Introduction to Communication Science

University of Amsterdam

Since Antiquity, scholars have appreciated the importance of communication: as social beings, we cannot exist without communication. The course extends beyond the boundaries of communication science itself, exploring dimensions of history, sociology and psychology. Join our class, together with people all over the world.

Since Antiquity, scholars have appreciated the importance of communication: as social beings, we cannot exist without communication. We need to interact with people around us, to make sense of the world and to position ourselves in a wider social and cultural reality. In this course, we look at how and why communication evolved as a science and reflect on today’s dominant paradigms. The course also extends beyond the boundaries of communication science itself, exploring dimensions of history, sociology and psychology. Join our class, together with people all over the world.

Introduction to Communication Science explores some of the basic theories, models and concepts from the fields of mass, interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. The course begins with a consideration of several basic models, subsequently progressing to the history of communication theory, linear effect-oriented theories, the reception approach and, finally, exploring theories on the production and reinforcement of culture through communication.

Upon completion of this course, students should:
• have knowledge of the history and development of communication science;
• have knowledge of the dominant theoretical approaches within communication science;
• have knowledge and understanding of the most important models and concepts in this field.


  • Week 1 - Introduction to the course: some basic models of our field
    In this introduction to the course I will briefly introduce our topic and discuss some basic models that will serve as guidelines to the further course.

  • Week 2 - A short history of communication science
    This week we will explore the historical roots of the science of communication. I will talk about the development of communication theory and the evolution of the media landscape in Antiquity, Medieval and Early Modern times.

  • Week 3 - The linear effect-oriented approach
    This week we'll talk about the linear effect-oriented approach and how it developed in the twentieth century. Evolving from a belief in all-powerful effects after World War I to a more nuanced negotiated effects perspective in the sixties.

  • Week 4 The reception and signification perspective
    This week we'll cover some basic theories on message construction and (selective) processing.

  • Week 5 Communication as a social and cultural force
    In week 5 we cover theoretical approaches to communication as a social and cultural force, a building block of reality and a binding element of power in society.

  • Week 6 Student questions and debate
    In this week I'll answer some recurring questions of students regarding a variety of topics: the use of metaphors, the role of media in society, the distinction between primary and secondary research, and finally some thoughts on new media and globalization. I will also give you more information about the exam.

  • Week 7 Exam

  • Week 8 Closing week: behind the scenes of this course

Course Format

During the course each week about eight short video lectures will be posted. In most video lectures a multiple choice question is embedded to test your understanding of the subject. In the first five weeks you will also be asked to make a weekly homework assignment that covers the topics of that week.

A three-minute video only gives us time to outline a topic in broad strokes. That is why we created the ‘Little box of nuance’ feature, in which we will add additional information, indicate when scientists have opposing opinions on an issue, and suggestions for further reading. If you would like to propose an additional topic, article, or anecdote that you think should be included here, please feel free to share it on the forum.

The course includes a forum, designed to enable students to actively participate. Visit the forum and make your contribution by opening a discussion on a particular topic or joining one of the existing discussions. We will also contribute by posting answers to recurring questions. You can also use this forum to give any constructive feedback you might have on course. That way, you can help us to learn and improve!

In week 7 a final exam will be posted. You have one week to complete the exam, which will account for 80% percent of your grade. The five homework assignments combined account for the other 20% of your grade.

  • 4 February 2015, 7 weeks
  • 2 July 2014, 7 weeks
  • 15 January 2014, 8 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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