Jason Collins first openly gay “active player in a major American team sport” (?)

This was the opening sentence in a story about Jason Collins. It was posted on ESPN on the day Mr. Collins came out.

“NBA center Jason Collins on Monday announced that he’s gay in a story for Sports Illustrated, becoming the first active player in a major American team sport to announce that he is gay.”

I have bolded two assertions I find interesting and maddening. First, it is clear, once again, that major American team sports is a label reserved for male competitive sports. In the United States, this includes football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. That means that even though there have been players competing in team sports while openly gay or lesbian, their stories have not been granted the cultural significance that  Mr. Collin’s has. Their sports are  neither “major”,  nor “team” sports. Moreover, some of the athletes in question are either not “active, and they might be  women.

Now, I am not surprised when mainstream publications like Sports Illustrated frame a story like this one as a momentous occasion. I am also not dismissing Mr. Collins’ coming out. Having gone through it myself, I know how difficult it can be. What really gets me, though, is when advocacy groups fall into this narrative as well. Take for example The Human Rights Campaign. This is an advocacy group that works for equal rights for the LGBT community. This is a screenshot of their website:

jason collins

This is another image HRC used to call for support for Mr. Collins.

Maybe you’re wondering what my problem is. Well, I have a problem with double standards. A few weeks ago, WNBA star Brittney Griner came out, and there was barely a hiccup of attention. The New York Times noted as much in the aptly titled Female Star Comes Out as Gay, and Sports World ShrugsJim Buzinski, of Out Sports, explained that there was a reason for that. It’s because Griner is a woman. He then adds:

 “Can you imagine if it was a man who did the exact same thing? Everyone’s head would have exploded.”

That’s exactly what happened. Everyone’s head exploded, including those of the folks at HRC. Their acknowledgement of Griner’s coming out was basically a blog post. Where’s the call to share her image in support of her decision? HRC didn’t create one. Instead, they shared a link to the aforementioned blog post on their Facebook page. That was it.

griner

Do we really believe that we can “dismantle the master’s house” by “using the master’s tools”*? I don’t. It takes more than that. It takes a profound willingness to alter the prevailing discourse, and that includes refusing to perpetuate the  sexist double standard that undervalues women sports, while overvaluing male variants of the same sport.

Brittney Griner and other female athletes should get the same consideration and support as that given to Mr. Collins. That acknowledges their decisions, which are just as courageous and deserving of attention as Mr. Collins’.

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*The original quote, from Audre Lorde is “For the marter’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

Ignite 2013

The Broadcast Education Association put a call out for innovative teaching ideas, which would be showcased in a session titled Ignite. Mine was one of ten to be chosen this time around. I recorded the audio with my iPhone and added it to my slides.

Where I disclose the past in a newspaper column.

On March 22, 2013, I published a column on The Trinitonian, the student newspaper at Trinity University. It was my response to the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, and my way of taking a stand against rape culture. You can read the column here.

I have received several responses to the column, mostly from friends. I would like to thank everyone for their kind words. It really means a lot to me, and I love you for it.

I decided to publish my story because I know how difficult it is to break the silence. Our culture discourages victims of sexual abuse from disclosing, as we do fear that we’ll be judged and found guilty somehow of causing it. Young women are told that if they wear certain types of clothes, or have too much to drink, they will reap what they sow. Young men, on the other hand, are told that their masculinity will be questioned, as everyone knowns that only women get raped. Well, guess what? That is not true. men can be victims of sexual assault too, even though male-on-female rape is far more common.

But I digress. I was trying to articulate why I disclosed my story. It’s quite simple, actually. I am now in a good place in my life. In fact, you could think of me as the after picture in one of those before and after photo spreads. I now have a beautiful family, and career that I love, teaching young people about the media. As an educator, I also have responsibilities to my students. I want to see them succeed. However, I know that some of them might be struggling with similar traumas. I want those students to know that there are people on campus that will advocate for them. They should know that life can resume. It may take a long time, and it is really hard, but people can recover.

