This is the blog that students in Fairfield University’s course Mass Media & Society (CO130, section C), and young patrons at Bridgeport Public Library participating in the collaborative program “Behind the Screens” will be using to post reflections and exchange materials on media literacy topics.

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Looking back at your journey within this course –a final reflection

Go to the first prompt of the semester (“My personal perceptions of mass media”), and look at the two two questions you chose for your first reflection. Write a new answer for those questions, either to reiterate (with additional arguments) your initial opinions, or to discuss what has changed in your position(s) about one or both questions. Such new answers must be informed by your learnings from this course. In other words, be sure to make explicit connections between your own opinions and ideas explored in class or in readings for this course.

Post your final reflection by Thursday, May 10, 6:00 p.m. Reflections posted after that deadline won’t be graded.

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Structure versus agency

Considering the arguments presented in the article Your TV Is Watching You, and different media effects theories covered in class, what’s your final conclusion regarding tensions between the powers of media content (structural forces) and the powers of media users (agency forces)? What side, in your opinion, has the upper hand? In supporting your discussion, make sure you cite concrete examples from the article.

Post your final reflection by Tuesday, May 8, 11:00 p.m. Reflections posted after that deadline won’t be graded.

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User-generated content (UCG) and copyright protection

Last Wednesday at the Black Rock library, we explored a number of examples of content that Internet users post online. Many times such content involves “recycling” or remixing popular media content –think of the many “mashups” and parodies of real movies, songs, and commercials that ordinary people upload on YouTube. Nowadays, almost everyone who has access to the Internet generates some form of online content (even if only status updates on Facebook), and most of the time they share such content with the world, without seeking to profit from it. Why do you think people spent time and energy doing this? More importantly, how can you conenct this phenomenon of content sharing with the arguments of the of the movie Rip! A Remix Manifesto that we watched at the library, or with the article Copyright Reform, by Gigi Sohn, which was assigned as a reading for last week. In building your argument, you might find the definition of Fair Use, particularly useful.

Once again, I insist on the importance of creating a balance between specific concepts or notions covered in class or in our course materials and your own views –even if the latter contradicts the former. Many students keep overlooking this requirement when writing their replies, or dealing with it in superficial ways. Those who don’t adequately address this requirement won’t get full credit for this entry. You have until Monday, April 23, 12:00 noon to upload your response.

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Product placement, branded entertainment, and the future of media content

Read the short article that I sent you via e-mail, and discuss the following questions:

1) In your opinion, will product placement and “branded entertainment” (i.e. movies, TV shows, music videos, songs, video games, books, and other media content developed around a particular brand) be so common in the near future that our young partners at the library may eventually become indifferent to these forms of guerrilla advertisement, in the same way that your own generation generally ignores many traditional ads? Or will these tactics make advertisement increasingly effective for younger generations?

2) What implications for the future of creativity and variety of content do you see in the increasing collaboration between brand owners and Hollywood studios? Is this economic partnership likely to  expand or limit the universe of situations, peoples, and settings we see in popular media? Why?

As I mentioned in class, I expect to see in your reflections a balance between your personal opinions and concepts covered in class (whether recently or earlier in the semester).  The latter means explicitly mentioning a concept or theory, and explicitly connecting it with your viewsPlease post your response by Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 12:00 noon.

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Next-step reality, reality TV shows, and audiences’ preferences

In past semesters, our community partners have expressed contradictory views about reality TV. Some of them have said they don’t watch reality TV shows at all, some others have said they only watch them occasionally, just to laugh at the participants… However, all our young partners seem very knowledgeable about those shows they claim not to watch: they know what are the programs about, their stars, what they do off camera, etc. Consider this, and answer the following:

1) Do you believe that pre-teens and teens do not, in general, follow reality TV shows?What different types of audiences, in your view, are targeted by different types of reality TV shows and why?

2) Assuming that most people who watch reality TV do it for pure entertainment purposes, what elements of enhancement of the mundane (next-step reality) would you see in a shows such as “Survivor” and “Jersey Shore”? Why?

3) Product placement is a common way of financing media content, including reality TV shows. What brands do you recall having seen in any reality TV show you watched recently? What kind of associations that placement you noticed is trying to create for the brand shown in the program?

As usual, I expect that you balance your own views with explanations of relevant concepts or ideas covered in recent readings assignments or class discussions. Your reply to this prompt must be posted by Monday, March 26, 12:00 noon Postings after that deadlines will not be graded.

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Representation is not value-neutral

We didn’t have a good attendance of young partners during this week’s SL session at the library (blame the bad weather). Nevertheless, everybody in our class can answer the following questions based on both a combination of knowledge accumulated so far about our community partners and what we have covered regarding casting and representation in media. For the few of you who engaged in conversations with Jimmy and the other two “tweens” that briefly showed up in the library (I know who you are –good job, guys), please answer question #1 based on both information you got from these young folks last Wednesday and relevant concepts covered in the course.

1. Some commentators argue that most people become fan of certain celebrities based on some degree of identification that the former establish with the latter.  Do you think our young community partners see themselves reflected on the artists and media personalities they like? What kind of identification (e.g. imitation, contrast, aspiration), if any, do you think is taking place here?

2. What groups of individuals (based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, occupation, social class, sexual preference, phenotype, etc.) have you noticed to be regularly absent from, and/or stereotypically represented in, the casting of most popular media content, compared to their actual numbers and experiences in real life? What do you think is the reason behind this particular under-representation and/or miss-representation?

3. How could either cultivation theory or social learning theory contribute to explain the consequences of the absence and/or stereotypes you described in question #2?

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Moving from play to exploration

Discuss your experience in our second service learning session at the Bridgeport Public Library in Black Rock, by addressing the following questions:

  • What differences and similarities did you perceive this time with respect to the interaction between the Fairfield U’s group and the library’s group? Did anything in your own behavior change (or is likely to change in future SL sessions)? Why?
  • Now that we’re starting to establish a relationship with our young community partners, what new information (if any) did you gather about their media choices/habits?
  • We briefly discussed questions of media violence. Which of the three major concerns usually voiced by critics with respect to the potential effects of media violence ( i.e. mimicking, development of “mean world syndrome,” or desensitization), do you find most problematic or deserving attention? Why?

As usual, I expect that you answer all the questions in you reflection. I also expect that you balance your own views with relevant concepts/facts/ideas presented in our class or in our textbook (i.e the chapter assigned as a reading for this week). The latter applies particularly to the third question. Please reply to this prompt by 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 12, 2012. Responses posted after that deadlines won’t be graded.

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