Communication 508 ... MEDIA LITERACY



Communication 508 George N. Dionisopoulos Fall 2015 20955 Office: Com 241 MW 2-3:15 [email protected] Com 205 Office Hours MW 12:30-1:50

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates

“A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection --

not an invitation for hypnosis.” Umberto Eco

“In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved,

or freed, or educated. But in our century, they want to be entertained.”

– Michael Crichton Purpose and Scope

: This class is a critical survey of the role played by media in shaping culture. Several aspects of this are examined, including media’s role in information distribution, entertainment programming, and the socio-cultural influence exercised by media. Special attention is paid to the audience/medium relationship and to developing those skills that can enhance a critical appreciation of mediated messages.


Potter, W. J. (2014).

Media literacy

7 th edition. Los Angeles: Sage. Additional readings posted on the Blackboard site for this class. All students must have access to the World Wide Web on a computer equipped with software for playing media (such as RealPlayer or Windows Media Player) and Adobe Acrobat Reader. All these programs can be downloaded for free.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS Reading and Participation

1. Read all of the assigned material for the meeting on the week for which it is assigned. It is important that you ask questions on those topics that are unclear to you. 2. There will be periodic media literacy participation exercises. Some are done individually and some are group oriented. You are responsible for them all and must be in class to receive credit. 3. ALWAYS make and keep a copy of your course work for yourself in case the original is lost or destroyed. Keep all your work on file until you have received the final grade for the course 1


Media literacy should assist you in being able to deal critically with the media and their role in contemporary society. A media-literate student should be able to make conscious, critical assessments of the media, to maintain a critical distance concerning popular culture, and to resist manipulation. Ultimately media literacy should help you toward an understanding of the media that includes knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, biases and priorities, roles and impact, artistry and artifice. If is hoped that this course will help you to: -- develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to interpret and discuss the ways in which the media actively construct reality. -- discuss the social, cultural, political and economic implications of these constructions and their pervasive value messages -- discuss the socio-political role of media -- decode media products to identify and examine the cultural practices, values and ideas contained in them -- discuss the goals and methods of various media industries -- discuss the benefits and potential negative effects of media content -- discuss the effects media has on individuals and society -- discuss the multiplicity of motivations, controls, and constraints, which effect mediated messages -- recognize that everyone uses a selective and interpretative process to examine media texts. This process and the meanings obtained depend on psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors.


Your grade in this class will be based upon the total number of points accumulated during the semester on three out of four graded assignments, plus quizzes if we have any. I will use the following criteria for assigning grades A = 90% B = 80% A- = 88.5% C = 70% or Pass B+ = 87% D = 60% 2

Points can be accumulated on various activities during the semester. These assignments are listed below and detailed in this syllabus. There is no extra credit in this class. Exams: There will be three exams. They are non-cumulative and each is worth 100 points. Each exam will cover reading and lecture material. Failure to discuss some material in class does not alleviate your responsibility for comprehending it -- if you have questions bring them up in class or in my office. You will need a Scantron Form 882 and a number 2 pencil for each exam. There may be periodic quizzes in class covering the reading for the week. A quiz cannot be made up if missed. There may also be “homework” assignments during the semester. These will be discussed in class and some will require that a hard copy be handed to be evaluated. There is also an analysis assignment entitled “Reading a Video Text”. It can be completed either as a video file or a 5-8 page written assignment. It is worth 100 points and is described on pages 7-8 in this syllabus.


Getting to Know Each Other: Please make a Blog post about yourself under the Student Profile Tab on Blackboard. This profile should include: (a) a photo of you, (b) and some information you wish to share in order for us to get to know you better. Please post a photo in which your face is clearly visible – as opposed to a crowd-shot of the audience at an all-day music festival with the explanation that you are in section 53, seat 12. This will help me to learn names. Follow the example that I posted under “Professor' Profile” (tab on left side of Blackboard). I am excited to learn about you but remember that this is a PUBLIC profile and that the whole class will be reading it.

