Some optional reading

From time to time I’ll post a reading recommendation. It will be related to the topics in this course. You may ignore it if you like.

Screen capture from page 5

This new report, The Politics of Media Development: The Importance of Engaging Government and Civil Society, comes from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA). It’s a PDF and free to download.

We’re ready to roll!

Photo by Mindy McAdams taken on Jan. 12, 2013

All pages are up to date for the Fall 2015 semester, and I’ll see you all in class on Wednesday!

Make sure you’re there so you can hear the instructions for how to set up your individual blog for this course.

Get ready by following the four links at the top of this page: About This Course, Syllabus, Course Schedule 2015, and Required Work.

The Required Work page is especially useful, because it spells out exactly what you will need to do in this course.

For all the new students: Welcome to Gator Country!

Sign up for Fall 2015

Poster Fall 2015

This course examines the relationships between communication technologies and democracy, not only in the United States but elsewhere as well. New communication technologies, such as the Internet, will not automatically lead to or improve democracy, but they do contribute to changes in the society as a whole. We will examine how changes related to communication media might enhance or curtail so-called democratic freedoms, with a particular emphasis on the relationships among the media, the public, and the government in a democracy. Please note that the media include TV, Internet, printed publications, and more. NGOs (nonprofits) also play a role in communication in today’s democracies.

This is not a course in political communication.

Graduate students from outside the College of Journalism and Communications are welcome to enroll in this course.

This course requires multiple reading assignments every week. Most readings come from scholarly journals and will be provided via UF Course Reserves. There are 12 writing assignments in this course. The student’s grade depends on the ability to think critically about the assigned readings and to write clearly, correctly and well. Active participation in class discussions also contributes to the student’s final grade.

A good Storify from a student

As an example of a Storify done right, here is Lynsey’s from her presentation about viral media:

Her text introducing each embedded item is especially good, because it’s helpful — it helps us follow her reasoning and explains why the next embedded thing is relevant.

Three things I would criticize, mildly:

  1. There could certainly be more background articles — e.g., Web articles about cases, or how/why of virality.
  2. Focus on viral videos; not very much about how other content goes viral.
  3. Her Storify does not state explicitly what her five or six “main points” were.


Wikileaks and the new movie The Fifth Estate

There’s a new movie coming out on Oct.18 called The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame). You might be interested in reading this:

First Letter from Julian Assange to Benedict Cumberbatch Over The Fifth Estate

Julian Assange is the editor and founder of WikiLeaks, and the movie revolves around him (played by Cumberbatch).

The phrase “the fifth estate” plays on a similar phrase, “the fourth estate,” which refers to the press and the news media. Many people have no understanding of the origin of “the fourth estate.” It lies in pre-revolutionary France, when the Estates-General (états généraux) was the (mostly powerless) legislative body of the nation. The Estates-General consisted of three estates (or, more properly, states): the clergy, the nobility, and the bourgeoisie (or the commoners). Referring to the fourth estate was a way of acknowledging the power of the press in affairs of state.

“A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable. New Printers, new Journals, and ever new (so prurient is the world), let our Three Hundred curb and consolidate as they can! Loustalot, under the wing of Prudhomme dull-blustering Printer, edits weekly his Revolutions de Paris; in an acrid, emphatic manner. Acrid, corrosive, as the spirit of sloes and copperas, is Marat, Friend of the People; struck already with the fact that the National Assembly, so full of Aristocrats, ‘can do nothing,’ except dissolve itself, and make way for a better; that the Townhall Representatives are little other than babblers and imbeciles, if not even knaves.” (Thomas Carlyle, 1837)

The quotation above comes from The French Revolution: A History, by Thomas Carlyle. It is not a very readable book, having been written in an exuberant and over-wrought style that was apparently very popular at that time. This quotation is often cited as the origin of the phrase “the fourth estate.”