Course redesign

I am revamping my courses for the next semester. First up is media interpretation and criticism. I just submitted a course redesign grant (fingers crossed), and here it is, in all its glory

Introduction

Media Interpretation and Criticism is offered by the Department of Communication. It is listed in the common curriculum within “Understanding the Arts and Literature – Visual Arts, Music, Performance and Aesthetic Production.” It is also one of the foundational courses for the major in communication. Students who complete the course should:

  1. Understand how media texts are constructed.
  2. Interpret media texts, applying communication theories regarding aesthetics, interpretation, and criticism.
  3. Understand the role of ideology in shaping the creation and interpretation of messages, and the role of messages in shaping ideology
  4. Use visual, rhetorical, and technological means to produce media texts.
  5. Recognize the role of active audiences in using media messages to construct meaning and personal identity.

The course redesign incorporates Media Interpretation and Criticism into the Trinity Food Project, “a coalition of students, faculty, support staff, and administrators at Trinity University, provides an inter- and multi-disciplinary lens through which to explore the numerous issues surrounding food” (Trinity Food Project, 2012). Media Interpretation and Criticism supports the TFP’s goals through its combination of theory and practical experience.

Proposed changes

Media Interpretation and Criticism covers two areas: (1) Visual storytelling and graphic design, and (2) theoretical approaches to media interpretation. These components support the goals of the course, and will remain in place. The proposed changes address the following: (1) exploring theories of media interpretation through the lens of food, (2) providing practical experience in graphic design, data visualization, and visual storytelling.

Food as an exploration of theory

For the purposes of this course, media interpretation is a purposeful activity, which is informed by theory.  This includes semiotics, rhetorical analysis, queer theory and other approaches that students can use to examine media content.  In the redesigned course, students will be exposed to a key text (for example, Hall’s The Work of Representation), and will be given additional readings that illustrate the concept(s) through food. The following table provides some examples (see bibliography for full citation):

Topic Primary readings Additional readings
Graphic design/visual storytelling Dick – Selection from “Film, space and image” Kaufman, Debbie does Salad.
Meaning making (representation) Stuart Hall, The work of representation Kniazeva, M., & Belk, R. W.Retzinger, J
Ideology Mittell, Screening America Mohrfeld, J., & Leverette, M
Gender Trujillo (hegemonic masculinity)Ott & Mack, feminist theory SwensonParkin
Queer theory Ott & Mack, Queer analysis To be determined
Race / ethnicity Ewen & Ewen Deck
Postmodernism O’Donnell Miles

Assessment will be take place through two types of activities.

1. Low stakes assignments: Two pass-fail assignments will assess student mastery of the material. First, students are expected to contribute regularly to an online discussion group, where they can share insights and examples that illustrate core concepts, or add to ongoing discussions. They will also complete a series of guided reading responses, whereby they receive two to three questions about the reading, or are asked to deconstruct a media text applying a concept they have read about. These assignments are to be completed outside of class.

2. Theory rage comics: Rage comics are web comics that can be generated easily online. They are commonly used to tell stories. However, comics can also support other learning goals in this course. In this assignment, students will create rage comics to illustrate key concepts within theories covered in class (e.g., encoding/decoding). Students will deliver a 10-minute presentation explaining the concept through the comic. A short 3-to-5-page essay will also be required.  The essay explains the concept, and review contemporary examples of its application in scholarly work.  This assignment will be further developed in Deconstructing Food Advertisements, as it lays the basis for a literature review.

Food as a practical introduction to graphic design and storytelling

One of the goals of the course is to introduce principles, tools and techniques of graphic design and visual storytelling. These activities help students become more aware of the constructed nature of media messages, by creating their own content. Students will complete the following activities:

1. My food poster

Students will document their eating habits for a period of seven days. They will then create an 11 x 17 inch poster illustrating their food/beverage consumption, including information about the nutritional value of food and/or its origin. A short essay detailing their creative decision-making process will accompany the poster. This activity assesses student grasp of graphic design principles (e.g., rule of thirds, contrast, affinity, repetition). An additional benefit might be greater self-awareness about food consumption, nutrition, eating habits, or food sources.

