COMN3213 Labour in Communication and Cultural Industries

Final Essay (40%):

Due Date: June 20. Please email to alevant@yorku.ca

Each student is required to write a short essay of 1500 to 2000 words in length, plus
bibliography. Your paper must have a title, clear introduction with thesis statement, and
arguments supported with examples. It must be double-spaced, in Times Roman 12 pt font
with reasonable margins. Your sources should be properly cited, using APA style

Below is a list of suggested topics; however, you are also free to pursue a topic of your
choice, as long as it is related to the themes of the course.
List of Suggested Essay Topics

1. The Smartphone Society: Nicole Aschoff writes that “the smartphone is the defining
commodity of our era”. Introduce your reader to the impact of the smartphone on society
today. Consider how smartphones have impacted our work lives, our leisure time, and our
2. Culture Wars: Consider the current battle over statues, names, and cultural memory
more broadly. Using any relevant course material reflect on the significance of these
struggles. Feel free to focus on a specific example or event.

3. Frankfurt School, Birmingham School, and Participatory Culture: Compare and
contrast these three schools of thought or approaches in cultural theory.

4. Social Media: Social media has been criticized for enabling the spread of false
information and exacerbating the fragmentation of our social and political landscape.
Introduce your reader to some of the critiques of social media platforms and evaluate
these critiques.
5. No Future: In 1994, Fredric Jameson already noted that “it is easier to imagine the
end of the world than the end of capitalism” (Seeds of Time). Reflect on the relationship
between capitalism and the horizon of imagination in popular culture.

6. Four Futures: In Four Futures, Peter Frase sketches four possible scenarios for the
future. Which of the four (or a combination) do you see as the most likely outcome, given
current trends? Articulate a compelling argument for the future you expect to see.

7. Subcultures and Hegemony: Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style
suggests that subcultures can have political consequences because they often challenge
certain norms of social behaviour and can destabilize the hegemony of dominant social
groups. Introduce your reader to Hebdige’s theory of subcultures and the concepts on
which it is based, such as hegemony for example. Consider his theory in light of one or
several subcultures of your choice.
8. Alt-Right: Introduce your reader to the recent emergence of the Alt-Right in relation
to the course themes.

9. Surveillance in the Age of Big Data: Introduce your reader to the changing nature of
surveillance at a time when our most mundane behaviours have acquired new value.
Consider the role of tech giants like FaceBook and Google, among others.

10. The Social Industry: In The Twittering Machine (2019), Richard Seymour writes:
“When Theodore Adorno wrote of the ‘culture industry’, arguing that culture was being
universally commodified and homogenized, it was arguably an elitist simplification. Even
the Hollywood production-line showed more variation than Adorno admitted. The social
industry, by contrast, has gone much further, subjecting social life to an invariant written
formula.” Introduce your reader to the concept of the social industry. Examine it in
relation to the concept of the culture industry and reflect on power and limits of this
11. Cultural Labour and the Pandemic: Reflect on how the pandemic has affected our
social practices, our norms, our views, etc.

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