I wanted to give some generalized feedback to go along with the progress reports you all will receive this week. As we approach the middle of the term, here are a couple of reminders and things to keep in mind as we move forward.
Dystopia rarely evolves from a utopia. For example, Panem emerged out of our current North America which was beset by natural disasters, then a war. It would be difficult to argue that even a few years in the future, North America is a utopia. It is fair to say that many dystopias emerge when someone tries to CREATE a utopia through invention or changes in social norms, but those new rules, new technology or new social structure actually creates a dystopia instead of a more perfect world. Many of you made assertions in your blog posts or infographics that “dystopias evolve out of utopia” but this is not often the case.
Ads are not the same as propaganda. Advertisements for a product, idea, or group are often informative (this is what the product does) and persuasive (this is why you need it). Ads cross over into propaganda when the information is unfairly skewed or misleading or when the persuasive elements are intentionally manipulative, distorted or disguise a disingenuous purpose (for example: you need this medicine to make you happy but secretly it advances a government plot to make everyone docile). As we saw in the Mockingjay propaganda, there is a way to turn contemporary advertising campaigns into propaganda, like we saw with the Capitol Salutes the Districts posters. However, we will also see clear examples of propaganda in The 100 that are not based on advertising at all. Be sure you are clear on this distinction.
Bias is not the same as having an opinion. Bias is when a person or organization is unfairly prejudiced against an idea, a group, or a way of thinking; bias causes individuals to deny facts and evidence that do not align with their previously decided worldview. An individual who studies data, analyzes information and concludes that a specific product is dangerous, then uses that information to argue for its recall, is not biased against that product but is using sound scientific and rhetorical processes to create an argument. A person who hates a specific company and so cherry-picks misleading data or only reports on negative analysis in order to argue for a recall that won’t actually benefit anyone is biased and is using biased research and rhetorical techniques to make a point. It is fair to say that everyone has unconscious biases and those biases may shape their decision making process; however, it is not fair to dismiss any and all arguments by saying “that person has an opinion so that means they are biased.” Your job as a reader, researcher, scholar, and consumer is to examine the rhetorical structure the author uses, analyze their evidence and determine if they are presenting an argument in good faith and with solid evidence.
BLOG POST OBSERVATIONS
Now that you all are getting the hang of posting in an electronic format, be sure you are creating cohesive blog posts that fit the genre norms of the medium.
Create your own argument. Every single blog post you write should contain your own unique perspective and ideas. A successful blog post will not be a summary of information we covered in class or a quick run-down of material that someone else has said. Each blog post should be your thoughts and your ideas comprised into an argument.
Beware “all” “always” or “never” arguments. Whenever you make sweeping arguments like this, it is extremely easy to undermine or counter, becuase all your opponent needs to do is find ONE example that doesn’t fit your definition or claim and your argument is “incorrect.” It is much better to qualify your arguments to an appropriate scope and claim “the majority of YA dystopias published after 2000” or “most science-fiction dystopias” in order to frame your argument.
Connect your images/multimedia content to your text. When creating blog posts, adding images, gifs, embedded videos, and other multimedia content can be fun and can help you get your point across. However, don’t just drop images in if they are not directly connected to what you are writing. The image of a book cover when you are discussing the plot of the book is automatically connected to your text; however, an image from a film that is not under discussion is unclear. Make sure you connect your multimedia content with appropriate captions or references in the text (As you can see in this image, Mockingjay uses the color white to highlight important figures)
Always italicize book and movie titles.
I have recorded my observations of your participation on TSquare (see comments under Twitter/Participation assignment in the Gradebook), which will also be reflected in your progress reports. This is a great opportunity to assess your level of participation, which constitutes a significant percentage of your grade and a valuable part of the learning process.
I have also recorded the number of tweets you have sent as of this weekend on TSquare. While you are not being graded solely on the number of tweets you send, a quick look at some of the metrics can help you gauge where you are in terms of your Twitter participation grade.
The syllabus and Twitter assignment sheet note that the minimum participation for Twitter is 5 tweets a week. Add to that the three film/TV screenings (min 5 tweets each), the two fishbowl exercises in class and the two #FollowFriday tweets you have been asked to do in class.
Therefore, students who are meeting the minimum (C level) Twitter requirements should have between 40-50 tweets and should be following between 3-6 accounts outside of class.
Above-average Twitter participation (B level) may be in the range of 55-75 tweets and following 6-10 accounts.
Excellent participation (A level) would be 80 tweets or above and following more than 10 accounts outside of the class participants.
Final evaluation of your Twitter performance will also include an evaluation of the quality and variety of tweets (for example; re-tweeting the same article 10 times would not boost your score nor would tweeting 200 times without ever engaging your peers be enough to earn an A) but hopefully this will give you a good sense of where you stand as we start week 7.
If you are worried that you are not meeting the minimum requirements, or if you would like to work on improving your Twitter standing, remember you should be completing the following types of Tweets on a regular (weekly) basis.
- Reply to the question of the week (usually pinned at the top of my feed @DrFitzPhd)
- Livetweet your readings and post 1 discussion question before the start of each class (begin each discussion question with Q:)
- Livetweet film and TV screenings
- Engage with peers by responding to their tweets, posting articles, sharing information about research or retweeting relevant information from accounts outside the course.
At this stage in your research, you might also be finding scholars, journals, institutes, organizations or other resources who do work in the areas you are investigating. Following those accounts, retweeting information relevant to your research or even engaging directly with those accounts will help to boost your Twitter participation as well as help you improve your research.
For more details about Twitter participation, remember there is a detailed assignment sheet available on TSquare that spells out these expectations in far greater detail.