Month: September 2016

Netflix-y

In class this week, we pivoted from a focus on social media and television to a focus on Netflix and how it has (or hasn’t) changed the television landscape. We’ll be working with Netflix for a few weeks and exploring a variety of areas, such as how Netflix has affected television production, Netflix’s relationship to viewer desires and expectations, and binge watching. This week was primarily just about laying the groundwork and beginning to think about the ways in which Netflix came into such a position of prominence. Amongst the many questions we’re considering is “what makes a show a Netflix show?” To that end, we started our foray by looking at the first episode of Full House and the first episode of Fuller House. To some extent, they are essentially the same show (after all, that’s why people bought into the reboot), but there are ways in which the reboot definitely became Netflix-y that I wanted us to be able to identify. And we’ll be continuing to make such comparisons between broadcast/cable shows and Netflix shows for the next few weeks as we consider how Netflix has affected television production.

Today, we talked a lot about whether Netflix was turning us into puppets and about whether we were comfortable with the amount of data that Netflix is gleaning from us. We talked about data mining previously when we discussed live tweeting, and the students were apt to pick up the connection here. The readings for today’s class presented different perspectives on the issue, and I could tell that many of the students had mixed feelings about how Netflix was using their information.

In order to really dig into the readings, I had them each choose what they believed to be the most significant/important/interesting quote from each reading. Then I had them share their quotes or reasonings in groups. Next, each group had to agree one significant quote from each reading that they would share with the class. And then, as we went through each reading, each group presented their quotes, we discussed them, and I went over additional points from the readings that I wanted to address. If it hasn’t already become obvious, I really enjoy making them talk to each other. It serves a variety of purposes, including but not limited to me not having to talk the entire time and it gives me the opportunity to listen in on what they’re thinking, bearing in mind that when I ask people to speak as large group, some people are uncomfortable doing so. But hearing how they’re thinking through things in their smaller groups helps me to figure out what I need to emphasize in my contributions.

They also had to watch episodes of Chef’s Table and Bojack Horseman for today (so we could deepen our discussion of what makes a show Netflix-y) to which their respective reactions were basically “great” and “weird.” Yeah, basically.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Digital Composition

The aim of this week’s classes was to get my students prepared for their first digital media compositions of the semester (beyond the course blog, which they post to on a weekly basis). For this assignment, students are required to live tweet two hours of television, and then they have to put together a digital composition in Storify that combines their tweets, the tweets of others, other media, and written text into an argument about the relationship between live tweeting and contemporary television. I got my inspiration for this assignment from a variety of resources (seriously, just Google “live tweeting assignment” or “storify assignment”), but most specifically from Suzanne Scott.

So in preparation for this project, which is due in a few weeks, we spent the majority of class on Wednesday live tweeting the first episode of Friday Night Lights. Even though the majority of the students reported that they’d never live tweeted previously, they took to it rather quickly. It seemed clear to me that they understood the ideal functions of live tweeting, and by and large, their tweets were varying degrees of hilarious and insightful. Interestingly though, when we discussed the experience, many students reported that they found live tweeting to be too distracting, which I think is interesting because one of the most dominant contemporary narratives about “youths” is that we/they aren’t interested in or capable of focusing on one thing at a time.

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Much like Oprah here, I have questions about the truth.

At any rate, in today’s class, after a crash course in how to compose in Storify, students spent the bulk of class time on taking those tweets from Wednesday and developing their own Storify compositions with them. Unlike their actual project in which they have to make a specific argument, I left this assignment open-ended so that they could play around and develop their creative interests. After working for a while, they had to publish their compositions to our class discussion board so that we could all look at the many different approaches that were taken. The results were as varied as I expected. Some used outside media and some didn’t. Some took on more journalistic styles while others focused on humor. When they looked at the class’ tweets collectively, many were able to pick out key themes and used them to build their compositions. And it seemed to me that they all had a good grasp on how Storify works in the end.

In summary, I’m excited about seeing their final compositions in a few weeks 😀