Monday, August 19, 2013

What is this course -- Mass Media & Society -- about?

This course examines the relationship between mass media and society. According to most sources, its been a pretty rocky relationship. Society has blamed mass media for ruining politics, dumbing down several generations, massive social upheaval, and even the Columbine shootings. Probably some parts of these accusations are fair. On the other hand, mass media has been critiquing, engaging, unifying, shocking and condemning society – for the general welfare -- for quite a while, too.

The purpose of this course is to provide students with a broad survey of the relationship between the mass media industries and society. We will explore the general trends in the history of media industry development, analyze several media texts, and the chart the politics of production and distribution of media. Hopefully our study will lay a groundwork for a more complicated and specific understanding of the ways mass media and society relate to one another. I want every student to come out of this course with a clearer sense of how you can engage mass media and society (and their relationship to each other) as thoughtful, ethical consumers and producers of media.

The course here at Malone College is similiar to many Mass Media & Society courses taught in other colleges and universities around the nation. There are differences, too, though. Like many media courses, a concept we stress in this course is "media literacy." Like some colleges, Malone's version of this course pays special attention to the ways that the Christian tradition influences our thoughts and practices related to Mass Media & Society. Like some courses around the nation, my particular interests, predispose me to teach this class from a cultural - studies perspective, though I'll try to let you know how some other thinkers (particularly those in the social sciences) might diverge from my approach.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Community Involvement Advocacy Midterm

As you know, much of your grade for "Community Involvement" comes from the advocacy and support of your peers. Now is the time for you to spend a few moments advocating on their behalf.

I am sending you a Community Involvement Advocacy Form a week before your community involvement advocacy is due.  This form will be arrive in your email in the form of a link.  Once you click on the link you will arrive at the form which will look like an online survey.  This form includes the names of all the students in the class and a box below where you can advocate for them.

There is a roster in your google folder that includes the names of all the members of the class along with their pictures.  If you need help remembering a name, you should check that roster.

As you advocate for your peers, you may type in anything that you would want to about the members in the class. You do NOT have to write about everyone (please don't), but you MUST write about yourself.

Here's an example:

Sheila Peterman

Sheila always seems to have done the reading before class, because the questions she asks seem to be informed. I have also appreciated the examples she gave on the day we talked about informative speaking. I worked in two small groups with her, and she subtly kept the group "on task" the whole time.

Andrew Rudd (me)

I have been going over my notes with my roomate Sean and I listened to Tammie's speech the night before she gave it. Even though I don't say very much in front of the whole class, when we work in groups, I try to be a leader by making suggestions and connecting people's ideas to the ideas from the book.
Don't forget to think about in-class conversation groups.  (Maybe you've even jotted down reminders in your class notes?  Like I asked you to do? Please consult those reminders if so.)

See the course calendar to recall the due date for your community involvement.  If you do not complete a community involvement advocacy sheet, your own community involvement grade (assigned by me) will automatically be reduced by 20%.

Media Text Analysis Proposal

Your proposal is a way for you and I to communicate about what will be a good manageable topic for this assignment.  Please do read (and re-read) the post about the Media Text Analysis Essay *and* review the rubric in the shared google docs folder.  Both of these will help you think about some of the constraints that you should consider as you choose your media text.

I suggest that you choose a media text that you find provocative, difficult to understand or really excellent in construction.  I discourage you from choosing a text that has strong personal emotion attached (we'll talk about *why* that is in class).

Since your interpretation of this text has to make connections between the textual meaning and the culture that we live in -- it's important that this text has made some kind of "blip" on the popular culture screen.  I don't care if it has wide mainstream appeal, or has created a sensation amongst a very small segment of the population -- I just think it's important that the text has resonated with a wide diverse audience and has been popular enough to have been passed around, talked about and widely known.

Generally smaller texts are ideal:  a music video, a song, a commercial, an episode of a television show, the cover of a magazine, a feature news story or maybe one level of a video game or one character in a video game.  It is possible to analyze larger texts (like books or movies or whole albums or whole video games), however you'll have to work harder to understand them wholistically and boil your analysis down to a coherent and concise essay.

I strongly urge you to submit a proposal, but there are no points for this assignment, so it's optional for you.

Please tell me exactly what text you will analyze and why you have chosen to analyze it.

Your proposal should be no longer than one paragraph.

Please submit your proposal as a google document that you share with the class email (look at the syllabus for the address) not with the teacher's email address.   Since our entire class will include sharing google docs, this is a great practice run.

Media Text Analysis Essay

You will select a mass media text and write an analysis in 800 – 1000 words. You may analyze any kind of mass media text that you would like, but I suggest that you select a text small enough for thorough understanding, but substantial enough to generate insight.  You must select a media text that is EITHER new (within the last calendar year) OR old (at least 40 years old).

Your paper should include a description of the text, an interpretation of its meaning and an evaluation of the significance and meaning of this text & interpretation in our culture. You must use semiotic analysis to analyze your text, but you should not feel obliged to talk about the terms of semiosis. I will be able to tell if you have used the process because of the insights that your essay will demonstrate.

The process of writing an interpretive analytical essay like this one usually starts with description (what are the key signs?), moves to analysis (what are the patterns?  the codes?  how do they fit together?), expresses an interpretation (what does it *mean*?) and finishes with an evaluation (is it good?  bad?  for who?  why?  how?).

Your paper structure should NOT follow that order -- that's the order of investigation.  Your paper's arrangement will be unique to your topic, your voice and your insights.  (Though I generally recommend that a strong paper LEADS with its strongest ideas and biggest insights.)  There are a few sample papers available for you to read in the folder I shared with you in google docs.  These papers are not perfect but the provide a helpful example of various approaches to this assignment that have worked in the past.

You may find the grading rubric I will use to assess your paper in the google docs folder that I have shared with you.

Please click on this paragraph to read more about your proposal.

The draft is not graded, but I will read it, give you some narrative feedback and fill out a rubric to help you think about my expectations.  Draft-writing GREATLY enhances your ability to engage in good learning practice.  Hopefully that's what you're here for, so if I were you, I would prioritize this learning opportunity.  Please submit your proposal as a google document that you share with the class email (look at the syllabus for the address) not with the teacher's email address.

You will submit your FINAL draft as a NEW google doc and share it with the class email address.  I will not re-grade your original google doc.  I really want to have two separate documents that I can look at.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

How much does reading matter in this course?

Course Readings Packet. Available only in google docs.  If you have not successfully accessed the readings yet, please email the teacher and let him know.

Romanowski, W. (2007). Eyes wide open: Looking for God in popular culture. Brazos Press; Grand Rapids, MI.

Several times throughout the semester, I will assign reading in class, and you will be responsible to find that reading on the internet. I will give you the URL and post the link here, on my blog. These readings re just as important and valuable as the ones that have been committed to paper.

Being prepared for class by reading will profoundly affect your ability to understand the concepts we’re examining in class. Your reading won’t be assessed separately, but if you don’t use the concepts from the reading in your papers and to prepare for class lecture / discussion, you’ll find your test and paper grades suffering.

One big pitfall that students often fall into when studying popular culture industries, is solely depending on the personal knowledge that you bring to the class from your lives. This is important, valuable knowledge, and it’s one of the reasons why studying popular culture is so enjoyable, but this class affords you an opportunity to think in new ways about topics you’re familiar with.