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COMM Courses in More Detail:
Quarterly Course Descriptions

2022 Summer Session 1

Intermediate Topics in Communication: "American Political Films"
Allan Havis

This course structured to provide a creative analysis and open discussion of select American political films from 1960s to recent years.   The movies studied will be mostly very famous Hollywood titles with an eye on social struggle, race relations, the labor movement, military adventurism, the role of a free press in a democracy, the growing powers of the presidency, and America’s leadership role on the world stage,  Ten or twelve films will be the focus for the term and American Film & Society Since 1945 by Albert Auster and Leonard Quart will be the required text.

COMM 132
Advanced Topics in Communication, Politics, and Society: "Action Cinema"
Denise McKenna

2022 Summer Session 2

COMM 146
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: "Media Sys in Post-Truth Era"
Olga Lazitski Torres

 This course explores media practices of the political and cultural age of “post-truth” that we live in today and their problematic relationship with truth: Is there such a thing as truth? How do I know it's really there and not just a projection of my consciousness? Is there a way to understand what’s “really” happening in the world without being influenced to think a certain way?

 “Post-truth” is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

In the course we will explore the “post-truth” implications in both politics and media in different parts of the world (The U.S., China, Russia, Mexico, etc.). Using case studies from different countries, we will analyze how journalism has been reimagined in a “post-truth” world and how journalists within different political systems are dealing with the challenges of the post-truth era.

COMM 190
Junior Seminar in Communication: "The horror, the horror: War and American Cinema"
Soraya Abuelhiga

We will examine American responses to and reimaginings of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most brutal wars through the lens of cinema. Alongside analyzing the films as cultural texts, we will also analyze the concurrent development of cinema technology and the Western imperial imaginary. The cinematic evolution of TV news media, particularly in its coverage of wars and its influence on American public opinion, will also be examined.

Fall 2022









Spring 2022

COMM 146, Lecture A00
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: "Asian American Arts & Activism"
Patricia Ahn

 The course examines the role that different artistic forms–including but not limited to graphic art, poetry, photography, film/video, street/protest art–have played within social justice movements across the Asian diasporas in the U.S. We discuss the cultural and historical context from which the terms "Asian American” emerged as an organizing political identity and basis for a broad internationalist movement in the late 1960s, and track the different expressive forms that grew out of the cultural and social spaces which came to form under this banner and also challenged the limitations of these terms themselves. Students will engage in a mix of critical and creative assignments as a means of working through the material, representational, and epistemological complexities of the terms “arts,” “activism,” and “Asian American."

COMM 146, Lecture B00
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: "Making Space"
Kerry Keith

This course will dive into the field of critical geography, particularly through the lens and practice of placemaking. It centers the ways dominant productions of space are active in the construction of social difference, and how spatial thinking can highlight uneven geographical development. Critical geography understands "the future" as open, undetermined, and emerging. Therefore, while we will unpack the formative spatial processes of capitalism and colonialism, the course emphasizes historical and contemporary activist struggles, embodiments, and changes that result from political contestations over space. This class will cover topics such as: environmental racism, black geographies, feminist geographies, carceral geographies, spatializing queerness, and spatializing disability justice. In doing so, space is understood not a static or flat terrain, but a site for radical worlding potentialities. As a class in cultural production, students will craft creative placemaking projects, such as counter mapping, creative writing, visual arts, audio production, or other renderings of place. 


COMM 190, Lecture A00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Lost and Found in Translation: Muslim Worlds in Global Cinema" 
Soraya Abuelhiga

In this course, we will examine the plurality and diversity of both Arab and Muslim experiences as these are portrayed and narrated in critically-acclaimed films from around the world. Some common themes explored in the course include place and home/lands, war and trauma, multinational identity, cultural clashes, and the return/repetition of history through memory and cinema.


COMM 190, Lecture B00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Working in the Media and Tech Industries"
Kelly Gates

 What is it like to work in the media and tech industries? What are the different types of work, and what skills and credentials are required to do these jobs? How do people get these jobs? What are the demographics of the people in the different job categories? What are the working conditions? What does it take to be successful in these industries? This seminar will explore these questions through books and articles that provide some answers (and possibly some guest speakers). Students will also conduct their own research to find answers. 

