Spring 2021 Courses

For a list of all undergraduate Communication courses, click here.

Spring 2021 Courses

COMM 113: Data Science for Beginners (Lelkes)
Thursdays: 3:00pm -4:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components
(This course is a first-year seminar)

This course serves as an entrance to the world of data science and is aimed at students who have little to no background in data science, statistics, or programming.  The core content of the course focuses on data acquisition and wrangling, exploratory data analysis, data visualization, inference, modeling, and effective communication of results. This course, which will rely on R, the statistical programming language, will prepare students for more advanced data science and computational social science courses.

COMM 125: Introduction to Communication Behavior (Delli Carpini)
Lectures, Mondays and Wednesdays: 11:00am – 12:00pm -Recitation, Fridays: 11:00 am – 12:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format
(Fulfills General Requirement I: Society)

This course introduces students to social science research regarding the influence of mediated communication on individual and collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Throughout the semester we explore the impacts of various types of mediated content (e.g., violence, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, politics and activism, health and wellbeing); genres (e.g., news, entertainment, educational, marketing); and mediums (e.g., television, film, social media) on what we think and how we act. The aim of the course is to provide students with (1) a general understanding of both the positive and negative effects of mediated communication on people’s personal, professional, social, and civic lives; and (2) the basic conceptual tools needed to evaluate the assumptions, theories, methods, and empirical evidence supporting these presumed effects. Class meets twice a week (MW) as a lecture and once a week (F) in smaller discussion groups led by graduate teaching fellows. In addition to a midterm exam and occasional short assignments, students have the option of producing a multi-media capstone project or a final term paper on a media-effects topic of their choice. Group projects or final papers are permitted, with approval of the instructor. This course fulfills one of the two introductory core survey courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors.

COMM 130: Media Industries and Society (Turow)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:30am -12:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format
(Fulfills General Requirement I: Society)

The aim of this course is to prepare you to work in the media business as well as to be an informed citizen by acquainting you with the work and language of media practitioners. The class also investigates the exciting, and (to some employed there) scary changes taking place in the news industry, internet industry, advertising industry, television industry, movie industry, magazine industry, and several other areas of the media system. In doing that, the course ranges over economic, political, legal, historical, and cultural considerations that shape what we see when we go online, use social media, watch TV, read books, play video games, and more. This course fulfills one of the two introductory core survey courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors.

COMM 210: Quantitative Research Methods in Communication (Lelkes)
Thursdays: 9:00 am – 10:30am
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components
(Fulfills the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement)

This course is a general overview of the important components of social research. The goal of the course is to understand the logic behind social science research, be able to view research with a critical eye and to engage in the production of research. It will cover defining research problems, research design, assessing research quality, sampling, measurement, and causal inference.  The statistical methods covered will include descriptive and inferential statistics, measures of association for categorical and continuous variables, inferences about means, and the basic language of data analysis. Course activities will include lectures, class exercises, reading published scientific articles, using statistical software, and discussing research featured in the news.

COMM 275: Communication and Persuasion (Cappella)
Lectures, Mondays and Wednesdays: 10:00am – 11:00am
Recitation, Fridays: 10:00am – 11:00am
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This course examines theory, research, and application in the persuasive effects of communication in social and mass contexts. The primary focus is on the effects of messages on attitudes, opinions, values, and behaviors. Applications include political, commercial, health and public service advertising, propaganda, and communication campaigns. Students will develop their own communication campaign over the semester. The campaign will include identifying and analyzing the persuasion problem, the target audience’s characteristics and media habits, and then creating a persuasive message consistent with research and practice targeted to the problem and its solution.

COMM 286: Masculinity and the Media (Balaji)
Mondays and Wednesdays: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components

This course examines the construction of masculinity in American and global media, highlighting how masculinity developed in parallel to social, cultural, economic, and political norms. Using case studies and multiple theoretical approaches, we will seek to understand how constructions of masculinity across the world have served to uphold – or challenge – the status quo. Analysis of individual texts across time periods and different cultural contexts will also help us better come to terms with the idea of masculinity – and its proliferation across media platforms.

