NCSU Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media (CRDM) program

COM701::History and Theory of Communication Technology
Instructor: Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva




Class schedule






Contact information:
Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva
Assistant Professor
NCSU Department of Communication

Class meetings:
Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Winston 017

Credit hours: 3

Class website:

Course locker:

Winston 104

Office hours:
By appointment.


Catalog Description:
Intensive study of the evolution of communication systems and of essential historical, theoretical, and critical accounts of such systems and their implications. Foundation course for doctoral study.


Course Description:
Historical and theoretical perspectives on technological change and its social implications provide a foundation for intensive study and critical analysis of new communication technologies. A grasp of the social, political and economic contexts in which technologies emerge allows the student to discern the way culture both shapes and is shaped by information and communication technologies. Course topics are thus chosen to broadly acquaint students with key historical moments in the history of technology. They provide a framework in which early theorizations of media and technology are studied to enrich current understanding of the Internet, mobile and wireless technologies as new media. The course also provides grounding in a range of theorizations to give the student a broad overview of the multiplicity of approaches and methods that can aid investigations of technological change in social contexts. These include concepts such as mobility, hybridity of spaces, interfaces, database, information and materiality.

This graduate seminar explores new media as agents of change in cultural, social, and spatial infrastructures. By remembering that every media was once new, and that we need new theory to conceptualize new media, students will investigate how the emergence of new interfaces change communication relationships, information dissemination, reading practices, and consequently the way we think about the world and ourselves. Having in mind that each media reflects old media, but also brings up the new, one must learn how to critically think about each new medium by taking into consideration its specific characteristics.

In the first part of the course, we will study from a philosophical and historical perspective some main concepts necessary to understand new media, such as mobility, space, interface and information. A global understanding of these concepts will help us to theorize new media in the contemporary society. The second part of the course is dedicated to exploring old forms of media as new media, such as the printing press, 19th century technologies, and mass media. We will look at how every media causes and reflects social, spatial, and cultural shifts. Lastly, we will address current and emerging forms of new media, such as the web, electronic texts, gaming, and mobile technologies.


Course objectives:
Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify key historical and theoretical developments in the evolution of communication technologies;
  • Identity communication media not only as the message transmitted, but also as the material interfaces in which the information is inscribed;
  • Demonstrate how communication interfaces change social, cultural, and communication practices;
  • Expand the concept of communication media by defining and theorizing what new media is;
  • Demonstrate historical understanding of technological development in social and political contexts by its integration into critical discussion and written analyses of old and new media;
  • Demonstrate critical insight and analytical skills in a long-term research project utilizing one or more of the theoretical approaches to understanding the socio-cultural implications of technological change.


Course Components and Grading:
Sources database (wiki): 10 points
Weekly blog posts: 10 points
Text presentations: 20 points
Final paper: 50 points
Final presentation: 10 points

I will be grading on the University's A+/F scale, as follows:

  • 97-100 = A+
  • 93-96 = A
  • 90-92 = A-
  • 87-89 = B+
  • 83-86 = B
  • 80-82 = B-
  • 77-79 = C+
  • 73-76 = C
  • 70-72 = C-
  • 67-69 = D+
  • 63-66 = D
  • 60-62 = D-
  • below = F


Course policies:

As this is a graduate level course, I won’t be taking attendance every class. However, I expect that you come to every meeting and act as an active participant in the class discussions. The success of a seminar type class depends on the level of participation and involvement of the students. Participation entails not only attending the class but coming prepared having done all the readings, having made an honest attempt at understanding the author’s argument, and bringing reading notes and questions you’d like to ask. Should you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get notes and explanations from a classmate.

One of the premises that make a good researcher is the level of curiosity and independence that you achieve in your research work. As a graduate a student, I expect you to be interested in and curious about the topic, and not expecting me to tell you step by step what to do. Part of your grade depends on your creativity and ability to look for outside sources and information by yourself. I am here to guide you, not to give you all the answers.