 COMM 190, Lecture C00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Latin American Cinema and Modernity"
Andrew Whitworth-Smith

 This course will analyze the relationship between Latin American cinema and multiple iterations of “modernity”. We will focus, among other things, on the role of the State in filmmaking, both in terms of intervening in debates over freedom of expression, as well as state investment in national film industries. The course traces a continuum of cinematic expression in Latin America from the silent era through the golden age of cinema (1930s-50s), to the “new cinema” movement, and will end with contemporary examples of a new generation of filmmakers from the region, many of whom have achieved success in Hollywood. By presenting seminal and contemporary cinematic works from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and other countries, we will create a window through which to understand Latin American history, culture and politics as something dynamic and of relevance to our globalized society.

COMM 190, Lecture D00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Mediatization of Health and Medicine"
Daniel Hallin

In this seminar we explore the role of media and communication in the domain of health and medicine.  Each week we talk about a different dimension of the ways in which health and medicine are “mediatized”—news coverage of health, the languages and metaphors we use to talk about illness, doctor shows on television, pharmaceutical advertising and public health media campaigns, the way health professionls communicate on the job, and, of course, a special emphjasis this year, communication during a pandemic.  We consider the way media representations change the relationships of medical professionals to the mass public, the influence of biomedicine on media and culture, power relations in health communication, and the challenges of communicating in the face of uncertainty as new diseases emerge and scientific knowledge evolves.  As a seminar, the class is highly participatory, and each student—or sometimes groups—presents a paper or production project at the end dealing with an issue of their choice within the domain of mediatization of health.

Winter 2022

COMM 113T, Lecture A00
Intermediate Topics in Communication: "Film Authorship: Spike Lee & Kathryn Bigelow"
Andrew deWaard

This course serves as an introduction to the concept of film authorship with a focus on Hollywood filmmaking in the last thirty years, as seen through two case studies: Spike Lee and Kathryn Bigelow. We begin with the tradition of “auteur theory” -- the idea that the director, not the screenwriter, is the true “artist” and “author” in filmmaking -- before moving to the broader contemporary conception of the filmmaker as a site of encounter for many elements: collaboration, identity, industry, intertext, reception, and context. Spike Lee is our first case study, and through the films Do the Right Thing, 4 Little Girls, Inside Man, BlacKkKlansman, and Da 5 Bloods, we will analyze traditional authorial elements, such as a formal “signature,” as well as recurring themes and motifs. We will also consider how authorship intersects with issues of race, class, violence, and representation. Kathryn Bigelow will be our second case study, and Near Dark, Blue Steel, Point Break, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and Detroit will allow us to consider issues of gender, genre, and authorial responsibility, in this case the depiction of war. 


COMM 113T, Lecture B00
Intermediate Topics in Communication: “Native Americans and Colonists”
Gary Fields

This course introduces students to themes from Native American Studies and is intended as a provocative engagement with issues covering both the history and contemporary cultural politics of indigenous Americans.  Substantively, the course is designed to provide students with a starting point for studying past and present encounters between indigenous Americans and immigrant settlers to America and their present-day descendants.  These encounters resulted in the dispossession of Indigenous people and brought the latter to near-extinction while the voices and experiences of Native peoples have been too often concealed in these exchanges.  The course intervenes into debates and discourses about these encounters and seeks to render Amerindians visible and their voices audible in conceding that many of these controversies remain unresolved.  Because the course material focuses heavily on often fraught issues of race and identity, one of the primary pedagogical aims of the course focuses on understanding the nature of arguments and point of view.  In essence, the course is intended to be a historically rich, theoretically rigorous,and topically interesting engagement with what is often the sadly forgotten story of indigenous Americans and their encounters with Europeans who remade America into something far different.

COMM 146 Seminar A00
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: “K Pop”
Patty Ahn

This course is an upper-level seminar on the global cultures of K-Pop. During the ten-week quarter, we look at the different social, technological, and creative structures that make South Korea’s multi-billion dollar music industry such a complex phenomenon. As we situate K-Pop within a broader state campaign to remake South Korea’s image in the global economy, we consider what implications this might have for a country that has suffered decades of economic instability and political suppression. Our overall aim for the quarter is to understand and accessibly communicate the broad spectrum of pleasures and problems that make K-Pop such a fascinating object of study.

