Sunday, January 30, 2005

Comm 200: About to Liftoff into the Quantitative!

Hello class! I hope your weekend has gone well. I am about to find some time in a coffee shop getting prepared for the upcoming week's classes and the enjoy our snowfall. As such, I want to make a few announcements. First of all, if you are still having problems with setting up a bloglines account, please do so as by Tuesday. It is terribly easy and it is essential for all of the upcoming blogging assignments. Just click on the link above and make an account with a password that is easy to remember. If you need help come see me during my office hours tomorrow and we can walk through it. If you have already done it and know someone who needs help, please help them!

Secondly... NO QUIZ TOMORROW! I know I have that on the syllabus and I may give you one on Wednesday, but I think we are a little behind and need to catch up. We will still have a quiz on Friday, so put it in your books!

We will meet in the Communication Lab yet again and I will go through the end of the lecture from Wednesday and begin a new lecture. After this, we will begin to refine your RQs even further. Tonight, take a minute and look at your group's many RQs posted on your blog. Before you come pto class, ask yourself, "are these questions specific enough?" If they are not then how could you make them as specific as possible. As yourself is there a specific unit of analysis that could be measured? And if so what is it (or what are they)? If you cannot identify any, then rewrite these questions with speicifc units of analysis.

We will spend some time getting to a very specific RQ. But don't think this is something that you can just get without preparation. It will become very clear who has actually taken some time tonight to jot down a better set of RQs and who has not. A small amount of preparation tonight will pay off tomorrow!

Read the assigned Frey chapters and I will see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Comm 200: Thoughts on Reading and Method

This week's reading is small, but it fits into the theme of research with "real world" implications. I would like you to have looked closely at it by the time class begins tomorrow. "The Stovepipe" by Seymour Hersh is an investigative article about how information is acquired. Only a few weeks ago the Bush administration announced that they were giving up their investigation into WMDs in Iraq. This announcement occurred conveninently two months after the general election, thus deflecting criticism about claims made by the administration that they knew Iraq had WMDs and, in some cases, knew where they were. Given that this was the primary case used to convince the American public and the Congress to go to war with Iraq, this has huge implications on the public trust as well as world opinion of America in general. So Hersh's asks how did we get such inferior information? That is a method question and it is the basis of questions that deal with how information is acquired, as well as the reliability of the informants. In this case, this has to do with the "vetting process".

Also, we will have a lecture on method, something that is vital to the research process, but is most often forgotten by general readers. Unfortunately, without attention to method you actually will have very few ideas as to how you got the information you got and, therefore, won't be able to correct yourself in the future.

PS - I will say more about blogging later as I am getting many questions on it. No problem! Keep em coming. Also, remember, I have office hours. They are there for you to use.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Comm 200: Comments on yesterday's discussion, some terms to look out for...

I thought the discussion was good, even if we had different versions of the reading due to printout variances. In the future, let's all try to print outr the "printer friendly version" of the online articles if they are available.

I thought some key terms came up and I will be developing over the course a "key terms page" with HTML that will act as an online glossary. That said, Investingating Communication has an extensive glossary and I would like you to use it when you need to. Here are the following key terms you should look up...
Anecdotal Evidence
Personal Experience
Unit of Analysis
You should look these up and see if you can apply them not only to our readings in the future, but all of your work in every class at Denison. Say a professor makes an assertion that we know what kind of armor was used in the Penelopennesian War, ask them what kind of "empirical evidence do we have to make such a claim". It's not being uppity (unless you are doing it simply to be difficult), but inquisitive. These are good questions to ask because they draw us further into a conversation rather than simply accepting a bunch of claims because of the authority of those who dispense them. It's ok to be critical in this manner, no matter how annoyed some people get. I will continue to talk about this later.

About the article: The more I read it the more convinced I am about the hard work that one performs when one does long term research. It's something that anyone with a degree needs to understand since you will most likely have to perform, at least once in your life, a kind of "long term research project". In fact, this may happen many times over. Do not get frustrated by not getting quick results, Quick results tend to be cheap and just like anything cheap it usually loses whatever value it has just as quickly as one got it.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Comm 226: Comments on Orality and Writing

Hey, I am about to hit the road here after a long day in the office and I wanted to make a few comments about orality and writing as I listen to the new Mos Def. Hip Hop culture, perhaps more than any other form of recent popular culture, is firmly committed to "oral culture", a culture where you either know it or you don't. I can't imagine a rapper getting on stage and freestyling with lyrics in hand. No "skillz" right? There is still something heroic and respected about this type of knowledge where one can remember a lengthy rap and deliver it with such ease and flow that it' mastery must be recognized. Given that hip hop is the most popular form of pop culture there is today, here is something for us to remember: perhaps we have quite a bit of an interest in orality today.

