Concept paper 5 approved topics:
Hate speech laws
Isegoria and/or parrhesia
Media concentration (as a general process encompassing either vertical or horizontal integration)
Requirements and format
These concept papers are tightly focused on making sure you have an accurate understanding of the concept. These are not reflection papers that ask for your personal opinions about the concepts; they are papers reinforcing and testing accuracy. While the topics for the papers will change from week to week, the format will not.
Introduction. This is a paper and it should have an introduction that orients the reader to the topic.
Concept. You should spend a paragraph defining the concept. We’re looking for how well you understand the concept and can explain it in your own words. Do not use definitions and examples provided in lecture or the readings. I don’t need to reread what I said. This is about you generating accurate definitions and examples on your own.
Example. Next you should spend a paragraph applying the concept to an example. This can be a personal example or, preferably, an external one. A good paragraph here moves in two directions. The example clarifies the concept and the concept clarifies what’s happening in the example. Do not simply repeat the examples used in lecture.
Course link. With the conceptual work done, you can now spend a paragraph situating the concept in relationship to other course concepts and readings. How you do this is up to you. You can show how the concept is similar to another one discussed. You could point to some specific reading passages that reinforce and extend your example form the previous section.
Conclusion. Since this is an essay, you should include a few sentences winding down the essay and reinforcing the key themes.
References. If you cited any sources, please list them at the end. APA format is preferred. You can always look at Purdue’s reliable OWL site for guidance on citation practices (Links to an external site.).
Sample concept paper
Concept: Technological determinism
One of the themes we’ve discussed this quarter has been media influence. How much do the media we consume affect our behaviors and ways of thinking? There no single answer to this question. Technological determinism and media affordances are two concepts that allow us to examine issues of influence in more specific ways.
Technological determinism is the position that technologies have the capacity to fundamentally shape some social or material reality. In essence, when people assume a deterministic outcome they reduce all other potential factors. If a policy-maker believes that video games cause violence, then the cause is built into the very technology; other issues like age, income, social background are deemed significantly less important. Of course, technology is used within context by people with different and complex backgrounds. To say that a technology determines a single outcome for all users is to probably overstate the influence.
An example of this would be Mary Pilon’s story on Wired.com, “Instagram is Ruining Vacation.” In the story, Pilon talks about the rise of phones and selfies at vacation destinations. The article itself walks back some of the determinism present in the title. The author acknowledges that annoying tourism photography isn’t new. Pilon then argues that Instagram, with it’s ease and pervasiveness, represents a new turn. The author relates a story about a recent hiking trip to a canyon and wanting to get a perfect Instagram shot. “To get the shot, I was seated on the ledge, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time hiking and climbing. But still I WAS SITTING ON THE EDGE OF A CANYON. With or without my smartphone, it was stupid.” And here is the core of the deterministic belief. The technology didn’t drive her to crawl out on that ledge, it might have been a factor, but lots of Instagramers don’t risk life and limb for a photo. There were a constellation of factors that drove her out on that ledge, but the article reduces this complexity to a single technological cause: Instagram.
The relationship of Instagram to action relates to another course concept, media affordances. When we look at affordances, we think about how the medium affects the message. A novel and its movie adaptation are different because they are conveyed through different media. The medium affects how the audience interacts with the message: having to sit in a dark theater with others versus reading quietly at home. But the media doesn’t determine the outcomes. Not everyone who reads books will need glasses before turning forty years old. Not everyone who watches movies will be influenced in the same way.
While it is important to study what a particular media affords, we must avoid sliding into complete determinism. Media and media technologies can have tremendous influence, but they are used by humans in a wide variety of contexts. As such, we must remain cautious about claiming that any one technology can determine how audiences or social practices will be influenced.
Pilon, M. (2016, April 13). Instagram is ruining vacation. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from https://www.wired.com/2016/04/instagram-is-ruining-vacation/
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