Textbook: Revolutions in Communication, Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age,  ISBN-13: 978-1628924787 or ISBN-10: 16289247801RevCommNewCover
By Bill Kovarik

About the course   

 The idea to create a journey for you and help you find areas you want to explore. History has ideas that can change your life and open your eyes to possibilities for the present and the future. Some of the ideas you will encounter:  

  • History is more than a rear-view mirror. By seeing where we came from, we have a better idea about where we are going.
  • People in the past confronted the same challenges you will confront. That’s why history can be inspiring, exciting and informative.
  • The media may be the message, as McLuhan said,  but in recent years, a more socially constructed view of the media has emerged. As Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame says, “We are the media.”
  • Media monopolies (or near monopolies) are frustrating, and they give rise to a desire for new media technologies. When people are held back, they often spring forward.
  • Every new medium creates its own revolution, and every revolution has its own best or favorite medium.
  • Media change generally follows cycles of open innovation, closed consolidation, monopolistic control, and breakout new technologies.
  • The global village has become a set of neighborhoods with bullhorns squawking through the night. But media can show us the world’s amazing diversity; It’s capable of far more than it has achieved so far.
  • Global culture is a question of social construction, not simply one of technological momentum.

Goals:  The primary goal of a class in the history of any subject is ( as Thucydides said 2,500 years ago) to provide a knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future; to learn the lessons of history and to apply them to the present; to understand where we have been and so to consider where we might be going.

Students:  You will be expected to:

  1. Read books and articles.
  2. Watch films about the media (documentary and fiction)
  3. Take chapter quizzes.
  4. Be able to respond to Discussion Questions on the web site.
  5. Select an historical research topic and work on  a research memo / paper.
  6. Following Thucydides advice, can we use this history to  help us interpret the future of the mass media?  At some point you will deliver a futuristic prediction for your area of media based on historic trends.

Grading priorities:  Attendance and/or  assignments (10 %)  Quizzes (20 %) Mid Term (20%) Final (20 %);  Final project   (30 %)

Other policies

• Attendance policy:  (N/A for online classes, but work must be done on schedule).

• Late policy: Deadlines as posted need to be observed, or proportional reductions in grade will ensue.

• Honor Code: By accepting admission to Radford University, each students makes a commitment to understand, support and abide by the University Honor Code without compromise or exception.

• Plagiarism — Students who directly copy work from anyone else will flunk the class and be reported to the Dean of Students office.


To score an A in the class, you will have earned more than 1,000 points from the following categories:

  • Online discussions – (twelve at 10 points each) = 120 points and one for 75 points.
  • Films — (five at 25 points each) = 125 points
  • Quizzes –(thirteen at 23 points each) = 300 points
  • Mid Term — 140  points
  • Final — 140 points
  • Final project — 300 points

Total possible points:  1200.

  • Extra credit: Attendance and participation at optional events to be announced.

About quizzes

There is a quiz for every chapter plus one for the introduction (named “Quiz 0”). So the chapter numbers should line up with the quiz numbers. For instance, the quiz for Ch. 5 is Quiz 5.  This means there are actually 13 quizzes.

Important policies

  • Late policy: Deadlines as posted need to be observed, or proportional reductions in grade will ensue.
  • Honor Code: By accepting admission to Radford  University, each students makes a commitment to understand, support and abide by the University Honor Code without compromise or exception.
  • Plagiarism — Students who copy large amounts of work by others, without attribution, will fail the class and be reported to the Dean of Students office.
  • Disabilities: If you are seeking academic accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act at Radford University, you are required to register with the Disability Resource Office (DRO).   To receive academic accommodations for this class, please submit your documentation to the DRO in the lower level of Tyler Hall Suites 54-69, by fax to 540-831-6525, by email to After submitting documentation to our office, you will set up an interview with a Disability Services Specialist to discuss accommodations. You will be notified via email once your accommodation package is complete and ready to be picked up. Once you have picked up your accommodation package, you will need to meet with each course professor during their office hours to review and discuss your package.  For more information and/or for documentation guidelines, visit or call 540-831-6350.


