A Paper-Topic-Generation Exercise
The goal of this assignment is to help you generate and zoom in on a paper topic for your final paper in this class. It is designed as a combination of “free-flow” explorative writing and a more constructed presentation of a paper topic. So – what can your paper topic be?
For this paper I want you to find a topic in contemporary or historical media that interests you. I want you to write about a topic you are passionate about. It can be a TV or film genre, or specific TV series, or a TV creator/show-runner, or a specific film or film director, or film franchise. It can be new (or old) media technology (“online streaming”; “the Walkman”); a social media or video gaming phenomenon, a non U.S. film or TV industry you like (Japanese Anima; Bollywood); “viral videos” – It can be anything! Really! In your final paper – You can write about this topic in any number of ways.
Overall- the goal is for you to be able to do original research on your topic, develop a research question, design a method to answer this question (or set of questions) by locating materials for your analysis and then conducting analysis (developing analysis categories and writing your analysis). Given the theoretical emphasis of our class – it would be required that your discussion includes at least one core area of media theory we covered/will be covering – for example, media technology, media and culture, semiotics and ideological theories of media representations, media industries, genres and formats, active audience theory, etc. In this assignment: I want you to use this free-flow writing assignment to start thinking of the different building blocks that you need to include in your final project.
AS YOU ARE FREE-FLOWING HERE KEEP IN MIND AND RESPOND TO THE FOLLOWING:
A final paper proposal needs to specify and discuss specific “building blocks” as outlined below (I’ve tried including lots of different and specific EXAMPLES):
Paper topic – WHAT IS THE PAPER ABOUT? What phenomenon/text/genre/medium/etc. AND “so what” – what’s at stake in this topic and your discussion of it? Why is it important? Interesting? New?
Research question- WHAT ARE YOU ASKING ABOUT THE TOPIC YOU SELECTED [this can be initial and overarching but try breaking it down to as many smaller questions as possible Some examples for RQ “what is the significance of…” “what can we learn about the significance of X [phenomenon/problem] by looking at Y [The ice bucket challenge/audience reception of three decades of ABC sitcoms/ the production culture of ’trashy’ reality TV] ” Literature review –
WHAT WIDER CONVERSATIONS IS YOUR PAPER JOINING? You survey the existing discussion in academic/scholarly and possibly also in public/press/trade-press circles – what have been people writing/saying on this topic? This can break down to several categories: – Background information (e.g. historical, industrial, technological, ideological or cultural context. – Theoretical framework – what theoretical debates are you engaging with your paper topic? (This can be very initial – are you interested in media technology? Culture? Representation? Poetics (or textual discussion)? Semiotics? Ideological effects?
Method – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IN ORDER TO ANSWER YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION – here discuss: what are you going to do to gather evidence and analyze it? What type of materials will you gather and analyze? What will you do to get hold of the necessary materials? (or list of materials if you already have them)
Possible methods to consider for this paper: Textual analysis, Industrial analysis, Audience reception analysis – and a combination of the above (Kellner) Industrial analysis you can look at the bigger picture ”political economy” elements (e.g. ownership structure, finance, revenue models, distribution) or zoom in on production culture and practices (e.g. how was the show formatted, developed, casted, shot, edited, etc). Materials: Trade and business publications [FACTIVA!] producers and executives interviews in the press/trades, “behind the scenes” special features on DVD’s etc. production archives, on-site observations and personal communication interviews with practitioners. Textual analysis: – Here you need to make choices about the texts to include – the full Simpsons series(don’t!)? A selection of episodes? One season? All of Spielberg’s films? One big film from three Hollywood directors who dominated the 1970s return to the blockbuster? A selection of Anime films to display the (3,5, 10) leading trends in that genre…. – How will you organized your analysis? Chronological (e.g. 2 main periods of the genre of reality TV evolution) ? Thematically (3 categories of representation). in other words what is the driving principle behind your analysis – formalism/semiotics?
Interest in a certain genre or style? Ideological/political cultural analysis? Audience analysis: Tricky because for legal reasons you CAN’T conduct an independent audience analysis (no focus groups or surveys for this class) So – locate and discuss– what type of PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE materials can you look at to talk about audience/fans/users activities (published academic research; publically available audience comments online (NOT on password protected social media – so no Facebook feeds – you CAN use open access fan forums, reader comments sections in online news articles etc.)
WHAT YOU ARE REQUIRED TO SUBMIT “Laying tracks”:
Write a free-flow 1-1.5 pages in double space 12 font.
Write about a/some media text or phenomenon you like/watch/consume/use/make and/or find interesting
Describe in detail and in a concrete specific way “what am I looking at”? What is the unit of analysis (Medium/genre/text/social media/video game/etc.) name and explore some theoretical connections you see with what the class covered so far or is about to cover What kind of materials are available or what do I imagine I will need to do to locate appropriate research materials
Explain: why is this case study interesting/engaging as a media phenomenon? State the aspect you plan to analyze (how it’s made (industry/production)? Its impact (culture/society)? How it constructs a world/meaning (text/poetics)? How it is consumed /accepted /understood (Popular reception)? What do I want to ask/answer about it? OR IN OTHER WORDS: What’s at stake? (the “so what” question? )