Anyone watch the cable drama "The Americans"? I've heard it's good, but now I'm convinced to give it a try after reading this great piece about it. I'm sharing the link because it's a superb piece of cultural criticism — a great model for how to take a piece of popular culture and connect it to social discourses, historical points of view, and many of the themes of our syllabus.
And yet, there is something deeply disturbing about The Americans, a sense that it presents recent history through adversarial eyes to toughen us, to encourage us to absorb certain moralistic criticisms of capitalism as a means of acclimation to deprivation and toil.
Two good explainers provide basic background on the situation in Ferguson, Mo., and the case of Eric Garner in New York.
Here are the New York Times videos reporting from Ferguson after Michael Brown's shooting. As you watch, experience the videos as objects of communication — pay attention to the information being reported, of course, but also what information is highlighted, what is left out, what frames are being selected (both literal, in terms of camera positioning, and theoretical, in terms of Gitlin and Schudson), that music being used, etc.
Participation! Consider: No reporter is seen or speaks in the above video. Does that mean it is unbiased? What factors does Schudson outline that contribute to bias, and where might they be present here?
Participation! Toward the beginning, the man with the sign reading "Propaganda: It Won’t Be Televised — Pay Attention" — he looks at the reporter filming him and adds, "I know you seen it, tell the truth, tell the truth!" What truth, and why does he believe it is not getting out by other means? Relate his expression about propaganda to the readings that addressed earlier propaganda fears.
— Pay attention to the discussion here about the original choice of Michael Brown photo used and picked up by the news media. What frames are at work there, and how? How does this relate to Schudson's explanation of selection?
— Think about the reporter's final comments. What photos of you or other information about you is out there on social media that could be similarly misconstrued?
Of course, I have to wrap things up with some pop music ...
Participation: Required! To prepare for the final exam, complete and submit the following survey by midnight Sunday, March 8!
The art vs. commerce binary discussed in the Gray chapter is a cultural dilemma almost as old as cave paintings. In my professional work as a pop music critic, I wrestled daily with walking the tightrope between addressing and critiquing the artistic elements in a recording or concert experience, and advising the consumer on whether the product or experience was worth shelling out money for.
FWIW, in the academic side of my work, I've addressed this binary in two different journal articles ...
The PBS series "Frontline" produced a typically insightful program about many of the issues we read about last week. It's called "Generation Like" — yes, that's meant to be you — and it explores the various dimensions of participatory culture, from how it affects celebrity to how media consumption itself changes.
Watch the full episode here.
Here are a few snippets ...
Below you may download part 2 of a former student's project paper.
Again, this is a paper that scored well — though it has significant room for improvement, too. We can discuss an edited version of this later in class.
Use this paper as a good example of using the denotative and connotative description from part 1 as examples for an analysis of the communication at work in your object. Note how the student incorporated readings from the syllabus to support her argument.
Another interesting example of the pattern/direction of technological development we discussed this week: Moleskine, makers of high-quality notebooks and sketchbooks, have partnered with a digital stylus maker to create a pen ... that writes on real paper ... and backs up the words/imagery digitally!
Read the article here
And here's a video showing how it works. Pretty amazing!
We had a good music discussion at the beginning of the 10am section this week. We'll definitely talk more about music within the larger realm of pop culture in a couple of weeks, as the syllabus turns toward art-vs.-industry studies and the maddening correctness of Adorno & Horkheimer. But here are two purely extracurricular follow-up thoughts ...
1. Some of you requested the extra essay by Gloria Anzaldua, "La conciencia de la mestiza / Towards a New Consciousness," from which I used the quotation at the beginning of this week's classes. You can download the PDF here ...
2. We watched a few minutes of these clips from comedian Margaret Cho's stand-up routine; here are the full video clips, if you'd like to see the full pieces.
These segments discuss race from a similar point of view to the characters you encountered in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Cho's parents came to America from South Korea, and in these segments you'll hear many of the same issues Tan illustrated, such as assumption based on race and the power dynamics between mothers and their first-generation American-born daughters.
Check out this interesting article, which nicely follows up our class discussions last week about the evolution of language. "Folks" — a word that somehow transitioned from "us" to "them"!
Participation! Try looking up the word in the OED, via the library database links here, and see what history they show for the word. Use the comments here to post any results/thoughts.