Back in the fall, after hosting a class "blog" debate on the Internet and community, more than a few readers asked me whether I would post the reading list for the undergrad course I teach here at American University. Below is the schedule of readings assigned for the spring semester, along with a course description. As of right now, this spring semester's blog debate is scheduled to take place between April 26 and May 3.
COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is an introduction to research exploring the many dimensions of "communication and society." As we will review, mass communication and interpersonal communication have always been closely inter-related, contributing to the views and opinions of various publics, as well as their personal, political, and collective decisions. Today, with historic changes in technology and the media system, mass- and interpersonal- communication have become even more connected.

Yet despite these changes, instead of "reinventing the wheel" with every new technology or issue, many of the same principles and theories still apply in understanding the role of communication in contemporary society. In this course, we begin by reviewing these general principles, and then move to cover research focused on several contemporary questions.

For example, in a diverse society, what role do the media play in our perceptions of others? How do media images in combination with interpersonal discussion shape how we interpret or "frame" policy debates? Is the news media biased or are we just biased in our perceptions and discussion of the news? How should we understand the impact of so-called "new media" such as blogs, documentaries, blockbuster movies, or even late night comedy? Has the rise of the Internet enhanced or hurt our sense of community? With new media, are Americans more isolated or more connected?

These are just some of the questions we will explore. This course, however, is also designed to encourage you to think critically about social science research, concepts, arguments, and the nature of evidence. You will familiarize yourself with the basics of "doing" library research and generating your own evidence-based arguments about the interactions between communication and society. For some of you, you will even participate in your first group presentation, or your first on-line blog debate.

COURSE SCHEDULE

THURS. JAN. 18


Introductions and Course Overview

PART A. HISTORY AND BASIC PRINCIPLES

MON. JAN. 22

Thinking Critically About Concepts and Arguments


Chaffee, S.H. (1996). Thinking about theory. In M.B. Salwen & DW Stacks (Eds.), An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research (pp. 15-32). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

THURS. JAN. 25, MON. JAN. 29, & THURS. FEB. 1

Cognitive Misers or Informed Citizens? Making Sense of Mediated Messages


Katz, E. (1988). Communication research since Lazarsfeld. Public Opinion Quarterly, 51, S25-S45.

Popkin, S. L. (1991). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. (Chapters 3 & 4, pp. 44-95).

Dixit, J. (2007, Jan./Feb.) The Ideological Animal. Psychology Today.##

Sosnick, D.B., Dowd, M.J. & Fournier, R. (2006). "Values Trump the Economy" Chapter Two in Applebee's America: How Successful Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, pp 11-61.

Nisbet, M.C. (2005). The competition for worldviews: Values, information, and public support for stem cell research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 17, 1, 90-112.

MON. FEB. 5

Our Social Skin? Social Norms, Perceptions, and Behavior

Overview of a) Milgram experiments b) Asch experiments and c) Stanford Prison experiments.##

Watch in class a video clip on the Milgram experiments.

Kluger, J. (2001, June 18). How to manage teen drinking the smart way. Time.

Strand, K.J. (2002, Dec.). Sociological Approaches Hold Promise to Curb Campus Drinking. Footnotes, a publication of the American Sociological Association.

THURS. FEB. 8 & MON. FEB. 12

Opinion Leadership in a Fragmented Media System


Weimann, G. (1991). The Influentials: Back to the concept of opinion leadership. Public Opinion Quarterly, 55, 2, 267-269.

Sosnick, D.B., Dowd, M.J. & Fournier, R. (2006). "Navigators," Chapter Six in Applebee's America: How Successful Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, pp 180-197.

PART B. COMMUNICATION IN A DIVERSE SOCIEY: MAJOR EXAMPLES

THURS. FEB. 15 & MON. FEB. 19

Framing: Constructing Reality via Media and Conversation


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.

Price, V., Nir, L., & Capella, J.N. (2005). Framing public discussion of gay civil unions. Public Opinion Quarterly, 69, (2), 179-212.

