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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Philip Edward Howard
POL S 468
Seattle Campus

Comparative Media Systems

Provides students an understanding of policies that shape national communication processes and systems. Uses comparative analysis to identify both similarities and differences among media structures of nations at different levels of development. Primary emphasis on broadcast media. Offered: jointly with COM 420/JSIS B 419.

Class description

Communication patterns around the world are being reconfigured by digital and social media. Public policy shapes the innovation of new media technologies, the organization of cultural production, and the diffusion of global media. At the same time, public policy makers themselves need communication strategies, because global media can make or break new regulatory ideas and can be a source of feedback on existing public policy. New communication technologies such as blogs, online communities, and social media have an impact on public opinion and traditional print and broadcast media have a changing role in political discourse. Today, digital media has a key role in shaping our economic, political and cultural lives.

The range of phenomena studied across the social and policy sciences is impressive: the global information economy, the organizational behavior of firms, and the dot-com boom; the structure of the world system, the bureaucratic efficiency of states, the international politics of technical standards; cultural production and consumption, intercultural communication, and ownership diversity of digital media systems. The use of new ICTs, such as mobile phones and the internet, is also being studied in different contexts, from small and local organizational field sites such as work places, households, and schools, to large institutions such as states, firms, social movements and justice systems. In addition, there are new social forms of organization in cyberspace, forms of organization that help define and indeed constitute information societies.

We will critically explore the concepts often used in discussions of contemporary international political economy, including “network society”, “digital divide,” and “information society”. We will also review the theories of modernization, dependency, and underdevelopment that have been used to understand the problems and prospects of development. Case studies from around the world will be used wherever possible. Students will have significant freedom to develop their own research interests through a paper on a topic of their own choosing. Through diverse readings, students will also learn about the various methodologies for understanding global media and communication.

What is an information society? How do well do these theories—proposed to help explain transitions from agrarian to industrial society and the evolution of late industrial capitalism—help explain the network society, open society or information society? Is e-government a straightforward means of building state capacity and further rationalizing public bureaucracies, or are there signs of a deeper transformation in the institution of the state? What is the role of blogs, wikis and other digital media systems in the culture and news diets of people living in authoritarian regimes? While the role of mobile phones and the internet in democratic movements has been feted from Iqaluit to Indonesia, no political revolution has occurred because of the internet. But today, are democratic transitions possible without it? How has the international high tech sector been structured to limit the types of technology production and consumption in different countries? If there are persistent international institutions for extracting natural resource wealth from poor countries, do these institutions have a similar role in extracting information, innovation, or ingenuity from poor countries?

To cover and debate themes we will use a range of digital video, audio and textual artifacts, including interactive Prezis, discussion boards, and streaming content.

Student learning goals

Course Goals and Objectives


By the end of the class, student will be able to:

to understand the role of new media communication tools in local, national, and regional development; to understand core concepts of political economy, media development, and technology diffusion; to understand the strengths of comparative research and apply the comparative method to the study of media systems. Course learning objectives

By the end of the class, student will be able to:

design a small research project and collect data, assess its quality, and manipulate it; prepare an original, high-impact digital presentation; and manage real working relationships under tight deadlines.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Philip Edward Howard
Date: 03/31/2014