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Master of Arts in Media Studies

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  • Objectives
    The Master of Arts in Media Studies provides for the advanced study of the cultural and social aspects of media and communication. It is designed to serve both media artists and professionals seeking to develop a critical understanding of their practice as well as students seeking to become scholars and researchers. The program offers a wide range of courses, with particular emphasis upon cultural studies, the form and institutional context of media, and the theory and philosophy of communication.
  • Academic Title
    Master of Arts in Media Studies
  • Course description
    Program Options

    Option A. Master of/Magisteriate in Arts with Thesis (Option I)


    Candidates are required to take the following:

    1. 9 credits: COMS 600: Communication Theory; COMS 605: Media Research Methods I; COMS 608: History of Media.

    2. 15 credits, chosen in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and approved by the department's graduate studies committee. If approved by the department's graduate studies committee, and with the permission of the department concerned, up to 9 of these credits may be taken in cognate graduate courses offered by other departments of the university

    3. 21 credits, COMS 695: Thesis.

    Option B. Master of/Magisteriate in Arts with Courses (Option II)


    Candidates are required to take the following:

    1. 9 credits: COMS 600: Communication Theory; COMS 605: Media Research Methods I; COMS 608: History of Media.

    2. 36 credits, chosen in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and approved by the department's graduate studies committee. If approved by the department's graduate studies committee, and with the permission of the department concerned, up to 9 of these credits may be taken in cognate graduate courses offered by other departments of the university

    Option C. Master of/Magisteriate in Arts with Project (Option III)

    Candidates are required to take the following:

    1. 9 credits: COMS 600: Communication Theory; COMS 605: Media Research Methods I; COMS 608: History of Media.

    2. 15 credits, chosen in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and approved by the department's graduate studies committee. If approved by the department's graduate studies committee, and with the permission of the department concerned, up to 9 of these credits may be taken in cognate graduate courses offered by other departments of the university

    3. 21 credits, COMS 697: Project.

    All courses are worth 3 credits.

    COMS 600 Communication Theory


    This seminar studies and evaluates the major historical and contemporary approaches to communication theory. The following approaches are covered: Processes and Effects, Functionalism; Symbolism and Cultural Studies; Institutional Studies and Political Economy.

    COMS 605 Media Research Methods I


    This seminar prepares students to critique literature from any of the major research traditions; to make basic connections between epistemology and problems of basic communication research; to be able to identify the research method most appropriate to personal areas of interest; to design a basic research project.

    COMS 606 Media Research Practicum

    This course is an individual research practicum offered on a tutorial basis under faculty supervision. It may be used to develop advanced skills in a particular media research methodology. For students enrolled in the thesis or project options, this course is used to develop the analytic or creative research program necessary to accomplish the thesis or project. Prerequisite: COMS 605 and permission of the Graduate Program Director.

    COMS 608 History of Media


    This seminar examines the development of communications technology and the media in a comparative and historical perspective. Topics include the transition from orality to literacy, the print revolution, the rise of new image technologies and the mass press in the nineteenth century, electronic media and the modern nation-state, global information, and the emergence of a world media system.

    COMS 614 News and Public Affairs


    This seminar examines the principles and discourses of news and public affairs media. The truth-value of news and public affairs programming is considered in the light of selectivity of reporting, changes in news formats, and the emergence of "infotainment." Topics may include institutional structures, organizational routines, ideologies, and norms of representation that influence the construction of the news. Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 611, 612 or 655 may not take this course for credit.

    COMS 622 Media Law

    This seminar examines legislation relevant to the creation and distribution of media products. Topics may include copyright, libel, freedom of expression and censorship, privacy and contracts.

    COMS 624 Media Management


    The course is designed to provide participants with a practical and theoretical understanding of such aspects of management in the media enterprise as: leadership styles; goal setting; strategic planning; labour relations; ethics; budget control; communications consulting; and effectiveness evaluation. During the course participants will examine various practices and problems in media management. The course begins with an analysis of management theory an relates to media institutions organizations. In addition, the program provides for advanced study of the social and cultural implications of communications and informations media, and of the analysis of the theory and professional practices of mass media institutions.

    COMS 627 Political Economy of Communication

    This seminar focuses on issues and problems related to media and cultural industries. Special attention is given to the production and distribution of cultural commodities. Topics for examination include the question of media ownership, the role of state agencies in media systems, and the economics of media institutions. Students who have received credit for COMS 626 may not take this course for credit.

    COMS 628 Organizational Communication

    This seminar considers major approaches to organizational communication, particularly as they relate to media enterprises. Various paradigms are considered both as theoretical frames and as forms of social practice that have emerged in relation to shifting patterns of power, inequality, and technological change. Topics may include communication networks, organizational culture, the nature of bureaucracy, systematically distorted communication, gendered communication, the impact of new communication technologies, and patterns of organizational domination and resistance.

    COMS 630 Communication, Development, and Colonialism

    This seminar focuses on theoretical, and political issues related to interpersonal and mediated communication in developing areas. Topics may include: the forms of colonialism (neo- and post-) cultural domination, participatory development, women and minority constituency groups, sustainable development, and globalization.

    COMS 632 Media and Contemporary Culture


    This seminar investigates the influence of contemporary media systems on cultural values. Special attention is given to the question of consumption of popular culture and to recent developments in cultural theory. Topics may include: media constructions of nation and identity, media consumption patterns, political culture, popular and entertainment culture.