COMM 290: Artificial Intelligence and Decision-Making: Theories, Research, and Applications (Shaikh)
Mondays and Wednesdays: 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

Human decision-making is being increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technologies. This course is a primer to understanding the role and influence of AI on human behaviors and decision-making from a social scientific perspective. It includes an introduction to the theories of judgement and decision-making to analyze how humans perceive, use, and are affected by AI-enabled technologies across personal, social, and organizational contexts. We will discuss empirical research on the development and deployment of AI in economics, healthcare, legal system, media, organizations, and politics. We will also cover current debates on the design of AI applications, ethics of AI, and human-AI collaboration. 
The goals of this course include developing a clear and thorough understanding of decision-making, its definition, types, and of fundamental theoretical ideas from a social scientific perspective. Students are also expected to demonstrate knowledge of AI-related constructs discussed in the class. The course will require students to critically analyze course and related content to develop and defend their arguments. We will use a combination of lectures, readings, discussions, assignments, and exams to accomplish above goals. No prior knowledge of the field of AI required.

COMM 292: WARNING! Graphic Content - Political Cartoons, Comix and the Uncensored Artistic Mind (Booth)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This course examines the past, present and future of political cartooning, underground comix, graphic journalism and protest art, exploring the purpose and significance of image-based communication as an unparalleled propagator of both noble and nefarious ideas. The work presented will be chosen for its unique ability to demonstrate the inflammatory effect of weaponized visual jokes, uncensored commentary and critical thinking on a society so often perplexed by artistic free expression and radicalized creative candor.

COMM 301: Understanding the Political Economy of Media (Pickard)
Wednesdays: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components

This course has two aims. First, assuming that communications are central to any society, it situates media systems within larger national and international social relationships and political structures. Second, this course critically examines the structures of the communication systems themselves, including ownership, profit imperatives, support mechanisms such as advertising and public relations, and the ideologies and government policies that sustain these arrangements. Considering case studies ranging from traditional news and entertainment media to new digital and social media, the course provides a comprehensive survey of the major texts in this vibrant sub-field of media studies.

COMM 313: Computational Text Analysis for Communication Research (O’Donnell)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

In this 'big data' era, presidents and popes tweet daily. Anyone can broadcast their thoughts and experiences through social media. Speeches, debates and events are recorded in online text archives. The resulting explosion of available textual data means that journalists and marketers summarize ideas and events by visualizing the results of textual analysis (the ubiquitous 'word cloud' just scratches the surface of what is possible). Automated text analysis reveals similarities and differences between groups of people and ideological positions. In this hands-on course, students will learn how to manage large textual datasets (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, news stories) to investigate research questions. They will work through a series of steps to collect, organize, analyze and present textual data by using automated tools toward a final project of relevant interest. The course will cover linguistic theory and techniques that can be applied to textual data (particularly from the fields of corpus linguistics and natural language processing). No prior programming experience is required. Through this course students will gain skills writing Python programs to handle large amounts of textual data and become familiar with one of the key techniques used by data scientists, which is currently one of the most in-demand jobs.

COMM 323: Contemporary Politics, Policy and Journalism (Hunt)
Thursdays: 1:30pm- 4:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This course focuses on how modern media intersect with politics and government in the 21st century. Case studies will include examining media coverage of the Gore v. Bush 2000 presidential election recount, 9/11, Barack Obama’s election and presidency, the Trump administration, and the 2020 election. The course will include several guest speakers, all of them prominent press/political figures. In addition, students will participate in a DC fieldtrip (live or virtual, TBA) where they will get to hear from, and interact with, Washington leaders in the fields of politics, policy and journalism. Course materials, in addition to number of books, will include the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, left- and right-wing social media sites, cable broadcasts, and network news shows. There will be three written assignments: an analysis of the first two weeks of the next Administration; a column or op-ed; and a final research paper. In this discussion-based seminar there will be a premium on class participation.

COMM 332: Survey Research and Design (Dutwin)
Thursdays: 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

Survey research is a small but rich academic discipline, drawing on theory and practice from many diverse fields including political science, communication, sociology, psychology, and statistics. Surveys are perhaps the most ubiquitous tool of measurement in the social sciences today. Successful practitioners develop expertise in the art and science of survey methodology, including sampling theory and practice, questionnaire instrument development and operationalization, and the analysis and reporting of survey data.  Survey researchers are scientists of the method itself, testing various practices by which surveys can be improved upon, as well as developing a keen understanding of the nature of error in surveys and how to control it.

COMM 339: Critical Perspectives in Journalism (Zelizer)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 11:00am -12:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components

This course aims to provide students with a critical understanding of journalism. It combines theoretical perspectives on the making of news with primary source material produced by and about journalists. Students analyze theoretical material on journalism – about how news is made, shaped, and performed – alongside articles and broadcasts appearing in the media, interviews with journalists in the trade press, and professional reviews. Topics include models of journalistic practice, journalistic values and norms, gatekeeping and sourcing practices, storytelling formats in news, and ethical problems related to misrepresentation, plagiarism, and celebrity.