Course structure and Evaluation
This course is run as a seminar. Learning in a seminar format depends upon preparation and involvement by the students as well as the professor. Therefore, it is very important that you not only read the assigned material, but also that you critically examine and interrogate it. The following questions should help you to do so:

  • What are the main ideas and concepts of the text?
  • How does this text connect with other readings in the course, class discussions, as well as with relevant outside materials?
  • To what extent does this text allow me to understand media in general and new media in particular? How does it apply to practical ventures/my own experience?
  • What doesn’t make sense to me? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this text?

Each class, one student will be responsible for presenting the texts and leading class discussion. As the text discussion is also part of your presentation grade, you are also responsible for your colleague’s grade (as she or he is responsible for yours). So coming to class prepared to answer and ask questions is a fundamental part of this assignment.

A general task to be performed along the course is the development of a database of sources (scholarly and non-scholarly) about history and theory of communication technologies. You need to bring in newspaper /magazine clippings, ads, web pages, exhibit announcements, video clips, or any other artifact you may run across that in relate to the issues raised in the readings for that class period. Each student should plan on bringing at least one source each week. A digital version of you source should be posted on the class wiki. If your source is a website, you can link the URL.


Class Evaluation
Online class evaluations will be available for students to complete during the last two weeks of class. Students will receive an email message directing them to a website where they can login using their Unity ID and complete evaluations. All evaluations are confidential; instructors will never know how any one student responded to any question, and students will never know the ratings for any particular instructors.

Evaluation website:
Student help desk:
More information about ClassEval:


Policy Statements

Academic integrity
Students are bound by academic integrity policy as stated in NCSU Code of Student Conduct:

Students are required to uphold the university pledge of honor and exercise honesty in completing every assignment. Instructors may require students to write the Honor’s Pledge on every exam and assignment and to sign or type their name after the pledge. (“I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment.”).

A student shall be guilty of a violation of academic integrity if he or she:

  • Represents the work of others as your own;
  • Obtains assistance in any academic work from another individual in a situation in which you are expected to perform independently;
  • Gives assistance to another individual in a situation in which that individual is expected to perform independently;
  • Offers false data in support of laboratory or field work.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is an act of deceit that is taken very seriously by the Department of Communication and by the University. Plagiarism is writing using someone's works -- be it word or ideas -- without giving her or him credit. If you are found plagiarizing you risk failure and even more stringent disciplinary actions. This is particularly important with web-based materials. If you use someone else's image/words/audio, you must give appropriate credit. For an extended explanation of plagiarism, please go to: 

If you are in doubt regarding any matter relating to the standards of academic integrity in this course or on an assignment, consult with me before presenting the work. By submitting an assignment to be evaluated, you are certifying that you have not received unauthorized help on assignment.


Adverse Weather
Read the complete adverse weather policy for more info: . Check email, news, the NCSU home page, or call 513-8888 for the latest information.


Students with disabilities
Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515-7653 For more information on NC State’s policy on working with students with disabilities, please see the Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Regulation (REG02.20.1) at


Electronic Hosted Course Components
Students may be required to disclose personally identifiable information to other students in the course, via electronic tools like email or web postings, where relevant to the course. Examples include online discussions of class topics, and posting of student coursework. All students are expected to respect the privacy of each other by not sharing or using such information outside the course.


Anti-Discrimination Statement
NC State University provides equality of opportunity in education and employment for all students and employees. Accordingly, NC State affirms its commitment to maintain a work environment for all employees and an academic environment for all students that is free from all forms of discrimination. Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, creed, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or sexual orientation is a violation of state and federal law and/or NC State University policy and will not be tolerated. Harassment of any person (either in the form of quid pro quo or creation of a hostile environment) based on color, religion, sex, creed, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or sexual orientation is also a violation of state and federal law and/or NC State University policy and will not be tolerated. Retaliation against any person who complains about discrimination is also prohibited. NC State’s policies and regulations covering discrimination, harassment, and retaliation may be accessed at or . Any person who feels that he or she has been the subject of prohibited discrimination, harassment, or retaliation should contact the Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) at 515-3148.



Student resources:
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