COMM 2010



Mid-Term Essay Assignment


From the questions below, select two of your choice, and write an essay that responds to each of those questions. Each essay answer should be at least 800 words long. All questions relate directly to the readings we have done since the beginning of the semester.  Your essay answers should demonstrate that you have done the readings carefully and thoughtfully. Use details from the text, but also add on your own experience and your own examples.


Select one two the following questions for your essay:


  1. In his interview with Playboy, Marshall McLuhan engages the question of education. He notes, “our entire education system is reactionary, oriented to past values and past technologies, and will likely continue to do until the old generation relinquishes power” (249). He also argues that our education system, if it is to be effective with the younger generation, needs to be more attuned to the values of the new generation, which are values of an electric culture, not a literate culture. Work with these propositions: to what degree is our current education system modeled after literate values? How has it changed? Are there TV-generation values as well? What would an involved, sensory experience of education be like?


  1. McLuhan also has an in-depth discussion in the interview regarding “hot” and “cold” media. Obviously, since the interview took place in 1969, he did not address some of our contemporary media. Read McLuhan’s section on “hot” and “cold” media, and then argue how McLuhan would perceive the cell phone—would is be a “hot,” or a “cold” medium? Why? You may also write about computer games, or the Internet, but pick just one of these technologies in your answer.


  1. In their book Media and Society, Ryan and Wentworth make the point that the media coverage of the Vietnam War and of protests at home was a factor in the outcome of that war and its perception in the US. As you consider the validity of that argument, analyze how the media coverage of the Iraq War has impacted public perception of it. Why was there pretty large support for the war before it began? Why has that support begun to wane? Use specific examples as you answer this question and relate them back to Ryan and Wentworth’s discussion about the Vietnam War.


  1. Ryan and Wentworth argue that “media” should be seen as a rather generalized term that includes such things as billboards, Hallmark cards, education, and toys. The reasons for such an inclusion is, as Ryan and Wentworth note, that “media” can be defined as communication that “lies in no particular place, is not viewed in terms of individual members, and is large” (9). Now, what other “media,” then, could be included in this list? Can you think of another mass media that would make YOUR list? Why? Work with Ryan and Wentworth’s definition as you develop your answer.


  1. McLuhan makes the point that artists are often the first people in a society to realize that our technologies are an extension of our bodies. He notes that artists have had “the power—and courage” (237) to understand that technologies shape us in direct ways that then become invisible to us. Similarly, Jo Flack notes, “what is interesting for media students is the ways in which such developments [as games, SMS, email, Internet, MP3 players, camera and video phones] open up new forms of communication and art” (76). Now, in what way do, say, cell phone users act as both communicators and artists, in McLuhan’s sense? What might be the connection between Flack’s point and McLuhan’s larger argument about artists being “seers” in a culture?


  1. Steve in our class sent me an interesting article from the Feb. 6, 2006 edition of the Deseret Morning News (click here for copy). According to this article, the author writes that the readership of the Provo City Library has increased remarkably since it reopened: “based on one statistic, it appears Provo residents use the library twice as much as the national average.” Why would that be? Why, contrary to McLuhan’s terms, would the readership of print books INCRESE, rather than DECREASE, as he argued in his interview? Speculate, but also use information from our other articles as you develop your answer.



Additional note:


Your essay answers should manifest both careful thinking and good academic writing. Keep the following points in mind as you write your essay:



I expect to be reading your best work. Revise, edit, and proofread carefully before you turn in your essays.


This assignment is due in class Friday, Feb. 17


You will receive extra credit if you take your paper to the writing center before it’s due.


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