GSICCS, Waseda University -- Graham Law -- Academic Year 2022 Spring Term

GSICCS Basic Course: Culture and Communication

*** This semester, with most overseas students finally able to get a visa and come to Tokyo, I hope to be able to hold most class sessions face-to-face on campus. However, even if only a single
registered student is not in town, there will also be a Zoom link so that all  members can participate wherever they are. For the same reason, the weekly class reading quizzes will all be conducted online, with all Zoom and Quiz links available via the Moodle system. It may also be necessary to hold the first couple of class sessions entirely via Zoom, given that many students may not make it by the beginning of April due to travel difficulties and quarantine regulations. And, of course, we may have to go back entirely to online sessions if the Covid situation deteriorates.***


A Socio-Historical Approach to Media and Culture

Course Description

        Is the nature of the dominant communications media instrumental in determining the way people think and act? In others words, is it meaningful to talk generally about goral cultureh or gprint cultureh or gtelevision cultureh? Or, do the functions of communications systems depend on the cultural assumptions and practices of the people that use them? In other words, should we expect, say, predominantly Christian, Islamic and Confucian societies, to make rather different uses of both traditional (analog) and new (digital) media?
        In trying to find satisfying answers to these key questions, the course will take a socio-historical approach and center on the analysis and discussion of a dozen or so readings from major theorists and historians in the fields of culture and communication. Each class will feature an introductory mini-lecture by the instructor, group reading exercises and quizzes, and a period for general discussion and conclusions.The main aim of this course is thus to encourage students to read widely and consider deeply about the concepts of culture and communication and how they interact.


[W1-4/8]: Introductions: Aims, Methods,Materials     [WS-Intro]   [SnippetsQuiz]  [Instructor Article]


>>Two Introductory Readings, offering a survey of the field, and a historical analysis of key terms

[W2-4/15]: from Briggs & Burke, A Social History of the Media (2009)                               [WS-R02]
[W3-4/22]: from Williams, Keywords (1976)                                                                       [WS-R03]

>>Three Neo-Marxist (Frankfurt School) Readings, concerning Media in Industrial Capitalist Society

[W4-5/6]: Benjamin, gThe Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductionh (1936)   [WS-R04]   

[W5-5/13]: from Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944)                         [WS-R05]
[W6-5/20]: from Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962)            [WS-R06

                [Habermas's encyclopedia article on the "Public Sphere"]       

>>Three Anthropological Readings, concerning Orality and Literacy
[W7-5/27]: Goody & Watt, "The Consequences of Literacy" (1963)                                     [WS-R07]
[W8-6/3]: from Street, Literacy in Theory and Practice (1984)                                            [WS-R08]
[W9-6/10]: from Olson, The World on Paper (1994)                                                             [WS-R09]

>>Three Postmodernist Discussions, concerning Media in Postindustrial Society

[W10-6/17]: from McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)                                                     [WS-R10]
[W11-6/24]: from Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition (1979)                                              [WS-R11]
[W12-7/1]: from Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986)                                            [WS-R12]

>>Two Concluding Readings, offering global and local "culturalist" perspectives

[W13-7/8]: from Appadurai, Modernity at Large (1996)                                                      [WS-R13]
[W14-7/15]: from Carey, Communication as Culture (1988)                                                  [WS-R14]
[W15-7/22]: Conclusions: Culture and Communication



Lecture slides (left), Readings (center) and Worksheets (right), all three in PDF format, can be downloaded from the respective links above. A bundle of the presentations in Powerpoint format is available here. The presentations are also available with a recorded narration from the instructor on request.

Works of Reference

To be announced in class as required.

Grading Method

60% Writing assignment(s) -- see Writing Assignment Print
20% Weekly Reading Quiz
& Class Contribution
20% Attendance

Office Hours:
Tuesday 3 / Thursday 3
Office No: 11-1455

Reports and other communications can be submitted to me either in class, or by mail to:
Post : G Law, Minami-cho 3-9-18, Nishitokyo City, Tokyo 188-0012
E-mail : [email protected]


Copyright (C) Graham Law, 2013-22. All rights reserved.
First drafted Sun 3 Mar 2013.
Last revised Sat 23 Apr 2022.

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