Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton's Communication Department is to explore the principles of communication across contexts — interpersonal, social, political, economic, cultural and beyond place and time — and by means of various forms of technology.
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.
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.
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.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
History of Communication Technologies.
Communication is a fundamental part of human existence. Yet the ways in which we communicate with one another vary over time and with the development of new technologies. Communication became a topic of sustained scholarly inquiry once new mass communication technologies like radio and television had begun to radically alter the ways that humans exchange ideas. This seminar provides a broad historical overview of the most important developments in communication—from the printing press to the Internet—and considers the social, cultural, and political implications of these technologies.
Study of current and historic genres of Professional Writing. Professional Writing aims to deliver reliable information, but also to persuade the opinions and behavior of the audience. It avoids overt ambiguity, symbolism and metaphor, while establishing a relationship with the reader based on trust. Professional Writing includes scholarly articles, business plans and grant proposals, resumes and cover letters, and emails and social media messaging. In addition to practicing different kinds of professional writing, the course also explores how writing signals reliability, or not. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Ritchie.
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.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
Narrating “Natural” Disaster in the US.
This course explores the stories that get told (and those that don’t) about natural disasters, who tells those stories, and for what purposes. Focusing on 21st century catastrophes—both within and beyond U.S. borders—such as Hurricanes Katrina,and Maria, the Haiti earthquake, the Greensburg,KS tornado;the Indian Ocean tsunami;and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,we will analyze how disaster narratives are shaped by race, class, economic and financial considerations, bureaucracies, science, technology, news media, and attempts to define America as a nation, a society, and a culture. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as College Courses and Seminars 204.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Jennifer Ambrose.
Protest and Public Opinion.
Protest and Public Opinion examines social movements through rhetorical and communication frameworks. More specifically, students will gain an understanding of the rhetorical use of symbols and the pervasive tactics used by marginalized groups in society to elicit social change. Students will analyze the discourse between dominant and alternate ideologies in the realm of public opinion. Students will also gain knowledge about social movements and social movements organizations.
Beyond speeches: Genres of oral communication.
Oral communication is much more than political speeches or boardroom presentations. This course explores genres of oral communication as they vary across disciplines and contexts, while also considering how technology has impacted the ways in which people express themselves. By examining the development and use of oral communication approaches, students will develop a deeper understanding of the constraints and opportunities offered by various genres of communication. (Speaking-Intensive.) (Same as College Courses and Seminars 217.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Amy Gaffney.
Group Communication in Virtual & Digital Formats.
Virtual and digital formats alter our experience of groups. In order to address the challenges of geographically dispersed rather than face-to-face meetings, the course builds on the study of small-group communication to explore the multi-faceted components of virtual groups versus face-to-face interactions. The theories of group process will be contrasted with simulations that illustrate virtual and digital group work. Students will participate in detailed exercises that challenge assumptions about the consequences of cross-cultural differences, as well as online credibility and authority. Prerequisite, Course in communication, government, public policy, sociology, or consent of instructor.
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, 103, 106, 230 or consent of instructor. (Same as Public Policy 280.)
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.
Journalism: Ethics and Credibility.
A thorough understanding of critical and analytic journalistic practices supports one’s engagement in the democratic process. This course focuses on developing critical and ethical information literacy. Students will: (1) identify and access diverse information sources; (2) retrieve information from sources; (3) evaluate sources and information for credibility; (4) challenge their assumptions and biases; and (5) summarize and synthesize the information they obtain into a cohesive argument. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one course in communication, government or sociology. Maximum enrollment, 18.
The mass media and Internet-based communication play a central role in politics and political processes. Politicians, special interest groups, journalists and Internet users shape political strategy through communication technologies and rhetoric. This course provides the theoretical and methodological knowledge to understand and explore the role of communication in contemporary and historical political flash points. Students are presented with an array of contemporary examples and case studies, and use course theories and key concepts to pursue their own writing and research projects. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Communication or Government. Maximum enrollment, 18. Mazumdar.
Gendered Media Literacy.
This course investigates critical media literacy with reference to gendered media. Course content explores how media messages influence our understanding of self and community. Readings analyze the content, production, and consumption of diverse media ranging from print to digital forms. Course goals include the ability to produce and assess media messages about gender. Our primary objective is to develop a sophisticated understanding of the varied ways in which the production and consumption of such messages influences both individual perceptions as well as social norms. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) Prerequisite, One course in communication, government, sociology or psychology.
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. Prerequisite, one course in communication, government or sociology. Open to seniors and juniors; sophomores and first-year students with permission.
Digital Divisions: Race, Class, and Gender Online.
In this class we will look at how mass media shape our perspectives in a multicultural society. Some of the questions that will guide our study include: how do advertisements portray gay men? What roles do Asian women have in movies? How are poorer Americans portrayed in news media? How are race, gender, and class being recreated online? We will consider the roles that media play in challenging or reinforcing stereotypes that we have about others and ourselves. Furthermore, we will examine if and how society and culture have an impact on media content. Prerequisite, One course in Communication, Sociology, or Psychology.
Social Media Research.
Social media affect our personal lives, reshaping how we communicate, maintain relationships, and form identities. Social media also affect society, creating new jobs and reshaping civic engagement in politics and protest. This course provides students with the theoretical and methodological knowledge to understand social media and its micro and macro level effects. Students learn about the history,theory, and methods used in the communication field to explore social media’s power. Students will apply key concepts to pursue individual social media research projects. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in communication, government, sociology or psychology. Maximum enrollment, 18.
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.
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.
Seminar: Communication Technologies 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. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Communication, Sociology, or Cinema and Media Studies. Open to juniors and seniors. Maximum enrollment, 12. Mazumdar.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)