the conference. We will explore the modalities of constructing and presenting knowledge about sound and vision in humanities, and consider the political stakes in producing such knowledge. The goal is not a grand synthesis, but rather to treat the three fields (sound studies, visual culture, digital humanities) as distinct intellectual endeavors that can cross-­‐pollinate in productive ways. Students will have special access to the conference, interview conference presenters, and opportunities to contribute to the event and post-­‐event documents such as a durable website and multimodal academic publications.

The course and conference focus on power and knowledge. Questions of power were present at the origin of the two fields’ current incarnations. Those questions are particularly crucial now. In the wake of the political changes in the 21st century, do we need a shift in theory comparable to the post-­‐1968 shifts in continental philosophy? What would that look like?

At the same time, sound studies and visual culture are creatures of scholarly publishing. A generation ago, that meant words on a page, sometimes accompanied by images. Today, that can mean a wide range of ways of presenting ideas, often involving computing. The digital humanities can mean many things, but this course will focus on the digital humanities traditions of multimodal scholarship. If we are writing about aurality and visuality, how can we use sounds and images in our work? How can we produce compelling, didactic and pedagogically useful multimodal scholarship? What defines multimodal scholarship as opposed to other kinds of multimedia practices (like art)? We will discuss specialized tools like Scalar, Critical Commons, Ableton Live, and GIMP, as well as humanistic adaptations of tools like Wordpress, Soundcloud, Rap Genius and YouTube.

In lieu of a major term paper, students will produce a series of short responses, and t larger (and possibly collaborative) multimodal works.

COMS 616 (CRN 1594) Staff-Student Colloquium 1 (3 credits), Prof. Becky Lentz, M, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

This is a team-taught course intended to welcome incoming graduate students to the field of communication studies and to the expectations and requirements of the MA and PhD programs in communication studies at McGill University. Positioned as a kind of ‘boot camp’, the course involves a workshop on academic grantwriting, a review of materials about the ‘field’ of communication studies, and selected readings assigned by individual professors for discussion during their guest-led seminars. Students are assigned short essays on guest speakers’ readings as preparation for active discussion during the seminar. Students are also assigned a short reflection essay due at the end of the course. Attendance is mandatory.

Course Requirements:
Seminar participation - 40%
Writing assignments - 60%

COMS 627 (CRN 18661) Global Governance (3 credits), Prof. Marc Raboy, T, 1435-1725, Arts W-220

A diverse array of political, economic, social and cultural processes have traditionally shaped media and communication systems and their governance at the national level, rooted within territorial boundaries. Within a context of globalization, however, local and national media and communication systems have been evolving and forced to adapt, increasingly, to transnational dimensions of media and communication policy. This trend has influenced the emergence of a global media and communication system that now demands attention to new policy issues, innovative approaches to these issues, and consideration for the assortment of policy actors, processes and structures that support their governance. For example, the convergence of the media and telecommunications sector, shifting regulatory demands, the emergence of the Internet and new media, and changing communication needs affect policies that operate simultaneously at the local and global levels but which still pass through the national domain.

This course will cover key issues that arise in the context of emergent spaces for global media policy governance. These issues include the fundamental relationship between media policy and democracy, the role of civil society in shaping global media policy, as well as core topics such as internet governance, concentration of media ownership, access to technologies, intellectual property, communication rights and the role of media in reflecting cultural diversity.

The course will draw from a variety of policy, institutional, theoretical and analytic texts. Students will be encouraged to consider the utility and methods of mapping the shifting media policy landscape in order to critically reflect upon issues, opportunities and challenges for actors, processes and policy activities taking shape in the global arena.


Seminar participation (attendance and active participation in seminar discussion): 20%. (If you are unable to attend a class, kindly inform the professor by e-mail before 2 pm that day.)

Class presentations (three or more 20-30 minute critical presentations of readings): 30%. (Schedule to be determined in class)

Final paper, on a topic to be determined in consultation with the professor (5,000- 6,000 words + references and appendices): 50%. (10% for a 20-minute oral presentation in the final class, 40% for the written paper). Proposal, due by e-mail before 2 pm, Tuesday October 21. (Mandatory but not graded. Failure to submit the proposal on time will result in a penalty of 1% per 24-hour period.) Paper, due before 3 pm, Friday December 5, in both hard copy and electronic form. (Failure to submit the paper on time will result in a penalty of 2% per 24-hour period.)

COMS 630 (CRN 12473) Readings in Communication Research 1 (3 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required

coming soon

COMS 675 (CRN 18662) / ARTH 730 (19316) Media and Urban Life (3 credits), Prof. Will Straw, W, 1135-1425, PL 3463 Rm 201 (MISC)

This course deals with cities and with the place of culture within urban life.  Its main focus is on the ways in which various cultural forms may be seen as contributing to the “mediality” of urban life – that is, to the storing, transmission and processing of information and cultural expression.  Designed for both Communications and Art History students, the course will deal with such topics as the transformation of urban facades into expressive surfaces, the cultural role of the urban night, the sensory character of cities, shifting patterns of urban media and so on.  The main focus of the course will be Montreal, but we will be looking at other cities as points of comparison and dealing in a more general sense with cities and their culture. 

