Catherine Phelan, chair (on leave spring 2017)
The mission of the Communication Department is to ensure that students are critically aware of the ways in which communication technologies inevitably alter interpersonal and social environments.
Courses in communication examine the ways people use various communication technologies—ranging from mobile devices to social media—to maintain relationships, create community, express identity, and understand their place in the world.
We are interested in exploring the varied ways in which the digital revolution alters how we talk and what counts as conversation. Have you ever considered how our awareness of privacy, identity and community are being altered by the ubiquitous screen? Or have you considered how different your friend networks are as a consequence of social media?
Whatever your intellectual interests or career goals, knowing more about communication will help you recognize and respond to the complexities of your social world.
Courses are designed to prepare students for the demands of civic engagement beyond the classroom. That means the study of communication links key theories to examples that illustrate why those theories are useful. Whether one is interested in politics, public service, art and design, or community service, a theoretical understanding of the ways in which communication technologies implicitly shape our social and personal perspectives may enhance your engagement in the world beyond the classroom.
Learning goals for the curriculum include:
1. To critically investigate the diverse ways in which information technologies can alter the human communication environment.
2. To understand the complex ways in which concerns with communication cannot be separated from ethical concerns.
3. To discern how interpersonal communication is fundamentally different from the varied forms of mediated communication.
A minor in communication consists of five communication courses: 101, and four additional courses (two of which must be at the 300 level or above). The department is dedicated to helping students discern the connections between the study of communication and their major research focus.
101F,S Introduction to Communication.
An introduction to the fundamental questions of the discipline. Investigates the role of symbolic communication, the essential features of interpersonal communication and group process, as well as the ways in which mediated communication alters perceptions of community and identity. Communication theories are supported by case studies that illustrate the relevance of communication for everyday life. Dane.
Free Speech: Privacy and Advocacy.
Focuses on speech, privacy, and advocacy in order to explore the liberties and constraints of living in community with others. Instantaneous access to information via social media contributes to emerging questions regarding privacy and challenging new experiences of community. The course focuses on four related questions: Why do our communities require privacy? What does the American tradition teach us about privacy? How can advocacy weaken – or strengthen – community? What new forms of advocacy challenge our understanding of privacy? (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
Explorations in Communication.
An exploration of the fundamental questions regarding how human communication differs from the communication of other living creatures. Drawing on key readings from the communication discipline, students work collaboratively to discover what makes humans unique. Readings incorporate articles on human communication and scientific studies of birds, frogs, chimps, bees, elephants, among others. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
History of Communication.
Examines the symbolic forms and technological extensions of communication, from the evolution of human language to the emergence of digital technologies, and evaluates the relationship between dominant modes of communication and the cultures that shape and are shaped by those dominant forms. Examines the varied ways in which communication technologies have shaped political, social and economic structures, in addition to shifting perspectives on temporal and spatial orders, as exemplified by revolutions in communication technologies.
208F Witnessing Disaster.
This course explores the cultural, technological, and ethical dimensions of bearing witness to the suffering of others, especially when such suffering occurs at a great distance, and is brought to us via mass media. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Recuber, T.
Group Communication in Virtual & Digital Formats.
Virtual and digital formats alter our experience of group process. In order to address the challenges of geographically dispersed rather than face-to-face meetings, students will move beyond the interpersonal dimension to recognize the multi-faceted focus of groups in live and virtual settings. The study of group process addresses the complexity of cultural, political and social influences. Students confront these challenges through the study of cross-cultural perspectives, theoretical analysis, simulations, and detailed hypothetical exercises. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, Course in communication, government, public policy, sociology, or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 20.
280F Conflict Resolution: Policies and Strategies.
This course examines conflict from a variety of perspectives. We will investigate how arbitration, adjudication, and mediation differ, in addition to exploring how the policies and strategies of cultural and legal institutions dictate different approaches to mediation. Societies cope with conflict by enacting policies consistent with their culture and values. This course examines conflict resolution policies in the U.S. and abroad, including the legal system, the media, the educational sector, and international dispute resolution. Prerequisite, 101 or 222, or consent of instructor. (Same as Public Policy 280.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Dane.
Crisis Communication: Social Change for Vulnerable Communities.
Theories of environmental, health, safety, agricultural, and corporate risks and crises will be addressed. Focusing on the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, this course examines how communication policies and procedures provide a framework for social change in vulnerable communities. Based on real scenarios, students study risk assessment, risk perception, message design, crisis management, media relations, and barriers to effective risk and crisis communication. Prerequisite, Course in communication, government, public policy, sociology, or consent of instructor.
Media and Politics.
How do rapid changes in the process of news-making alter the political process? Does democracy require accurate news reporting? Is objectivity possible? What is the role of the press (print, broadcast, digital, and social media) in the twenty-first century? How do historical precedents help us to understand the impact of digital media on the political process? What theories do communication scholars offer to clarify the interplay of media and politics? (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, one course in communication, government or sociology. (Same as American Studies 310.)
Communication Law: Freedom of Speech.
Detailed investigation of the first amendment. Study of case law which has contributed to the creation of a unique American perspective on the role of speech in a free society. Exploration of historical origins of the first amendment, political consequence and technological constraints. Legal distinctions regarding print, broadcast and electronic media focus on implications for the 21st century. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, one course in communication, government or sociology. Open to seniors and juniors; sophomores and first-year students with permission.
316F Digital Divisions: Race, Class, and Gender Online.
Though conventional wisdom suggests that the internet is a force for freedom and tolerance, it is also a place where existing biases and inequalities get replicated and at times magnified. This course explores the way social categories such as race, class, and gender persist online and the way various biases and prejudices are both combatted and enflamed in online spaces. Prerequisite, One course in Communication, Sociology, or Psychology. Recuber, T.
Seminar: Privacy, Policy & Digital Communication.
This course will explore how American conventions concerning privacy are challenged by digital communication technologies. We will investigate how the concept of privacy is related the speech clause of the First Amendment, and seek to understand why that relationship is crucial for participation in democratic societies. This course also focuses on the concept of privacy in ways that encourage an ongoing semester long dialogue between a specific group of high school students and Hamilton students regarding their interest in and use of digital media. Maximum enrollment, 12.
380F Social History of Advertising.
Provides an historical overview of advertising and consumption within the US. Investigates the emergence of consumer culture and the advertising industry in the context of shifts from agrarian to industrial society. Addresses the social significance of consumption habits, the impact of advertising strategies from late 19th century to the present, the social, economic and political contexts that contributed to the emergence of particular marketing practices, and the impact of consumerism as a site of identity practices. Prerequisite, 101 or a course in history, sociology, or psychology, or consent of instructor. T Phelan.
Seminar: Communication, Technology and Society.
Theoretical analysis of how communication technology alters social construction of time, space, community and identity. Readings detail historical precedents in order to address future implications of emerging technologies. Prerequisite, Communication 101 or consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Maximum enrollment, 12.