Course Title: Communication Revolutions: Technologies and Cultural Form

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Communication Revolutions: Technologies and Cultural Form

Credit Points: 12

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


335H Applied Communication


Sem 1 2007,
Sem 1 2008,
Sem 1 2009


City Campus


345H Media and Communication


Sem 1 2010,
Sem 1 2011

Course Coordinator: Dr Peter Williams

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 93870618

Course Coordinator

Course Coordinator Availability: TBA

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Students will have 3rd year level knowledges from some area of communication studies, or cognate humanities or social science fields.

Course Description

This course is a compulsory unit in the coursework component of the Communication Studies Honours Program. The program services the School’s BA degrees - as well as graduates of programs in other universities - and, in doing so, enlists students whose undergraduate backgrounds, disciplinary knowledges and intellectual interests vary considerably. The present course commences with a topic that is not systematically examined in any of the School’s undergraduate programs but is clearly relevant to each of them: print cultures. The rapid diffusion of printshops through western Europe in the latter half of the 15th century has been widely presented as a revolutionary moment inaugurating new forms of thought, of cultural expression, of social and political organisation. Similarly, expansive claims have been made about the impact of broadcast media and the new wave of digital media.

The course will examine the connections between communication technologies, social relations, and verbal and visual cultural forms through the topics of print, broadcasting and some digital cultures. The aim is to hone analytical skills in relation to: claims about communication "revolutions"; the defining characteristics of various communication technologies; and the putative demise of some communication technologies. This will be done by focussing on accounts of the introduction and operation of earlier new technologies - the printing press and broadcasting apparatuses - and then placing these in relation to claims about the new wave of digital media. In the process, a range of historical, political and associated policy considerations will be canvassed.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

The subject aims to develop students’ capacities for critical thinking and independent research. More particularly, it is designed to enable or encourage students
- to assess the major positions in debates over ’technological determinism’ and ’the social construction of technology’ in relation to claims that communication technologies drive processes of social change
- to understand the historical conditions of existence of familiar social categories (eg. the author, the text), genres (the novel, the newspaper) and human capacities (memory, literacy, forms of rationality)
- to appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary research and of comparative approaches (historical, cross-cultural, cross-media) to an understanding of contemporary social/cultural phenomena.
- to be aware of the theoretical assumptions and implications of empirical accounts and of the variable relations between argument and evidence
- to explore some of the possible connections between scholarly enquiry, professional roles and personal experience

Overview of Learning Activities

Lectures will perform various functions, ranging from, on the one hand, the provision of historical-contextual information on some less familiar topics, to, on the other hand, analysis of the theoretical assumptions of particular accounts. The main work of the course will however take place in seminars where students will compare, contrast, discuss and debate materials derived from lectures and readings. Students will be required to read extensively and intensively and will be encouraged to draw on (and reconsider) work they have performed in undergraduate disciplines. The major assessment item will provide considerable scope for students to fashion topics suited to their particular interests developed during the course.

Overview of Learning Resources

The COMM2076 Course Dossier containing all the weekly readings will be available for purchase at the RMIT Bookshop.
A copy of the Course Reader will also be placed on closed reserve at the RMIT Swanston St Library. Suggested further readings are also available on Library Reserve.
It is strongly recommended that you purchase the Course Dossier at the RMIT bookshop. There are no other prescribed texts for this subject.

Overview of Assessment

How will I demonstrate my learning in this course?
The course has two assessment items:

First essay (Length: 2000-2500 words. Worth: 40%

Second essay (Length: 3000-3500 words. Worth 60%

Course Grades
High distinction (HD), Distinction (Dl), Credit (CR), Pass (PA), Fail (NN or DNS).