ComS 5 The Communication Experience 


Directions: Choose one of the following sites. Visit the site and complete the activities I have assigned for that site.  Click on the title to go directly to the site.  I recommend that you copy the activity directions before you go to the site.  Be sure to include the following information at the top of your assignment: Your name, Title of assignment (and option for Wagner to Virtual Reality) selected.  Include headings suggested in the assignments in your write-up.  At the end of your assignment, note the word count of what you've written.

The Global Media Giants: The nine firms that dominate the world (Essay)
This essay is by Robert McChesney who is a widely respected authority on media organizations. I think you'll find the essay quite interesting and troubling.  There are a number of parts to the essay: a short introduction, then profiles of nine global media organizations, and a final section listing "second tier" organizations that merit attention as growing global players. 1) First, check this update of media centralization since McChesney wrote this article in 1997!  2) Second, check this even more current listing of holdings. [Use the drop menu to find the companies named in McChesney's essay] You'll be stunned at the appetite of these companies as they gobble up control of media!

Activities:  Read the introduction (about 2.25 pages).  Then select at least five of the nine corporate profiles to read.  Write a 500 word response to the reading, focusing on what you have learned about centralization of media control in the US and globally.  Apply at least two of the theories of media effects found in Appendix II of Understanding Human Communication.  For example, the concept of agenda setting is important because it suggests that the media control what you think about and how you think about it. Use the two concepts and the five corporate cases you selected you select to discuss McChesney's findings about media centralization and control.  Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors;  you will properly cite all sources of information in APA format. Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors.

Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality (Web Site)
That multimedia has its own long history strikes many as surprising, but the medium today is the result of an evolution that spans over 150 years. Remarkably, this has been a largely untold story; there is a "secret history" of multimedia that...covers an extraordinary range of technological innovation, artistic experimentation and cultural thought. This is a large and complex presentation, which is, itself, an artifact of the evolution of multimedia.  This site invites and merits exploration via its links.

Activities: You have some options.  Option One is to thoroughly read "Overture" entirely. That is, visit and read all five sections from Prologue to Future is Under Construction.  Within each section, be sure to visit the hyper links offered.  Dig around for new information and insights about the structure, function and evolution of multimedia.  Write a 500 word essay detailing at least four new facts, ideas, or insights you discovered in your exploration.  Be sure to connect your discussion of your four learnings to your own experiences with electronic media.  Make specific, concrete connections between what you are learning about communication and your experiences with media. Use: Ito, M., et al. (2009) Living and learning with new media: summary of findings from the digital youth project. Cambridge: MIT Press to support your conclusions--cite at least two relevant ideas from this text. (You can "borrow" the ebook.)Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors.

Option Two is to explore the section titled "Pioneers."  Choose any ten of the thirty-seven segments to read (ten is the  minimum; I encourage you to read more.)  Your job will be to develop a coherent summary of the relationships you see between the ten (or more) segments you examined. (This is the new task of consumers of hyper linked information!)  Write a 500 word explanation of what you discovered, and how the information and ideas discovered relate to each other. Ito, M., et al. (2009) Living and learning with new media: summary of findings from the digital youth project. Cambridge: MIT Press to support your conclusions--cite at least two relevant ideas from this text. (You can "borrow" the ebook.) Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors. (You may, if you wish, include a diagram of the relationships between ideas as an illustration of what you have written.  (See Ted Nelson's Hypertext Diagram for an example.) )

What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream (From a talk at Z Media Institute June 1997)
Noam Chomsky is one of America's most prominent political dissidents. A renowned professor of
linguistics at MIT, he has authored over 30 political books dissecting such issues as U.S. interventionism in the developing world, the political economy of human rights and the propaganda role of corporate media. This transcript is a wide-ranging discussion of media related topics.

Activities: First, after reading Chomsky's statement, construct a detailed, full-sentence outline of it.(Click here to see model outline; Click here for a tutorial.) Second, choose three significant parts of his discussion and respond to them in the form of an argument.  For example, he treats the profession of public relations as essentially an industry devoted to mind control and exploitation.  Argue either pro or con as to whether you agree with Chomsky.  Each of the three arguments will be a minimum of 150 words. Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors.

The :30 Second Candidate (Part of the PBS Democracy Project)
(Note: You will need either Quick Time or Real Player to use this site; you can download
either from the links provided on the PBS site.)
This is a fascinating, interactive site that is especially relevant during the campaign season.

There are four sections:

Historical Timeline  takes you from the first uses of TV ads in American politics through to the present.

