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American University Doctoral Students Investigate Media, Technology and Democracy

August 28, 2013, 7:45 AM

This Fall, a new cohort of 5 doctoral students will be joining the School of Communication at American University, embarking on a 3 year course of study that explores the many intersections among media, technology and democracy.  I will be teaching this Fall the introductory seminar on Advanced Media Theory. I have posted an overview and reading list below.


In this introductory seminar for Doctoral students, each week focuses on a specific process, challenge, or topic relevant to the many intersections among the media, technology and democracy.  The goal is for students to  acquire an integrated understanding and expertise that enables them to build upon multiple disciplines in their investigation of communication processes and effects and their relationship to public problems and policy debates.  The course features research from communication, psychology, sociology, political science, and related fields.

PDF of Syllabus


  • Group Discussion Leadership and Translation (20%): For each reading section, two students will be designated discussion leaders and will provide 1-2 page summaries of each reading.
  • Three Discussion and Analysis Papers (30%): Students will be completing three 1,000-word discussion and analysis papers relative to specific readings and topics.
  • Annotated Bibliography and Synthesis/Advanced Review (50%): Students will be compiling an annotated bibliography of approximately 30 quality academic or research sources on a chosen topic and a 20 page paper synthesizing and applying the literature to a chosen topic, written in a style that is broadly accessible and engaging. At the end of the semesters, students will present on their conclusions and how they relate to their ongoing research and scholarly activities.


Sept 5 Making Communication Research Relevant: History, Questions and Challenges

  • Delia, J. G. (1987). Communication research: A history. In C. R. Berger and S. H. Chaffee (Eds.),Handbook of communication science (pp. 20- 98). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (Part 1, Part 2).
  • Bennett, W. L., & Iyengar, S. (2008). A new era of minimal effects? The changing foundations of political communication. Journal of Communication, 58(4), 707-731. [PDF]
  • Zelizer, B. (2011). Journalism in the Service of Communication. Journal of Communication, 61(1), 1-21. [Library Gateway]
  • Klinenberg, E. (2005). Cultural Production in the Digital Age: An Introduction. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, (6), 597. [PDF]
  • Gross, L. (2013). Fastening Our Seat Belts: Turning Crisis into Opportunity. Journal of Communication, 62 (6), 919-931. [Library Gateway]
  • Donsbach, W., & Brade, A. M. (2011). Nothing Is As Practical As a Good Theory: What Communication Research Can Offer to the Practice of Political Communication. The International Journal of Press/Politics16(4), 508–522. [Library Gateway]
  • Wilson, E. (2013, July 29). Communication Scholars Need to Communicate. Inside Higher Ed.

Sept. 19 The Public Sphere and Communication

  • Price, V. (2008). The public and public opinion in political theories. In W. Donsbach & M. Traugott (Eds).Sage Handbook of Public Opinion Research.  Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. [PDF]
  • Noelle-Neumann, E. (1995). Public opinion and rationality. In T. L. Glasser & C. T. Salmon (Eds.), Public opinion and the communication of consent (pp. 33–54) [Distributed to Class]
  • ComGap (n.d.). The public sphere. Washington, D.C.: World Bank [PDF]
  • Ferree, M. M., Gamson, W. A., Gerhards, J., & Rucht, D. (2002). Four models of the public sphere in modern democracies. Theory and Society, 31(3), 289-324. [PDF]
  • Hoppner, C. (2010). Re-reading Opinion Polls on Climate Change in the UK Press. International Journal of Communication, 977-1005. [PDF]

Sept. 26 Sociology of Journalism and News Decision-Making

  • Zelizer, B. (2004). Taking journalism seriously: News and the academy: Sage Publications, Inc. (Chapters  3 and 6 Distributed to Class).
  • Schudson, M. (2002). The news media as political institutions. Annual Review of Political Science, 5(1), 249-269. [Library Gateway]
  • Donsbach, W. (2004). Psychology of news decisions. Journalism, 5(2), 131. [Library Gateway]
  • Andrews, K. T., & Caren, N. (2010). Making the News. American Sociological Review, 75(6), 841. [PDF]
  • Klinenberg, E. (2005). Convergence: News Production in the Digital Age. Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science, 6 597 [PDF]
  • Robinson, S. (2011).  Convergence Crises: News Work and News Space in the Digitally Transforming Newsroom. Journal of Communication 61, 1122-1141. [Library Gateway]
  • Fahy, J. & Nisbet, M.C. (2011). The Science Journalist Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism.  [HTML] [PDF]
  • Boykoff, M. T. and T. Yulsman, (2013). Political economy, media, and climate change: Sinews of modern life. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change [PDF]
  • Patterson, T. (2013). Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism. Journalist Resource. [HTML]

