I teach a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses that emphasize different elements of media and technology studies from critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives. This page provides access to syllabi for courses I have taught at least twice, and course summaries for all courses I have designed.
I am always glad to discuss my pedagogy. Feel free to contact me if you would like more information about any of my courses, or if you teach a similar course! I love learning more from my peers.
I have taught independent studies for graduate students on the following topics: Friedrich Kittler and German Media Studies; Cultural Studies and Cultural Change; Infrastructure and Surveillance.
Survey of Communication Technology Studies:
Course Summary: Ask anyone you know whether technology plays a significant role in our lives, and chances are they’ll answer in the affirmative: from social media and smartphones that foster connections and divisions, to Netflix and 24-hour cable news that disseminate a seemingly endless supply of content, to the cars and cables and electricity that sustain the ways we move through the world, technology in its many forms help form, shift, and transform the relationships that comprise the world. This class will provide a survey of communication technology studies through an emphasis on how we not only use technologies as part of the practices of communication, but also how technologies themselves are communicative, world-building, existential agents that are part of larger social, political, economic, and cultural formations. Our goal throughout is to never just think about technologies as single, isolated things that have the power to drive history or, to borrow from the translation of Friedrich Kittler’s work, determine our situation. Rather, we strive at all moments to situate technologies contextually, as part of larger articulations, movements, practices, and lived experiences.
We will explore the variety of ways contemporary scholars research communication technologies, with an emphasis on critical-cultural approaches that employ a wide array of perspectives and traditions from theory to ethnography. This emphasis is meant to demonstrate the diversity of scholarship in Communication. The goals of the class are not simply to gain familiarity in the approaches to studying technology in our field, but to begin articulating for ourselves how to use technology studies research to confront some of the essential problems of our world.
Syllabus for Fall 2019 version here: COMM 8030 F19 Syllabus.
Communication Theory II (humanist and critical theory)
The theories sustaining and driving Communication as a field and discipline are vast. This course is designed to familiarize graduate students with a number of important conversations, concepts, and theoretical approaches related to critical communication theory. Unlike scientific theory, critical theory does not rely on formal, structured models, but is more indebted to abstraction and reflection on lived conditions.
Taking to heart Gilles Deleuze’s claim that “Theory is exactly like a box of tools: it must be made useful,” this course is not only interested in training you to read and respond to theory (although we will do a good bit of that), but significant portions of class time will be devoted to open conversations about incorporating the ideas we encounter into research design, case study analysis, and other elements of appropriately rigorous frameworks. This is to say: while “theory” and “practice” are often conceived as two different spheres, we will think them as two sides of the same coin. We will explore, through our seminars, what it means to live, work, and research theoretically, and how we might embody the ideals, ethos, and critical concerns we encounter along the way.
This particular iteration of COMM 8020 draws on the Professor’s expertise in Cultural Studies to architect a road map through theory that positions the implications of power, identity, lived experience, and resistance as recurring tropes. Whenever possible, we will situate our readings in the context of their development, learning about the intellectual history of this work. This is not a production or hard skills development class. Class time is not devoted to training or to lab work. This seminar is designed to help graduate students understand relevant literatures, traditions, and concepts, and to start implementing them in their own research design and writing through conversation, debate, and writing.
Syllabus for Spring 2021 version here: COMM 8020 Syllabus S21
I have taught independent studies for advanced undergraduate students on the following topics: Communication and Cultural Criticism in the Carolinas; Mediating Everyday Life; Political Campaigns on Twitter.
Senior Capstone: Digital Culture
This capstone course is themed around “Digital Culture,” a shorthand phrase used to describe how computer technology has transformed and is still transforming our cultures—our values, ways of life, and the objects we use as part of daily life. Digital culture is evidently important to Communication: we have the capacity to seemingly communicate with anyone anywhere via our smartphones and laptops. Traditional media communication, like the nightly news or daily newspapers, have also transformed in the wake of social media, online news sites, and other changes from the past twenty years. We must ask: What are the major issues and concerns with digital culture as we enter the next decade of this century? What things concern us as Communication scholars? What do we want to learn more about before we leave Clemson University? How can we make sure our work will meaningfully impact the people of our state and region? These are questions we will try to answer over the course of our semester together. COMM 4950 is a dynamic, collaborative course that will ask all of you to be active participants in your education. We will work together to develop the syllabus, and each of us will be responsible to contributing to the course. This will culminate in the production of your capstone project.