Deadline Date: September 9, 2015 (by 5:00 p.m., PST).

There is a file is the course documents section of BlackBoard entitled and concerning “Tips for Submitting Profiles.” It has a link to an instructional video that can help walk you through the process. It is expected that students will conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the classroom. No class September 7, 2015 due to Labor Day. No class November 11, 2015 due to Veteran’s Day. No class November 18, due to the convention of the National Communication Association. If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact Student Disability Services at (619) 594-6473 . To avoid any delay in the receipt of your accommodations, you should contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, and that accommodations based upon disability cannot be provided until you have presented your instructor with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Your cooperation is appreciated. According to the policy of the San Diego State Faculty Senate, the instructor is not considered bound by the specific policies laid out in this syllabus and the instructor retains the right to adjust 3

the course design as needed during the semester. The website of the School of Communication can be found at: The Academic Dishonesty Policy of the School of Communication is attached at the end of this document. a.

Tentative Schedule

Week 1 – August 24; 26, 2015 Introduction to media literacy and orientation to the class Potter: Chapter 1: Why Increase Media Literacy Week 2 – August 31; September 2, 2015 a.



Potter: Potter: Chapter 2: Media Literacy Approach Thoman, “Skills & Strategies for Media Education,” pp. 1-11. Gillmor, “Principles for a New Media Literacy”, pp. 1-9. a.


Week 3 –September 9, 2015 Potter: Chapter 3: Individual Perspective on Audience Potter: Chapter 4: Industry Perspective on Audience Week 4 – September 14; 16, 2015 a.



Potter: Chapter 5: Children as Special Audience Borchers,

Persuasion in the Media Age

, Chapter 1, Persuasion in Contemporary Society pp. 3-33 Five Core Concepts About Media,” pp. 1-2 Week Five – September 21; 23, 2015 a.



Potter: Chapter 6: Development of the Mass Media Industries Potter: Chapter 7: Economic Perspective Gerbner, “The Stories We Tell,”

Media Development

(April 1996): 13-17. Reprinted in Kimberly B. Massey,

Readings in Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture

(Toronto: Mayfield Publishing, 1999): 10-20. Week 6 September 28, 2015 – Make up and Review

September 30, 2015 – Test One





Week 7 – October 5; 7, 2015 Potter: Chapter 8: Media Content and Reality Potter: Chapter 9: News Postman & Powers, (1992).

How to watch TV news

. New York: Penguin, pp. 11-25. a.



Week 8 – October 12; 14, 2015 Potter: Chapter 10: Entertainment Michael J. Porter, Deborah L. Larson, Allison Harthcock, and Kelly Berg Nellis, “Re(de)fining Narrative Events: Examining Television Narrative Structure,”

Journal of Popular Film and Television

30 (2002): 23-30. Postman, (1984).



to death: Public discourse in the age of show business

. New York: Penguin, pp. 3-29. a) b) c) Week 9 – October 19; 21, 2015 Potter: Chapter 11: Advertising Robert Scholes, “On Reading a Video Text,”

Protocols of Reading

, (1989). Reprinted in Terence Brunk, Suzanne Diamond, Priscilla Perkins,

Literacies: Reading, Writing, Interpretation

(2000), pp. 619-623 Art Silverblatt, Jane Ferry, and Barbara Finan,

Approaches to Media Literacy: A Handbook

. (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1999), Chapter Five, “Analysis of Production Elements,” pp. 196-249 a.


Week 10 – October 26; 28, 2015 Potter: Chapter 12: Interactive Media Borchers:

Persuasion in the Media Age

, Chapter 4 Media Influences on Persuasion a.


Week 11 November 2, 2015 -- make-up and review

November 4, 2015 – Test Two

Week 12 – November 9, 2015 Potter: Chapter 13: Broadening Our Perspectives on Media Effects Potter: Chapter 14: How Does the Effects Process Work? a.