Oct. 3  Framing, Attributions and Problem Definition

  • Gamson, W. A., & Modigliani, A. (1989). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: A constructionist approach. American journal of Sociology, 1-37. [PDF]
  • Entman, R.M. (1991) Framing U.S. Coverage of International News: Contrasts in Narratives of the KAL and Iran Air Incidents. Journal of Communication 41 (4): 6-27. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2008). Agenda-Building. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), International Encyclopedia ofCommunication. New York: Blackwell Publishing. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M., & Huge, M. (2007). Where do science debates come from? Understanding attention cycles and framing. The media, the public, and agricultural biotechnology, 193–230. [PDF]
  • Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49(1), 103-122. [PDF]
  • Price, V., Nir, L., & Cappella, J. N. (2005). Framing public discussion of gay civil unions. Public Opinion Quarterly, 69(2), 179. [Library Gateway]
  • Nisbet, E.C., Hart, P.S., Myers, T., & Ellithorpe, M. (2013). Attitude change in competitive framing environments? Open/close-mindedness and framing effects about climate change. Journal of Communication. [Library Gateway]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (under review). Visions of a Sustainable Future: Public Intellectuals and their Arguments for Action on Climate Change.  WIRE Climate Change. [Distributed to Class]

Oct. 10 Communication, Social Norms and Perceptions of Reality

  • Noelle-Neumann & Peterson (2004).  The Spiral of Silence and the Social Nature of Man.  In Lynda Lee Kaid (Ed.), Handbook of Political Communication Research (pp. 339-356).  Mahweh, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Distributed to Class]
  • Morgan, M., Shanahan, J., & Signorelli, N. (2009). Growing up with television: Cultivation processes. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 17-33). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. [Distributed to Class]
  • Nisbet, E.C. & Myers T. (2013). Cultivating Tolerance of Homosexuals. In Morgan, M., Shanahan, J., & Signorelli N. eds. Living with Television Now: Advances in Cultivation Theory & Research. New York: Peter Lang Publishers. [Distributed to Class]
  • Shanahan, J. & Scheufele (2013). Cultivation and the Spiral of Silence: Theoretical and Empirical Intersections. In Morgan, M., Shanahan, J., & Signorelli N. eds. Living with Television Now: Advances in Cultivation Theory & Research. New York: Peter Lang Publishers. [Distributed to Class]
  • Friedland L., Rojas, H. & Bode, L. (2012). Consuming Ourselves to Death: Escalating Inequality and Public Opinion. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences [PDF]
  • McCluskey, M., & Hmielowski. J. D. (2011). Opinion Expression During Social Conflict: Comparing Online Reader Comments and Letters to Editors. Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, 13(3), 303-319. [Library Gateway]
  • Nisbet, M.C., Markowitz, E.M., & Kotcher, J. (2012). Winning the Conversation: Framing and Moral Messaging in Environmental Campaigns. In L. Ahern & D. Bortree, (Eds.). Talking greenExploring current issues in environmental communication. New York: Peter Lang. [PDF] [HTML]

Oct. 17 Media, Knowledge and Learning

  • Eveland, W. P., & Scheufele, D. A. (2000). Connecting news media use with gaps in knowledge and participation. Political Communication, 17(3), 215-237. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, E.C. (2008). Media Use, Democratic Citizenship, and Communication Gaps in a Developing Democracy.  International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20(4), 454-482. [Library Gateway]
  • Webster, J.G. & Ksiazek, T.B. (2013). The Dynamics of Audience Fragmentation: Public Attention in an Age of Digital Media. Journal of Communication, 39-56 [Library Gateway]
  • Hindman, D. (2009). Mass media flow and the differential distribution of politically disputed beliefs: The belief gap hypothesis. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 86, 790-808. [PDF]
  • Hmielowski, J. D., Feldman, L., Myers, T. A., Leiserowitz, A., & Maibach, E. (in press). An Attack on Science?: Media Use, Trust in Scientists, and Perceptions about Global Warming. Public Understanding of Science. [PDF]
  • Eveland, W. P., Jr., & Cooper, K. (in press). An integrated model of communication influence on beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [HMTL]
  • Brossard, D. (in press). New Media Landscapes and the Science Information Consumer Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [HTML]

