Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Online assignment 4-5: In the digital society

This online assignment is worth two points. For it, you will explore and analyze your digital media presence on two major digital media platforms: Google and Facebook.

To begin, you need to collect the information Google and Facebook have about you. Let’s start with Facebook.

Partly in response to calls for greater transparency and increased user control of privacy settings, Facebook now enables users to download the data that Facebook has about them. So download your data and take a look at it!

Here’s how: Go to Facebook and be logged in. In the top-left corner, next to your picture, is an image of a little lock. Click on that, then click ‘see more settings.’ Then, at the top left, click ‘General.’ At the bottom of that page, click ‘Download a copy.’

You will need to enter your password, then it will tell you to wait a little while for your data to be generated. Probably it will tell you that it will send a notification to your email account. This takes between a minute and several hours, even a day. So do this ahead of time! And be patient.

Once the email comes, it will have a link to the data. Download the data (it will be in a zip file, so unzip it), and check it out. Explore what is in there.

Now for Google. This is somewhat simpler. With Google, we will focus on not all the information that Google has about you, but instead what inferences the company makes about you based on what it knows. To figure that out, go to:

This page shows you, in essence, who you are to Google. It shows two columns, corresponding to the inference they have made based on your search history and website visits. It also shows a number of variables about you (of which the most interesting may be ‘Interests’; click on ‘Edit’ there to see the full list of things Google thinks you are interested in—and do it in both columns).

Finally, for the online assignment. Create a post on your section’s blog. Describe your exploration a little bit. What did you see? What surprised you? Did anything about the exploration trouble you? Does Google know you accurately? What do they have wrong/right? Why? Then take us to some larger conclusions: What does your experience in this exercise suggest about life in the digital society? How does it shift your thought about how you communicate and interact online?

Your post should be 500 words, written in complete sentences. It is more of a reflection than a thesis-based essay, so you are not expected to have an introduction, body and conclusion; but nonetheless, it should have good structure, and where you draw on others’ ideas, you should cite them using citations or hyperlinks.

(If you don’t have both a Facebook or Google account, write your post based on the account information you do have.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Online Assignment #3

Here is Online Assignment #3, to be completed over Thanksgiving break. Your initial post is due Wednesday, November 27 at 5:00pm. Two comments on peers' posts are due Tuesday, December 3 at 5:00pm.

This assignment is preparation for Essay 3. In it, you will be viewing a documentary, then assessing the viewpoints expressed in the documentary in light of the 5 perspectives on media effects we have discussed in the last week of class.

The documentary is Mickey Mouse Monopoly. You can view it my going to Learn@UW and selecting Journalism 201. Find the content. The one piece of content is Mickey Mouse Monopoly. Once you click that, the video should stream in your browser.

Throughout the film, you will see that different commentators express different ideas about the role media--and especially Disney's media--play in our society. They draw on different kinds of concepts, assumptions, and metaphors to make sense of what media does to us. Your task is to consider the ideas expressed in the film and relate them to the five perspectives we have seen in class.

Your assignment will be in the form of a post to your section's blog. In it, use 500 words to describe how you see our course perspectives occurring in Mickey Mouse Monopoly. Draw on concrete examples of things people said. Use their names. (The film is streaming, so you can go back to it as many times as you like.) Try to identify the use of at least 2 perspectives, and at least 2 instances of each.

In addition to your own post, post at least 2 comments on the posts of other students in your class. Create 2 substantive comments that respond to, complement, and/or critique (constructively) their comments. The purpose here is to enhance everyone's observations, and understanding of the perspectives, in preparation for Essay 3.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Reminders: Turning in Essay 2

Some brief reminders about turning in Essay 2 (which is due Friday at 10:00am).

Your essay needs to be turned in to 3 places:

1) In hard copy to your TA (unless your TA has specified another form, such as email)
2) To turnitin.com (the assignment is now available for posting)
3) To your section's Google Drive

Please plan ahead so that you have plenty of time to turn in your paper in these three forms.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Essay #2 Assignment now posted

Essay #2 is due two weeks from tomorrow -- on Friday, Nov. 8!