COMM 162
Advanced Study in Cultural Industries: "News Media and Politics"
Thomas Schmidt

This course focuses on the role of journalism in a democratic system, and the ways mass media both contribute to and inhibit the development of a viable public sphere and effective political process. With a focus on American news media, we will examine theories and functions of journalism as well as current issues facing today’s news producers. We’ll consider the potential of the web as a democratizing force and the changing nature of what’s considered news. By exploring traditional journalistic norms in the context of today’s communication dynamics (including technology, policy, politics, and culture), we will better understand the challenges, benefits, and limitations of mass media in our society.


COMM 190, Seminar A00
Junior Seminar in Communication: “Public Libraries, Power, & Collective Design Work”
Professor Angela Booker

This course explores the public library as a mediator of public need and access to public presence. During turbulent, traumatic, or uncertain times, public libraries have quietly served an institutional function grounding local, public access to basic needs. The institution sits at the heart of flows (and restrictions) of knowledge. In this course, we will explore ways in which public libraries serve multigenerational and varied socio-economically needs. We will consider specific cases in which public libraries have responded to change and grappled with circumstances that extend beyond their popularly understood purview.

COMM 190, Seminar B00
Junior Seminar in Communication: “Branding Natures”
Professor Matilde Córdoba Azcárate

This course discusses the processes and politics of branding and consuming nature that are characteristic of globalization processes. It uses a sociocultural approach to analyze specific case studies where natural spaces and its resources, landscapes and the environment have been commoditized through tourism planning, conservation zoning, health, beauty and food policies, urban development and climate change crisis.

COMM 190, Seminar C00
Junior Seminar in Communication: “UCSD 2041”
Christo Sims

In this seminar we take up the following speculative design challenge: what might the University of California look like in the year 2041? Through individual and group work, you will learn to critically analyze relations between political economy, educational institutions, and cutting-edge proposals for how public universities can be “reinvented” in high-tech ways. Additionally, you will imagine and develop your own ideas about how public universities could be different than they are today. Throughout, we will ask questions about equity, learning, technological change, and the roles that public universities do and can play in society. You will learn to interrogate current debates around technological innovation and social change, and you will develop skills for exploring and communicating currently unrealized futures. This is a hands-on course that involves a fair amount of project-based group work.


COMM 190, Seminar D00
Junior Seminar in Communication: “Feminist Media Analysis”
Shawna Kidman

Over the course of the 20th century, radio dramas, TV soap operas, experimental films, YouTube videos, and many other types of media have found ways to speak to women in authentic, innovative, supportive, and energizing ways. This course will explore some of that cultural past. We'll read about and watch a variety of audio-visual texts—both popular and fringe—produced for or by women that can (by virtue of their production, reception, aesthetic, or narrative form) be read as "feminist." Assessing the utility of feminist media analysis, we'll seek to understand how culture intersects with the personal and social, and whether a feminist media culture is possible or even desirable.

Fall 2021

COMM 113T, Lecture A00
Intermediate Topics in Communication: "Community Based Health"
Lillian Walkover

 Public health campaigns - from gentle reminders to official orders to cover a part of the body, change environmental conditions, or seek medical care - attempt to change behavior, slow the spread of disease and improve the health of a population. This course takes a critical social science perspective on the production, dissemination, and impacts (intended and otherwise) of public health communication, including questions of coercion, autonomy, and perceptions of collective health and wellbeing. 

COMM 113T, Lecture B00
Intermediate Topics in Communication: "Fringe Genres"
Pepe Rojo Solis

This course explores the breakdown of categories between genres, disciplines, media and formats. As such, it will use transgeneric and transdisciplinary methods to understand not just what categories do, but how they dissolve and blur ath the edges, and what better place to do it than in an actual border, where states of being are enforced by a border a border machine which slices through the megacity that some say starts at the northern urban LA and goes all the way down to Ensenada (with a military interruption called Camp Pendleton). This multifaceted and non-traditional course will explore monster theory, speculative genres, border literature, arts and theory, urbanis,, globalization, comics and animation, fake news, visionary environments and post human condition, sprinkled with a healthy dose of experiential fiction fueled by situationist and communal practices.

