Communication 327: Communication & Technology
Pleasants 320, T. & Th. 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Professor Richter: 119 Pleasants Hall, 362-6358
Office Hrs.: W. 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Th. 10:30 a.m. -noon;
and by appointment.

Course Description
This course explores the interrelated development of communication technologies and the ways that we think, write, talk about, and regulate them. The perspective is partly historical, but also provides a basis for critical assessment of current and future technological development in the "information age".

Course Objectives
Upon successfully completing the course, you should: 1) be familiar with the history of the development of such communication technologies as the telegraph, telephone, radio & television; 2) have a grasp of theoretical explanations of such technological development that emphasize communication processes and institutions; 3) be familiar with current issues in development of new communication technologies; and 4) be able to apply your historical and theoretical knowledge in examining these new or emerging communication technologies.


Electronic Resources





Required Texts
Marvin, C. 1988. When old technologies were new: Thinking about electric communication in the late nineteenth century. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Douglas, S. J. 1987. Inventing American broadcasting: 1899-1922 Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press

You are required to subscribe to & regularly read The New York Times. You are also expected to read other news periodicals, watch network news or CNN, and/or listen to news reports on National Public Radio (NPR)

Electronic Resources
(Links may be added to this list during the term)

Communication Technology Forum

Journal of Computer Mediated Communication
Media History Project

Assignments & Point Distribution

Two take-home exams
(midterm 15%; final 20%)


Historical report


Modern tech scrapbook & report



(Rough draft 5%, final paper 15%)




 Below are brief descriptions of assignments. More details will be presented on the web and in class.

Take-Home Exams: Essay questions will draw on your knowledge of the texts and class discussions. The first exam will be concerned with Marvin's book and relevant discussion; the second will primarily deal with Douglas' book and relevant discussion, but will also require some comparison with Marvin.

Historical Report: Each person will be assigned a specific time and a specific technology to be researched from primary sources (newspapers & magazines from that time period) and secondary sources (compiled histories). Possible technologies include, telegraph, telephone, wireless, radio & television. You will present the report in class, and hand in a detailed outline and bibliography of all primary & secondary sources.

Modern Technology Scrapbook & Report: You will keep a scrapbook and journal of stories on "new" or emergent technologies and their effects that you find in recent media. This should certainly include news stories, but can also include print advertisements or commercials, humor or even fictional accounts. During the term you will define a set of issues from your journal for your report topic. You will present the report in class, and hand in a detailed outline, plus the scrapbook/journal.

Final Paper: 8 pages. Build on your historical and/or current report, adding additional information from primary and secondary sources, and a theoretically informed interpretation derived from class texts, discussions and other sources.

Participation: You will provide brief answers to weekly reading questions (see links at assignments in the schedule). Attendance, amount of participation and quality of participation will also figure in calculation of this grade (see Attendance Policies, below).

The grading scale for each assignment and for the final grade is based on a total of 100 points, as follows:

 90-100 %




















44 or lower


Attendance & Lateness: Regular attendance is expected. You are permitted two absences for the entire term. Choose them wisely: if you take more than two for any reason, your grade will be lowered. Attendance is required for the class in which we discuss historical library research techniques and for all historical and modern technology report days.

Late/Missing Assignments: the grade for any assignment handed in late will be lowered. Failure to hand in any individual assignment will result in a failing grade for the course.

Honor Code: As with all your courses at Hollins you are expected to be familiar with, and abide by, the student honor code, as laid out in the Student Handbook. In particular, pay attention to the definition of plagiarism. 


WEEK ONE: Feb. 1
Course Introduction
Assign scrapbook & Modern tech. reports

WEEK TWO: Feb. 6 & 8
READ: Marvin 3-62 (59)
Feb. 6: Assign historic report topics
Feb. 8: Library Historical Research Techniques ATTENDANCE REQUIRED

WEEK THREE: Feb. 13 & 15
READ: Marvin 63-108 (46)

WEEK FOUR: Feb. 20 & 22
READ: Marvin 109-151 (43)

WEEK FIVE: Feb. 27 & Mar. 1
READ: Marvin 152-190(39)
Paper Proposal due

WEEK SIX: Mar. 6 & 8
READ: Marvin 191-235 (45)

WEEK SEVEN: Mar. 13 & 15
Historical Reports
EXAM # ONE due: March 16 in my mailbox by 5:00 pm


WEEK EIGHT: Mar. 27 & 29
READ: Douglas xv-xxix; 1-60 (69)

WEEK NINE: Apr. 3 & 5
READ: Douglas 61-143 (82)
PAPER DRAFT & BIB. Due: April 9, 5:00 p.m. in my mailbox

WEEK TEN: April 10 & 12
READ: Douglas 144-215 (71)

WEEK ELEVEN: April 17 & 19
READ:Douglas 216-291 (75)

WEEK TWELVE: April 24 & 26
READ:Douglas 292-322 (30)

Modern Tech Reports & Scrapbook due May 3

WEEK 14: May 8
Modern Tech Reports cont'd.
Final paper due

EXAM #2 DUE in my mailbox 5:00 p.m., Friday May 11,