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Communication and Social Change

Course Code: CMNS 1220
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Communications
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar, Online, Hybrid
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

CMNS 1220 introduces students to a series of current debates and controversies in Communication Studies. Students will engage with these issues in order to better understand the role played by media and communication in everyday life, and to consider a range of political, economic, and social debates from a variety of perspectives. The course looks at contemporary issues in and around mass media, and encourages students to explore the role of media in social movements around the world.

Course Content

Instructors will introduce students to several contemporary debates in Canadian and global Communication Studies, with a particular focus on issues of the political economy of media, labour relations in media industries, and technological innovation/disruption. Students will also focus on skills of critical thinking in the context of Communication Studies, including the constitutive elements of an effective argument. Debates will be introduced through readings (canonical and contemporary reflections or case studies) and media clips. Students will be expected to reflect on their initial opinions, as well as how their opinions may change after lecture each week.

Sample topics include:

  • The CBC and Canadian Identity
    • The usefulness of a public broadcaster, comparing and contrasting the Canadian example with the American system.
  • The Political Economy of Advertising
    • Socially progressive advertising campaigns, including issues of ownership and bias in media messaging.
  • The Limits of Free Speech
    • Restrictions on free speech here in Canada, contrasting traditional broadcast media with the Internet.
  • Violent Games, Violent Kids
    • The relationship between video games and violence in children. The deeper roots of moral panics around media.

Methods of Instruction

Instruction will consist of weekly lectures, as well as seminar-style discussion of specific issues. Participation and engagement with the material are essential in this course, and students must be prepared to discuss and debate each week. 

Means of Assessment

Student learning will typically be assessed using the following assignments:

  • A weekly writing journal, in which students discuss their opinions on an issue before and after engaging with the readings and lecture material (25%)
  • A position paper on a particular debate not discussed in class (20%)
  • One mid-term exam (20%)
  • One final exam (20%)
  • Attendance and participation (15%)

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to satisfy the following learning objectives:

  1. Identify and interpret the various sides of a media debate without resorting to binaries or dualities.
  2. Defend their positions on a number of media debates using scholarly sources as well as their own experiences, while considering opposing viewpoints in a debate.
  3. Defend a viewpoint in a casual debate, respecting the other viewpoints and providing clear evidence to support their own viewpoint.
  4. Research and explore a particular media debate in depth, resulting in a short position paper presented to the class. This paper should evaluate how the student's attitudes and opinions may have changed after researching the issue in depth.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.