Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

Home » “Resistance and Subversion on the Internet: IP* and the Digital, Knowledge-based Economy”, COMN 4201 – F/W 2015-16

“Resistance and Subversion on the Internet: IP* and the Digital, Knowledge-based Economy”, COMN 4201 – F/W 2015-16

Fall/Winter 2015-16
Day, Time – Monday, 4-7pm
Location – Bethune College 214 (BC 214)

Course Director: Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD Candidate

Office Hours: Mondays, 2-3p (TEL 2018)

(or by appointment)

Office: TEL 2018



Twitter: @joefturcotte – #COMN4201

(Student Section, course readings)

It has been twenty years since technology analysts and international organizations announced the emergence of the “digital economy” and the “knowledge-based economy”. In the intervening years, networked information communication technologies (ICTs) have facilitated political economic transformations and the rise of an “informational economy”. These shifts have resulted in what economic historian Karl Polanyi describes as “double movements”, where supportive and resistant groups work to construct and negotiate political economic shifts according to their respective values and ways of life. This course adopts this Polanyian perspective to examine movements (for) and counter-movements (against) the rise of “informational capitalism”. Using interdisciplinary sources and perspectives, this course traces and analyses the economic rationale behind informational capitalist transformation as well as various ‘sites of struggle’, where groups and activists seek to counteract these changes and assert alternative outcomes rooted in concerns for human development and human rights.

This course is designed to complement, extend, and challenge the theoretical foundations of introductory courses on the political economy of communications and culture. It is broken into three components: 1) Part One sketches the history of the development of the Internet and the digital, knowledge-based economy and provides an analytical tool kit for studying the political economy of communication, which is attentive to diverse socio-cultural claims and concerns; 2) Part Two traces the hegemonic “movement” transforming the political economy of informational capitalism, paying attention to its discursive and ideological presuppositions in relation to technological determinism and economic reductionism; 3) Part Three focuses on representative “counter-movements” to informational capitalist expansion, locating their genesis in an overarching resistance to a political economic formation that is inattentive to socio-cultural specificity and non-market based pursuits. Students will critically analyze whether these new political economic phenomena represent historically novel forms of (informational) capitalist development and resistance or if the characteristics of the informational economy and its subversive counter-movements are extensions of longstanding processes and realities.

* Note: “IP” refers to both ‘intellectual property’ and ‘informational politics’

Expectations & Requirements

This course is a fourth-year seminar intended for senior students in the Communication Studies program and other related disciplines (primarily in the social sciences). As such, students are expected to be familiar with core concepts in communication and cultural studies as well as the broad framework(s) for political economic analysis. These core concerns and theoretical frameworks will be introduced at the beginning of the course; however, students are expected to be cognizant of the intersections between political and economic as well as social and cultural issues.

As a fourth-year seminar course, students are required to meet in-class expectations and complete readings and assignments outside of class meetings.. In (and before) class, students are expected and required to meet 3 Ps: 1) be present; 2) be prepared; and, 3) participate. Students will be evaluated as to whether or not these 3 Ps are met for each seminar meeting. Externally, students will be required to complete individual and collaborative assignments, including individual oral presentations and written assignments as well as group-based seminar facilitation.

Learning Objectives

As a fourth year seminar, this course is designed to enhance students’ understandings of communication studies materials and prepare them for future academic, public, and/or private sector opportunities. Key core competencies that will be developed include:

· Critical awareness and understanding of the Digital, Knowledge-Based Economy

· Ability to analyze contemporary political and economic relationships

· Develop and refine independent communication and research skills

· Experience researching, analyzing, and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data

· Analysis of existing practices as well as the viability of possible alternatives

· The capacity to identify and evaluate existing as well as emerging practices

· Developing interpersonal skills as well and collegial/effective working relationships

· Strategic thinking skills in addition to research, analytical, project management and organizational skills


Students will be evaluated individually and in groups. Students will be expected to complete individual presentations relating to a core reading in the Fall term as well as reading responses and a term paper demonstrating their command of the course materials. Each student will be expected to individually present on one of the readings from the course as well as contribute to a group presentation on one of the specific issue areas *** Note: Details about the assignments and deadlines will be distributed during the second week of the fall term. ***

Fall Term – 40%

– Attendance and Participation – 10%

– Individual Presentation – 20%

– Reading Response – 10%

Winter Term – 60%

– Attendance and Participation – 10%

– Group Presentation – 20%

– Term Paper – 30%

Required Reading Materials:

Effort has been made to ensure that required readings for the course are available through the YorkU library or as open-access/Creative Commons licensed materials online. In some cases this has not been possible; please consult your Course Director (Joseph Turcotte) in these cases.

Note: Some of the readings are available as eBooks through the YorkU library and have restricted access in terms of the number of ‘copies’ that can be open at one time. Waiting until the last minute to access these readings may mean that you are unable to open the file.

Background Materials of Significance

The Information Society and Trend Research Institute

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

The Information Society (Journal)

Information Society and Justice Journal

OECD (1996) “The Knowledge Based Economy”, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OCDE/GD(96)102, Paris. Available at,

UNESCO (2015) Keystones to Foster Inclusive Knowledge Societies: Access to Information and Knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and Ethics on a Global Internet, Paris. Available at,

Student Section (course readings)


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