American Idol(s): How Stories shape Culture and Identity
Meeting Days and Times: Tuesday & Thursday 1:15-3:15 & 3:30-5:30 in UWBB 240
Course Website: https://ameridols.wordpress.com/  Twitter: #ameridols Syllabus: PDF
Prof. Kari Lerum, Ph.D. (sociology)      Prof. Amoshaun Toft, Ph.D. (communication) website
klerum%uwb.edu                                     atoft%uw.edu
Office: UW2-328                                     Office: UW1-143
Phone: 425-352-3588                            Phone: 425-352-3210
Office Hours: Thu 11am-1pm                 Office Hours: Tue 11am-1pm

We understand ourselves and others through the stories we hear and tell.  Such stories are found everywhere — including CNN, religious sermons, Facebook status updates, and “American Idol”: all tell stories about our imagined place in the world. But not all stories are created equal: Why do some stories gain more social power than others? How does the social status of the messenger and the cultural, economic, and political context impact the influence of any given story?  Furthermore, how can we thoughtfully and competently construct and tell our own stories using digital tools?

We will explore these questions by drawing on academic work in sociology, communication, and cultural studies, by comparing and contrasting examples of popular cultural stories, and by producing our own stories using digital and social medias. We will critically reflect upon the relationship between self-identity and the stories told in a variety of institutions and cultural sites, including mainstream media (CNN, Oprah, MTV, Hollywood), religion, politics, academic disciplines (sociology, anthropology, communications, global health, geography), live art (theater, performance art) and alternative medias (pirate radio, graphic novels)  We will engage in a series of production assignments, learning how to tell compelling stories through photography, film, and other forms of creative production and scholarly writing.

CUSP Learning Goals: 

Critical and Creative Inquiry; Communication; Quantitative and Qualitative Literacy; Inclusive Practices; Ethics and Social Responsibility.

Discovery Core Sequence: The DC Sequence includes a DC I in the Fall, a DC II in the Winter, and a DC III in the spring. Each course emphasizes student creativity and analysis, interdisciplinarity, integrated learning, undergraduate research skills, and self-reflection.  The sequence is capped by the spring DC III course in which you create a Portfolio that is both reflective and projective, looking back at what you have learned and ahead to the directions you’d like to explore.  Read more about the Discovery Core and Advising issues at http://www.uwb.edu/cusp/courses/thediscoverycore.

“American Idol(s)” Course Learning Goals:

Students should leave this course with the ability to:

  1. Understand what constitutes a “scholarly” source of knowledge
  2. Identify major US institutions and explain their roles in shaping American and Global cultures
  3. Employ principles of Media Literacy (including both analysis of media as well as media production)
  4. Move from opinion to thoughtful critique and analysis
  5. Understand and appreciate the ethics of research and documentation, and how this varies by occupational sector (e.g. journalism vs. academia)

Required Texts, media, and e-reserves:

  • Shapiro, Eve. Gender Circuits: Bodies and Identities in a technological age. Routledge, 2010.
  • Sartrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
  • McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling secrets of comics, manga and graphic novels. Harper Paperbacks, 2006.
  • Lambert, Joe. Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkeley: Center for Digital Storytelling 2007. Available at: http://www.storycenter.org/cookbook.html
  • Also, select readings available on electronic reserves (http://library.uwb.edu/reserve.html)
Reading: In addition to the required texts (available at the UW book store), readings for this course are available online via the Electronic Reserves site (http://library.uwb.edu/reserve.html) as individual pdf files. It is highly recommended that you secure some method of printing course readings. Important reading strategies like highlighting, underlining, and making notes in the margins are more difficult when reading on a screen, and can impact comprehension and analysis of the texts. If you chose to read digital copies you will be expected to use digital reading tools like notes and highlighting within the program that you are using. Readings are to be done before the day that they are listed and copies should be brought to class (or a digital device like a laptop, iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc. with your notes if you chose to read digitally) so that you will be ready to discuss them, apply them in skills-based activities, and build your collective understanding of the topic and methods used. Multimedia: This course is about media production as well as media analysis, so you will be expected to listen to and view examples of multimedia. Multimedia will be assigned for each week, along with the readings. While some of it will be viewed in class, there will be many items (videos, websites, audio stories) that should be done prior to the class period that they are assigned for so that you will be ready to discuss the examples in class. While listening/watching, pay attention to how the stories are crafted, and think about how you might be able to replicate some of the practices in your own work. All multimedia will be available online on the schedule page, and may require software installation or plug-ins from players that can read audio, video, or flash files. Some files will only be available in streaming formats and may not be available for download. Please see the course website for an up to date listing of course viewing and listening as the quarter progresses.

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