COM 330-01 (11265) Theories of Mass Communication
Steven Alan Carr, Ph.D.
Course Syllabus
Fall 2006

Last updated 3 October 2006

Course Content and Goals

Building upon the COM 250/251 sequence, which focuses on media industries and the texts they produce, this course 1) surveys the two major strains of media theory, “media effects” and critical/cultural approaches, as well as weighs the strengths and weaknesses of these two approaches and how they explain the power and influence of both mass media and its texts within an increasingly global context; 2) considers the extent to which media and media texts influence an increasingly global audience; and 3) considers the extent to which a global audience influences media industries and the media texts that these industries produce. Rather than argue that media influence is either all-encompassing or infinitesimal, this course argues that no one approach can explain fully the complex interrelationships between culture, history, social power, and human behavior that intersect what is commonly referred to as "the media."  Our goal is to think critically about different approaches to media influence and the explanations that scholars and critics have offered, and maybe even develop some new explanations of our own.

Prerequisites and Intended Audience

Although there are no prerequisites for this course, it is assumed that students have taken or are currently enrolled in COM 250 Mass Communication and Society and COM 251 Introduction to Electronic Mass Media. The intended audience consists of junior and senior Communication majors in the Media and Public degree track.


If you continue with this course, you agree to be responsible for downloading all required assigned readings.  In addition to the assigned textbook for this class, readings will consist of essays and chapters in Adobe Acrobat PDF format available through WebCT.  If you do not have access to a computer connected to the Internet, you cannot get WebCT to work properly from off-campus, or you are unable to make arrangements to use a computer on campus, you will still be held responsible for all assigned readings.  The instructor does not download, email, or print off readings for students on request.  Be resourceful and make other arrangements with fellow classmates.  If you can’t open certain files from within WebCT or your web browser, try downloading the file to your computer and then opening it using its native application.  If you still can’t open the file, try restarting your computer, or try using a different computer before reporting a technical difficulty.  If you still can’t open the file, please report the problem to a lab attendant or to the ITS Helpdesk.  Then report the problem to me.

Course Requirements

The normal schedule for reading assignments will be between 30-60 pages per week. Consequently, one of your primary responsibilities will be to prepare for each week's reading by completing assigned readings before Tuesday's class meeting. To that end, there will be fourteen (14) online quizzes worth 100 points each, due before class on the assigned date before 12 PM noon. In addition, you are responsible for regularly checking your IPFW email address, or arranging for forwarding email to another email address. The instructor recommends that you check both your email and WebCT on a daily basis for important course announcements.  Working in teams of 5-7, you will propose, design, test, and evaluate eight (8) deliberative discussion topics related to the assigned reading for that week, each worth 100 possible points each, due on the assigned date beginning at 6 PM.  Each week, one team will model one (1) of these modules in class, two (2) times during the semester, for a possible 200 total points.  Individually, you will submit a written critique of one (1) of the modules not presented by another group for 100 possible points.  You will take a midterm and a final, each worth 500 possible points. You will be required to write a final, argument driven synthesis paper worth 500 possible points showing how you have taken two or more theories of media influence seriously. Finally, your participation worth 1000 possible points will be assessed, primarily on the basis of what you do during the scheduled class meeting time, but in general on the basis of what you do as a stakeholder to help make this class a success.


No incompletes will be given for this course, except in extreme circumstances. If an extreme circumstance does arise, however, you are urged to notify the instructor and propose a workable solution as soon as possible. A workable solution in this case, of course, would include the possibility of an incomplete.  However, a request for an incomplete only will be granted only for assignments that already have been started.  Under no circumstances can a student do additional work after final grades have been submitted to raise his or her final grade.


It is expected that all work submitted is the original work prepared specifically for this course by the student whose name appears on it.  It also is expected that all contributors to the original work have their names listed accurately on the assignment at the time of submission.


Fourteen (14) online quizzes (Q) worth 100 points each for a total of 1400 points will be available for a 24 hour window before the date of an assigned reading, and due before 12 PM noon on that date. You may use your textbook and notes, but you will have a maximum of 30 minutes to take each quiz.  Quizzes will consist of ten (10) multiple-choice questions.  You will take these quizzes online.  Once you open the quiz and see the questions for the first time, you have 30 minutes to answer at least 6 questions correctly on that quiz in order to be eligible to retake it.  You may print off the quiz.  However, if you score less than 60%, or if you open the quiz to print it off but you do not complete it within 30 minutes, you will receive a failing grade and you will forfeit the opportunity for a retake.  If you score 60% or more on a quiz, but less than 100%, you will be able to access the questions, but you will not be able to distinguish between which questions were answered correctly and which were not.  Any distribution of the questions and/or their answers, whether electronically or in hard copy, by one student to another will be treated as an instance of academic dishonesty and may result in an automatic grade of F for the course for all involved.


