It has been a terribly hectic semester so far with contingencies emerging almost every single day. Luckily, amid all the chaos I needed to deal with, I have Greg Foster as teaching assistant to help me with the module ‘Creative Media Analysis’ with ca. 130 first-year students from the BA in TV and Radio programme on the course.
Essentially, this module looks into the growing phenomenon of media convergence, transmedia and cross-media production and consumption. Greg’s backgrounds in theatre and drama, performance and gaming are particularly relevant to the subjects covered. His previous teaching experience at the secondary school is highly appreciated – he knows how to help those first year freshmen who appear to need a lot of hand-holding.
This semester, I have designed a transmedia assignment for which students will work in a team to deliver a video or an audio transcript of one of the two following academic papers:
Carpentier, N. (2011). The concept of participation – If they have access and
interact, do they really participate? CM: Communication Management Quarterly,
21, pp. 13-36.
Pasquali, F. (2011). The participatory turn in the publishing industry: Rhetorics
and practices. CM: Communication Management Quarterly, 21, pp. 203-220.
This is a collaboration with colleagues in the Working Group 2 of the EU COST-ACTION IS0906 ‘Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies’. On the one hand, my students will learn how to read, interpret, engage with academic writing by translating their reading into a collection of texts that fit into the description of transmedia or cross-media production; on the other hand, upon successful delivery, these students work can make the academic research outputs by this group of international researchers more accessible to wider public.
To deliver this “interesting” (to me, at least) assignment, students will need to read and comprehend the paper, and then transcribe and/or translate it into a 5-minute video or audio article. This essay needs to be accompanied by a 1,500-word abstract with a list of references (in Harvard APA 6th referencing style), and a blog / website documenting their research processes. The written abstract and the video / audio transcripts need to be a well-articulated, well-
researched, well-edited piece with sound evidence of research and adequate references. The team can decide what genre the video or audio recording is going to be – may it be a drama, a commentary, a comedy, a talk show, an animation, an interview, a documentary or mockumentary.
Greg has been great in leading the students to read, understand, think critically, question and discuss the two key texts mentioned above (Carpentier 2011; Pasquali 2011). I learned a lot from Greg’s interactive teaching techniques. For example, when reading Carpentier’s work, Greg asked students to complete a sentence ‘I feel I’m participating when … ‘ to get them thinking about, problematising, contextualising the mainstream, often-taken-for-granted concept ‘participation’. Some said that they felt they were participating when they could influence the outcomes, make a difference; some said that they felt they were participating when they were being engaged or interacting; some said that they were participating when they were commentating; others said that they felt they were participating when they were listening. And this reflects what Carpentier talked about in his paper – different levels of engagement and different meanings of participation.
Another example: Greg asked students to ponder what areas / spheres in life are politicised (and students came up with all kinds of answers which were absolutely true e.g., food, clothes/fashion, sport, transport, music, education, health care, social networking etc. basically everything in life). Having seen the great responses Greg managed to get from students, I asked them in class to ponder what social groups are usually stereotypically represented in mainstream media. Again, there were brilliant answers from them – many felt strongly about the fact that teens are often mis-represented in mainstream British media – as hoodies).
Greg’s effort of encouraging students to read more is very welcome. For example, he designed an exercise requiring students to read Walter Benjamin’s essay called “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction“. Students needed to read it, and in their groups, prepare a 2-minute presentation on any aspect of the essay that resonates with any of the themes discussed in the lectures or tutorials so far. It’s a way to get students into the habit of reading, as well as to reflect, rethink, link up all the different concepts and theories they have learned so far. And today, students came up with all sort of creative entertaining presentations. Next week, students were asked to watch all 4 parts of ‘Everything is a remix‘, and choose one topic of interest from the documentary that, as a group , they would like to find out more about. This exercise is, again, very relevant to what we have been learning in this module, and an excellent exercise for preparing the transmedia assignment.
I’m so happy and grateful to work with this young, talented, all-rounder. With his knowledge in games, performance, theatre, media, Greg has made tremendous contributions to improving learning content and activities. I would not have been able to cope with the double teaching duty and the big cohort without his support otherwise. You’ve been a star, Greg and welcome on board.