Week 13 – November 16, 2015 Potter: Chapter 15: Who Owns and Controls the Mass Media Potter: Chapter 16: Pivacy 5


Hobbs, “Building Citizenship Skills through Media Literacy Eduction,” Michael Salvador and Patricia M. Sias,

The Public Voice in a Democracy at Risk

(Westport: Praeger, 1998), 57-76. Reading a Video Text Assignment Due a.


Week 14 – November 23, 2015 Chapter 17: Piracy Chapter 18: Media Violence a.


Week 15 – November 30; December 2, 2015 Chapter 19: Sports Chapter 20: Helping Yourself and Others to Increase Media Literacy Week 16 – December 7, 2015 Make-up and Review Final Exam Monday, December 14, 2015 1:00 – 3:00 6

Reading a Video Text

– (100 points) The chapter from Silverblatt, Ferry and Finan examines the grammar of video texts, paying close attention to the elements of production and how they play a vital role in the construction of a text’s meaning. Because being media literate requires a thorough understanding of how meaning is construction within nontraditional texts, it is important to know how to de-construct a text. Scholes provides such a DE-construction in his analysis of the Budweiser commercial. He discusses the use of “myth” within the message of the ad as well as how it draws upon our “storehouse of cultural information” to convey notions of patriotism. As Scholes demonstrates, when we break texts down and “read” them with a critical eye, the subtle nuances of a message emerge. We can thus tap into the multiple meanings available in a given text. More important, we get a better glimpse of the text’s “author” and the motivations she or he might have in constructing the text. In order to demonstrate your own media literacy, select a short video text to analyze. I suggest strongly that a 30 second commercial seems to work ideally for this assignment. Once you have selected your “text,” watch it SEVERAL times. Since childhood we have developed a habitual pattern of passively viewing television that is not conducive to critical viewing; what Potter calls the “Default Model of Automaticity.” Only by watching the text in an unnatural manner (over and over again) do we begin to break that viewing habit. As you watch the text, take note as to what “myths” the text builds from and what does the text assume you already know or believe (your storehouse of cultural information). Focusing on the elements of production (lighting, camera angle, sound, color, scale) analyze HOW the text constructs its meaning. What is the text’s underlying message? What assumptions does the “author” make about the audience? What is the agenda of the “author”? How does the “author” use these elements to convey the message? Your analysis should combine Silverblatt, Ferry and Finan’s insights concerning the elements of production with Scholes’ ideas about the matrices of power to provide a theoretic underpinning for the analysis of the text you selected. You can use other sources if you wish (and they are encouraged), but you have to – at a minimum – combine those two works to do this assignment correctly. Try not to view your critique as an answer to the questions above, but instead as a report of your findings. You will be assessed on the depth of your analysis, including how well you integrate these two readings to provide a solid theoretic grounding for your analysis. This assignment can be done in one of two ways. The first is in a 5-8 page paper; (page limits are hard and enforced ) not including title page and endnotes. Be mindful that I may not be familiar with this particular video text; therefore, be sure to provide a thorough description as part of your analysis. This does not mean you can simply summarize the text. Instead, be thoroughly descriptive as you analyze the text. This is a formal research paper so cite from recognized research in the area and use the APA style format. The second option is to complete the assignment as a 5-8 minute video file. This file should illustrate how your text employs the production elements discussed in the Sliverblatt, Ferry and Finan chapter, and exemplifies the matrices of power as laid out by Scholes. I will not be able to 7

help with the technology of how to do a file like this, but past students have said that there are several instructional videos that can help. Do not just throw the various terms in or worse, think I -- as the reader/evaluator -- will make the connections for you. Whether you do this assignment as a paper or as a video file you need to identify and define explicitly the terms within the presentation, cite the appropriate evidentiary support, and then illustrate how they are used within the artifact. This assignment is due on November 16. Videos will be due at the start of class. I will transfer them onto my flash drive for evaluation. Papers are due at 2:00 and are submitted in to turnitin. Late assignments will not be accepted. You can work in groups of up to three people for either version of the assignment but everyone receives the same grade.

