School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘pop culture’

University of Mississippi journalism professor’s Black Mirror Project mentioned in Harvard Political Review

Posted on: January 1st, 2019 by ldrucker

Last week, Netflix dropped the first feature film released by the popular, science fiction anthology series “Black Mirror.” “Bandersnatch” is the story of a “programmer creating a video game based on the fantasy novel of an unhinged genius,” Mashable reports.

This is exciting to fans and some University of Mississippi students because the UM School of Journalism and New Media has its own class that incorporates episodes of “Black Mirror.”

Harvard Political Review recently mentioned The Black Mirror Project created by a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media journalism professor that envisions the future of media through the lens of the science fiction television series.

After learning about the history of media, professor LaReeca Rucker asks students in Journalism 101 to envision the near future of media after watching several specific episodes of the series. They are asked to use their imagination to write a synopsis of their own “Black Mirror” episode. The most creative and original responses are published on The Black Mirror Project website: https://blackmirrorideas.wordpress.com/

“Black Mirror” is a British science fiction television anthology series set in the near future that explores the potentially dark consequences of technology and social media. Each episode has a different cast with a unique story and, like most science fiction, it offers a speculative warning about what could happen if we lose control and allow technology to control us.

The show, created by Charlie Brooker, was first broadcast on British television in 2011. It is now a Netflix original series, and some have called it a modern day “Twilight Zone.” Recognizing its potential for the discussion of modern and future media, some colleges and universities across the country have incorporated “Black Mirror” into their journalism and communications classes.

 

Harvard Political Review recently published the article Primetime Paranoia that mentions Rucker’s “Black Mirror” Project. The article explores “Black Mirror” and modern anxiety.

It reads, “At the beginning of most Black Mirror episodes, viewers enter a near-future world with a technology that appears novel, even benign. Then this technology goes horribly, unpredictably wrong. In this chaos are echoes of our paradoxical anxiety, which grows worse and worse in a world becoming better and better. Black Mirror has resonated. The series has earned huge ratings, prestigious awards, and praise from figures ranging from Jordan Peele to Stephen King.”

The School of Journalism and New Media also plans to offer a different, but similar “Black Mirror” class this summer as an elective. Those who are interested may email Rucker at ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

Read the Q & A with Rucker about “Black Mirror.”

Q: What is the Black Mirror Project? Why did you get involved with it, and what results has it borne?

A: The Black Mirror Project is a website I created and an ongoing assignment I give my mass communication students each semester. After they spend most of the semester studying the history of media, we shift the focus to the future of media. I assign four specific episodes of “Black Mirror” for them to watch and ponder.

I have always been a fan of science fiction, and when this series came out, I thought it was mind-bending. I also liked that the first season of the series focused a lot on social media usage and offered some scary episodes regarding social media that seemed very plausible. I like that the show is set in the near future – not hundreds of years away. I think that makes it more frightening and relevant.

As a result of starting this project, I have been contacted by people from several different states and countries who have used “Black Mirror” in their college and high school classes. Some have reached out asking if they can submit their students’ Black Mirror Reflections to be published on our website, and I have encouraged them to do that. I love collaborating with others.

 

Q: How have you integrated Black Mirror into your teaching, and what does it add to your classroom?

My students are asked to write a Black Mirror Reflection by thinking about the episodes of the show they have been assigned while pondering technology and social media in the near future. Then they are asked to research the future of technology by Googling and reading several articles on the subject, and talking to friends, family and professors to get ideas.

They are asked to imagine that they’ve just been hired as a writer for the show. It’s their job to come up with a storyline for their own episode, but they only have a week to do it or they (fictionally) get fired. They are told to imagine it will be featured in the next season of “Black Mirror.”

Students write a one-page, double-spaced report describing their episode and the characters they imagine starring in it. They discuss what technology is used and how? They think about a scenario involving technology and social media, and take that idea to an extreme. That’s the story.

I read them and select the best ones to publish on our Black Mirror Project website. You will find a collection of creative “Black Mirror” responses there. I think the exercise helps students begin to think about their personal relationship with technology, social media and electronic communication. Some have said it was “eye-opening.”

Q: In what way is Black Mirror a “modern day Twilight Zone,” as the Black Mirror Project website says? Does the show diverge from the Twilight Zone in any noteworthy ways?

I think one of the differences is that “Black Mirror” seems to be set in the near future. To me, that makes it more frightening and plausible because many of the episodes involve scenarios that we are on the verge of experiencing now. While some of “The Twilight Zone” episodes were like this, many were set many years in the future and were often more fantastical than reality-based.

I wanted to show students several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” that could be compared and contrasted with “Black Mirror,” hoping in my research I would find some “Twilight Zone” episodes from more than 50 years ago that had envisioned the future spot on, but I had difficulty finding episodes that I thought would be a good fit. However, the Harvard Political Review article does offer up a lot of interesting points about what the “The Twilight Zone” has meant to our culture.

I do show one “Twilight Zone” episode called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” that is about the idea of beauty and perfection, which is still very relevant to viewers today.

I think the scenarios that “Black Mirror” presents are warnings about the near future in the same way “The Twilight Zone” warned us about our world. They both were important shows with confrontational, yet helpful messages that we should pay attention to.