“When the King decided that this hall was a suitable meeting place for the Estates-General, he called in carpenters and painters. They hung the place with velvet and tassels, knocked up some imitation columns and splashed around some gold paint. It was passably splendid, and it was cheap. There were seats to the right and left of the throne for the First and Second Estates; the Commons were to occupy an inadequate number of hard wooden benches at the back.” (Hilary Mantel, 1993)

In her novel A Place of Greater Safety, Mantel paints a rich picture of Paris before and during the Terror. Here (p. 166) the Estates-General are meeting for the first time since 1614, as King Louis XVI tries to pretend he is interested in the will of the people.

Materials mentioned in class, Sept. 18

On Wednesday, I recommended two movies and an article to you. Links appear below.

Also, I came across this excellent article from Human Rights Watch: Countries Should Protect Privacy in Digital Age (Sept. 20, 2013).

“The shocking revelations of mass monitoring by the US and UK show how privacy protections have not kept pace with technology,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As our lives become more digitized, unchecked surveillance can corrode everyone’s rights and the rule of law.” (from the HRW article)

Below is the excellent article mentioned in Richards (2013) as unpublished (now available):

boyd, d., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for big data. Information, Communication & Society, 15 (5), 662–679. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.678878


Minority Report (2002), d. Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise (UF DVD 5314)

The Lives of Others (2006), Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, 2007 (UF DVD 4148)

The DVDs in Library West are on shelves immediately behind the wall behind the checkout desk. The collection is magnificent. DVDs can be signed out for seven days, and you can take three at a time. To find DVDs easily, search here. You’re welcome!

And a special bonus: Here is a free, online documentary with special interest for anyone interested in China:

The Tank Man (2006)

If you watch the first 10 minutes, maybe you will want to watch the whole film. If you are from China, I think you will see something you have never seen before.

‘The revolution will not be tweeted’

Image: TV screen

Here is the article by Malcolm Gladwell to which several students referred in the discussion of last week’s “Protests and social media” topic:

Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted (The New Yorker, Oct. 4, 2010)

“What makes people capable of this kind of activism? The Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam compared the Freedom Summer dropouts with the participants who stayed, and discovered that the key difference wasn’t, as might be expected, ideological fervor. ‘All of the applicants—participants and withdrawals alike—emerge as highly committed, articulate supporters of the goals and values of the summer program,’ he concluded. What mattered more was an applicant’s degree of personal connection to the civil-rights movement. All the volunteers were required to provide a list of personal contacts—the people they wanted kept apprised of their activities—and participants were far more likely than dropouts to have close friends who were also going to Mississippi. High-risk activism, McAdam concluded, is a ‘strong-tie’ phenomenon.” (Gladwell, 2010)

It’s already a classic essay about the role of social media in activism.

Question: Do you know what the reference is in Gladwell’s subtitle?

Answer: It refers to an amazing and wonderful song by the great poet Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

This version has subtitles.

An example of a Storify made for this class

DO NOT POST YOUR STORIFY link on this post. Read the instructions in Required Work, under “Topic presentation.”

You can embed a Storify into a blog post, but here I just gave you a link instead to save space on our course blog home page. :)

Week 3: Social Media and Social Activism

That is an excellent example, made by a student. Notice how he inserted very helpful and well-written text above each link (or a closely related set of links) so that the Storify makes sense to us. The point is NOT to write your whole presentation — just to provide all the resources with a little bit of context attached to each one.

Put an introduction at the top and a conclusion at the end.

Making a Storify should not take too long, because you will already have all your links, as shown in class.

Please use this Storify as a model for your own. Do not build your Storify until AFTER you give your topic presentation in class.

More about the Storify requirement on Required Work, under “Topic presentation.”

NOTE: You would do well to notice that this student’s presentation was completely different from Ananya’s, even though they used the same two articles. If you entertained any ideas about using a student’s presentation resources from last year, please remember the PENALTY for academic dishonesty in this course.