A Word About Professionalism in Writing

I spend a great deal of time and effort in grading student papers so as to provide you with maximum feedback that can, in turn, help you to improve your writing. Because of this, it is most discouraging when the occasional student hands in a paper that has many errors in syntax, grammar, and/or spelling. Most often, papers replete with these types of errors have been hastily written and proofread—or not proofread at all. For these reasons, my policy is as follows: If I determine that your paper has an excessive number of errors in syntax, grammar, and/or spelling, I will stop reading and return your paper to you with a grade of zero. I will put the post “FEAR” – “Fix Errors and Resubmit” – at the point in your essay where I stopped reading. At that point your paper will be considered one day late, incurring a penalty of 8 points. You will have 24 hours to correct the essay and resubmit it. Your essay will be considered another day late for each 24 hour period that passes before resubmission. If the revision still contains a significant number of mechanical errors I will stop reading it and the process will begin again. When you write you create an image of yourself on the paper. You want that image to be professional and accomplished. You owe it to yourself to produce work that reflects well on its author.


Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property. It is one of the highest forms of academic offense because in academe, it is a scholar’s words, ideas, and creative products that are the primary measures of identity and achievement. Whether by ignorance, accident, or intent, theft is still theft, and misrepresentation is still misrepresentation. Therefore, the offense is still serious, and is treated as such



In any case in which a Professor or Instructor identifies evidence for charging a student with violation of academic conduct standards or plagiarism, the presumption will be with that instructor’s determination. However, the faculty/instructor(s) will confer with the director to 8

substantiate the evidence. Once confirmed, the evidence will be reviewed with the student. If, following the review with the student, the faculty member and director determine that academic dishonesty has occurred, the evidence will be submitted to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The report “identifies the student who was found responsible, the general nature of the offense, the action taken, and a recommendation as to whether or not additional action should be considered by the campus judicial affairs office .” (CSSR Website [1] ). [1]

Intellectual Property:

The syllabus, lectures and lecture outlines are personal copyrighted intellectual property of the instructor, which means that any organized recording for anything other than personal use, duplication, distribution, or profit is a violation of copyright and fair use laws.

Proper Source Attribution:

Proper attribution occurs by specifying the source of content or ideas. This is done by (a) providing quotation marks around text, when directly quoted, and (b) clearly designating the source of the text or information relied upon in an assignment. Text that is identical with another source but without quotation marks constitutes plagiarism, regardless of whether you included the original source.

Specific exemplary infractions and consequences

: a. Reproducing a whole paper, paragraph, or large portions of unattributed materials (whether represented by: (i) multiple sentences, images, or portions of images; or (ii) by percentage of assignment length) without proper attribution, will result in assignment of an “F” in the course, and a report to Student Rights and Responsibilities. b. Reproducing a sentence or sentence fragment with no quotation marks but source citation, or subsets of visual images without source attribution, will


result in an “F” on the assignment. Repeated or serious cases will result in assignment of an “F” in the course, and a report to Student Rights and Responsibilities.


Students often practice some form of ‘double-dipping,’ in which they write on a given topic across more than one course assignment. In general, there is nothing wrong with double dipping

topics or sources

, but there is a problem with double-dipping

exact and redundant text

. It is common for scholars to write on the same topic across many publication outlets; this is part of developing expertise and the reputation of being a scholar on a topic. Scholars, however, are not permitted to

repeat exact text

across papers or publications except when noted and attributed, as this wastes precious intellectual space with repetition and does a disservice to the particular source of original presentation by ‘diluting’ the value of the original presentation. Any time that a writer simply ‘cuts-and-pastes’ exact text from former papers into a new paper without proper attribution, it is a form of


. Consequently, a given paper should never be turned in to multiple classes. Entire paragraphs, or even sentences, should not be repeated word-for-word 9

across course assignments. Each new writing assignment is precisely that, a new writing assignment, requiring new composition on the student’s part.