That said, for the most part the key issues of power, identity and technology seemed to those that really hit home for many of you. Do yourself a favor and go back and re-read those readings this weekend and instead of thinking of Egyptian Pharoahs and priests, think about the power that mass media corporations, programmers, and franchises have in terms of "branding" and creating a following of readers and loyalists. Despite our relatively high levels of literacy and scientific knowledge, many of us still feel the need to identify with something larger than ourselves. I keep thinking of fandom in mass society and how that is constructed (and how our fandom constructs who we are and with whomewe identify). What is it about our identities that somehow are connected to mass produced and distributed texts like baseball games (hey, most of the sports we watch is on TV and TV isn't natural: it is a produced text)? I hope you will mull this over tonight and tomorrow.

By the way, your pictures can be found by clicking here. Check out what y'all look like at 9:30am. Show your friends!


Monday, January 17, 2005

Communication 226: A request and the upcoming readings.

Hey guys, remember we take pictures on Wednesday. Bring your "game face"!

I need to make a request of you. Many of you wrote that you would like to "study television" if you were to study anything in a communication course. That is fine, but it is far too vague. What, specifically, about television would you like to study? A particular type of programming? Social effects? Be specific! The more specific you are, the better I can help you help yourself. This is something that you can all do. If you wrote that you wanted to study advertising, you need to think more and more specifically about it. We will study mass society and community and that may sound general, but we will always be focused on a number of examples. For you to do your research you need to start focusing today. It doesn't mean you need to choose, but think about focusing to a few things you find interesting about your topic, an specific example if you will. We will come back to this over and over throughout the class.

Also, you have two short readings about writing and oral culture. In the first essay I would like you to pay attention to how writing, technologies and power are intimately connected. As you read it, are their contemporary connections between those in ancient Egypt and today? If so, what are they? Are there other examples in history where we see a shift in writing and technology affect power structures?

In the second essay, the issue has to do with how important "orality". Why does Ong believe that orality is so important for explaining issues of memory and knowledge? What is "secondary orality"? Can "orality" be "written"? If so, how? What kinds of technology would write "oral culture" and what kind of effect would this have on us?

These are discussion questions. Jot down some answers and come prepared to talk about this on Wednesday and, hopefully, we can take this into Friday as well.

Communication 200: Webpage Pictures and First Reading Thoughts

I posted the photos and you can check em out by clicking here. A couple of them came out fuzzy, but I can always retake your image later. If you hate, hate, hate your headshot, send me another and, if it is accurate, I will post it later. We will actually use some of these later in your blogs.

Also, your first reading is "Learning to Spy" by Elsa Walsh. When you read it think of the FBI and the CIA not as espionage organizations, but as "research organizations". And look for places where these organizations did solid research but did not necessarily share or understand the information that they required. I want to talk about why it is that a "fact gathering organization" such as the FBI may not necessarily have been the best organization to think about what the evidence means or what it could mean with regards to future events.
Why would it be bad to have too much information, as the article implies.

Why do certain organizations have a hard time communicating about the same topic or idea? Why would the NSA, FBI and CIA have such a difficult time finding a common way to research "terrorism" as the article implies?

One of the things that CIA and NSA develop is many of our "reconnaissance capabilities" for military targeting. Why would the quality of research information be key for this?
Jot down some other thoughts about the article as you like. Admittedly, I find the article kind of scary, but it also interesting to note that doing research is always hard work. There is little magic to it. My favorite quote from the article is the following,
Everybody, Baginski said, tends to make intelligence “sound so hard and mysterious, and it’s really not. You need something, you go get raw material, and you add value to it. You put out a product and you keep adjusting, based on the feedback that you get. That really is all it is.”
Adjusting from solid feedback from other is key! We will come back to this time and time again throughout this course so be prepared to give it to your peers through discussion and web posts.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Syllabi and the Gateways

If you are reading this, then you are most likely enrolled in Communication 200 and/or 226. Both of these classes will involve substantial blog work, including using this forum for the distribution of information and announcements. In other words, you should bookmark this page and come to it on a daily basis.

If you look to your left you will notice a number of links, two of which are the two classes I am teaching this semester. These lead you to some "less-than-exciting" gateways that are link you to content that is relevant to each of the courses. Please read the gateway that is relevant to your class today! This includes the link to the Communication Department's Mission Statement. After that, feel free to go through these pages, give suggestions and utilize them as the tools that they are menat to be. Please note: these pages are rather "wordy". They are meant to "frame" the readings and the coursework more than entertain. I may point to one section or more throughout the course in class. When I do that, it is probably a good idea to go back to these portions of these frames and inspect what it contains. I will post links to assignments and tip sheets in these pages as well, most likely they will be in the "gateway portion".

Finally, here are the two links that have your syllabi. Your first assignment: Read the syllabi on your own time and expect to get quizzed on part of it on Friday.
1) Communication 200 Syllabus

2) Communication 226 Syllabus.