See the assignment description on the Essays tab of the website. Also note that the general guidelines at the top of the page also apply to Essay 2.

Online Assignment #2: What is your VALS type?

Your second online assignment is to take the VALS survey, get your 'VALS type,' and react to your classification through a post on your section blog. Shoot for 250 or more words.

VALS is a framework for understanding consumer (and, more broadly, human) behavior in terms of how people relate to the world. It was invented and is still used by the company Strategic Business Insights as a way of understanding how people differ, and the kinds of decisions that different consumers make. It is an example of a kind of market research.

In the reaction you post to your section blog, note the categorization the VALS survey gave you, then consider whether you think that categorization accurately reflects your outlook. (You can find descriptions of the VALS types here.

The survey can be found here.

Online Assignment #2 is due, posted to your section blog, at 5pm on Friday, Nov. 1.

Extra credit opportunity #2 and notes

As I mentioned in class on Wednesday, I am introducing a second extra credit opportunity. This assignment is to view the film The Fifth Estate and write a 500-word reflection on it.

The film is a dramatization of events surrounding Julian Assange, and his organization Wikileaks. They are off major relevance to the flow of information and journalism in modern society.

Note: As you participate in extra credit opportunities, be sure to keep a log of what you have done. This includes when you take part in a study by completing a survey. Write down at least 100 words about what you did and how you felt about the experience. (The assignment for viewing The Fifth Estate is slightly more involved--500 words.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Essay 1 story options

Below are the stories, outlets and sample articles selected for Essay 1. You will see there are 4 story options: choose one of them for your essay. For each story option, there are two outlets; it is these outlets’ coverage of the story that you will be analyzing and comparing. For each outlet, there are links to two stories. These stories are NOT the sum of the outlets’ coverage. (One of your first tasks will be research to collect the complete set of each outlet’s coverage so you can analyze it.)

NOTE: This is not the full assignment description. Be sure to see the full description at: http://j201.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Another note: For convenience, these links are—of course—to the online version of the respective articles. You may want to consider the papers’ coverage more broadly: especially, it may be useful to look at physical papers to see where stories appeared, how they were different, etc. (Some papers have convenient web displays of exactly what is in the print paper; others do not.) We will talk more about this next week.

Finally, since each of these stories is very recent, coverage will continue to unfold over coming weeks. You are not responsible for analyzing coverage up to the due date of the assignment. Instead, it is reasonable for you to bound your analysis: set a date after which you will no longer collect stories. A date during this coming week, such as 12:00am on Tuesday the 24th, would be reasonable. Mention the bounds of your analysis in your essay.

Story #1: The House of Representatives passes a bill tying government funding to health care law
(This happened just yesterday, Friday the 20th, so additional coverage will be coming soon.)
Outlet 1: The Wall Street Journal
Outlet 2: The New York Times

Story #2: Mass shooting of 13 at a Chicago park
Outlet 1: The Chicago Tribune
Outlet 2: The Chicago Sun-Times

Story #3: The Pope’s comments on the direction of the Catholic Church
Outlet 1: The Los Angeles Times
Outlet 2: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Story #4: First Indian-American Miss America
Outlet 1: The Washington Post
Outlet 2: The New York Daily News

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Online Assignment #1

1. I was born in Boston, but mostly grew up in St. Paul, MN. Always brought Red Sox loyalties with me, though.

2. In this job, I read a lot of news. Probably my 'primary' source is the New York Times, but I check in with a couple of dozen outlets from day to day. I keep my eye on the big American cable channels--CNN, MSNBC, Fox News--as well as local newspapers (State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). When I'm in the car, I usually listen to NPR. Blogs and some other online media are also becoming indispensable, so I check in with Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Politico, and some others. I also check out what friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter are linking to.

