Television History

Step By Step

One of the readings my students had to complete this week was the introduction to Tonny Krijnen and Sofie Van Bauwel’s Gender and Media: Representing, Producing, Consuming. I assigned this reading served a couple different purposes. For one thing, given that I’m teaching a documentary class, I want them to be thinking about how media works, how it influences culture and is influenced by culture, etc. Additionally, one of the questions that we’re grappling with this semester is “What does it mean to represent?” In any media class that I’m teaching, this would always be a point of interest, but for this particular class, given the documentary’s general presumed status as “authentic,” “true,” and “real,” it’s a question that I want them to really take into consideration.

The other purpose that I had in choosing this reading is also tied to the issue of representation. My section of this course is focused on Crime, Justice, and Power, and as such, the documentaries that we’re viewing are often dealing with pretty heavy issues. As we’re grappling with those issues, I want them to consider who and/or what is being represented, how they’re being represented, what affects those representations, etc. Gender is one of the many spheres in which we’ll be considering these matters. And thus, this reading, which is only about 10 pages long, provided them with an accessible crash course in the theory and history of gender studies with a few relevant examples.

I’m always a little bit wary of how things like this are going to go over, especially in classes that aren’t marked as like CLASS ABOUT GENDER. Despite the trepidation, I’ve been lucky enough to have positive results in most cases, and this time was one of those positive experiences. Along with completing the reading, students also had to turn in what I call “Critical Reading Responses.” They only have to do this for a handful of readings in this class (from a student perspective, I always found it weary and tedious when we had to write a response paper for every single reading, and I do not wish to inflict that upon myself or my students). I pulled from several different response essay assignments that I saw on the internet in creating the assignment. The gist is that they’re reading closely and carefully and then writing a responses that clearly demonstrates their understanding of the text and ability to analyze while including some key components, such as a quote that stood out to them, a new concept that they were introduced to in the reading, etc.

Thus far, they’ve only done this assignment once, so I can’t speak to how well it will always work, but I was really pleased by what they turned in for this reading. They conveyed a willingness to engage with the material in ways that might not always be expected. Additionally, they were very forthcoming about their familiarity (or lack thereof) with the material. Despite what folks might think about the internet making all of these topics common knowledge, I found that many of my students expressed unfamiliarity with the ideas that gender and sex are different, that gender is a continuum, that gender is performative, etc. But even though they were unfamiliar, they were open to learning and intrigued by the prospects. And even when they sometimes expressed disagreement with certain points from the reading, they were still pretty open to the possibilities.

Now I pretty much always think my students are the best students in the world because I’m highkey biased, but I don’t think they’re unicorns. I think that we can bring new and important concepts to students and have them be received. I also think that sometimes these things will fall flat, and we have to know that, to quote Pink, “Sometimes it be’s like that” (shout out to the year 2000). But we keep trying because it’s important, and I don’t think there’s been a day in recent memory that crystallized that more clearly for me than today. As Maya Angelou would advise, I know better, so I’m doing better, and I hope you all are too ✌🏾

(P.S. If you read the title of this entry, and started singing the Step by Step theme song, we should probably be best friends)

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From Andy to Michael

In preparation for today’s class, my students had to read a few articles, and watch the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show, the first episode of Cheers, and the first episode of Friends. Since the class is built on exploring how digital media has changed television, I thought it was necessary to have a little bit of a foundational history regarding how television has evolved. We also talked about how early television was marketed and some of the broader technological changes that have occurred, especially within the last 30 years.

Today’s activities were a mix of small group discussion, the most mini of lectures, and large group discussion. I really do prefer to mix and match activities if for no other reason than lengthy lectures make me tired (maybe I need to work on my endurance haha). But honestly, I think limiting most things to twenty minute, or less, increments helps to keep the class fresh. When the students were having their small group discussions, I was able to circulate and listen to their conversations, which gave me ideas for things to focus on in large group discussion and other portions of the class. Luckily, my classroom this semester makes it easy to do this, but most of the other classrooms I’ve been in during my college teaching career do not make it easy for instructors to move between the students easily. I’m sure there are valid reasons why most rooms are constructed as they are, but as long as I have the spacious room that I’ve got, I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.

Relatedly, over the summer, I bought this guy:

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Kensington Wireless Presenter

It’s a Kensington Wireless Presenter ($32 on Amazon), and while at first I was a bit worried that it’d be a little pretentious to walk around the room with these thing, I have to say that it has been quite useful. I don’t like to be married to the podium, and this lets me move around w/o having to dash back to the computer to show the next slide or start the next video.

For the last chunk of class, we looked at the first episode of The Office (U.S). It’s only the second day, but they were already able to draw on some of the significant influences of technology. Next week, we’re jumping into examining how social media and television have become intertwined, and they’ll begin to move toward their first composition, which will involve both Twitter and Storify. This is my excited face-> 😃