From Idea to Ad  shows you how ads conceived, designed and shot.  The Eisenhower for President campaign is used as a case study.

Tricks of the Trade shows you how choices of images, graphics, music and voice-overs change how we see a candidate. You can construct a "pro" or "con" ad for a fictional candidate that applies the tricks revealed in the presentation.

Q & A in which you can interview a variety of political analysts.

 Activities:  (Do all three below as a package; this assignment does not present three options.) Go through the "Timeline." (Make sure you watch the "Daisy" commercial from Lyndon Johnson's campaign--it is a "classic" in our cultural history now.) Write a 250 word summary of what you now know about the history of political media that you didn't know before.  Be specific.

Read "From Idea to Ad."  Write a response (150-200 words) that uses at least two concepts from our text and or class discussions to explain how or why the Eisenhower ads were designed as they were or functioned as they did in the campaign.  For example, in the section on Research, you can connect the concept of "audience analysis" in public speaking to the fact that the Eisenhower people conducted focus groups to find out what the public wanted to hear from the candidate.

Finally, experience Tricks of the Trade. Construct both a "pro" and "con" ad for a fictitious candidate using video images, music, graphics and voice-overs and note the specific effects as you build the two different ads.  Given what you've learned, visit, choose a comparative pair (one Obama, one Romney) and analyze the commercials using your new knowledge of "tricks of the trade."

Write a brief response (250-300 words) explaining 1) what you discovered from the exercise about how the elements of the media can manipulate audience responses, and 2) what connections you can make with current political advertisements you are seeing on TV--what do you now think about as you watch them? Be sure to talk about the Obama/Romney commercials as well as any of the older ones you've encountered via this assignment. Your essay will be free of spelling and grammar errors.

The Merchants of Cool (Web Page) (Click "Interviews)
Read the interview with Dee Dee Gordon and Sharon Lee, then read the interview with Mark Crispin Miller.

Gordon and Lee are co-founders of Look-Look, a research company specializing in youth culture. They talk about how their company searches out teen trendsetters looking for what's cool, the challenges in their quest, and how corporations use the information they gather.

Crispin Miller is a media analyst and the author of Boxed In: The Culture of TV. In discussing the clout of the major media giants, he outlines the media/cultural changes due to the commercial machine. He also talks about the changes in advertising and tv programming for youth and the general lowering of standards in the culture.

Activities: Write a 500-600 word response to your reading. The response should 1) Lay out what you see as the general themes of each interview. Ground your response in evidence from the interviews.  2) Read these sections from the chapter, Mass Media Research by Wimmer and Dominick: 5 Stages of Persuasion; Three Step Research Approach; Amount of Encouragement and The Message. Apply at least three concepts from the reading to the advertizing methods outlined and critiqued in Merchants of Cool. 3) Discuss your understanding of the effects of long-term consumption of commercial mass mediated messages on you and your colleagues. Part 1 should be about 150-200 words; Part 2 about 200-225 words and Part 3 about 175-200 words. Be sure it is free of spelling, grammar, syntax and usage errors.  Properly cite your references using APA format

Truth in Imaging (News Article from the Sacramento Bee)

Setting it Straight--Photo Alteration Noted by Bee
Read both articles carefully. Be sure to view the images linked. The articles explore the subtle ways our perceptions can be tricked by the physics of optics or by use of commonly available software to manipulate photographs.

The first article implicitly examines a number of issues regarding the mass media treated in the textbook: for example, the gatekeeping function of the media, as well as the surveillance function for which most newspapers are used by readers. The second article indicates the potential for misleading information in documentary photography--shaping perceptions, interpretation and meaning of messages.

Task: In a  well-formed essay, include the following: 1) discuss in as much detail as you can your personal responses as you read the articles.  2) Then use two or more of the theories of mass media discussed in Appendix II of Understanding Human Communication , or Chapter 15 of your textbook, Communication in the Real World or in Understanding Media and Culture: An introduction to Mass Communication to explain the communication problem/s raised in the articles.  Taken together, the essay should present an argument about how an intelligent reader should respond to the news media, particularly in a time of crisis. 

Rubric for grading:
Devoted about 100 words to your personal response; about 300-350 words to your analysis. The analysis
exhibited the following: a) a clear claim you wish to argue about how people  perceive and respond to mediated messages; b) reasons and support clearly drawn from the reading in Appendix II of Understanding Human Communication or
Understanding Media and Culture: An introduction to Mass Communication. Your essay should be about 400 words long. c) Be sure it is free of spelling, grammar, syntax and usage errors.  and properly cite your references using APA format.