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Mass Communication Process: CommRC0320: A Course on Mass Communication and Society; Jonathan Sterne, Professor

Spring 2004
Lecture MW, 120 David Lawrence
(You are also required to register for a recitation, check your course listings guide)


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MassCommBlog (Spring 2004)
(note -- some links will expire):

24 Feb

Two cool links:

1. Today, Kembrew McLeod, MassComm author and one of my counterparts at the University of Iowa, is distributing the illegal Grey Album -- a remix of the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album. It's part of a big copyright controvery. Learn more at

2. Who controls 70% of all US wealth? Who accounts for over 50% of all consumer spending? People over 50. Guess that 18-34 thing is coming down. In yesterday's P-G.

17 Feb

Lots of emails and links on the Comcast/Disney affair. Note that some of these will expire sooner, rather than later:

Here are two links from the NYTimes. You need to sign up to read them, but they provide articles for free for up to a month after publication. Thanks to students for pointing me to them.

"Tightening of Media Knots"

"Merger Would Mean New Style and New Bosses at Disney"

and a piece from conservative columnist William Safire:

"The Five Sisters"

Heather, our intrepid Variety watcher, offers this story on the merger:

"Mouse Won't Bite"


Since we talked a bit about differences between now and the 1950s, I thought I'd offer some statistics quoted in Stephanie Koontz, The Way We Never Were (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). You know what they say about statistics, but they are at least interesting to think about in light of the image of America portrayed in 1950s sitcoms and family drama.

DIVORCE: Divorce rates did steadily increased between 1960 and 1982 and then levelled off at around 50%. Most divorced adults remarry. However, more couples reported happy marriages in a study from the 1970s than in an identical study in 1957.

TEEN AND SINGLE PREGNANCY: Here's a whopper of a stat. In 1957, 97 out of every 1000 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth, compared to only 52 out of every 1000 in 1983. There was also an 80% increase in the number of out-of-wedlock babies places for adoption between 1944 and 1955.

These stats aren't about the 1950s, but are pretty interesting nonetheless:

HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES: As late as the 1940s, less than half the students who entered high school finished.

HOMICIDE: Murder rates were higher in the 1930s than in the 1980s (and 1990s).

8 Feb

A former MassComm student emailed me and told me that the video, Merchants of Cool, is now available online for free. It's about an hour long and very interesting. Check it out for yourself. In future versions of the course, I'll probably show it in class. But alas, it's too late for you.

3 Feb

Thanks to Heather for the following links:

On the FCC investigation of the "Janet Jackson affair."

On a possible upcoming strike in Hollywood.

And another on the strike.

30 Jan 2004

Here's a link from a student about conglomerates selling off their sports teams. There's not a whole lot on WHY it's happening, but it's an interesting phenomenon.

25 Jan 2004

Here's a link to the most comprehensive list of Howard Dean remixes. Please note that a) this guy is a Dean supporter; b) by linking to his site I do not in any way endorse Dean; and that c) some of these are really funny. You'll need a speedy connection to hear them, though.

21 Jan 2004

In case you haven't been paying attention, there is currently a big controversy over running an anti-George Bush ad during the Super Bowl. Check out the controversy at and

Want to know about ad campaigns before they happen or learn more about the industry? Check out Adweek and Advertising Age.

1 Jan: Here's a link to a recent merger/acquisition: FedEX Buys Kinko's. It's an interesting case because FedEX already had a synergistic deal with Kinko's, but appear to be concerned about electronic document delivery as well as their competition UPS, who owns Mailboxes, etc.

11 Apr:

The final exam study sheet for Spring 2004 is now online. Click here to download it as a .pdf file, or visit the docs page for all the final exam info you need.

4 Apr:

In the interests of content, I may actually get to some of the material scheduled for April 7th on April 5th, so bring the relevant overheads.

31 Mar:

Quiz 6 in Recitations starting Monday April 5th. This is your last quiz of MassComm, so enjoy it. Or at least enjoy the fact that it's the last one.