COMM 146, Lecture A00  
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: "K Pop"
Patty Ahn

This course is an upper-level seminar on the global cultures of K-Pop. During the ten-week quarter, we look at the different social, technological, and creative structures that make South Korea’s multi-billion dollar music industry such a complex phenomenon. As we situate K-Pop within a broader state campaign to remake South Korea’s image in the global economy, we consider what implications this might have for a country that has suffered decades of economic instability and political suppression. Our overall aim for the quarter is to understand and accessibly communicate the broad spectrum of pleasures and problems that make K-Pop such a fascinating object of study.

COMM 146, Lecture B00  
Advanced Topics in Cultural Production: "The Art of the Podcast"
Amanda Peacher

In this course, we’ll focus on long-form narrative audio podcasts as a storytelling form. We’ll listen to and critically analyze a variety of contemporary podcasts with an emphasis on nonfiction, journalistic productions. We’ll examine how podcasts use long-form journalism as a means to explore race, gender, income inequality, and other social issues. We’ll explore the ethics of reporting these narratives and discuss the unique challenges of the journalist/source relationship in long-form journalism. Students should be prepared for listening and writing-intensive course that emphasizes discussion. 

COMM 162, Lecture A00
Advanced Topics in Cultural Industries: "Race, Indigeneity, and Social Justice"
Boatema Boateng

A course that starts by examining criticism of the term BIPOC and unpacks it in order to arrive at an understanding of the politics of racial and indigenous justice that inform it. Looks at the history of Blackness and Indigeneity in the U.S. and specific social justice movements based on that history.

COMM 190, Seminar C00

Junior Seminar in Communication: "Drugs in America on TV and Film"
Soraya Abuelhiga

In this course, we will closely examine the cultural constructions, social dimensions, and artistic representations of contemporary drug ab/use in the U.S. through active, scholarly engage,ents with film and television, social and news media and photography. We will relate our study of representations of drugs and drug users in the U.S. to recurring issues of racial policing, migration and mobility, uneven capitalistic development and domestic imperialism, conflict and violence, and imbalances of power surrounding the arguably modern American endeavor to "feel good".

COMM 190, Seminar D00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Communicating Consent"
Sophie Staschus

How should consent be communicated? How do we determine that the consenting person is acting voluntarily? Can an athlete ever “truly” consent, voluntarily and knowingly, to undergoing pain and physical trauma for entertainment purposes? Are we ever sufficiently informed to consent to invasive surgery? Can we willingly consent to exploitative working conditions if the alternative is being unable to pay rent? This course will explore whether consent, an ever-changing and versatile notion that’s meant to promote autonomy, can fulfill its emancipatory promise. In order to do so, we will examine the theoretical, historical, political, and legal assumptions and characteristics that underground consent and its associated notion of autonomy. We will then analyze how consent is conceptualized and negotiated in the contexts of sexuality, reproductive rights, healthcare, and sports.

COMM 190, Seminar E00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Knives and the Gendered Body: The Social and Cultural Meanings of Cosmetic and Other Surgeries"
Boatema Boteng

This course examines ideas around gender that result in physical alteration of the human body. The course will examine social and cultural norms and practices around different kinds of voluntary and involuntary procedures. It will also examine examples of resistance to those norms and practices. The course will draw on theories of race, gender, sexuality and power. Each student will have the opportunity to use such theories to examine one practice or set of practices and consider why they occur, the issues they raise such as individual agency, and how they reveal the relation between discourses and practices of race, gender and sexuality. 

COMM 190, Seminar F00
Junior Seminar in Communication: "Streaming Media"
Andrew deWaard

What changes when we "stream" media, rather than broadcast, exhibit, or own it? Which companies shape and control the infrastructure of streaming media? What is a "platform" and what is the broader historical and financial context for this development? what is an "algoirthmic feed," how is it prone to misinformation, and how does our engagement and experience with  media change in a streaming environment? What opportunities and obstacles are there in streaming media for more diversity and equality? What is the effect of streaming media on creatives, laborers, and producers of content? This seminar will aim to answer these questions and more, exploring the streaming media transition from the perspective of power and political economy. Each week we will analyze a major media company with regards to a social issue: Netflix and power, Disney and commodification, Comcast/AT&T and data, Spotify and labor, Apple and supply chains, Google and identity, Facebook and misinformation, and Amazon and surveillance. The assignments of the course include weekly discussion posts and a research sequence that leads to an argumentative essay.