COMM 361: Dreaming Out the Future: Technology, Ideology and Speculative Media from the Global South (Chirumamilla)
Mondays and Wednesdays: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

In this course, utilizing media drawn primarily from postcolonial Africa and Asia, we will examine how science and technology are (and have historically been) imagined as essential to the work of building the future, especially in the Global South. How do a diverse range of actors—from artists to activists, private corporations to government agencies—depict technological progress as vital to the future yet to come? We will work through a broad range of popular texts and primary sources, ranging from sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age to the blockbuster Chinese film The Wandering Earth, from the Australian TV show Cleverman to Indonesian president Sukarno’s opening speech to the Bandung Conference. Working through these diverse texts and media, we will unpack and challenge how science and technology have continually been imagined as necessary for building the future to come. We will also examine alternative ways of dreaming the future, as found in Indigenous speculative fiction and the creative movement of Afrofuturism.
Students will learn how to closely and critically analyze a variety of written and multimedia texts from the “Global South”, both in translation and in English. They will practice their skills of critical analysis and response through both writing and creative multimedia production. By the end of the course, students will be able to examine, critique and interrogate the various imaginings of technology’s importance and functionality that are at work within diverse genres of corporate, activist and popular media. This class integrates materials and theories from humanistic media studies and science and technology studies (STS) and will serve as a brief introduction to both fields.

COMM 368: Kinesthetic Anthropology (Thomas and Wilson) 
Mondays: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This class, team-taught by CEE Visiting Fellow Reggie Wilson and Deborah Thomas, investigates various forms of contemporary performance in relationship to Africanist forms and functions of dance, movement and action. We will concern ourselves with how the body knows, and with how we learn to identify the structures of movement that provide context, meaning and usefulness to various Africanist communities across time and space. Grounding ourselves within a history of ethnographic analyses of the body in motion, and within Africana theorizing about the affective power of the body, we will consider what people are doing when they are dancing. In other words, we will train ourselves to recognize the cultural values, social purposes, and choreographic innovations embedded in bodily action and motion. While we will attend to these phenomena in a range of locations throughout the African diaspora, we will also highlight aspects of the Shaker and Black Shout traditions in Philadelphia. The course will be divided between discussions centered on close reading of primary and secondary material (both text and video) and creative writing/movement exploration (no previous movement experience necessary).

COMM 372: Journalism in/of Conflict (Stupart)
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

When moral and material forces structure reporting and the actions of journalists as they navigate conflict, complex, dangerous and often untenable processes of decision-making can ensue. In this course, students will be introduced to various theoretical approaches for thinking about the journalism of armed conflict and humanitarian disaster. We will discuss what gives conflict journalism its particular moral character, what duties (if any) journalists have towards the conflicts they cover, and what structures the practices of journalists covering the suffering of others. Specific topics include theories of witnessing and their obligations for journalists, debates on ‘peace’ and ‘attached’ journalism, the humanitarian imaginary, the micro-sociology of conflict space, theories of risk and journalism, and the role of affect and emotions in the practice of journalism under pressure. This course is intended to give students a broad introduction to the theoretical issues and questions that arise when journalism meets conflict and suffering.

COMM 389: Black Visual Culture and Its Archives (Ward)
Tuesdays: 12:00pm -1:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components

This undergraduate seminar examines the intersections of visual culture and race in the United States. It aims to provide a historical, cultural, and visual foundation for understanding the representation of and by Black people from the 19th to the 21st centuries, including texts such as, but not limited to, photography, film, television, conceptual art, and performance. Students will be introduced to critical concepts in the field of visual studies, black studies, communication, cultural studies, and rhetorical studies. The course will pay special attention to concepts such as Blackness, visuality, visibility and invisibility, surveillance, photographic theory, the gaze, and spectatorship. We will consider questions such as: What is “black visual culture”? What are its archives? How is Blackness produced, represented, and negotiated through visual modes?  In what ways does Blackness and Black people challenge, refract, and rewrite the various visual modes that have sought to represent it? The course will explore various theoretical and methodological approaches to answering the aforementioned questions and enable students develop their own questions for understanding the complex ways in which race and the visual have been, and continue to be, entangled. 

