HUM 597A The Shifting Landscape of Public Communication

Micro-seminar, Fall 2018

Course Location: 218D

1 Credit (C/NC)

Class time and dates: 2-4 p.m., October 2, 9, 16, and November 6

Course Instructors:

Matthew Powers
Associate Professor
CMU 233
Adrienne Russell
CMU 227


This four-session micro-seminar is offered in conjunction with a fall symposium, entitled “The Shifting Landscape of Public Communication,” which the course instructors are organizing. The task of the symposium is to explore the “big questions” for scholars concerned with a contemporary media landscape marked by surveillance, propaganda, polarization and receding faith in the legitimacy of social institutions. Course readings will provide a brief overview of these issues, and involve discussions about how to link “big questions” to empirical research agendas. Seminar participants are expected to read and discuss core debates, and to participate in at least part of the two-day symposium, held October 25-26, 2018, and which will bring to campus leading scholars of media and public life. The Symposium Website has specifics.

Learning Objectives

  • To become familiar with recent debates and issues related to public communication;
  • To understand better the role of asking questions in the process of research;
  • To identify and articulate key ways the symposium themes overlap with students own scholarly interests.

Course Dates and Outline

October 2: What’s at Stake

What are the challenges facing public communication and the role of scholars in finding solutions?

  • W. Lance Bennett & Barbara Pfetsch (2018) “ Rethinking Political Communication in a Time of Disrupted Public Spheres.” Journal of Communication, 68, 243–253
October 9: Studying Big Questions

How can scholars ask research questions that break from the concepts that often guide public debates while still influencing those debates?

  • Reading: Bourdieu et al. The Craft of Sociology, selections.
October 16: Previewing the Symposium

What are the most pressing question that scholars concerned with issues of public communication ought to be investigating?

  • Reading: Students will select a symposium paper to read and discuss in class. Details to be discussed in class.
November 6: Responses to the Symposium

  • Each student will prepare a response paper to symposium one panel. Further details for this assignment will be provided in class.