2. Delicious peanut butter & jelly sandwich commercial

Media interpretation and criticism introduces visual storytelling. In the past, the course’s final editing project has been the creation of parody trailers of popular films. In the re-designed course, students will be working in groups to create a 30-to-60 second video that applies a theory and/or concept from the course to an advertisement for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. An alternative version of this assignment would have students create a slide show using power point or keynote. This version will be used in the event of scheduling conflicts and/or equipment availability issues.

Deliverables include: (1) A complete storyboard detailing various shot sizes, locations, sound design, and camera movement, (2) the video itself, and (3) An individual paper detailing the creative process (decisions, technical requirements, difficulties, and suggestions for dealing with common problems). This paper must also explain how theory informed the video. The PB&J project assesses students’ grasp of theory, and their ability to apply principles of graphic design and visual storytelling, including shot composition, basic editing techniques, including the rudiments of sound design. For communication majors, this lays the groundwork for more advanced production courses. For non-majors, it reinforces an awareness of the constructed nature of media.

3. Deconstructing food advertisements

This assignment introduces students to textual analysis, which is a common method of media interpretation. In textual analysis, we are asked to look at the media from a theory-informed perspective, in order to uncover the dominant reading of a text.  Textual analysis also considers the contexts of production and distribution of a text. The textual analysis will assess the following: (1) grasp of theory and ability to produce theory-informed criticism, (2) critical thinking and argumentation, as students must provide evidence as to why they believe their interpretation represents a dominant reading, (3) information literacy, as students must expand their understanding of theories discussed in class through their own research, which will be presented as a short literature review.

Timeline

Jan 16 – Class starts
Feb 8 – You are what you eat project
Feb 28 – Theory rage comic
March 8 – Delicious PB&J project pitches
March 28 – Deconstructing food advertisements
April 10 – Delicious PB&J Storyboards
May 10 – Delicious PB&J videos and papers
Low stakes assignments are ongoing.

Selected bibliography

Deck, A.A. (2001). “Now then – who said biscuits?” The black woman cook as fetish in American advertising.  In S. A. Inness (Ed.) Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race, pp. 69-93. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Ewen, S & Ewen, E. (2008). Tablier Rasa. In S. Ewen & E. Ewen, Typecasting: On the arts and sciences of human inequality (rev. ed). New York, NY: Seven Stories Press

Hall, Stuart. The work of representation

Kaufman, Debbie does Salad. The Food Network at the Frontiers of Pornography

Kniazeva, M., & Belk, R. W. (2007). Packaging as Vehicle for Mythologizing the Brand. Consumption, Markets & Culture,10(1), 51-69. doi:10.1080/10253860601164627

Miles, E. (1993). Adventures in the Postmodernist Kitchen: The Cuisine of Wolfgang Puck. Journal Of Popular Culture, 27(3), 191-203.

Mohrfeld, J., & Leverette, M. (2008). Imbibo Ergo Sum: New Belgium Brewery and the Myths of McEmpire (Joint Top Paper). Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1.

Retzinger, J. (2010). Spectacles of Labor: Viewing Food Production through a Television Screen. Environmental Communication, 4(4), 441-460. doi:10.1080/17524032.2010.520020

O’Donnell, V (2007). Postmodernism. In V. O’Donnell, Television Criticism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Ott, B.L & Mack, R.L (2010). Queer Analysis. In B.L. Ott & R.L Mack, Critical media studies: An introduction.

Ott, B.L & Mack, R.L (2010). Feminist theory. In B.L. Ott & R.L Mack, Critical media studies: An introduction.

Parkin, K (2001). Campbell’s soup and the long shelf life of traditional gender roles. In S. A. Inness (Ed.) Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race, pp. 50-67. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Swenson, R. (2009). Domestic Divo? Televised Treatments of Masculinity, Femininity and Food. Critical Studies In Media Communication,26(1), 36-53. doi:10.1080/15295030802684034

An entry from my research diary.

I wrote this post to model what a research diary entry could look like, for my Latin American Media course. It’s a little rough, but I wanted to set an informal tone because I thought that if I did that, students would be more inclined to write freely. I wrote about the research diary in a previous post.

