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CMST 3K03 MediaAudiences&Effects

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Dale Shin


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Mondays 10-11AM, Fridays 2:30-3:30PM, TSH 333

Course Objectives:

An examination of the media/audience relationship in light of different theories of media effects including social learning, agenda-setting, uses and gratifications, active audiences and cultivation analysis.

Audiences loom large in both popular and scholarly accounts of media and culture – as consumers of television programs, films, newspapers and magazines, video games, novels, music; as the commodities sold by broadcasters and publishers to advertisers; as fans and enthusiasts of movie franchises, sports teams, and the like. Yet for all their significance to both industry and academia, audiences have remained elusive figures to those who pursue them – inscrutable in their desires and interests, fickle in their tastes and passions, incomprehensible in their anger and animosity.

Surveying different classical and contemporary approaches, theories, and methodologies for understanding and studying audiences, the course will aim to consider all of these facets of audiences’ engagement with commercial media, with a special emphasis on the recent construction of audiences, within cultural studies (and fan and reception studies in particular), as active, resistant, and creative subjects. The course concludes with a consideration of the shifting relationship between authors, audiences, and texts that has developed with the rise of the Internet and digital media, which according to some theorists has delivered a kind of “convergence culture”: a culture in which audiences are at once authors and producers. Above all, we will be concerned with how audiences are persuaded, enlightened, manipulated and influenced by the texts they consume – but also how they challenge, appropriate, reinterpret, or refuse the meanings and discourses embedded in those texts.

Upon completion of the course, students will

  • possess an understanding of the significance of studying audiences to communication, media, and cultural studies;
  • be able to distinguish between various theories of audiences and media reception and consumption, as well as identify their respective strengths and weaknesses and apply them to different contemporary examples of media;
  • have critically reflected upon the relationship – and contradictions – between scholarly discourse on audiences, on the one hand, and the lived and felt experience of being a member of an audience, on the other. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All readings will be available on Avenue to Learn, through Google Books, or via the McMaster library catalogue. There are no texts that need to be purchased for this course.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance (10%)
Attendance will be taken at the end of most classes. Six unexplained absences in total throughout the term are allowed without penalty; each subsequent absence will result in a 1% penalty being deducted from the participation component (10%) of a student’s overall grade in the course (e.g., five absences in total will result in a 3% penalty, leaving a possible 7% of the 10% allocated for participation in the course). Absences due to illness, bereavement, etc., supported by documentation, will not count against the participation grade.

Quizzes (15% + 15%) – Feb 3, Mar 3
Students will write two in-class quizzes during the term. Each quiz will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the date of the quiz in question.

Paper (30%) – Mar 30, 11:59PM
Students will write a paper (2000-2500 words, or approximately 8-10 pages double-spaced), elaborating upon one of the themes from the course (e.g., participatory culture, anti-fandom) and drawing upon both course assigned materials and additional secondary sources. Further instructions will be provided in class.

Final exam (30%) – during the exam period, Apr 11-27
Students will write an exam during the exam period. The exam will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the final week of classes.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments must be submitted by the exact date and time specified. Late submissions will be penalized 3% for each day – including Saturdays and Sundays – that they are overdue. Submissions that are more than seven days late will not be accepted and will instead receive a 0% grade. Students are responsible for retaining a back-up copy of their work; computer hardware or software malfunctions, network outages, data loss or corruption, and other common problems of a technical nature are not in and of themselves sufficient grounds for having the penalties for late submissions waived.

Requests for extensions by reason of extenuating circumstances will be considered by the instructor on a case-by-case basis, in the event of a force majeure, and only with the provision of supporting documentation (i.e., a completed McMaster Student Absence form). Extensions will only be offered in exceptional cases; students should not assume their provision.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Jan 4-6. Introduction: Finding an Audience…for Audiences

  1. Janet Staiger, “Social Scientific Theories,” in Media Reception Studies (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 17-60

Jan 9-13. Discourses of Astonishment and Anesthesia: Reconsidering the “Mass Audience”

  1. Theodor W. Adorno, “The Schema of Mass Culture,” in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein (London; New York: Routledge, 2001), 53-83

Jan 16-20. The Effects Model and Its Discontents

  1. George Gerbner, “Television Violence at a Time of Turmoil and Terror,” in Gender, Race, Class in Media, eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez (London; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2003), 339-348
  2. David Gauntlett, “Ten Things Wrong with the Media ‘Effects’ Model,” The Media Theory Site, n.d.,

Jan 23-27. Active Audiences, Real(ized) Readers, Polysemic Texts

  1. Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding,” in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During, 2nd ed. (London; New York: Routledge, 1999), 507-517
  2. Ian Eng, “On the Politics of Empirical Audience Research,” in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 174-194

Jan 30-Feb 3. Counter-Hegemonies: Fandoms, Fan Cultures, and Fan Activism

  1. Melissa C. Scardaville, “Accidental Activists: Fan Activism in the Soap Opera Community,” American Behavioral Scientist 48, no. 7 (March 2005): 881-901
  2. Lori Kido Lopez, “Fan Activists and the Politics of Race in The Last Airbender,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 15, no. 5 (September 2012): 431-455

Feb 6-10. Spectatorship and Screen Theory

  1. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 833-44
  2. Miriam Hansen, “Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film,” in The Audience Studies Reader, eds. Will Brooker and Deborah Jermyn (London; New York: Routledge, 2003), 143-149

Feb 13-17. Identity, Pleasure, Complicity: Gendered Readings, Feminist Contestations

  1. Janice A. Radway, “Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context,” Feminism Studies 9, no. 1 (Spring 1983): 53-78
  2. Anne Helen Peterson, “That Teenage Feeling: Twilight, Fantasy, and Feminist Readers,” Feminist Media Studies 12, no. 1 (2012): 51-67

Feb 20-26. Midterm recess (no classes)

Feb 27-Mar 3. TBA

Mar 6-10. Global Audiences, Media, and Cultural Flows

  1. Henry Jenkins, “Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping Cultural Flows in an Age of Media Convergence,” in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 152-172
  2. Meenakshi Gigi Durham, “Constructing the ‘New Ethnicities’: Media, Sexuality, and Disapora Identity in the Lives of South Asian Immigrant Girls,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 21, no. 2 (June 2004): 140-161

Mar 10. Last day for canceling courses without failure by default

Mar 13-17. New Media, New Audiences: From Activity to Interactivity, Consumption to Produsage

  1. Sonia Livingstone, “The Changing Nature of Audiences: From the Mass Audience to the Interactive Media User,” in The Oxford Companion to Media Studies, ed. Angharad N. Valdivia (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 337-359
  2. Henry Jenkins, “Interactive Audiences?: The ‘Collective Intelligence’ of Media Fans,” MIT, n.d.,

Mar 20-24. Users or Used?: New Media and the Old Question of Audience Labour

  1. Dallas W. Smythe, “On the Audience Commodity and Its Work,” in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 230-256
  2. Christian Fuchs, “The Political Economy of Privacy on Facebook,” Television and New Media 13, no. 2 (March 2012): 139-159

Mar 27-31. Selfie Love?: The Gender Politics of Social Media

  1. Derek Conrad Murray, “Notes to Self: The Visual Culture of Selfies in the Age of Social Media,” Consumption, Markets & Culture 18, no. 6 (July 2015): 490-516
  2. Henry Giroux, “Selfie Culture in the Age of Corporate and State Surveillance,” Third Text 29, no. 3 (May 2015):155-210

Apr 3-5. Conclusion and outtro