Honors | Introduction to Communication & Culture (CMCL)
C205 | 15302 | Robert Terrill
LEC: MW 10:10-11:00am
DIS: F 10:10-11:00am
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 placeto 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%.