Communication and Cultural Studies

This course will focus on the interrelated areas of communication theory and cultural studies with a specific emphasis on the influence of Roman Jakobson’s formulation of the model of communication and its functions on the analysis of decoding practices (the full range of which span aberrant to hegemonic) in cultural studies. The study of decoding practices is at the heart of cultural studies. I will emphasize the Birmingham school tradition as it is represented through the significant contributions of Stuart Hall and Dick Hebdige, among others, but also include reflections on the work of John Fiske and John Hartley in which Jakobson’s work was used to flag a move beyond content analysis in studies of television. The communication component of this course will limit itself to questions concerning cybernetic and poetic models with attention resting on their critique by Jean Baudrillard and their semiotic complexification by Umberto Eco. The more general goal of the course is to investigate how models of communication have served cultural studies in its diverse theoretical and political (Gramscian) expressions of decoding practices in the now familiar process of sub-cultural creativity involving borrowing-redefinition-relocation. This will be brought into contemporary focus through issues around the production of locality in the context of studies of globalization. The cybernetic model serves both as background to modelling communication as such and introduces questions around the conditions required for successfully encoding and decoding technical as opposed to semantic signals and signs, but also provides a context in which I will suggest that cultural studies has, like cybernetics, something of a military flavour at or near its origins, and that this persists today in the tactical countermeasures of culture jammers and the new Situationists of alternative youth culture.