Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

CMST 4P03 Social Activism And The Media

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Andrea Zeffiro


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 301

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23503


Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-5:00

Course Objectives:

This course examines the role of print, electronic and digital media in the relationship between social movements, the state and corporate interests. The course will explore social activism in philosophical and practical terms, and investigate the changing uses of media by social activists. Students who have taken this course should be able to:

  • Describe, discuss and evaluate activist media strategies

  • Debate the benefits and drawbacks of specific activist media strategies

  • Describe, discuss and evaluate the potentials of new media for activist groups

  • Synthesize and evaluate a range of arguments and theories about social activists’ media use and portrayal; analyze and explain the portrayal of social activism in traditional media

  • Discuss the social activists’ use of media to challenge symbolic/cultural forms

  • Discuss the relationship between new trends in social activism and state power

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course materials are available via Avenue to Learn.  Some readings may be accessed through a link provided or as a pdf, and others will require that you log on through the library system in order to access the journal.

Method of Assessment:

Assignment guidelines will be provided at the start of the semester and posted to Avenue to Learn. Due dates are posted below.


Discussion and group work is central to this course. Students are expected to attend class regularly. Participation means coming to class having read the assigned readings, contributing to class discussions, and participating in class exercises and group work. Absenteeism, chronic lateness, and non-participation will affect the final grade. Students are responsible for the following each week: 1) completing the required readings; 2) coming to class with two questions and/or perspectives that you would like to discuss; and, 3) being prepared to present these questions and perspectives in class.

IN-CLASS SHOW + TELL (5%) DUE: September 26

On September 26 we’ll take reflective pause and assess, explore, and discuss broad examples of social activism and the media. Students will employ the theoretical terms and frameworks explored during the first few weeks of class in the ‘showing and telling’ of one artifact that, in their opinion, constitutes ‘social activism and the media’. The guideline for the in-class activity will be provided and discussed during the first class.


Students will write an evocative reflection on the example they brought to class on September 26. The guideline for the assignment will be provided and discussed during the first class.

GROUP PRESENTATION (20%) DUE: Starting October 3

Each week, a group of 3-4 students will lead and moderate a discussion on the readings, incorporating historical and/or contemporary examples that illustrate some of the main ideas, themes or concepts pulled from the readings. This will be followed by an in-class activity designed and led by the group. Each group will submit a one-page summary of their presentation topic. The guideline for group presentations will be provided and discussed at length during the first class.

PROJECT PROPOSAL (10%) DUE: October 30

Students will submit a proposal for their final course project. On October 17st, students will bring 3 copies of their draft proposal to class for peer review. The guideline for the project proposal will be provided at the start of the semester.

PROJECT PRESENTATION (10%) DUE: November 28th / December 5th

Students will present to the class their research project (in-process) in a Pecha Kucha format on November 28th or December 5th. The presentation schedule will be set mid-term. This is an means for students to receive feedback as they work towards project completion. Guidelines will be provided at the start of the semester.

FINAL PROJECT (20%) DUE: December 12th

Students will have an opportunity to produce a research exposé or a hybrid research project. The guidelines for the final project will be provided at the start of the semester.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day, including weekends and holidays. Assignments not handed in within one week (7 days) of the due date will receive a 0 grade. E-mailed assignments will not be accepted. Extensions will be given only for documented reasons. A technical difficulty (network outages, hardware or software malfunctions, data loss) does not warrant an extension. Please keep this in mind. Plan accordingly and maintain back-up copies of work.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Integrity

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. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

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. 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:

  • plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  • improper collaboration in group work.
  • copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Authenticity / Plagiarism Detection

Some courses may use a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. For courses using such software, students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and/or hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

Courses with an On-Line Element

Some courses use on-line elements (e.g. e-mail, Avenue to Learn (A2L), LearnLink, web pages, capa, Moodle, ThinkingCap, etc.). Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of a course using these elements, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in a course that uses on-line elements will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Online Proctoring

Some courses may use online proctoring software for tests and exams. This software may require students to turn on their video camera, present identification, monitor and record their computer activities, and/or lockdown their browser during tests or exams. This software may be required to be installed before the exam begins.

Conduct Expectations

As a McMaster student, you have the right to experience, and the responsibility to demonstrate, respectful and dignified interactions within all of our living, learning and working communities. These expectations are described in the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (the "Code"). All students share the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment for the academic and personal growth of all McMaster community members, whether in person or online.

It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g. use of Avenue 2 Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery), will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy.

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.

Request for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work
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".

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances (RISO)

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

Copyright and Recording

Students are advised that lectures, demonstrations, performances, and any other course material provided by an instructor include copyright protected works. The Copyright Act and copyright law protect every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including lectures by University instructors.

