Communication and Culture | Introduction to Communication & Culture
C205 | 1123 | Terrill


The study of communication is challenging precisely because
communication is ubiquitous.  We all communicate, in various media
(speaking, writing, music, video, film), all the time.  Because we are
all always communicating, it is difficult to concentrate on the act of
communication itself (in much the same way as it probably is difficult
for a goldfish to concentrate on the water in its bowl).  To
complicate matters further, in our culture we have been trained to
think of ideal communication as being communication that does not draw
attention to itself.  For example, we constantly are told that the
best writing is "clear" (like that water in the goldfish bowl) or that
it "doesn't get in the way of the ideas."  Thus, before we can pay
attention to communication as something worthy of study, we must first
overturn much of what we've previously been taught about
communication.

The course attempts to do just that.  Its central thesis is that
communication is not merely a neutral, transparent "container" for
data and ideas.  Communication does not merely "transmit" the beliefs,
attitudes, behaviors, and identities that define human culture.  In
other words, communication is never as "clear" as the water in a
goldfish bowl seems to be.  If we believe that communication can be
simple and clear, or that it should be simple and clear, we end up
missing much of what is interesting about the study of communication
and about the human condition in a contemporary mediated culture.

As an introductory course, C205 provides a broad overview of the
conceptual vocabularies and critical strategies that scholars use to
study communication.  The goal here is to provide students with the
ability to recognize and discuss these various perspectives, and thus
begin to develop the tools needed to become intelligent observers of
human communication as well as effective participants in contemporary
culture.

This course also is an introduction to the unique perspective provided
by the combined interests and talents of the Communication & Culture
faculty.  Toward this end, we will read essays written by scholars
whose interests represent those that characterize our faculty -
including Rhetoric & Public Culture, Performance & Ethnographic
Studies, and Film & Media - and attempt to synthesize from those a
productive understanding of communication.

During fall semester, the course will be delivered as a lecture.
Assignments will include several short reading quizzes, two midterms,
and a comprehensive final exam.  On-line course materials and
instructor contact information are available at: