CMS.701 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Current Debates in Media

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course CMS.701 Current Debates in Media as it was taught by Dr. Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin in Spring 2015.

This class addresses important, current debates in media with in-depth discussion of popular perceptions and policy implications. Students engage in the critical study of the economic, political, social, and cultural significance of media, and learn to identify, analyze, and understand the complex relations among media texts, policies, institutions, industries, and infrastructures. The class offers the opportunity to discuss, in stimulating and challenging ways, topics such as ideology, propaganda, net neutrality, big data, digital hacktivism, digital rebellion, media violence, gamification, collective intelligence, participatory culture, intellectual property, artificial intelligence, etc., from historical, transcultural, and multiple methodological perspectives. Students examine the framing of these issues, their ethical and policy implications, as well as strategies for repositioning the debates.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  1. Demonstrate, through oral presentations, discussions, and written works, an understanding of the current debates in media
  2. Engage with complex ideas, opening up to different perspectives, and developing critical thinking skills
  3. Learn how to discriminate between reliable and unreliable sources of information
  4. Analyze cultural objects critically and situate this analysis in a particular theoretical framework
  5. Use the thesis/antithesis/synthesis method to build strong and nuanced argumentation

Instructor Insights

Below, Dr. Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin shares the pedagogical tools and methods she used to teach each session of CMS.701 Current Debates in Media.

► Session 1: Ideologies, Stereotypes, & Agency

Students worked in teams of 3-4 to create a conceptual map of different sections from Stuart Hall’s (2004) text “Culture, the Media and the ‘Ideological Effect’” with the help of the software CmapTools. The best conceptual maps were presented to the rest of the class.

► Session 2: Propaganda, Censorship, & Net Neutrality

Students were introduced to propaganda techniques and were asked to identify them in a series of images or videos.

► Session 3: Violence in Media and Video Games

Students worked in teams to prepare an argumentation for or against the idea that: 1) media violence is exaggerated, 2) more regulations should be implemented to control media violence and 3) violence in video games is more problematic than violence in films or television shows.

► Session 4: From Big Data to Big Brother: Surveillance and Privacy in the Information Age

Students worked in teams of 3-4 to identify rhetorical strategies in Google’s, Facebook’s, Twitter’s, Amazon’s, Netflix’s, Skype’s, Instagram’s, and YouTube’s Terms and Services that work ideologically to downplay privacy risks and make the users believe that decisions were made for their own good.

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► Session 5: Digital Hacktivism, Civil Disobedience, & Piracy

The cases of Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and Aaron Swartz were explored through online videos and class discussions.

► Session 6: Digital Rebellion, Direct Democracy, & Cyber Left

A guest speaker who was involved in an online resistance movement was invited to answer questions about the use of digital media as alternative media outlets, aggregators, emotional conduits and organizing tools, as well as questions about the obstacles to and disadvantages of online resistance. The conversation with the guest speaker was recorded and made available on the class website.

Session 7: GamerGate Controversy

After providing an overview of gender representations in video games, one student presented the perspective and arguments of the gamergaters, while another student presented the perspective and arguments of the female game designers and feminist scholars who were attacked by the gamergaters.

► Session 8: From Gamification to Gamepocalypse

An expert in gamification was invited to explain the concept and discuss issues such as surveillance, governmentality, disciplinary practices, techniques of the self, etc. The conversation with the guest speaker was recorded and made available to the students on the class website.

► Session 9: Socialization and Intimacy in Digital Environments

The software Mentimeter was used to interact with the students and ask their opinion on different issues about socialization and intimacy in digital environments.

► Session 10: Collective Intelligence versus the Expert Paradigm

After being introduced to the concept of collective intelligence and seeing how it applies to Wikipedia, students worked in teams of 3-4 to create a conceptual map of different sections from Jean Goodwin’s (2009) text “The Authority of Wikipedia” with the help of the software CmapTools. The best conceptual maps were presented to the rest of the class.

► Session 11: Participatory Culture, Intellectual Property, & Media Panic

Students were asked to find the most eloquent example of participatory culture before coming to class and post the link on the class website. After defining participatory culture and providing an overview of the debates around it, students worked in teams of 3-4 to determine whose example was the most relevant and shared their explanation with the rest of the class.

► Session 12: Artificial Intelligence, Posthumanism, & Technological Apocalypse

After introducing the concepts of artificial intelligence, machine learning and posthumanism, as well as the social context in which they developed, a series of technological innovations were presented to the students and our society’s fear of technological apocalypse were illustrated with movies such as Blade Runner, Her, and Transcendence.

Curriculum Information


CMS.100 Introduction to Media Studies

Requirements Satisfied



CMS.701 Current Debates in Media is offered intermittently.


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 15% Class participation
  • 35% Class presentation
  • 40% Dissertation
  • 10% Participation in the class project

Student Information


15 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly undergraduates

Breakdown by Major

Mostly majors and minors in comparative media studies

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met once per week for 3 hours per session; 14 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Each week, one student presented for 30 minutes on a media artifact or relevant event. Presentations were followed by a 20-minute period of questions and discussion, moderated by the student who presented.
  • For a detailed description of each session’s learning activities, please see Instructor Insights.

Out of Class

  • Preparation for class discussions by completing assigned readings and posting discussion questions/topics on the class forum
  • Preparation for a 30-minute presentation on a media artifact or a relevant event
  • Term paper on a current debate of the student’s choice
  • Collaboration on a media analysis project with classmates

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Audio
Lecture Notes
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights