Communication technologies are pervasive; they not only construct the ways we view the world, but also how we act in it. They shape how we relate to, (mis)understand, and share experiences with each other. From the earliest cave paintings to the most recent Internet memes, our tools have not simply impacted the way we communicate; they have made possible certain forms, practices and systems of world-building.

Throughout this course, we will explore a range of communication technologies, from stone tablets to tablet computers, as well as their attendant systems, practices and institutions. We will trace the continuities between historical and modern communication technologies, and consider their role in both intensifying and addressing contemporary societal challenges, from corporate convergence to online harassment. A key aim for this course is to understand communication technologies beyond just what meanings they convey, and to take seriously their role in shaping both our built environments and our self-awareness.

This course regards theoretically-driven analysis and creative production as complementary forms of intellectual work; assignments involve a mixture of both. We meet once a week for 3 hours. Classes will typically consist of a combination of lecture and discussion, group activity, and production-based work. You are encouraged to use in class whatever communication technology is best suited to your needs: laptop, tablet, pen and paper, dried animal bones, semaphore…

Upon completing the course, students will be able to:

  • situate contemporary issues in media production and consumption to historical transformations in technology, society, and communication;
  • articulate the relationships between everyday uses of communication technologies, and the infrastructures, institutions and histories that shape them;
  • demonstrate theoretical and practical expertise in a medium of their choice;
  • identify the specific communicative affordances and constraints of different technologies.