    COMS 634 International Communication

    This course explores the manner in which culture, ethnicity and other factors interact and are transformed through the international flow of information, images, and technologies. The international relationship between media, communication institutions, and constituency groups is considered. Topics may include: the analysis of genres and images, issues of cultural and media imperialism, the global information infrastructure; national sovereignty perspectives, and international broadcasting.

    COMS 635 Feminist Theory and Media

    This seminar examines concepts and principles from feminist theory in relation to the study of media and communication. Topics may include: theories of gender, sex and sexuality, psychoanalytic theory, materialist cultures, bodies and geographies, technologies, and visual cultures. Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 642A may not take this course for credit.

    COMS 636 Ethics and Media


    This seminar examines concepts and principles from ethical theory in relation to the study of media and communication. Possible topics include the ethical implications of media practices, the responsibility of media producers and audiences, the relationship of ethics to the pragmatics of communication, ethics and ethos, and the ethical implications of technology. Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 620 may not take this course for credit.

    COMS 640

    Directed Study Students may enroll in a directed study under faculty supervision in order to undertake a specialized study of theoretical or research-related topics. Permission of the Graduate Program Director is required.

    COMS 642

    Special Topics in Media Studies This seminar permits the in-depth examination of particular special topics in media and communication. Topics will vary from year to year.

    COMS 644 Media Policy

    This seminar studies particular sectors of media policy and regulation in Canada. The policy sector under discussion may change from year to year and both historical and contemporary issues will be examined. Topics may include: broadcasting, film, satellite and cable distribution, multiculturalism, northern and remote access, telecommunications, and the internet.

    COMS 646 Alternative Media

    This seminar explores various alternative and resistant practices to mainstream media, including community radio and television, artists and community video, independent film, underground/pirate media, the internet, and other emergent cultural forms. Topics may include: practices and theories of the alternative, methods of critical analysis, media monopolies, democracy and resistance, cultural imperialism, culture jamming, and the possibilities of new technology-based forms.

    COMS 652 The Canadian Documentary

    This course examines non-fiction film, television and other media in Canada. Materials considered may include the documentary work of the National Film Board, independent film and video, and television docu-drama. These are examined from a variety of perspectives such as history, form and textuality, institutional analysis, and culture.

    COMS 656 Forms and Genres in Communication


    This seminar examines specific patterns in cultural forms and texts. Attention is paid to the production, consumption, and textual attributes of genres. Topics vary from year to year, and may include a focus on advertising, public advocacy, documentary, popular music, situation comedy, or feminist feature film.

    COMS 660 Definitions and Futures of Media and Technology


    This seminar explores the social, cultural, and psychological aspects of media and technology. Media are considered as both containers and expressions of culture. In addition, this seminar focuses on the impacts of new technologies and media. Topics may include the interaction of media and culture, the role of technology in the development of human consciousness and values, and the future of media in the light of emergent technologies and practices. Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 643 or COMS 658 may not take this course for credit.

    COMS 662 Theories of Representation and Interpretation in Communication

    This course examines discourse and media texts as forms of representation. Representation is considered in terms of both figure and argument. The course also presents theoretically informed approaches to the interpretation and criticism of discourses and media texts. Possible theoretical approaches include rhetoric, semiotics, hermeneutics, and speech-act theory.

    COMS 670 Directed Study


    Students may enroll in a directed study under faculty supervision in order to undertake a specialized study of theoretical or research-related topics. Permission of the Graduate Program Director is required.

    COMS 680 Aesthetics and Media

    This seminar examines concepts and principles from aesthetic theory in relation to the study of media and communication. In addition to considering general aesthetic principles, the course may focus on particular aural or visual media. Topics may include the relationship of medium to aesthetic form, aesthetics and reception theory, aesthetics and ideology, the mass reproduction and distribution of aesthetic objects, and the aesthetics of new media.

    COMS 684 Media Research Laboratory

    This production-based seminar explores the intersections of analog, electronic and digital media with a special emphasis on their convergence. Topics may include digital imaging, multimedia information design and programming, three dimensional media, virtual reality, world-wide-web, hypertext and hypermedia publishing.

    COMS 695 Thesis (21 credits)

    Near the end of course work completion, a thesis director is selected by the student or appointed by the Graduate Program Director. The thesis topic and research plan are put into a formal proposal and submitted to a Thesis committee and the Graduate Program Director for approval. The thesis is submitted in written form and is between 20,000 and 30,000 words in length. The thesis format must be commensurate with Graduate Studies regulations and in a format stipulated by the rules of the Thesis Office. The thesis is defended in an oral examination.

    COMS 697 Project (21 credits)

    Students choosing Option III may prefer to do a special project that employs one or more media. Normally this would have a creative and/or documentary intent. Near the end of course work completion, a Project supervisor is selected by the student or appointed by the Graduate Program Director. The Project topic and research plan are put into a formal proposal and submitted to a Project Committee and the Graduate Program Director for approval. Upon completion, the Project is submitted in whatever media form/s are appropriate to the Project's goals. The Project is supported by a written report, approximately 6000-8000 words, which is a reflective and critical commentary on the process of bringing the project to completion. This may include the methods, theories, history of the project, literatures or media reviewed, or other areas deemed necessary by the student and the student's Project Committee. The project is defended in an oral examination. Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 696 may not take this course for credit.

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