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Sociology of Communication


Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Sociology

SOCIOLOGY OF COMMUNICATION

Artur Atanesyan, PhD, Associate Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
Sociology of Communication (SC) is the foundation course for the Sociological theory and concepts of Group, Social and International Communication field at the Yerevan State University. SC course introduces students to the central issues in the area, samples the literature in the discipline, and reviews current academic and practical debates. International communications is an interdisciplinary field of study. It draws on insights from intergroup, social and international / intercultural relations, political science, psychology, sociology, media studies, public policy, law and a variety of other social sciences. The course provides a basis for further study & research in Sociology of Communication and Sociology of Mass Media.

This course is a survey of the many roles of communication in world affairs, including social and cultural relations among people. It provides an overview of the elements of sociological theory of communication and Mass Media, its multi-dimensional relationships with social groups, entire society, governments, and the relationship of influence between media, government, and society. The course covers many important policy issues of communication with an emphasis on the implications for politics, democracy, security, and international relations. Students also study communication skills and their implications to various situations. While this course is primarily concerned with communications content, content is impacted by the infrastructure and its characteristics, including theory and methodology, skills and techniques of communication, as well as macro level considerations of Mass Media coverage of socially important issues. This course module also explores the roles of governments, NGOs and industry in the governance of social communication networks. Students will also have the opportunity to explore an area of particular interest in greater depth through a research project.

2. Objectives of the course module

  • Students will get and compare theoretical approaches to the subject, analyzing and judging about the basic theories and approaches to the modern communications from different points of view,
  • Students will compare and analyze both functions and dysfunctions of communicative processes and Mass Media in the modern social system,
  • Students will have knowledge on modern issues concerning communicative processes and structures of communicative networks,
  • Students will understand the role of Mass Media in covering of special events, including conflict and War,
  • Students will be able to apply their knowledge to the particular research topic.

3. Assessment 

  • Each student will prepare short (3-5 pages, single spaced) homework papers throughout the semester, each week. There is a written homework assignment for each class session. Each student will complete 7 of these assignments during the semester, once a week. Short papers based on the assigned readings are meant to further your thinking on the main topics (60% of grade).
  • Final research paper (essay). The research paper (essay) is an opportunity for students to explore a single area of sociology of communication in greater depth. This is a research paper, and I will expect a variety of sources with different viewpoints to be used. The paper should also be narrowly focused based on a research question. You are welcome to discuss potential paper topics with me, that must be one in the area of the given issue (see below). I can suggest topics, or help narrow the focus of a topic, for students who would like assistance. These papers should provide a synthesis of student research and critical analysis of arguments and evidence in accordance with the themes discussed in class, as appropriate for the chosen topic. Research paper should be 15-20 pages, 1.5 spaced (40% of grade). All research papers must be submitted to instructor in by the last class of the semester.

4. Course module plan:

Class 1 Sociology of Communication: basic issues and categories

Readings:
- Griffin, E. (1996). A First Look at Communication Theory. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
- P. Norris (2000). A Virtuous Circle: Political Communications in Postindustrial Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, р. 6-8.

Assignment 1: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please explain the role and place communication has as an issue in the field of social sciences.
  • Please note the specifics of sociological approach to communications. How is it different from the approaches of other scientific fields?
  • Please discuss the models of communications.

Class 2 History of Institutionalization of Mass Media: Telegraph, Radio and Television

Readings: 
- Griffin, E. (1996). A First Look at Communication Theory. N. Y.: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
- Robert M. Entman (1993). "Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured"  

 Assignment 2: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please explain the historical stages of institutionalization of Mass Media.
  • Please explain the role of ITU.

Class 3 Framing of public and personal conscience and news in the modern world

Readings:

- Griffin, E. (1996). A First Look at Communication Theory. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
- Robert M. Entman (1993). “Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm”/Journal of Communication, 43(4), Autumn, pp. 51-58.

Additional readings:
- Sniderrnan, P. M., Brody, R. A,, & Tetlock, P. E. (1991). Reasoning and choice: Explorations in political psychology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge   University Press.
- Zaller, J. R. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis. New York: Free Press.

Assignment 3: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please describe modern issues that Sociology of Communications deals with concerning modern Mass Media effects.
  • Please explain the principles and techniques of Framing and its role in the modern Media politics.

Class 4 Theory of Technological Determinism (M. McLuhan)
- Theory of Technological Determinism (M. McLuhan)
- “Media Malaise” and Media effects on social processes and mass perception

Readings:
- Griffin, E. (1996). A First Look at Communication Theory. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
- P. Norris (2000). A Virtuous Circle: Political Communications in Postindustrial Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, р. 6-8.

Assignment 4: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please explain the approach of the Theory of Technological Determinism to communication issues and processes.
  • Please discuss the major works of Mcluhan and their specific approach to technological determination of communicative issues.

Class 5 Agenda-Setting Theory (McCombs, Shaw), and Spiral of Silence (Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann)
- Agenda-Setting Theory (McCombs, Shaw)
- Spiral of Silence (Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann)

Readings:
- McCombs, M., Shaw, D. (1977). The Emergence of American Political Issues: The Agenda-Setting Function of the Press. West, St. Paul, Minneapolis. 
- McCombs, M., Shaw, D. (1972). “The Agenda Setting Function of the Масс Медиа”. In: Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 36, pp. 176-187.
- Noelle-Neumann, E. (1984). The Spiral of Silence. Chicago: University of Chicago; Noelle-Neumann, E. (1977). “Turbulences in the Climate of Opinion: Methodological Applications of the Spiral of Silence Theory”. In: Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 41, pp. 143-158.
- Noelle-Neumann, E. (1974). “The Spiral of Silence: A Theory of Public Opinion”. In: Journal of Communication, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 43-51.

Assignment 5: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please explain the approach of the Agenda-Setting Theory to communicative processes and effects.
  • Explain the basic concerns of the Spiral of Silence applied to the Media coverage of electoral communications.

Class 6 Speech Act Theory

Readings:
- Cf. Jarrett Brock “An Introduction to Peirce’s Theory of Speech Acts” in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 17 (1981), 319-326.
- Searle, John R. (1975), “A Taxonomy of Illocutionary Acts”, in: Günderson, K. (ed.), Language, Mind, and Knowledge, Minneapolis, vol. 7. 
- Koegel, T. J. (2007). The Exceptional Presenter. Austin, Greenleaf book group Press, pp. 1-21.

Assignment 6: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please explain the Speech Act theory’s approach to communicative acts and rhetoric.
  • Please explain the role of argumentation and rhetoric to affect peoples’ attitudes.

Class 7 Mass Media: functional analysis and critical approach (The “CNN Effect”: How Mass Media affects news and politics)
- Mass Media: functional analysis and critical approach
- CNN Effect: How Mass Media affects news and politics

Readings:
- Warran P. Strobel (1996). The CNN Effect. American Journal Review, May, pp. 33-37. 
- Margaret H. Belknap, The CNN Effect: Strategic Enabler or Operational Risk? Pp. 100-114.

Assignment 7: (up to 5 pages)

  • Please compare both functions and dysfunctions of the Mass Media.
  • Please provide information about the CNN theory and explain how it affects news and politics.

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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