Honors | Introduction to Communication & Culture (CMCL)
C205 | 14898 | Robert Terrill
Lecture MW 11:15am-12:05pm
Discussion F 10:10-11:00am
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
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