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Communication and Cultural Studies

Instructor: Gary Genosko

Course Description

This course will focus on the interrelated areas of communication theory and cultural studies with a specific emphasis on the influence of Roman Jakobson's formulation of the model of communication and its functions on the analysis of decoding practices (the full range of which span aberrant to hegemonic) in cultural studies. The study of decoding practices is at the heart of cultural studies. I will emphasize the Birmingham school tradition as it is represented through the significant contributions of Stuart Hall and Dick Hebdige, among others, but also include reflections on the work of John Fiske and John Hartley in which Jakobson's work was used to flag a move beyond content analysis in studies of television. The communication component of this course will limit itself to questions concerning cybernetic and poetic models with attention resting on their critique by Jean Baudrillard and their semiotic complexification by Umberto Eco. The more general goal of the course is to investigate how models of communication have served cultural studies in its diverse theoretical and political (Gramscian) expressions of decoding practices in the now familiar process of sub-cultural creativity involving borrowing-redefinition-relocation. This will be brought into contemporary focus through issues around the production of locality in the context of studies of globalization. The cybernetic model serves both as background to modelling communication as such and introduces questions around the conditions required for successfully encoding and decoding technical as opposed to semantic signals and signs, but also provides a context in which I will suggest that cultural studies has, like cybernetics, something of a military flavour at or near its origins, and that this persists today in the tactical countermeasures of culture jammers and the new Situationists of alternative youth culture.

This course will be of interest to students of communication theory and cultural studies as well as cultural sociologists. It will involve detailed commentaries on and expositions of key texts in the field that are widely available either in Readers devoted to the themes or in original editions. These lectures are based on a seminar offered in the Department of Sociology at Lakehead University www.lakeheadu.ca/~socwww/genosko.html in the fall of 1999 and they complement my existing series of eight cyber lectures on "McLuhan, Baudrillard and Cultural Theory," recently published as McLuhan and Baudrillard: The Masters of Implosion (Routledge 1999; www.routledge.com). All those interested in following the course may contact me for further details, supplementary materials and conditions: genosko@mist.lakeheadu.ca


Course Outline

Lecture 1. Overview/The Mathematical Model Revisited Lecture 2. Roman Jakobson and the Primacy of the Poetic Lectures 3 and 4. Oblique Strategies and Counter-Hegemonic Struggles: Decoding in the Birmingham Tradition Lecture 5. Message as Text: Umberto Eco's Model of Communication Lecture 6. The Logic of Diversions: Soft Resistance by Manufactured Constituencies of Decoders in Cultural Studies (Text-Based Case Studies) Lecture 7. Communication without Reciprocity: Jean Baudrillard's Critique of Jakobson Lecture 8. Decode Yourself: Variations on the Theme of Anti-Commercial Guerrilla Tactics


Send comments or questions to Gary Genosko: genosko@mist.lakeheadu.ca

copyright 2000, Gary Genosko.
Go to Biographical Note
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