COMS 692 (CRN 3404) M.A. Thesis Preparation 1 (6 credits)

coming soon

COMS 693 (CRN 3405) M.A. Thesis Preparation 2 (6 credits)

coming soon

COMS 694 (CRN 3406) M.A. Thesis Preparation 3 (6 credits)

coming soon

COMS 695 (CRN 3407) M.A. Thesis Preparation 4 (6 credits)

coming soon

COMS 702 (CRN 7097) Comprehensive Exam (0 credits)

coming soon


Winter 2015

COMS 630 (CRN 4374) Readings in Communication Research (3 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required

Coming soon.

COMS 633 (CRN 13925) Feminist Media Studies (3 credits) Prof. Carrie Rentschler, Th, 1435-1725, Arts W-5

Feminist Media Studies is a broad ranging and deeply politicized intellectual field of inquiry that addresses a wide range of media practices from diverse feminist perspectives. Our readings and guest speakers this term will help us dig into and interrogate key feminist investments, political visions and ways of knowing and acting – from the development of coalitional consciousness, to modes of solidarity activism (and their criticism), indigenous knowledge and sovereignty politics, to feminist new materialisms, digital media activism, and transnational feminisms.

The course will focus in particular on critical race feminisms and feminist and queer-identified new media studies. Across our readings, authors ask a series of fundamental questions that drive current inquiry in these areas of research, including: how do media practices and communication infrastructures create social relationships and reproduce and challenge structures of power? How do machines, humans and animals assemble socially and technically? What is (and what happened to) cyberfeminism? What constitutes feminist and queer modes of agency and subjectivity within current techno-social configurations? How are racialized systems reproduced and resisted via network technologies? What tactics are being used to queer technology and technologized bodies and lives, and toward what ends? These and other questions will orient our discussion in the seminar. By exploring current developments in feminist scholarship around studies of “new,” digital and social media and technology, we will examine the social, political and epistemological dimensions of feminist and queer scholarship and how they can be challenged and extended.

COMS 646 (CRN 13926) / EAST 564 Popular Media: “Structures of Modernity: Photography, Cinema, & New Media” (3 credits) Prof. Furuhata, M, 1435-1725, Ferrier 230

Structures of Modernity: Photography, Cinema, & New Media

This is an upper-level undergraduate and graduate seminar designed for students who have some background in film/media studies, cultural studies, and art history and communication studies. The course is designed as a combination of cultural history and media archeology, with an emphasis on the historical and conceptual resonances among various media technologies. The guiding question of the course is Foucauldian: what were the underlying historical and cultural conditions of possibility that led to the invention and circulation of certain media forms? Media do not exist in vacuum. They variably become sites of knowledge formations, political actions, and aesthetic experiments. In order to go beyond the narrow confines of area studies that often separate the treatment of technological modernity in Japan from the Euro-American context, this course provides a comparative approach and introduces students to canonical scholarship in the field of media theory.

PART I of the course focuses on the epistemic impact of early visual technologies such as radiography, chronophotography, and photography in relation to modern disciplines and art movements such as psychoanalysis and surrealism. In this section we will learn how certain technologies helped generate a particular mode of knowing, and hence intersected with formations of particular disciplines. PART II of the course shifts the focus away from knowledge to control. Framed around the military and governmental use of technologies, this section will interrogate how certain media forms became instruments of control, policing, and surveillance. We will also move closer to our contemporary media environment, extending our analysis to satellite television and to software.

Attendance - 10%
Class participation and Weekly Response Papers - 30%
Midterm Synthesis Paper or Critical Media Project - 25%
Final Paper - 35%

COMS 683 (CRN 13958) Special Topics: Media & Politics (3 credits) Prof. Darin Barney, W, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

Special Topics in Media & Politics: Sabotage

This course will examine the history and philosophy of sabotage as a form of political action, and will comprise an extended speculation as to whether sabotage is a form particularly suited to conditions in which the politics of democratic publicity has reached its limit. It will begin by situating sabotage in relation to other forms of militancy, and will proceed to examine sabotage as it has been theorized and performed across a range of traditions and contexts, including militant labour movements, neo-anarchism, anti-colonial struggles, slave resistance, indigenous peoples’ struggles, and environmental and energy politics.

Seminar participation - 25%
Seminar presentation - 25%
Term Paper (5000-6500 words) - 50%

COMS 692 (CRN 1458) M.A. Thesis Preparation 1 (6 credits)

COMS 693 (CRN 1459) M.A. Thesis Preparation 2 (6 credits)

COMS 694 (CRN 1460) M.A. Thesis Preparation 3 (6 credits)

COMS 695 (CRN 1461) M.A. Thesis Preparation 4 (6 credits)

COMS 702 (CRN 6119) Comprehensive Exam (0 credits)

COMS 703 (CRN 3269) Dissertation Proposal (0 credits)

COMS 730 (CRN 1462) Readings in Communication Research (3 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required