Even skeptics among us believe that in the U.S. and around the world, media make a difference in our democracy and our everyday lives. This course takes that belief to heart, asking about the social and cultural role of mass media in advanced, post-industrial Western societies (primarily in the U.S.). We consider how media and their surrounding economic and institutional framework affect cultural, political and ideological processes. We consider a range of media forms in historical context to understand how today's media systems came to be. We examine how scholars have understood media power and influence and, finally, we turn to sites of agency-how media makers and users produce and change media form, content and meaning.