Oct. 24 Values, Risk Perceptions and Social Problems

  • Nisbet, M.C. (2011). Public Opinion and Political Participation. In D. Schlosberg, J. Dryzek, & R. Norgaard (Eds.). Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. London, UK: Oxford University Press. [HTML] [PDF]
  • Kahan, D. (2012, Aug. 15). Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change. Nature. [HTML]
  • Hoffman, A. (2012). Climate Science as Culture War. Stanford Social Innovation Review. [HTML]
  • Mikulak, A. (2011). Mismatches between ‘Scientific’and ‘Non-Scientific’Ways of Knowing and Their Contributions to Public Understanding of Science. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 1-15. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2009). What’s Next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96 (10), 1767-1778. (PDF).
  • Maibach, E. W., Leiserowitz, A., Roser-Renouf, C., & Mertz, C. (2011). Identifying like-minded audiences for global warming public engagement campaigns: An audience segmentation analysis and tool development. PloS One, 6(3), e17571. [HTML]
  • Maibach, E., Nisbet, M.C. et al. (2010). Reframing Climate Change as a Public Health Issue: An Exploratory Study of Public Reactions. BMC Public Health 10: 299 (HTML).
  • Scheufele, D. A. (forthcoming). Communicating science in social settings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Markowitz, E. (under review). Understanding Public Judgments and Preferences in Debates Over Biomedical Research: Looking Beyond Partisanship to Focus on Beliefs about Science and Society. PLoS One. [Distributed to the Class]

Oct. 31 Communication, Networks and Engagement

  • Campbell, S. W., & Kwak, N. (2012). Political involvement in “mobilized” society: The interactive relationships among mobile communication, network characteristics, and political participation. Journal of Communication, 61(6), 1005-1024. [PDF]
  • Kim, Y. C., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2006). Civic engagement from a communication infrastructure perspective. Communication Theory, 16 (2), 173-197. [Library Gateway]  See also Metamorphoses Project.
  • Rojas, H., Shah, D.V., & Friedland, L.A. (2011). A Communicative Approach to Social Capital. Journal of Communication, 61, 4, 689-712. [Library Gateway]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Kotcher, J. (2009). A Two Step Flow of Influence? Opinion-Leader Campaigns on Climate Change.  Science Communication, 30, 328-358. (PDF).
  • Maibach EW, Roser-Renouf C, Leiserowitz A (2008). Communication and Marketing as Climate Change Intervention Assets: A Public Health Perspective. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(5), 488-500. [HTML]

Nov. 7 Media, Activism, and Protest

  • Bennett, L.W. (2012). The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics. Information, Community & Society. [Library Gateway]
  • Lim, M. (2012). Clicks, Cabs, and Coffee Houses: Social Media and Oppositional Movements in Egypt, 2004–2011. Journal of Communication [Library Gateway]
  • Van Laer, J., & Van Aelst, P. (2010). Internet and Social Movement Repetoires. Information, Communication & Society, 13(8), 1146-1171. [PDF]
  • Hestres, L. (forthcoming). Preaching to the Choir: Internet-Mediated Advocacy, Issue Public Mobilization and Climate Change. New Media & Society. [Library Gateway]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (20013, April/May). The Opponent: How Bill McKibben Changed Environmental Politics and Took on the Oil Patch. Policy Options magazine (Canada), pg. 29-41. [PDF] [HTML]
  • McLeod, D. M., & Hertog, J. K. (1992). The Manufacture of Public Opinion’by Reporters: Informal Cues for Public Perceptions of Protest Groups. Discourse & Society, 3(3), 259. [PDF]

Nov. 14 & 21: Catch up or New Topics

Nov. 28 No Class Thanksgiving

Dec. 5 Presentations



American University Doctora...

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