The recording of lectures, tutorials, or other methods of instruction may occur during a course. Recording may be done by either the instructor for the purpose of authorized distribution, or by a student for the purpose of personal study. Students should be aware that their voice and/or image may be recorded by others during the class. Please speak with the instructor if this is a concern for you.

Extreme Circumstances

The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster email.

Topics and Readings:

Tuesday, September 5, 2016 - Introduction To The Course


Zenger, J., and Folkman, J. (2016 July 14). What great listeners actually do. Harvard Business Review. Online:

Tuesday, September 12, 2016 - Social Activism, The Media, And Communication Technologies


Martin, Brian. (2007). Activism, social and political. In Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr (eds.), Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. (pp.19-27). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Online:

To explore:

Tactical Tech. The Info-Activism How-To Guide. Online:

FLOSS Manuals. (2014). Tech Tools For Activists. Online:

Tuesday, September 19, 2016 - Social Movements: An Introduction


Staggenborg, Suzanne. (2008). ‘Introduction’ & ‘Issues in the study of social movements and collective action’. In Social Movements. (pp. 1-10, 23, 26-42). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johnston, Hank. (2014). What do social movements do? In What is a social movement? (pp. 94-117). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Tuesday, September 26, 2016 - Show + Tell


Tuesday, October 3, 2016 - Truth, Reconciliation & Decolonization in Theory & Practice


Bloom, Liza Minno., Carnine, Berkley. (2016 October 4). Towards Decolonization and Settler Responsibility. Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. Online:

Residential Schools. (2015 October 7). Canadaland. Available: 

Wiart, Nikki. (2015 June 23). Crowd-sourced video project aims to make TRC report more accessible. CBC News. Online:

To explore:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

Bascaramurty, Dakshana. (2017 July 1). ‘A horrible history’: Four Indigenous views on Canada 150. The Globe & Mail. Online:

Tuesday, October 17, 2016 - Culture Jamming: From Anti-Globalization To Corporatized Cultural Activism


Harold, Christine. (2004). Pranking rhetoric: “Culture jamming” as media activism. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 21(3), 189-211.

To explore:

#newsbrok.(2016). White Fragility Workplace Training Video:

Whitford, Emma. (2015 April 27). Black Lives Matter protesters stock Forever 21 with ‘Never 21’ t-shirts. Gothamist. Online:

Klein, Naomi. (2017 April 12). How to Jam the Trump Brand. The Intercept. Online:

Tuesday, October 24, 2016 - DIY Cultural Production, and The [Contested] Legacy of Feminist Zines


Atton, Chris. (2011). Zines. In John D.H. Downing (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. (pp. 565-567). London: Sage. PDF

Zobl, Elke. (2009). Cultural production, transnational networking, and critical reflection in feminist zines. Signs, 35(1), 1-12.

To explore:

Hanna, Kathleen. (1991). History is a weapon: Riot Grrrl manifesto. Bikki Kill Zine 2.

‘Anti-Oppression Zines’. Sprout Distro. Online:

Tuesday, October 31, 2016 - Digital Activism in Focus: #IdleNoMore


Barker, Adam J. (2015). ‘A Direct Act of Resurgence, a Direct Act of Sovereignty’: Reflections on Idle No More, Indigenous Activism, and Canadian Settler Colonialism. Globalizations, 12:1, 43-65.

Coulthard, Glen. (2014 December 24). #IdleNoMore in Historical Context. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Online:

To explore:

Idle No More:

Tuesday, November 7, 2016 - Digital Civil Disobedience: Data Hacks, Data Dumps, and the Ethics of Data Publicity


Züger, Theresa., and Milan, Stefania. (2015). Sand in the information society machine: How digital technologies change and challenge the paradigms of civil disobedience. The Fibreculture Journal, 26. Online:

To explore:


Tuesday, November 14, 2016 - Activist Spaces: The Dakota Access Pipeline + Standing Rock


Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. (2015). Settler Colonialism as structure: A framework for comparative studies of U.S. race and gender formation. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1), 54-74.

Estes, Nick. (2016 September 18). Fighting for Our Lives: #NoDAPL in Historical Context. The Red Nation. Online:

To explore:

Standing Rock:

Tuesday, November 21, 2016 - Black Lives Matter: A Movement Unfolding


Rickford, Russell. (2015 December 28). Black Lives Matter: Toward a modern practice of mass struggle. New Labor Forum. Online:

Simpson, Leanne. (2014 December 4). An Indigenous View on #BlackLivesMatter. Yes! Magazine. Online:

To explore:

The Equal Justice Initiative. (2016). From slavery to mass incarceration. Online:

Roose, Kevin. (2015 July 21). The next time someone says ‘all lives matter,’ show them these 5 paragraphs. Online:

Tuesday, November 28, 2016 - Project Presentations

Schedule to be determined.

Tuesday, December 5, 2016 - Project Presentations

Schedule to be determined.