COMM 395: Communication and the Presidency (Eisenhower & Reich)
Tuesdays: 4:30pm -7:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This course examines the vital aspect of communication as a tool of the modern Presidency. Reading and class discussions focus on case studies drawn from modern Presidential administrations (beginning with FDR) that demonstrate the elements of successful and unsuccessful Presidential initiatives and the critical factor of communication common to both. This course is also an introduction to primary research methods and to the use of primary research materials in the Presidential Library system.

COMM 397: New Media and Politics (Winneg)
Mondays and Wednesday: 5:00pm -6:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

This course examines the evolving media landscape and the political process from three perspectives: 1) the voter, 2) political campaigns and candidates, and 3) the news media. The course opens with a broad overview of the main theories of political communication and a historical review of the role played by new media technologies in U.S. political campaigns leading up to 1996, the year the internet debuted in presidential campaigns. The course then follows this evolution from the 1996 presidential campaign through the current 2020 presidential campaign.  We will take a deep dive into the landmark changes brought on by new media technologies to mobilize, persuade, inform, and fundraise around modern presidential campaigns. While the course takes a historical perspective it will also focus on what is happening currently in this environment, with special emphasis on President Trump’s campaign for re-election, the Democratic primaries and caucuses, sustained attacks on the press, “fake news,” bots, and outside interference in elections.

COMM 459: Social Networks and the Spread of Behavior (Centola)
Tuesdays: 1:30pm -3:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous & Asynchronous Components

This course explores the nature of diffusion through social networks, the ways networks are formed and shaped by social structures, and the role they play in health behavior, public policy, and innovation adoption. Topics include: the theory of social networks; the small world model of network structure; constructing models to represent society; the social bases of the adoption of innovations and the spread of new ideas; the role of social networks in controlling changes in public opinion; the emergence of unexpected fashions, fads, and social movements; and the connection between social network models and the design of public policy interventions. Students will learn how to use the agent-based computational modeling tool "NetLogo", and they will work directly with the models to understand how to test scientific theories. We will examine the basic theory of social networks in offline, face-to-face, networks, as well as the role of online networks in spreading new ideas and behaviors through social media. Long standing debates on the effects of social networks on changing beliefs and behaviors, their impact on social change, and ethical concerns regarding their potential manipulation will be given careful consideration throughout. Students will be taught new skills that will enable them to use and develop their own agent-based models.

COMM 463: Surveillance Capitalism (Turow) 
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 3:00pm -4:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

Surveillance capitalism is a term academics and policymakers increasingly use to describe the world in which we live: where businesses track and classify individuals in order to decide how to sell to them, or whether to sell to them at all. Companies that millions of people turn to every hour such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Pandora use the technologies of surveillance capitalism to drive their revenues. Critics point out that these activities are intimately bound with issues of discrimination and reputation. The “big data” analyses (often powered by artificial intelligence) may affect the ads people see, the discounts they receive, the jobs they may get offered, and far more.  This course surveys the history of surveillance capitalism, how it works, and the key issues swirling around it.  Students will write short (350 word) essays about each reading that will be key contributors toward their grades. Students will also a conduct research and write a paper that explores a contemporary or historical topic related to surveillance capitalism.

COMM 491: Communication Internship Seminar (Núñez Shea)
Thursdays: 5:00pm -7:00pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

(Requires approval of Undergraduate Office. Enrollment is limited to Communication Majors.
This seminar provides a scholarly counterpart for students' internships in various communication-related organizations. Through individually-selected readings, class discussion, and individual conferences, students develop their own independent research agendas, which investigate aspects of their internship experience or industry. In written field notes and a final paper, students combine communication theory and practice in pursuit of their individual questions.

COMM 493: Communication Independent Study (Various Faculty)
(Requires agreement of supervising faculty member and approval of Undergraduate Office) 
The independent study offers the self-motivated student an opportunity for a tailored, academically rigorous, semester-long investigation into a topic of the student's choice with faculty supervision. Students must complete and file a designated form, approved and signed by the supervising faculty member and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. This form must be received by the Undergraduate Office before the end of the first week of classes in the semester in which the independent study will be conducted. See additional requirements here.

COMM 499: Senior Honors Thesis (Woolf/Various Faculty) 
Wednesdays: 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Course Online: Synchronous Format

Second semester of two semester thesis course. Completion of COMM 494 with a grade of 3.3 or higher and a 3.5 cumulative GPA at the end of the Fall semester of senior year are required for enrollment. The Senior Honors Thesis provides a capstone intellectual experience for students who have demonstrated academic achievement of a superior level. Students complete the primary research project started during COMM 494.