3. I don't watch regular TV, but every once in a while I get into some particular show, usually streaming or on DVD. Recently my wife and I have watched WarTime Farm, a sort of documentary in which 3 goofy British historians go to a farm and reimagine what life on English farms was like during the 2nd World War. Super dorky, but my wife's family are dairy farmers, so it's pretty interesting to see how they handled stuff 70 years ago, without enough fuel, etc.


5. It might be flash mobs. They seemed kind of cool when they first started, but now I'm afraid they're getting old. I was in a train station somewhere this summer where they had been trying to do a flash mob, but there weren't really enough people, and a lot of them didn't know the dance or whatever very well. It might be a phenomenon that has run its course--except for the really excellent and original examples, of course.

6. Since I play the music, I don't really need to give myself suggestions. But I have been thinking some Prince might be nice. So if you'd like to hear something else, it would be good to suggest it...

7. This isn't exactly a new one, but I just found it a really cool and original use of autotune. We used to watch videos from Carl Sagan's series Cosmos a lot in earth sciences in high school, which is where the video here comes from. (Incidentally, the series is apparently being brought back by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

Online Assignment #1

Your first online assignment is to create a post on your section blog introducing yourself to your class and instructors. In your post, answer the questions below. (In the next post to the J201 course blog, I will do the assignment myself.)

The assignment will be due by 5pm on Monday, September 23.

-Prof. Wells

1. Where are you from?

2. What is your primary source for news?

3. What is your favorite TV show?

4. What is your favorite catch phrase right now?

5. What pop culture phenomenon is most annoying to you?

6. What music (song and/or artist) would you like to hear Prof. Wells play before lecture?

7. Post an online video that you have enjoyed recently. Do not simply link to the video; use the blog's functions to embed the video in the post. (See Prof. Wells' post for an example.)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Welcome! And course description

Welcome to J201!

This is the announcements page, where you will find updates, reminders, links to extra credit assignments, and other information that will be useful to you in the class. Check in with it a couple of times a week.

For this first week, take a look at the course description:

We live in a media society. Every aspect of social life—our relationships with friends, family and acquaintances, our democracy and politics, our businesses and economy—are profoundly shaped by communications that pass through media of various types. Mediated communications influence how we choose our political leaders, how we learn about ideas and products and decide what to purchase, and how we perceive other members of society.

What’s more, we live at a time of dramatic change in the media landscape. Less than a century ago, there were no broadcast media, no radio, no television, certainly no Internet, and the only media that could properly be thought of as ‘mass’ was the newspaper and magazine. Just two decades ago the World Wide Web had barely been created, and few people even knew about it. A decade ago Friendster was a top social networking site. The pace of change in how we communicate is so rapid that this syllabus will be partially obsolete by the time it is in your hands.

Being aware of this, J201 is about exploring conceptual tools for understanding how and why our society’s mediated communications work the way they do. It is about getting beneath the surface layer of what happened on Gossip Girl, or what the Old Spice man said during the Super Bowl, or the most recent flagrant attack ad, or the next social networking tool, to develop knowledge and skills applicable across contexts and in different forms of media. Throughout the semester, we will pursue three specific objectives:

First, J201 is an introduction to the work done in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. The J School is a diverse department that covers a lot of ground, from the history of journalism and mass communications to the latest technological innovations, and from public relations crisis management to analyses of how scientists communicate with the public. We will touch on all of these topics during the course, often with the help of faculty members guest-lecturing about their latest writing and research.

Second, J201 is the introductory skills course for many of the skills needed in later J School classes. It is an essential introduction to journalism and strategic communication for those considering a major in the J School. And its extensive written and oral communication assignments fulfill the Communication-B requirement of the UW-Madison.

Finally, because ours is such a media society, much of the content we will cover will be useful to students not majoring in journalism or strategic communication. Skills such as critical analyses of news content and advertising, knowledge of media structure, and perspectives on media effects will be useful whether you are a journalist, advertiser, business owner, scientist, doctor—and consumer and citizen.