Political Communication II.

ECTS Credits: 
Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

The course is an alternative of Political Communication I (course offered in the 2nd half of the Fall Term) with a bigger focus on the topic of 'misinformation'. 

This MA-level course provides an overview of the main topics, approaches, and methodologies in the study of political communication. It explores the range of actors involved in political communication and how the information flows between them matter for democratic politics.
We critically examine key concepts used in lay and academic discussions to identify problems, causes and consequences in the political communication domain such as democratic performance of the media, media vs. political logic, mediatization, public sphere, media system characteristics, pluralism, polarization, fragmentation, information quality, political bias, accuracy, media effects, agenda setting, priming, framing, gatekeeping.

Each week we shall disentangle the interactions between citizens, mass media, and political actors in the production, transmission, and reception of political messages with a different analytical focus, which is indicated in the topic description for the week. We look at how these interactions depend on the characteristics of each of the three, and on contextual, societal and political differences. We will reflect on how these issues travel to the digital environment and how the changes brought by the internet link up to the fundamental questions about how citizens can make sense of politics and relate to democratic political processes.

The course provides students with a postgraduate-level understanding of:

  • selected concepts and research methods in political communication, political market-ing, and election campaign studies;
  • current techniques used by political and social actors in traditional media as well as online political communication; and
  • critical perspectives on and issues in political communication, political marketing, and election campaigns.

The course will alternate short lectures, students’ presentations, and exercises, and will link big theoretical and normative questions with real world examples.
Class participation is essential as interactivity and learning from each other are at the core of what should be an enjoyable and not just useful experience. Active participation involves comments and questions based on the required literature, the lecture, and the presentations.
Attendance is your responsibility but class participation is likely to be essential for the suc-cessful completion of the course not least because the final exam paper will include topics discussed in class but not covered by the mandatory readings.

The attached syllabus is provisional.
The readings, including the mandatory ones will be revised following the experience in the Fall course (Political Communication I).

At all times, the most up-to-date version of the syllabus shall be posted on the e-learning site. Further recommended readings for specific topics will be provided throughout the course, including scholarly review articles, classic and state-of-the art research papers, and theoretically or practically relevant non-academic works when appropriate.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • Appropriate level understanding and critical review of the social science literature in the field of political communication.
  • Conceptual frames and research skills for the analysis of political communication; ability to assess a range of theories and methods
  • Foundations to compare and contrast the role and impact of media and communica-tion in politics and political processes in different settings
  • Skills to identify and analyze media framing and agenda setting as well as campaign and information effects on public opinion
  • Apply theories and methods to developments and issues not specifically covered by the course

35 % - Presentations
Students need to give a presentation on a topic to be covered in class based on background / recommended readings, internet searches, and the required readings. Clear guidelines for preparing and delivering these presentations will be discussed during the first class of the course. Students need to prepare handouts for the presentations. Handouts will represent 50% of the grade on presentations, and final revised versions have to be submitted before the end of the term.
Late submission policy – Materials not received before the class following the deadlines an-nounced on e-learning cannot be submitted later unless there is a compelling and documented reason.

15 % - Class participation
Grading will take into consideration the active and meaningful participation of students in class discussions. It is essential that you make your contributions in a constructive way, based on a careful and critical reading of all required materials, and facilitating that everyone in class gets involved in a civil and focused discussion.

10 % - Exercises
Individual and group exercises will be assigned for some of the classes. The frequency and content of the exercises depends on the number of students registered. The aim of the exer-cises is to apply key concepts from readings and cases presented in class to similar examples and real-life problems that students should be able to critically analyze. Detailed instructions for exercises will be given prior to the tasks.

40% Final exam (in-class open book)
The exam will include 1) a few questions that require very brief answers on definitions or basic concepts and 2) one question that refers to more than one concept. For the analytical question the answer is supposed to be a concise, well written essay (you can use examples in the essay that are not only based on the assigned readings). Your answer will have to incorpo-rate a tight argument while evaluating different positions from the scholarly literature.
The final exam will take place in week 12.


Required preliminary readings
To ensure that we have a basic common ground in class, please make sure you understand well the topics and concepts in the following readings, which you can consult at your own pace:

  • Sparks, Glenn G. 2016. Media Effects Research: A Basic Overview (5th edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
  • McNair, Brian. 2017. Introduction to Political Communication (3rd edition). London: Routledge.
  • Curran, James. ed. 2010. Media and society (5th edition). London: Bloomsbury.