Honors | Introduction to Communication & Culture
C205 | 3116 | Robert Terrill


Description: Many of us tend to think of the process of
communication as going something like this: (1) we get an idea, (2)
we put that idea into words, (3) we
send those words to another person, and (4) that other person
unpacks the words to find the idea that we put into them. In this
view, “communication” is a sort of
container for ideas, or a handy way to transmit data from one place
to another. This way of thinking focuses our attention not on
the “communication” but on the
ideas it contains. The words themselves (or the images, or the
sounds, or whatever) that are used to transport the information are
of no particular interest. In fact,
from this point of view, the very best or ideal form of
communication would not be noticeable at all. It would be
transparent -- a clear, concise, and simple conduit
through which ideas and data travel from one human brain to another.

This course is designed to challenge these assumptions. This course
urges you to see that communication is never merely a neutral
container for data and ideas that
are created somewhere else. Rather, data and ideas cannot exist
outside of communication. Communication constructs them, whether
through film, speech, or
performance. Human communication does not make data and ideas
portable -- it makes them possible. A central thesis of this course
is that communication and
culture are indissolubly linked, each inventing the other.

The purpose of this course is three-fold. First, it is intended to
introduce you to the unique perspective provided by the combined
interests and talents of the
Communication & Culture faculty. Our department brings together
scholars with interests in Rhetoric and Public Culture, Performance
and Ethnographic Studies,
and Film and Media, and this course explores some of the ways that
these fields of study are interrelated. Second, this course is
intended to prepare you for the
work that will be expected in higher-level courses in the
department, by beginning to acquaint you with some of the habits of
thought and methods of study that will
characterize those courses. Finally, I believe strongly that
citizens who learn to understand communication in the way presented
in this course are infinitely better
equipped for contemporary life than those who think of communication
as merely a way to transport data.

Communication is not merely a “skill” to be learned. Communication
is not a set of “rules” to be memorized, nor is it a set
of “theories” to be applied. It is, rather,
the study of the ways that human beings invent, deliberate, accept,
and reject possible beliefs, values, and actions. Communication is
the way that humans make their
world. Fittingly, this course does not consist of a set of “facts”
that must be memorized, but instead presents a relatively wide range
of readings in a variety of genres
and asks you to think about them as statements in an on-going
conversation about human communication. In that sense, this course
is cumulative. Ideas, theories,
and vocabularies are presented because they build, expand, comment
upon — or in some cases contradict — other ideas, theories, and
vocabularies presented in
the course. Never is an idea intended to be self-contained, or
unrelated to the rest of the course. Indeed, much of the work of the
course involves making
connections between and among the readings.

Course Materials: The only required text for this class is a course
packet, available at the IU Bookstore and at T.I.S. Bookstore. I
also periodically distribute
materials to the class by e-mail, and post materials to the course
WWW site. Therefore, I expect students to check their e-mail and the
course WWW site
frequently.

Assignments: Student grades are based upon two Midterm Exams, one
Final Exam, and several short Writing Assignments. The dates of the
exams are listed on
the syllabus; the writing assignments will be announced in class and
posted to the course WWW page. The final exam will be worth 30% of
the course grade; the
midterms each will be worth 25% of the course grade; and the writing
assignments collectively account for the remaining 20%.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, all written assignments are to
be typed, double-spaced, printed on paper, with one-inch margins all
around, in some standard
12-point serif font (Times, Schoolbook, Courier, etc.). Please do
not attempt to submit your work as an e-mail attachment, or on a
disk, or on any media other than
paper, unless an explicit prior agreement has been reached, either
between you and me or between you and one of the Associate
Instructors. Never use a cover
page or a folder of any kind. Do not use paperclips. Staple your
pages together before coming to class.

For further information regarding written work in this class, please
see the “Flight Check” document at the course WWW site.

Late Assignments: Late assignments are not accepted. Whether or not
you are present in class, any and all assignments must be turned in
on the day that they are
due. There are no “make-ups,” there is no “extra credit,” and I do
not discriminate between “excused” and “unexcused” absences (except
in the case of
university-sanctioned events or holidays). It is your responsibility
to contact me regarding any special circumstances that may affect
your ability to complete an
assignment on the day it is due. I will respond to these
circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Academic Integrity: All graded work in this course must represent
your own, personal, creative endeavor. There are no opportunities in
this course for you to
“work together” on any assignment. All references to ideas that are
not your own invention must be clearly cited, whether they are
direct quotations, paraphrases, or
“in your own words.” If you have any doubt about whether things you
are planning to do constitute academic dishonesty, contact me
immediately. It is often easier,
and always much more pleasant, to ameliorate these issues before the
offense has been committed. All students are expected to be familiar
with the IU Code of
Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct.

Grading: Most assignments will be assigned “whole” letter grades (no
plusses or minuses). I and the Associate Instructors are glad to
meet with you to discuss your
graded assignments, as long as you meet with the person who did the
grading. These meetings must take place face-to-face, in person,
during office hours or at a
meeting mutually arranged.

For further information about grading, please see the "Grading"
document on the course WWW site.

Technology: It is assumed that each student enrolled in this course
owns a personal computer, complete with printer and high-speed
access to the Internet. For
those students unable to obtain their own computer, it is assumed
that they possess a level of computer literacy sufficient to allow
frequent use of the computers
provided in “labs” throughout the campus. We all depend on machines
to get our work done. We all know that machines break down. When
they do, it does not
constitute an “excuse” or an “emergency.” I expect that you will
prepare your assignments far enough in advance so that when your
computer malfunctions you will
be able to rectify the problem and turn in the assignment on time.

About the Readings: The readings for this course vary considerably
in length and difficulty, so you will need to devote a different
amount of time each week to
completing the assignments. I expect that you will read each
assignment carefully before coming to class; I expect that you will
outline difficult passages when
necessary in order to chart the development of the argument; I
expect that you will review each reading assignment after class,
using your lecture notes as a guide to
direct you the most significant parts of the text; I expect that you
will consult the supplementary materials will be posted to the
course WWW site; and, most
importantly, I expect that you will come to see me or the Associate
Instructors for extra help if you need it.

Incompletes: A grade of incomplete can be assigned only after the
student and the professor have mutually agreed that this is the best
course of action under the
circumstances. This mutual decision must be reached before Friday,
December 12.

• Student Academic Center 

• Writing Tutorial Services