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September 26, 2006

First Essay Assignment

Below is a link to the first essay assignment. This essay asks you to think CRITICALLY about the relationship between "the media" and race, gender, and politics. Please let me know if you have any questions or trouble opening the file.

First Essay Assignment

Gender and the Media (follow-up)

Once again, I really enjoyed our discussion on gender and the media last night during class. If I had to summarize my main points from the lecture, I would say this: gender is a social construct, not a biological fact. And, once you begin thinking about gender as a “constitutive element in social relationships� and a key framework for organizing relationships of power, then you can use the lens of gender to analyze not only historical events and ideas, but the world around us as well.

So that’s my point, but I heard from several of you and hope to hear more of your ideas on this topic. I left last night with a ton of questions, hopefully we can discuss some of them here. If gender is something different than biology, how do we make sense of the correlation between the two that takes place in biology labs and psychological testing (e.g. showing that men are more aggressive than women because of increased adrenaline levels)? I hope someone will challenge my take on this issue. Perhaps people have more to add on our contemporary gender norms. And comments about the readings are welcome as well.

But there were other questions. How should we resolve the tension between media corporations existing as business entities, with an imperative to make money, and as servants of the “public interest� (although, as we discussed last night, that’s a loaded word)?

September 21, 2006

The History of Newspapers

I just wanted to follow up on our class last Monday (Sept. 18). First, I enjoyed the class and was glad to see everyone engage with some online historical documents. We'll continue to do the history "labs" throughout the semester. Additionally, I think we raised some really interesting questions about the relationship between journalism in the past and in the present. Hopefully, we can continue the discussion in the comments section. I'm sorry that we didn't get into the specifics of the readings this time, but we'll do that as we move forward.

Finally, to summarize my main points from lecture, I want to emphasize that the words and ideas we often take for granted in current discussions of media and politics, such as "bias," "objectivity," and even "news," have particular histories. And, if we trace any of these ideas backward through time, we can see how they are not static and unchanging definitions, but concepts that emerged in specific places and times for specific reasons. And, reflecting the most basic lesson of history, they have changed drastically over time.

Those are my thoughts. Would anyone else like to add their own?

September 18, 2006

Missing a Coffee Mug?

Are you missing a coffee mug? I found one in the classroom tonight. Email me if it's yours.

September 14, 2006

Readings for September 18 (Week Two)

Below is a series of questions I've written to help guide your reading for our meeting next week (September 18). From time to time throughout the semester I'll post these reading guides, both as an incentive to check the course blog (and hopefully to comment on it) and to help you make sense out of complicated readings.

This week's readings focus on newspapers and their role in 19th-century politics and urban space. These are complicated chapters, so don't be discouraged if you find yourself confused or lost at times. The key, I think, is to remember that these are NOT textbooks meant to convey a list of facts, but are instead one author's interpretation of certain specific developments in the past. Thus, I encourage you to dispute the authors, argue with them, agree with their argument, etc. Just don't take these chapters as a transparent and undisputed account of the past (which, I would argue, doesn't exist). Finally, I'd encourage you to grab a dictionary and look up any words with which you're unfamiliar. I noted "discourse," "homology," and "simulacra" as ten-dollar words used by Henkin.

That's my two cents. I welcome you to use the comments of this thread to ask your own questions about these readings, post your own opinions, etc. Any posts on the blog will contribute to your class participation grade.

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September 12, 2006

The Course Packet is Available

I've heard from Paradigm Copies and the course pack is available as of this morning (September 12). The cost of the course pack is $50.60. If you have any trouble getting the course pack when at Paradigm, please send me an email to let me know. I'm happy to contact Paradigm and work out any kinks in the system.

Paradigm Copies is at 1501 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 201. You can call them at (612) 379-4590.


Here's another copy of the course syllabus:

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