_____________________________________________________________

A day in the life of Dr. Medina (or how I learned to love Kony 2012)

Let me start by saying this… I decided to write the Kony parody essay because I was very annoyed by Kony 2012. I kept reading all of these really negative reviews about the video’s assumptions of orientalism and white man’s burdenHowever, I didn’t want to spend months of my time trying to examine orientalism in Kony 2012. I wanted something different, so after giving it some thought, I realized that I was really interested in parody. More specifically, I thought I could make the argument that parody through YouTube is an example of participatory culture. So I figured I’d educate myself on both parody and participatory culture, in order to come up with the literature review for the project. I got done writing that sometime in June, and I also selected the videos at around the same time.

Now that selection was challenging. I didn’t realize that so many people mislabel things as parody. I mean, if you use an academic definition of parody, which is what I did, many of the videos that claim to parody Kony 2012 are just making fun of it. It’s not the same thing. A parody intends to mimic elements of the original, often in an exaggerated manner TO MAKE FUN OF IT. No mimicry? no parody. Furthermore, parody is really a critical art form (Bakhtin says so!). Parodists can point out the flaws in an argument. That, in itself, is a form of socio-cultural critique, and that’s what drew me to this project.

Anyway, I ended up with a list of selection parameters, which may sound totally arbitrary, but they helped me immensely. As far as I know, there’s no “how to pick YouTube videos” magical guide out there. Nope, you have to figure that out on your own, so I said I’d only look at videos uploaded in April, that could be considered user-generated content. The videos also had to have over 1000 views, and they had to fit the definition of parody I am using. I also decided to look only at content with intelligible audio, as I found that several videos that fit the above mentioned criteria, weren’t useful at all because I could not understand the narration. Also, as a safety precaution, I downloaded all the source material to my laptop. I did not want to run the risk of videos “disappearing,” and if that were to happen, I’d probably have to re-think whether or not to keep them in the sample. I thought I’d cross that bridge if I got to it.

And I did. It happened in two ways. First, I had selected a video called Yoda 2012. It was perfect, except for one thing. It was not user-generated content. As it turned out, it was produced by The Poke, which  a British version of The Onion. Another YouTuber cut out the final credits of the video, and then posted it as their own. I had already taken extensive notes about it, but I had to drop it, and that wasn’t the only instance of wasted work. I also had a video called Giovanni 2012. This one was most definitely user generated. However, when I revisited my sample after a few weeks off, it had been made private. I had a downloaded copy of it, but I decided that it would be unethical to use it. The person who created it had reasons to retrieve it from public view, and I wasn’t about to ask why, or just take advantage of the fact that I had a copy, so that was that.

After these two experiences, I went back to my original selection parameters. I decided to keep April as my reference month for the publication, but I added that the videos had to come from accounts in good standing. Whomever posted the recut Yoda 2012 video had their account suspended, and that’s how I ended up realizing that it was recut. I am very glad that I did.

I have now been working on and off on the essay for a few weeks.  I have a whole first draft completed, and my thinking has somewhat changed. As I was looking into YouTube, I realized that there’s more to parodies on the site than criticism. These videos are also being produced within a commercial platform that provides incentives to individuals who are willing to host advertisement on their videos. It’s an issue that appeals to my darker, political economy side, and I’m in the process of exploring it more fully.

More to that later.

Mentoring with blogs

I began experimenting with blogs in 2005, as a way to promote collaborative writing in the classroom. I have to say that my first experience was a case of unbridled enthusiasm for technology, but I was utterly unprepared for what would happen. I had bought into the notion of the digital native, that mythical creature that is practically born with a silver keyboard in his or her hand, and that can seamlessly float from one technology to the next. Needless to say that this experience taught me a lot about how people think about and use technology. It’s not as simple as people like Marc Prensky make it sound.

My first attempt was in a remedial writing class. I was an adjunct, teaching at Ave Maria College of the Americas (now Ave Maria University – Latin American Campus) in San Marcos, Nicaragua. I wanted a way for students to post quick responses to simple questions, so that they could practice their grammar and spelling. What I did not expect was that my students would get bogged down by the technology, which became a distraction that took attention away from the true goal of the assignment. I never tried it again with that course, even though I taught it every semester I was at AMCA.