Twelve (12) times throughout the semester, in-class teams will author, test, and evaluate a collaborative deliberative discussion (DD).  Deliberative discussions both must engage the assigned reading for that week, and extend a significant concept relevant to that assigned reading.  Each deliberative discussion should draw upon relevant and significant concepts from the reading, apply those concepts to a current-day issue directly related to the mass media, require no extensive use of resources, and involve the entire class.  After isolating a contemporary issue related to both the assigned reading and the mass media, each deliberative discussion will follow a deliberative discussion model as developed by the National Issues Forum (  This model examines the value of the chosen issue, weighs costs and consequences with various options, considers potential conflicts, and explores opportunities for sharing common ground.  Each team will have approximately 30 minutes of in-class time to conduct this activity, and develop a report that shows how the assigned reading for the week can help us gain a better understanding of this issue.  At the end of 30 minutes time, the instructor will solicit one team to present and model their discussion to the entire class.  Teams are encouraged to prepare materials before class.  The instructor will make WebCT resources available, including an online discussion forum for each team.  Each submission is worth 100 points, and only the highest 8 scores will be counted for a total of 800 points toward your final grade.  A final report is due beginning at 6 PM on the assigned date. You will not receive written feedback from the instructor on these submissions, unless specifically requested in writing.  Individual grades for team members will be assessed on the basis of contributions made in advance of and during in-class development, as well as on the substantiality of the discussion itself, its relevance to the reading, how well it extends a concept or concepts from the reading, and its feasibility.  Based on these criteria, discussions will be assessed numerically as excellent, satisfactory, fair, or poor.  Individuals who earn 60 points or better on a module may revise and resubmit that module once it has been submitted.  Each module must accurately list the names of all team members who participated at the time of submission.  It is each team's responsibility to maintain the Honors System in accurately reporting the names of those who contributed to the project.


At least once during the semester, your team will present two (2) of the discussions (DP) to the entire class on an assigned DD date, worth an additional 100 possible points.  Presentations will be made only on the assigned date of a discussion presentation.  The instructor will solicit one team to offer a test run of their module after the 30-minute in-class meeting.  There will be only twelve opportunities throughout the semester, so volunteer early.  You cannot redo this assignment, and you will not receive written feedback unless specifically requested immediately after the presentation.  Individual grades for team members will be assessed on the basis of participation in leading this discussion, as well as on how well the presentation communicates the following: the substantiality of the discussion itself, its relevance to the reading, how well it extends a concept or concepts from the reading, and how well it follows the design of a deliberative discussion.  Based on these criteria, discussion presentations will be assessed as excellent, satisfactory, fair, or poor.  Due to variations in team memberships, you may present more than once as part of a different team.  In that case, only the highest grade for the in-class presentation will be counted.


Once during the semester, you will critique (DC) the module prepared by another team that was not presented during class.  The critique, worth 100 possible points, should evaluate the significance of the issue or issues raised, relevance to the substance of the reading, how well the module extends a concept or concepts from the reading, and evidence that the module has been fully thought through for feasibility. You will not receive written feedback unless specifically requested.  Your grade will be assessed on the basis of how thoughtfully you demonstrate engagement with the criteria listed above that you use to critique the learning module.


You will take a midterm (M) and a non-comprehensive final (F). Both the midterm and final will build upon readings, questions that appear on the quizzes, on online discussion questions, and on issues raised in class discussion. Both the midterm and the final each will count 500 possible points toward your final grade.


You must write a final, argument-driven synthesis paper (SP) worth 500 points.  This paper will be submitted in parts - including a proposal and abstract (SP1 - 100 points), a sample paragraph (SP2 - 100 points), an annotated inventory of theories presented as part of the paper (SP3 - 100 points), and a final draft (SP4 - 200 points) - at various intervals throughout the semester.  Written feedback will not be offered on SP3 and SP4 unless specifically requested and submitted 2 weeks in advance of the due date.  The synthesis paper will synthesize two or more substantive concepts covered during the semester, and show how your synthesis could be applied to a topic relevant to an issue or controversy concerning mass media.  There is no page or source minimum requirement.  The successful final draft will include, all in the same file, the following: an introduction that states a problem, explains its significance, and clearly states a central thesis; an explanation of each theory or concept covered in the paper, with appropriate citations; three to five (3-5) paragraphs (paragraph=key statement, plus 3-5 additional sentences) with each paragraph advancing and developing the central thesis; a conclusion that reconsiders (as opposed to restating) the central thesis in light of the body of the paper; and a works cited page that demonstrates the breadth and diversity of sources used in the paper.  The final paper will be evaluated on the basis of its relevance to a topic concerning mass media; the substance and significance of the thesis; how well the paper engages the theories and concepts discussed; the thoughtfulness and originality with which the paper synthesizes these concepts; the overall structure, readability, clarity, and effectiveness of how well the paper advances its argument; and the ability of the paper to draw from multiple theoretical perspectives.  With regard to the last criteria, make sure you can demonstrate that your list of sources used in the paper can demonstrate how you were able to engage with multiple perspectives.