Order the book Revolutions in Communciation   ($15 used, $25 – $35 new)

Weekly:   Read the chapter,  then respond to discussion questions and take the quiz.

Monthly: Watch a film about people in the media and write a reaction about the film. Deadline is the end of every month.

Semester:  Research an event or person in the history of communication, using contemporary resources in the newspaper / magazine database,  and then write a short overview or biography.   We will have several meetings on campus to discuss research projects, or you can drop by my office.


1st week —  Introduction to History  

2nd week  — The Printing Revolution – Section I intro and Chapter I

  • Read Chapter 1  (Available free)

    • Take Chapter 1 quiz
  • Respond to one of the Discussion Questions from the top of Ch 1 in the Resource the D2L discussions section.

3rd week  — Industrial Printing 

  • Read Chapter 2
  • Take Chapter 2  quiz.
  • Respond to Chapter 2 discussion questions.
  • Dont forget to watch a movie on the Media Movies list.  Many of these are available in your library’s collection.

4th week — The modern press  

  • Read Chapter 3
  • Take Chapter 3 quiz.
  • Respond to one of the online Discussion Questions at the top of Chapters  3 Resources

4th week  —  Section II Imaging revolution  and Ch 4 Photography 

  • Read the introduction for Section II on imaging along with Chapter  4 about photography.
  • Take quiz 4.
  • Respond to discussion questions

5th week — Cinema

  • Reach chapter 5 on Cinema
  • Take Quiz 5
  • Respond to one of the Discussion Questions for Ch. 5.
  • This is a good moment to recommend one of the very best histories of cinema ever made: Mark Cousins’  The Story of Film, a 15 hour love letter to world cinema history. It’s very unlikely that this will be topped anytime soon. It’s just brilliant, and trust me, you will love it.   So when you watch one of your movies from the Films about Media section and write a short description / reaction in the D2L discussion  area, you might want to watch The Story of Film.

6th week — Advertising  

  • Reach chapter 6 on Advertising
  • Take Quiz 6
  • Respond to one of the Discussion Questions for Ch. 6.
  • You might want to consider “Crazy People” as a film from this section. Very funny but lots of insight about advertising too.

7th week — Take the Mid Term  

  • These are mostly questions you’ve already seen from the quizzes).
  • You can take the mid-term any time during the week

7th week also   —  Section III Electronic revolution and Ch. 7 

  • Read  Section III intro and Chapter 7  (Telephone, telegraph, wire services)
  • Take the quiz for Ch 7
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 7

8th week — Radio history 

  • Read Chapter 8
  • Take the quiz for Ch 8
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 8
  • Recommended movies: Radio Days (Woody Allen);  Winchell (not great but a slice of the times).

9th week — Television history 

  • Read Chapter 9
  • Take the quiz for Ch 9
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 9
  • Recommended movies: Network;

10th week — Section IV — The Digital Revolution and Ch. 10 Computers 

  • Read Chapter 10
  • Take the quiz for Ch 10
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 10
  • Recommended movies: Triumph of the Nerds (Part 1, 2 and 3);  Silicon Pirates; bio-pix of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates

11th week — Networks  

  • Read Chapter 11
  • Take the quiz for Ch 11
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 11
  • Recommended movies: Triumph of the Nerds (Parts  4, 5, and 6);

12th week — Global culture  (Nov. 16) 

  • Read Chapter 12
  • Take the quiz for Ch 12
  • Respond to one of the Discussion questions for Ch 12

13th  – 15th week  (Nov. 30 – Dec. 18)   

  • Catch up. You should have watched 3 or 4 films by now and taken all of the quizzes, and responded to most of the discussion questions.   Now it’s tie for a …
  • Research paper on media history — It’s very very very important to read the instructions. This is not at all like any other research paper you have written. It’s not terribly complicated but it will involve searching through news archives and reporting on what you find.    Turn in by Dec. 7.
  • Take the final exam During exam week Dec. 13 – 19. But hey, if you already have over 1,000 points, you wont need to take the final!  You will know where you stand if you turn in your research paper on time (Dec. 7),

Course assessment 

At some point you will receive a questionnaire about the course asking for your opinion about the course.  Please fill it out so we can continue improving the course.


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