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PWR 2JPB: Curated Reality: Writing about the Influence of Media

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Catalog Number: PWR 2JPB

Instructor: John Peterson

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent


Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

You already know your social media feed is designed to feed you what you like. What are the implications of that influence? How is confirmation bias amplified in the media we consume? In our course, we step back and explore how we have long been aware of how all media shape perceptions. We will look at trends beyond social media — in newscasts, museum exhibits, and scholarship. We investigate how traditions that protect free speech also make us vulnerable to information that distorts or deceives — as well as giving us open access to a broad range of new ideas.

You can investigate a media trend of your choice and dive deep into how it shapes reality and how willing consumers of media are to accept this influence. While we might look at the guidelines for media distributors such as Twitter, we also will see how newspapers and research journals have developed complex systems for fact-checking and ensuring credibility. You and your classmates will develop projects that look at the range of so-called “reality” that media consumers have to navigate each day.

Examples of Research Topics

For this course, you will engage in a quarter-long in-depth research project.  Sample research topics you might pursue include investigating how podcasts have updated the interview formats long used on radio, how data in scientific articles are regularly misrepresented in mainstream newspapers, or how the phrase “fake news” is used not only to label news that is objectively false, but also is commonly used to discredit information that does not fit a biased political agenda. 

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words; reflective memo of 250 words: You’ll propose a topic you want to learn more about —an issue, problem, or opportunity you see in a media trend. You get to focus on an example where this issue is at play, do preliminary research, and explain to your audience what you hope to learn.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages; reflective memo of 250 words): You get to add to your investigation by developing a conversation of research around your topic and its issue. You will invite your audience to consider your argument and weigh your position among others. You have the chance to describe what is meaningful about this issue and dive deep into a specific example to illustrate how this issue is currently at play or how historically it illustrates a trend in media influence.

Research Presentation

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support; reflective memo of 250 words): With this talk you select key findings from your research and develop a coherent focus you have scaled down for an engaging multimedia presentation. You get to design an experience that Invites your audience to think imaginatively about your ideas and findings and why they have meaning for you and the scholars you have researched.

Genre/Modes assignment

(3-minute talk with class; written “script” of 300-500 words): This is a storytelling opportunity. After you have done your preliminary research, you get to switch modes and sit with the class to tell a story of what you were looking for and how the sources you found led you to ask new questions.