We live in a media society. Every aspect of social life—our relationships with friends, family and acquaintances, our democracy and politics, our businesses and economy—are profoundly shaped by communications that pass through media of various types. Mediated communications influence how we choose our political leaders, how we learn about ideas and products and decide what to purchase, and how we perceive other members of society.
What’s more, we live at a time of dramatic change in the media landscape. Less than a century ago, there were no broadcast media, no radio, no television, certainly no Internet, and the only media that could properly be thought of as ‘mass’ was the newspaper and magazine. Just two decades ago the World Wide Web had barely been created, and few people even knew about it. A little over a decade ago Facebook and Twitter did not exist, and this semester Uber is testing its driverless cars. The pace of change in how we communicate is so rapid that this syllabus will be partially obsolete by the time it is in your hands.
Being aware of this, J201 is about exploring conceptual tools for understanding how and why our society’s mediated communications work the way they do. It is about getting beneath the surface layer of what happened on Gossip Girl, or what the Old Spice man said during the Super Bowl, or the most recent flagrant attack ad, or the next social networking tool, to develop knowledge and skills applicable across contexts and in different forms of media. Throughout the semester, we will pursue three broad objectives and five learning objectives:
- First, J201 is an introduction to the work done in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. The J School is a diverse department that covers a lot of ground, from the history of journalism and mass communications to the latest technological innovations, and from public relations crisis management to analyses of how scientists communicate with the public. We will touch on all of these topics during the course, often with the help of faculty members guest-lecturing about their latest writing and research.
- Second, J201 is the introductory skills course for many of the skills needed in later J School classes. It is an essential introduction to journalism and strategic communication for those considering a major in the J School. And its extensive written and oral communication assignments fulfill the Communication-B requirement of the UW-Madison.
- Finally, because ours is such a media society, much of the content we will cover will be useful to students not majoring in journalism or strategic communication. Skills such as critical analyses of news content and advertising, knowledge of media structure, and perspectives on media effects will be useful whether you are a journalist, advertiser, business owner, scientist, doctor—and consumer and citizen.
Five principal learning objectives
|Thinking critically about consumption, production and transmission of media.||Thinking empirically about media and its effects: the perspective that we can make and test claims about what media do.||The multiple roles of media and the contexts shaping how mass communication is produced and disseminated.||Role of mass communication in democratic government. Roles of journalists, governments, advocates and citizens.||Understanding of ongoing changes in the media system and its implications.||Developing a normative, ethical understanding of issues in media production and distribution.|