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Electronic Democracy Project - Media Representations

Page history last edited by sandra jamieson 14 years ago

PROJECT #4: Implicit associations and other media (mis) representations



For project #4 you will once again be writing brief summaries and using them to help you write an argumentative paper. The summaries provide you with a solid knowledge-base from which you will be qualified to make an argument on the topic of your choice.


What differs about this assignment is that you won't just be following a story on the media as you did for Project #3. This time you will be folllwing the way the media reports a story or represents a candidate or issue. In other words, you are looking for very subtle biases, and the impact of opinions and ideologies the authors may not even realize they have. In the field of psychology, these are known as implicit associations. They do not necessarily cause us to act in a discriminatory way, but they often determine the words we select and the things we consider important. We may be more likely to associate family and especially children, with women, for example. This doesn't make us sexist, but it does shape the issues we think about in relation to a candidate (in this case it has led to a larger focus on Sarah Pallin as a mother than on the male candidates as fathers, even though one of them was a single parent).  The way to find examples of this is to see what is not said as well as what is said. 

(If you want to learn more about implicit associations, check out the Harvard's Project Implicit page - which has an election IAT that you can try!)


PART 1: Getting started


Candidate, topic, or issue selected and posted to the wiki Friday, Oct. 17 

At least two story summaries to your topic page (linked to the Election Watch wiki) by Wedneday, Oct. 22 

At least four story summaries posted to your topic page of the wiki by Friday, Oct. 24 


Obviously the first step is to select a topic and get it cleared. Once it is aproved it will be added as a link on the Election Watch Topics page. Then start following and/or researching your story, and post summaries to your own Election Watch Topics page.


You can conduct this assignment using just mainstream US media, or you may compare the way the international media present stories with US media presentations. Check out the listing of national and international newspapers to get you started, or just use Google News. One slant on this assignment is that you may also consider the way the entertainment media has played with the biases and stereotypes in spoofs of the candidates or the media representations. You can think about "Saturday Night Live," "The John Stewart Show," "MadTV" or any other relevant shows. You may consider the cover of the New Yorker magazine that depicted Barak and Michelle Obama in the Oval office. You need to clear such topics with me to make sure they are appropriate, though.


See the topic already selected at  the Election Watch Topics page.


PART II: evaluating what you find


How do you know the stories are factually correct? Check out the details at one of the media watchdogs listed on the Electronic Democracy Project website. You should ALWAYS fact check what you read, whether it is on wikipedia or in the New York Times. We all make mistakes, and sometimes we make subtle mistakes based on our implicit associations (remember the IATs). To help you think through this isssue, you might find it helpful to think about the eight forms of media bias identified by Citizens Coalition for a Responsible Media

Other resources:

A study, by Fair, of how liberal journalists really are;

An analysis of a new story on global warming--read the story, then read the analysis;



PART III: Drafting and revising the paper 


-draft of news description due in the your k:drive project 4 folder by the beginning of class on Friday, Oct 31

-draft of outline due in class Friday, Nov 14

-exploratory draft of paper #4 (in this draft you are talking to yourself), due in class Monday Nov 17

-revised draft of paper#4 ready in-class peer workshop (using revision and editing to translate your paper for a reader) due in class on Wednesday, Nov 19 *NO EXCEPTIONS; NO EXCUSES*

-Final draft of paper due (in hard copy) in class on Friday, Nov. 21


Once you have completed your research, the first task is to write a description of what you have found. This is similar to the narrative you wrote for papers #2 and #3, but instead of telling a story, this paper will tell us what you found. It will describe the kinds of  coverage your topic received.


Once the description is complete, you are ready to take a position on it. Was your topic covered fairly? Were multiple perspectives offered? Do you see bias (use the list in "How to identify media bias" if you need guidelines here). Do you suspect the impact of implicit associations? You may need to go back to the various fact checking resources again and look for broad patterns. Or you may want to look at reviews of entertainment media written by professional critics or bloggers. You can include the opinions of others in this paper if you like. Finally, when you are ready write out an argument and use the material you have to support it. You may freewrite, then make a revising outline, and then revise. You may try making an outline and writing a draft from that. You may prefer to develop an introduction as blueprint and go from there. Use what worked on papers #1, #2, or #3 or whatever other methods we have discussed in class.


We will peer review drafts of essays in class on November 17 and 19, so you must be there and be prepared!


The final draft of this paper is due in printed form in class on November 21st. You may revise it one more time for the final portfolio


A revised final draft of paper may be one of the two papers in your final portfolio, due Wednesday, Dec. 10

Writing Skills developed in this assignment

Like the previsous essays, this one asks you to first gather information (about yourself in project #1 and about Drew in project #2), this time from the media (as in project #3) then to reflect on that information in a larger context . In this case you wil also be analyzing the information and looking at the way writers create arguments and reveal opinions without necessarily being aware of that fact.   We will practice the following skills:

  • summary writing (the Drew Wiki)
  • writing concise prose (the Drew wiki)
  • sentence-level editing (the Drew wiki)
  • seeing things in context (the Drew wiki)
  • rhetorical analysis (looking for bias) (the Drew wiki, paper #4)
  • synthesis of information (paper #4)
  • explanation (paper #4)
  • description (paper #4)
  • argumentation (paper #4)
  • brainstorming and drafting (paper #4)
  • thesis development (paper #4)
  • introduction and conclusions (paper #4)
  • organization (paper #4)
  • revision and revising outlines (paper #4)
  • topic sentences (paper #4)



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