Bai, M. (2006, July 17). The Framing Wars. New York Times Sunday Magazine.##

THURS. FEB. 22 & MON. FEB. 26

Liberal Media? Biased Perceptions and Biased Discussions


Vallone, R. P., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1985). The hostile media phenomenon: Biased perceptions and perceptions of media bias in coverage of the Beirut massacre. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 577-588.

Vendantam, S. (2006, July 24). Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases. Washington Post.##

Eveland, W. P., Jr., & Shah, D. V. (2003). The impact of individual and interpersonal factors on perceived news media bias. Political Psychology, 24, 101-117.

THURS. MARCH 1

IN-CLASS, FIRST HALF OF COURSE EXAM

MON. MARCH 5 & THURS. MARCH 8

The Internet: Strengthened Ties or Lonely Americans?


Putnam, R. (2000). Against the tide? Small groups, social movements, and the Net. In Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (pp 149-180). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fountain, H. (2006, July 2). The lonely American just got lonelier. New York Times.

MON. MARCH 12 & THURS. MARCH 15

NO CLASS-SPRING BREAK

MON. MARCH 19 & THURS. MARCH 22

The Internet: Strengthened Ties or Lonely Americans? (CONT.)


Pew Internet and American Life Project (2006). The Strength of Internet Ties.

Sosnick, D.B., Dowd, M.J. & Fournier, R. (2006). "The Three Cs: Connections, Community, and Civic Engagement," Chapter Five in Applebee's America: How Successful Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, pp 147-179.

MON. MARCH 26 & THURS. MARCH 29

Overview of group projects, online debate, and group presentation.

Overview on conducting library research.

MON. APRIL 2

Blogs: Blurring Interpersonal and Mass Communication


Pew Internet and American Life Project (2006). Bloggers: A portrait of the internet's new storytellers. Philadelphia, PA.##

Eveland, W. P., Jr., & Dylko, I. (In press). Reading political blogs during the 2004 election campaign: Correlates and consequences. In M. Tremayne (Ed.), Blogging, citizenship and the future of media. New York: Routledge.

THURS. APRIL 5

Online Dating: Casual Ties or Digital Romance?


Pew Internet and American Life Project (2006). Online Dating. Philadelphia, PA.##

Gottlieb, L. (2006, March). How do I love thee? Internet dating and research. Atlantic Monthly.

MON. APRIL 9

Networking Sites: New Communities or Lonely Kids?

Facebook. Wikipedia Entry.
MySpace. Wikipedia Entry.

Cassidy, J. (2006, May 15). Me Media: How hanging out on the Internet became big business. The New Yorker, p. 50.

Pew Internet and American Life Project (2007). Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview. Philadelphia, PA.

THURS. APRIL 12

Catch up and Discussion Day of Group Projects


MON. APRIL 16

Late Night Comedy: Influential Source of News?


Baumgartner, J., and Morris, J. (2006). The Daily Show Effect: Candidate Evaluations, Efficacy, and American Youth. American Politics Research, 34, (3), 341-367.

THURS. APRIL 19

Blockbusters, and Documentaries: What Impact?


Lieserowitz, A.A. (2004). Before and after the Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. Study of Climate Change Risk Perceptions. Environment, 46, 9, 23-37.

Nisbet, M.C. (2004). Resurrecting Questions about the Passion of the Christ. Skeptical Inquirer Online.##

Annenberg Public Policy Center (2004). Comparison of Fahrenheit 9/11 Viewers and Rush Limbaugh Listeners.##

Nisbet, M.C. (2007). Understanding the social impact of a documentary film. Center for Social Media at American University.

MON. APRIL 23

Catch-Up and Review on Projects

THURS. APRIL 26 & MON. APRIL 30

**Written position papers due electronically by start of class on April 26.

Presentations and in class debate of projects.

THURS. MAY 3

Catch up and review for final.


**Response Period for Blog Debate Ends.

MON. MAY 7 SECOND HALF OF COURSE EXAM