It covers:

Lectures: 15-31 March

Readings: 17 March - 5 April

Readings and lectures covered after the period of this quiz will get heavier treatment on the final, so keep on keeping up.

23 Mar:

I am out of town and off email immediately following tomorrow's class until Sunday the 28th. Please contact your TA if you need help while I'm gone.


Recitations for the week of the 29th are cancelled so you can meet with us about your papers. Our office hours for next week (Mar 29-Apr 2) are as follows:

Heather: Wednesday 11:30-12:30 & 2:15-3:15 and Friday 11-3

Ian: Tuesday 10am-2pm and Wednesday 2pm-4pm; he asks that you please email him to set up a time.

Thom: Monday 2-4, Tuesday 12-2, Thursday 12-3

Me: Monday 2:15-3:15, Wednesday 11-12, Thursday 2-3:45.

20 Mar:

The assignment for Paper #2 is now available on the docs page.

14 Mar:

Welcome back. With one exception, overheads for the rest of the semester are up, though dates may change.

2 Mar:

Quiz 5 in recitations beginning March 15th. It covers:

Lectures: Reality TV - Politics in Representation (3 March)

Readings: 25 Feb - 15 March

22 Feb:

Lecture overheads updated

18 Feb:

Heather is sick today. Please email her if you had an appointment to reschedule.

QUIZ 4 in recitations beginning Feb 23rd. It covers:

Lectures: Intellectual Property through Realism in Film

Readings: 11-23 Feb

17 Feb:

Note that the course schedule has been updated to reflect the pace that we're currently on. If you've already done the narrative reading for this Wednesday, then you get the weekend off to concentrate on your papers.

12 Feb:

NO RECITATIONS for the week of 16 Feb. Instead, we will hold extra office hours for you to come consult with us about your papers.

Me: M 2:15-3:15, W 11-12, Th 3-5

Heather: W 2-4, F 11-3

Ian: T 10-2, W 2:15-4

Thom: M 9:30-12, W 2:10-4, Th 8:30-11 and 11:40-4

11 Feb:

IMPORTANT QUIZ CLARIFICATION: You MUST take your quiz in the recitation in which you are enrolled. Exceptions must be cleared by both your TA and the TA whose section you want to attend, and they must be cleared BEFORE the day of the recitation in which you are enrolled.

8 Feb:

I am out of town 12-15 Feb. If you need info about the course during that time, please contact your TA.

2 Feb:

Quiz 3 in recitations beginning Feb 9th. It covers:

Lectures: 26-28 Jan, 2-4 Feb (maybe a bit of 9 Feb, too)

Readings: 28 Jan-9 Feb

30 Jan:

If you're Heather's student, you probably know. But just in case: Heather's office hours on W are 2-3 from now on.

27 Jan:

BIG UPDATE. Lectures well into February are now up.

Also, all the information for paper #1 is now available on the documents page. We will be handing out the paper assignment in recitations next week.

21 Jan 2004:

2 Announcements:

1) I am out of town Th-Sun, and out of email range. Please contact your TA with any issues pertaining to the course.

2) Quiz 2 in recitations beginning Jan 26th

It covers:

Lectures: Jan 12, 14, 21 (may eek over in the 26th)

Readings: Jan 14, 21, 26

Give the Meehan some time, it's difficult.

5 Jan 2004:

Welcome to the CommRC 0320 website! This course is designed to help you understand how mass communication works. This site is designed to help you do well in the course.

Bookmark this page for important news and announcements. You will want to visit this site frequently throughout the semester.

Need help figuring out this site? New to the web? Click here.

Click on a section of the image at the top of the page to visit that section of the site.

Here's your 1st announcement:

Contrary to the syllabus, there WILL be lecture on the 21st of January.

Here's your 2nd announcement:

Follow this link for tips on how to do well on your first quiz. (It will also be listed on the documents page.)

Here's your 3rd announcement:

Quiz #1 will be in recitations starting Monday, the 12th of January.

It will cover:
Lectures: from 5 January through 7 January (with the possibility that a little might bleed over into the lecture on the 12th)
Readings: due 7 and 12 Jan.





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