Your participation is worth 1000 points or 20% toward your final grade. This participation will be assessed primarily, though not exclusively, on the basis of what you do during our scheduled class meetings. You will not receive feedback on your participation unless specifically requested. The burden of proof is on you to maintain detailed, accurate, and clearly presented records of your contributions to the success of the class. Although you are not required to do so, you are strongly encouraged to maintain evidence of these contributions throughout the semester. This data can include evidence of preparation (such as detailed, original notes), letters of support from other students, written self-evaluations of your performance, etc. Should a difference of opinion arise with regard to the level of your performance, you will be asked to produce these records upon request.  Failure to participate in class, regardless of attendance, will directly impact this portion of your grade.  Questions regarding participation raised earlier in the semester will receive far greater consideration than questions raised later in the semester.


Your final grade will be determined based on the following criteria:

Fourteen (14) Quizzes (Q) @ 100 pts ea

1400 points (28%)

T before noon (unless otherwise noted)

Eight (8) out of twelve (12) possible Deliberative Discussions (DD) @ 100 pts ea

800 points (16%)

w/in 24 hrs of R beginning 6 PM, as marked

Two (2) Deliberative Discussion Presentations (DP)

200 points (4%)

R in class, as marked with DD

One (1) Deliberative Discussion Critique (DC)

100 points (2%)

Within 48 hours of DD posting

Midterm Exam (M)

500 points (10%)

R 12 Oct

Argument-Driven Synthesis Paper(SP1,SP2,SP3,SP4)

500 points (10%)

R 5 Oct; R 2 Nov; T 21 Nov; R 7 Dec

Final Exam (F)

500 points (10%)

R Dec 14, 4-6 PM

Participation (P)

1000 points (20%)



5000 points (100%)




(Above Average)


(Below Average, But Passable)






0 - 2999


Tentative Course Schedule





T 21 Aug

Course Introduction


The Media/Culture/Communication Paradigm

R 24 Aug

Structuration Theory

Lull Ch 1

T 29 Aug

From Transportation to Communication

Czitrom Ch1

Quiz 1

W 30 Aug

Last Day to Complete Online Student Agreement

R 31 Aug

From Transportation to Communication

DD 1

T 5 Sep

Communication: Two Views


Quiz 2

R 7 Sep

Communication: Two Views

DD 2

Critical/Cultural Approaches to Mass Media

T 12 Sep

Ideology and Consciousness

Lull Ch 2

Quiz 3

R 14 Sep

Ideology and Consciousness

DD 3

T 19 Sep

Ideology and Base/Superstructure


Quiz 4

R 21 Sep

Ideology and Base/Superstructure

DD 4

T 26 Sep

Consciousness and Subconscious


Quiz 5

R 28 Sep

Consciousness and Subconscious

DD 5

T 3 Oct

Hegemony, Rules, and Power

Lull Chs 3-4

Quiz 6

R 5 Oct

Hegemony, Rules, and Power

DD 6

Synthesis Paper Proposal and Abstract (due 6 PM)

T 10 Oct


R 12 Oct


Audiences, Texts, and Cultural Identity

T 17 Oct

Democracy and Public Opinion

Lippman; Hersh

Quiz 7

R 19 Oct

Democracy and Public Opinion

DD 7

T 24 Oct

Media Audiences and Cultural Life

Lull Chs 5-6

Quiz 8

R 26 Oct

Media Audiences and Cultural Life

DD 8

F 27 Oct

Last Day to Withdraw (no refund)

T 31 Oct

Behavioralism and the Minimal Effects Model


Quiz 9

R 2 Nov

Behavioralism and the Minimal Effects Model

DD 9

Synthesis Paper Sample Paragraph (due 6 PM)

T 7 Nov

Frankfurt School and the Critique of Popular Culture

Kracauer; Horkheimer and Adorno

Quiz 10

R 9 Nov

Frankfurt School and the Critique of Popular Culture

DD 10

T 14 Nov

Ideological State Apparatuses


Quiz 11

R 16 Nov

Ideological State Apparatuses

DD 11

T 21 Nov

Symbols and Meaning-Making

Lull Chs 7-8

Quiz 12

Synthesis Paper Theories Inventory (due 12 PM Noon) – no written feedback from instructor

Democratic Culture and Globalization

T 28 Nov

Democratizing Influence of Mass Culture


Quiz 13

R 30 Nov

Democratizing Influence of Mass Culture

DD 12

T 5 Dec

Global Culture

Lull Chs 9-10

Quiz 14

R 7 Dec

Global Culture and Conclusion

Synthesis Paper Final Draft

All Retakes and Resubmits

R 14 Dec

Scheduled Final Exam 4-6 PM