Science fiction is prophetic vision.

Meek School offers exciting special courses for wintersession and spring 2008

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by ldrucker

The Meek School of Journalism and New media at the University of Mississippi will offer a few exciting new courses during wintersession and spring of 2018. From sports marketing, fashion merchandising and data literacy to crisis communication, pop culture criticism and audio editing, we’re offering a variety of unique journalism and IMC classes. Take a look at the list, and we bet you’ll find a topic that interests you.

WINTERSESSION

IMC 580 – Topics in IMC II: Collegiate Sports Marketing
The course is offered MTWTF from 1-4:30 p.m. in Farley 202

Professional sports executive Scott Pederson will lead this dynamic course exploring how the world of collegiate sports has become a profitable multi-billion dollar industry. It’s more than just stats, favorite teams and trivia – students will examine how collegiate sports create impulses, sales and recognition. The dramatic growth of college sports over the past 30 years has motivated many to seek careers in this compelling field. Due to its status and importance in people’s lives, sports are considered a profitable and sustainable marketing communications source now utilized by virtually every industry.

SPRING

IMC 361 – IMC Explorations I (Fashion Promotion)
Tuesdays 6-8:30 p.m. Farley 125

Joe Sherman, a former McRae’s merchandising executive, will explore with students the essential elements of the fashion industry with an emphasis on merchandising and buying. The course also will spotlight today’s trends and keys to successful marketing and branding.

IMC 362 – IMC Explorations I (Data Literacy/Intro to Big Data)
MWF 10-10:50 a.m. Bishop 108

Led by Dr. Jason Cain, this course teaches students how to properly read and interpret data-driven research and collect, analyze, and present data generated from online sources. Moderate proficiency in Microsoft Excel along with introductions to SPSS, R, and Tableau are also taught.

IMC 509 – Special Problems in IMC (Targeting and Testing)
T-Th 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Room (To be announced)

Led by Dr. Robert Magee, targeting and testing students will learn how to use surveys to assess a market target’s attitudes and behaviors and how to use experiments to test campaign materials.

IMC 580 – Topics in IMC II (Designing for Print Publications)
MW 6:30-7:45 p.m. in Farley 10

Led by Instructional Assistant Professor Stefani Goodwiller, this advanced course will focus on design considerations for print publications, including magazines, brochures and posters. Students will learn about type management, nested styles, libraries, multi-page publications, color models and master pages. Students will also explore various types of printing technologies and learn how to produce the right kind of file for the appropriate printer.

IMC 591 – Explorations I (Crisis Communication)
T-Th 1-2:15 p.m. Farley 121

Led by Instructional Assistant Professor Debbie Hall, this course centers on addressing crisis communication professionally, including how to handle multiple stakeholders and public crisis conditions. The practical application of theories, strategies and tactics from a public relations perspective will be explored. Students will have opportunities to apply skills learned.

JOUR 362 – Journalism Explorations II (Criticism)
T-Th 9:30-10:45 a.m. Hume 112

In some cases, our credibility as reviewers is what lends us currency in the digital space. Led by Associate Professor Cynthia Joyce, students will learn about professional practices, ethics and standards for writing about the arts and pop culture. Students will also learn how to “cover” cultural works as more than just commercial products, and will be introduced to writings by Pauline Kael and Anthony Lane (film), Lester Bangs and Kalefa Sanneh (music), Ada Louise Huxtable and Christopher Hawthorne (architecture), Carina Chocano and Heather Havrilesky (TV and film) among others. Students will develop an appreciation for how meaningful criticism frequently challenges the status quo – as was the case with both jazz and hip hop, for example – and they may ultimately deepen their popular understanding of entire art forms.

JOUR 580 – Topics in Journalism II (Podcasting)
T-Th 4-5:15 p.m. Farley 138 

Led by Assistant Professor Alysia Steele, students will explore the power of audio storytelling in a digital world. Pre-req: JOUR 375. The best multimedia stories have awesome audio. This class will help students with audio collection and basic production in Adobe Audition, and will focus solely on audio news and feature stories with a goal of producing award-winning content. Students will learn how to write scripts, create a concept for their own shows and produce audio stories to be pitched for Rebel Radio. Students will be required to purchase professional quality headphones and buy or rent a Zoom H1 recorder.

JOUR 591 Journalism Explorations I (Writing on Food)
Tuesday 2:30-4:45 p.m. Room (To be announced)

Led by Rien Fertel, this course will provide an introduction to reading and writing on the relationship between people and what they eat, cook, grow, serve, embrace, and disdain. It will cover the great cornucopia of food writing: personal essays, journalistic reporting, profiles, criticism, history and even the literature of recipes. Professor Rien Fertel has written for Garden & Gun, The Oxford American, and he recently published the book, The One True Barbecue.

JOUR 592 – Journalism Explorations II – Sports Broadcasting
Mondays 4-6:30 p.m. Lamar 126

Led by David Kellum, the “Voice of the Rebels,” who has served 38 seasons as the Ole Miss Radio Network’s play-by-play announcer for football and men’s basketball, this class will help you learn the presentation skills necessary for high quality sports announcing.