Secondary citations:

Secondary citation is not strictly a form of plagiarism, but in blatant forms, it can present similar ethical challenges. A secondary citation is citing source A, which in turn cites source B, but it is source B’s ideas or content that provide the basis for the claims the student intends to make in the assignment. For example, assume that there is an article by Jones (2006) in the student’s hands, in which there is a discussion or quotation of an article by Smith (1998). Assume further that what Smith seems to be saying is very important to the student’s analysis. In such a situation, the student should always try to locate the original Smith source.

In general, if an idea is important enough to discuss in an assignment, it is important enough to locate and cite the original source for that idea.

There are several reasons for these policies: (a) Authors sometimes commit citation errors, which might be replicated without knowing it; (b) Authors sometimes make interpretation errors, which might be ignorantly reinforced (c) Therefore, reliability of scholarly activity is made more difficult to assure and enforce; (d) By relying on only a few sources of review, the learning process is short-circuited, and the student’s own research competencies are diminished, which are integral to any liberal education; (e) By masking the actual sources of ideas, readers must second guess which sources come from which citations, making the readers’ own research more difficult; (f) By masking the origin of the information, the actual source of ideas is misrepresented. Some suggestions that assist with this principle:  When the ideas Jones discusses are clearly attributed to, or unique to, Smith, then find the Smith source and citation.    When the ideas Jones is discussing are historically associated more with Smith than with Jones, then find the Smith source and citation. In contrast, Jones is sometimes merely using Smith to back up what Jones is saying and believes, and is independently qualified to claim, whether or not Smith would have also said it; in such a case, citing Jones is sufficient. Never simply copy a series of citations at the end of a statement by Jones, and reproduce the reference list without actually going to look up what those references report—the only guarantee that claims are valid is for a student to read the original sources of those claims.

Solicitation for ghost writing:

Any student who solicits any third party to write any portion of an assignment for this class (whether for pay or not) violates the standards of academic honesty in this course. The penalty for solicitation (regardless of whether it can be demonstrated the individual solicited wrote any sections of the assignment) is F in the course.

The papers in this course will be submitted electronically in Word (preferably .docx) on the due dates assigned, and will require verification of submission to “Students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers 10

will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. You may submit your papers in such a way that no identifying information about you is included. Another option is that you may request, in writing, that your papers not be submitted to However, if you choose this option you will be required to provide documentation to substantiate that the papers are your original work and do not include any plagiarized material” (source: language suggested by the CSU General Counsel and approved by the Center for Student’s Rights and Responsibilities at SDSU)

Specific exemplary infractions and consequences

Course failure:

Reproducing a whole paper, paragraph, or large portions of unattributed materials without proper attribution, whether represented by: (a) multiple sentences, images, or portions of images; or (b) by percentage of assignment length, or solicitation of a ghost writer, will result in assignment of an “F” in the course in which the infraction occurred, and a report to the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities (CSRR). 

Assignment failure:

Reproducing a sentence or sentence fragment with no quotation marks, but with source citation, or subsets of visual images without source attribution, will


result in an “F” on the assignment, and may result in greater penalty, including a report to the CSRR, depending factors noted below. In this instance, an “F” may mean anything between a zero (0) and 50%, depending on the extent of infraction. 

Exacerbating conditions--Amount:

Evidence of infraction, even if fragmentary, is increased with a greater: (a) number of infractions; (b) distribution of infractions across an assignment; or (c) proportion of   the assignment consisting of infractions.

Exacerbating conditions--Intent:

Evidence of foreknowledge and intent to deceive magnifies the seriousness of the offense and the grounds for official response. Plagiarism, whether ‘by accident’ or ‘by ignorance,’ still qualifies as plagiarism—it is all students’ responsibility to make sure their assignments are not committing the offense.


Any exceptions to these policies will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and only under exceptional circumstances.


. 11