Introduction to Mass Communication (Culture and Media)

CMN 110

Art 179

Autumn 2005


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office: SAC 596       

Office Hours: T 1:30-2:30 and by appointment

Phone: 773-325-7376



Course Description and Objectives


This course offers students a broad overview of the mass media with a particular focus on how these media impact our everyday lives. Students will learn about the historical contexts of media production and how economic forces, labor practices, government regulations, and industry policies have shaped the media. The course examines media texts as symbolic products which carry meanings and information through generic characteristics, narrative patterns, and other formal properties. Students will learn how we use media on an everyday basis, examining how diverse contexts of reception and use impact how we construct meanings from media. Attention will be given to how socially constructed concepts of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and nationality inform each of these spheres of media production, circulation, representation, and reception. Students will develop critical frameworks for understanding how power operates across these media spheres and how each is open to contestation and change.


Required Texts


All course readings are accessible via a password protected Web site. You are required to print each day's reading and bring the article with you to class. The files are temporarily located at the following address:



Some of the reading assignments will be quite dense. In many instances difficulties with material emerge from problems with terminology. I recommend that you consider purchasing the following book to facilitate your understanding of the material:


O'Sullivan, T., Hartley, J., Saunders, D., Montgomery, M., & Fiske, J. (1983). Key Concepts in Communication and Cultural Studies. London and New York: Routledge.



Course Assignments


Class Participation                                                                                           10%

Test 1                                                                                                              20%

Test 2                                                                                                              20%

Pop quizzes                                                                                                     25%

Final Paper                                                                                                      25%



You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.



We will take two multiple-choice tests this semester. Test 1 will cover materials from 9/13-10/6. Test 2 will cover materials from 10/11-11/3. Please be prompt on test days. If you arrive after the first person leaves, you will not be allowed to take the exam.


Pop Quizzes


Quizzes will be short answer and will allow me to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers and class discussion, where I am interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer's argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to state the author's argument only. In other words, I am not striving to understand what you think about the issues; rather, I am interested in how well you understand the construction of the author's argument. If we do not understand what s/he's saying then our critique of her/his work will not be properly grounded. Possible points for each quiz question will be listed after the question (usually 10 or 20 points per question and usually 1-3 questions per quiz). Answers will be graded based on your ability to clearly summarize the author's argument(s).


Final Paper


I will provide a list of essay questions for the Final Paper. You will answer one question (3-5 pages). Papers are due November 21st by Noon. (Note: The information in this syllabus and the syllabus addendum about my expectations for writing assignments and grading criteria applies to the Final Paper as well.)


Course Policies


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. Excessive absences will result in a lower final grade.


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class your grade will be negatively affected.


All assignments are due on assigned days. There will be NO MAKE-UPS. Documented illness or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), assignments due in other classes, etc. are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing deadlines or class meetings. If you miss a quiz and have documentation for your absence then you will take the quiz on the next date you attend class. Similarly, if you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in a paper then you can give me the paper on the next date you attend class. (Note: If you will be missing a class because of a religious holiday, let me know in writing at least two weeks before the holiday so we can make arrangements to make up missed work.)


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


If you have a cellular phone, turn it off. If you have a pager, set it to vibrate or turn it off. Plagiarism will be discussed below but for now you should note that all cell phones must be put away during quizzes and you should not be sending or reading text messages during class sessions.


You must make sure your email address in Campus Connect is correct and make sure emails from me will pass through any spam blockers.


Written Assignment Requirements


All papers should be typed, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. Do not send me electronic copies of your work. See the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of my grading policies and expectations as well as further details on written assignments.


For assistance with your writing contact or visit the Writing Center: Lincoln Park at 802 W. Belden, 150 McGaw Hall, 773-325-4272. The Loop at 25 E. Jackson, 1620 Lewis Center, 312-362-6726.




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting somebody directly then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul's policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of "F" in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Grade Scale


A 94-100         B+ 87-89         C+ 77-79         D 60-69       

A- 90-93         B 83-86           C   73-76         F 59 and below

B- 80-82          C-  70-72        




Tentative Course Schedule




9/8                   Course Introduction   


Mass Culture            


9/13                 Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, "Mass Communication, Popular Taste, and Organized Social Action"        


9/15                 Dwight MacDonald, "A Theory of Mass Culture"


9/20                 Raymond Williams, "Culture is Ordinary"


Democracy and Mass Media


9/22                 David Samuels, "On Message"


9/27                 Peter Simonson, "Dreams of Togetherness"


9/29                 Linda Steiner, "The History and Structure of Women's Alternative Media"


10/4                 Stephen Duncombe, "Zines"


10/6                 Test 1


Mass Media Production


10/11               Richard Ohman interview with Strauss Zelnick


10/13               Liz Bird excerpts from For Enquiring Minds


10/18               Debra Seagal, "Tales from the Cutting-Room Floor"

                        Alessandra Stanley, "The Name of the Game is Class"


10/20               Michael Schudson, "Advertising as Capitalist Realism"


10/25               Jo Bryce and Jason Rutter, "Killing Like a Girl: Gendered Gaming and Girl Gamers' Visibility"


Mass Media Audiences


10/27               Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, "The Agenda Setting Function"


11/1                 Henry Jenkins, "Congressional Testimony on Media Violence" (pp. 1-22)


11/3                 Test 2


11/8                 Mark Neumann & Tim Simpson, "Smuggled Sound: Bootleg Recording and the Pursuit of Popular Memory"


11/10               Alec Hanley Bemis, "A Small New Future"

                        Alec Hanley Bemis, "3 Myths About the Recording Industry Debunked"


11/15               Review and Final Exam questions delivered to students


11/15-11/20     National Communication Association Convention in Boston


11/21               Final Papers Due by Noon