My next foray went slightly better. In fact, I started this blog because of it. I modeled my blogging assignment after Danielle Stern’s portfolio assignment, a version of which can be found here.  I also decided that if I was going to use a blog to mentor students as they made sense of course content, I should be writing as well. I started producing mini-essays, which used multi-media examples to illustrate course content. All of them are filed in the “class notes” category of this blog.

There are problems with this approach, though. You have to be very selective with the videos you include, because even though blogs make it possible for us to write with multimedia, we have no control over YouTube. Copyrighted content might be perfect to illustrate a point, but it is also likely to disappear. So now, I’m actually thinking about going back and cleaning house. The other issue to think about is the public nature of blogs. I may choose to make my writing public, but my students’ privacy needs to be protected. At a minimum, they should have a choice in the matter. That said, it is easier to protect student privacy when everyone is contributing a “centralized class blog,” rather than using the “hub-and-spoke” model (see Mark Semple’s post). I can create the blog as a private space when it’s centralized, but I can’t guarantee that in the “hub-and-spoke.”

That leads me to my current thinking about blogs. Part of it was inspired by Mark Semple’s entry on Professor Hacker. The other part came from reading about research diaries. First, I really liked the idea of creating different roles for students, which is something that Semple discusses. I find that it is a good way of giving them experience in different types of writing.  I adopted Semple’s roles (first reader, respondent, searcher), divided the class into teams, and created a posting schedule for them. I also created a rubric for the assignment, all of which can be accessed here.

I also became interested in using a research diary . The benefits diaries have been extensively documented, especially in terms of their value for the professional development of teachers (e.g., Jarvis, 1992). However, diaries can fulfill similar functions for researchers. They are a tool for reflection (Borg, 2001; Janesick, 1998). Borg specifically discusses several advantages of research diaries. They establish a record of project development, document past ideas and their subsequent evolution, help organize procedures, and document decision-making (p. 171). As I envisioned it, the diaries would also support collaboration among students.  They were expected to read and comment on their peers entries, and were encouraged to share sources, insights, and tips.

In terms of classroom management, the diaries helped me keep track of what students were doing, which allowed me to step in at the appropriate times, rather than waiting for their project’s conclusion.  The assignment description is available here. Since the assignment is still ongoing, I can only offer some preliminary thoughts as to its assessment:

1. Making the diaries into a relatively low-stakes assignment made a difference. Students contributed very detailed entries.

2. Modeling portions of the research process and sharing my own experiences as a researcher may have also been beneficial. It set the tone for the blog, and it may have reduced the level of stress that comes with assignments in general.

3. Students used the comments feature of the blog to brainstorm, provide feedback, and share resources. Peer reviewing has been ongoing, judging from what they have documented on the blog, and also by what they have expressed to me during office hours.

I am still trying to find ways to improve these blogging assignments, and I am thinking of adding some kind of an exit interview  if I decide to repeat this project. As it stands, their final reflection is a built-in tangible assessment of the experience, but I feel short interviews would be very beneficial for me, as the person who designed this assignment.

Anyway… work in progress.

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Works cited:

Borg, S. (2001). The research journal: A tool for promoting and understanding researcher development. Language Teaching Research. 5(2), pp 156-177.

Janesick, V. (1998). Journal writing as a qualitative research technique: History, issues, and reflections. Qualitative Inquiry. 5(4), pp. 505-524.

Jarvis, J. (1992). Using diaries for teacher reflection on in-service courses. ELT Journal . 46(2), pp. 133-143

Once more, with feeling

NBC, the licensed broadcaster for the London Olympics, used the closing ceremony as the lead in for its new show, Animal Practice. Would you like to know what the peacock used as the lead out?

They used The Who’s performance at the closing ceremony.

A good lead in is always expected to boost the ratings of the show that follows. That is why broadcast networks often choose to premiere new offerings after big events, such as the Superbowl or the closing ceremony of an olympic. The hope in this case is that  Animal Practice will manage to hang on to the closing ceremony audience, which will allow NBC to declare its decision a success.

I guess we’ll have to wait for Nielsen to publish the ratings, but maybe not. For example, CBS already considers the lead-in effect is considered a given, even before any numbers are available.

I have no doubt that there will be a lead in effect. How big it will be remains to be seen.