Critical-Cultural Communication Theory
It is perhaps obvious to say that we live in culture—we watch “popular culture,” we may be “highly cultured,” and we may hear politicians dismiss problems as being “part of the culture.” But what, exactly, does the word “culture” mean, and how does one go about studying culture? This class is designed to introduce Communication majors to Cultural Studies frameworks of thinking, theorizing, and writing, demonstrating the ways in which the work of Communication is heavily related to the work of culture. We will ask: What does it mean to “do” Cultural Studies, and how is critical theory different from other ways of doing communication research? What are the relevant traditions of this approach, who uses them, and to what end?
We will answer these questions through a focused and precise engagement with theory. We will learn how to effectively read theory and understand the theoretical arguments of foundational authors. We will discuss why theory is useful to critical-cultural communication frameworks, and, most importantly, how to “make theory useful” in general. We will explore a number of cultural studies models for research and analysis that depend on theory, and explore how theory can help us in our work as communications researchers and workers. Our guiding principle is this: While there is value in reading and understanding “the greatest hits” of critical-cultural theory, it is far more important to figure out how, if, and to what degree these theories might remain useful for understanding what’s going on in the world today. At each step, we will be sure to ask how the arguments and concepts of our authors might be used to help us make sense of things going on at Clemson University, in South Carolina, across the United States, and around the world.
Syllabus for Spring 2020 version here: COMM2040 S20 Syllabus
Media Representations of Science and Technology
How do we imagine? What are the consequences of our imagination? How do representations set a limitation on what we imagine? These are some of the questions at the core of COMM 1070, a general education course which helps you understand the importance of representation in how we come to understand what technologies are, and what they do.
This is online, intensive summer course that will take place over five weeks. Our course is themed around the technology company Apple. Apple is one of the largest companies in the world, and chances are you use something they produce: from Macbooks to iPhones, from AirPods to Apple Watches, the company is ubiquitous, or everywhere. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. Part of how Apple has gained such a reputation is through their commitment to representing their products in particular ways, to help people see them as desirable and useful in their daily lives.
Apple will be the case study we use during our summer session to help you understand a variety of issues related to representation, science, and technology, including how to study theories like ideology, affordances, and imaginaries through things like advertisements, newspaper stories, and movies. Each week, you will be introduced to a new form of representation to analyze, and you will be given a set of materials related to Apple to explore based on the information I provide in a series of lectures. At the end of each week, you will turn in a short paper that demonstrates you have engaged the material and worked on applying the ideas I discuss in my lectures.
In other words, this is a class that is based around learning through doing. You will be expected to thoroughly engage the material each week, ask questions to increase your understanding, and practice developing your skills at analyzing representation through a series of short papers.
Mass Communication History & Criticism
The possibility of communicating to so-called “mass audiences” flourished near the end of the 19th century, with the advent of photography, phonography, and cinema within a 50-year period. Journalism continued to grow into a large industry thanks to industrial pioneers such as William Randolph Hearst, and the emergence of radio and, later, television helped to make the first half of the twentieth century an era partly defined by Mass Media, Broadcasting, and Communication. This course begins by acknowledging that the history of Mass Communication is quite vast, and includes industrial and cultural histories of newspapers, telegraph lines, radio companies, television studios, and Internet cables, among other media. In order to adapt this course for the abbreviated summer session, this course will focus on the history of Hollywood as a case study of Mass Communication history. While this focus may limit how exhaustively we are able to understand historical emergence, crises, and transformations in mass communication over the last two hundred or so years, an emphasis on Hollywood allows us to dig into a communication industry and a medium (film) that has undergone significant change, as well as intersected with a wide array of other mass communication industries over the last hundred years.
Critical-Cultural Communication Research Methods
Critical-Cultural Communication Research stems from the tradition of hermeneutics, which means to carefully interpret a text or object to derive its meaning and value. This mode of research embraces thoughtful analysis, emphasizing considerations of how messages, objects, media, and other phenomena generate meaning for audiences and help to participate in larger trends of cultural practice.Much Critical-Cultural Research deals with understanding how communication practices, institutions, and media entail and embody theoretical concerns of power, identity, struggle, and formation. Critical-Cultural work imagines communication as a constitutive phenomenon—it helps to produce our understandings of the world, its institutions and cultures, and one another. Because of this, critical-cultural research endeavors to understand how communication performs its constitutive function in a variety of circumstances. To do this, it often utilizes careful analytical readings of things like speeches, television shows, tweets, and advertisements. This summer course is designed to give students focused and continuous engagement with cultural analysis. We will learn to “read” and analyze popular culture texts like films and television programs, we will examine how to describe and interpret the array of artifacts that make up our culture, and we will explore what it means to critically analyze discourse in the popular press, on digital platforms like Twitter, and in media industry trade presses and public documents.
Tracking: From Fitbit to Google
Increasingly, we live in a world that compels us to track our movements, habits, diet, and routines. Simultaneously, corporations and governments also try to track our behavior in an effort to create predictive analytics or gather other useful information about citizens and users. This phenomenon provokes a number of important questions: What is the history of tracking? Who decided it was a good idea? What do people ‘get’ from tracking their behavior? Why are corporations so invested in learning our behavior? How can we best live in this world that seeks to quantify our lives, turning everything we do into data and information?
This course is designed to give students an overview in these critical issues by allowing them to explore the many dimensions of tracking. It will be split into two separate but related halves: self-tracking andsurveillance. The first half of the course will be devoted to studying processes of personal record-keeping— from diaries and memoirs to FitBits and calorie counters. Together, we will try to understand why people find these practices useful as we ourselves take part in them, as well as read think-pieces and research articles by top commentators and scholars. The second half of the course will shift to examine the ways that we ourselves are tracked—through surveillance cameras, through credit card purchases, through Google searches, and more. We will examine the various institutions which track our behavior—from Kroger to the United States government—and discuss the various stakes of this tracking. As the course develops towards its conclusion, we will think about the relationship our individual bodies and the larger cultural and political institution that want to “know” our bodies.
Throughout the course, students will engage in a series of reflective activities that encourage them to think through the embodied and everyday practices of tracking. By bringing the results of these activities into our classroom, we will have the opportunity to discuss the major differences between our own routines and habits, and what the information we collectively generate “reveals” about our class
Advertising and Consumer Culture
It has become commonplace to say that we consume things. We consume food and drink for energy and hydration, and we are consumers of the many goods and services that make up our world. In many respects, consumption fuels our culture and society—it helps organize our lives, fuels how we interact with one another, and offers a foundation for how we constitute our identities. But what exactly does it mean to be a consumer? Where did consumerism come from, and how has it been sustained? How has the growth of advertising played a role in expanding consumer culture? Perhaps most importantly, why might all of us this matter for our everyday lives? This course will attempt to answer these questions through the historical study of advertising and consumerism, as well as an examination of the critical debates surrounding advertising in our contemporary moment, with an eye toward the social and political consequences of living in a commercial world.
This is an upper-level course that is designed for self-motivated students. It requires a good amount of reading each week, and its assignments entail significant levels of critical engagement and creativity. This isnot a course that will teach you how to produce advertising content, or train you in the skills of public relations. Rather, it is a course for students to learn key historical, theoretical, and cultural debates related to advertising and consumerism. These are all skills that can make you a stronger producer and creator of media, but the focus of our course is on historical and critical concepts.
Media in the Global Context
What does it mean to think about media as “global?” How do we begin to understand how the emergence of globalization, on the one hand, and digital media technologies, on the other, have shifted the dynamics of media producers, consumers, audiences, locations, mediums, and identities? How do media institutions, such as Hollywood studios, distribute their products around the world? How do local cultures watch and appropriate these media, and distribute their own? These are difficult questions, to be sure, because the shape of global cultures is quite hard to define.
This course is an introduction to the idea of global media, with an emphasis on the distribution and flow of media around the world. This course will provide students with a conceptual overview of key issues raised by the relationship between globalization and media, including questions of national identity, the impact of media accessibility, technological changes, and audience behavior. Each week, we will utilize case studies to help unpack and debate these key issues. These case studies will both help us ground the theoretical questions we explore, as well as help us map a complex perspective of how media travel globally.
This is an introductory course that presumes no prior knowledge of media studies, culture industries, or film and media analysis. This course will, in part, train students in the methods and traditions of these fields in ways applicable to a wide array of disciplines.
Introduction to Media
People talk about “the media” all the time as powerful, as everywhere, and as important. But what exactly are the media? How do they work? Who controls them? Whom do they benefit, and how? As media increasingly pervade the fabric of daily life, and as fewer and fewer entities maintain ownership over the largest media institutions, the urgency of answering these questions only grows in importance.
These questions are very difficult to ask—much less answer—because the ways in which structure and function of media remain, for many of us, either so taken for granted as to seem self-evident, or so opaque as to seem utterly mysterious. This course will introduce you to the basic vocabularies of visual and media literacy, and it will hone your skills at analyzing media texts, institutions, apparatuses, and audiencescritically as they exist in and help form culture. This course is divided into three major units: cinema, television, and digital technologies, although we will often gesture to other important media institutions such as advertising and radio in developing our units. Our goal is to explore the relationships between and among form, meaning, and cultural-historical contexts with respect to each.
C190 will help you appreciate more fully the complex ways in which media inhabit and affect cultural, political, social, and economic life. More importantly, it will provide you with the analytical and interpretive skills by which to navigate and begin to make sense of the densely mediated landscapes we inhabit.