4 mini blog posts 25 points ea. / 100 pts. total 20% of final grade
Haul Video / Store Tour 50 points 10% of final grade
Midterm Exam 100 points 20% of final grade
Brand Project 250 points 50% of final grade
     Initial proposal      25 points      5% of final grade
     Addressing consumers      50 pts      10% of final grade
     Brand community      50 pts      10% of final grade
     Contexts + Full rough draft      75 points      15% of final grade
     Final post (revisions + visuals)      50 points      10% of final grade

Mini blog post 1
(300 words minimum)

Choose an item that you own that is very meaningful to you. Explain what the object is – you can also explain why it’s so important to you if that’s not too personal. Is this an object you use publicly? Do you think others form an impression of you based on your possession of this object? What might they think about you? Do you think their impression would be accurate?

Your text should be accompanied by two images – one should be a photo you take of the object in its natural setting, the other should be a photo you find on the web (it could be an advertisement or a picture of someone else using it, etc.) For example, if you are a runner and your Nike’s are important to you, you could post a photo of yourself wearing them, or the shoes sitting in your closet. You could also post an ad for the shoes from Nike’s website. The photo you do not take should be html linked to the site where you found it. Instructions for doing this can be found here.

The objectives for this assignment are:

  • to start thinking about the cultural meaning behind consumer objects
  • to get familiar with the WordPress platform
  • to learn how to upload photos to a blog post
  • to learn how to embed web images into a blog post
  • to learn how to make an image into an html link

Mini blog post 2
(300 words minimum)

Write up a response based on the readings you have done so far and/or the discussions we have had in class. You can also respond to readings we have not covered yet. You might choose to focus on a concept from the readings that you are still not clear on. Or you might choose to expand on a topic that came up in class or in the readings. Or you might delve into something you disagree with in the readings or in the class discussion. If you have another direction you want to go in for your response, feel free to pursue it (though you may want to run it by me first). While you do not have to dialogue with what your classmates have posted, extra credit will be awarded if you do (you should provide a link to your classmate’s post, if you refer to it in your own). Extra credit will also be awarded if you are the first to post.

Mini blog post 3

(300 words minimum)

Same drill as the last time.

Mini blog post 4

(300 words minimum)

You can either write a regular response post, or you can write a critical response to a “haul video” that you find online. Writing a critical response doesn’t necessarily mean criticizing the person in the video, but rather writing a sort of “review” of the video, providing critical insight and context based on what you’ve learned in this course so far. You should link to the video in your post (embed it if possible).

Haul video / Store tour

For this assignment, you will create your own video or photo series inspired by the haul videos we’ve discussed in class. The twist will be that yours will draw on the critical material that we’ve covered in the course. Just like in the regular haul videos, you’ll showcase a series of consumer products from a single store, but rather than talking about why you personally like them or what you use them for, you’ll provide critical commentary that incorporates theories of consumption and culture.

You have a few options as to format:

  • actually collect items that have been purchased at the store and make a true haul video in your home
  • make a video of items in a store (if you can get away with taking video in the store) and narrate it live
  • make a video of items in a store and provide written or audio commentary later to accompany your video
  • take a series of still photos (either in your home or in the store) and then provide written/audio commentary to accompany your photos.

You’ll assemble this into a post on the WordPress blog (you can adjust the Visibility settings if you’re self-conscious about posting it publicly but I encourage you to post it publicly and share it widely if you feel comfortable). There is no minimum length requirement for the video or your written accompaniment, but you should discuss at least 4 objects and try to draw on a rich variety of concepts in your discussion. You’ll be evaluated based on:

  • the apparent effort you put forth; you don’t have to be a professional videographer, but you should make a good faith effort to create something for the assignment
  • the quality and thoughtfulness of your critical insight
  • your mastery of course concepts – the ability to explain them and apply them to the objects you select.

As always, you can meet with me to go over your ideas before the due date if you would like feedback or assistance.

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will be held in class, and will consist of short answer / short essay questions based on the readings from the first half of the semester.

Brand Project

Your major project for this class will be a critical examination of the consumer brand of your choice. You will compose the written portions of this assignment in parts over the second half of the semester, culminating in a multimedia web version to be posted by the final exam time.

Initial Proposal (1 page)
Briefly describe the brand you are choosing to research. What do you find interesting about it? Why do you think it will make a good object of study? Are there any course concepts that you think apply particularly well to this brand? Do you have a personal connection or professional experience with this brand?

Addressing Consumers (3 pages)
Detail how the brand attempts to reach potential consumers. Who is the ideal consumer this brand would like to reach? What kinds of representational strategies does the brand use to reach these consumers? What media formats does the brand utilize, and why? Does the brand vary its tactics in order to reach different kinds of consumers? Are there any consumers you think this brand would not like to appeal to? In this portion of the paper, you are taking the perspective of the brand itself. In the next portion, you will consider the brand more from actual consumers’ points of view. You should document any sources you draw upon.

Brand Community (3 pages)
Detail how consumers actually engage with the brand. What kinds of consumers are forming attachments to this brand? What meanings do they attach to the brand, and do these align with or differ from the image the brand attempts to project? What kinds of activities do they engage in around the brand and its products? How does the brand serve as a basis for communication and community among consumers? Have the communities around this brand shifted over time? Are there conflicting community attachments to the brand? Has this brand met with any resistance – do people organize identity or community around their dislike of this brand? Again, document your sources of information.

Contexts + full draft (10 pages)
Using your previous sections as a starting point, you will flesh out your research into a critical analysis that puts the information you’ve already gathered into a cultural , social, historical, political, and/or economic context in order to advance an argument about your brand. Here you may rely mainly on the assigned course readings and theories discussed in class, although you are welcome to do further scholarly research if you wish. You may copy and paste from your previous submissions, but you should make sure your full draft is a coherent paper with an organized structure built around an argument, an engaging introduction and conclusion, clearly marked sub-sections, and an explanatory title. Your sources, including course readings, should be appropriately referenced using a bibliography and parenthetical in-text citations.

scoring checklist
_____ provides clear introduction & conclusion, including thesis containing argument about brand (10)
_____ provides examples/evidence to support all factual claims about brand (10)
_____ provides clear analysis to support all theoretical arguments about brand (10)
_____ demonstrates mastery of applicable course concepts (20)
_____ draws on at least 3 course authors (10)
_____ documents all sources of information, including scholarly and non-scholarly, using in-text parentheticals with page numbers, and a complete bibliography (10)
_____ is proofread for typos and grammatical errors (5)

Final post
After revising the text based on my feedback on your draft, you will convert your paper into a blog post, enhanced by images and hyperlinks, along with any other media you choose to incorporate. You will also submit a revision statement briefly explaining any changes you made to the text. This portion of the project will be evaluated based on: 1) how well you’ve incorporated the feedback on your draft; and 2) the professionalism and polish of your web version, including appropriate use of hyperlinks, image sourcing, and formatting.

scoring checklist (10 points each)
_____ 2-5 images/videos that support points made in the paper, each must be linked back to its original source, which must be an actual webpage (not a Google Image link or an uncontextualized image on a white background). You can use screenshots or self-taken photos – just be sure to caption them as such and provide the location (web or geographical) where you took it.
_____ hyperlink anything you reference that has a web presence (social media accounts, fan forums/pages, online articles you cite, etc.)
_____ format your text so that it reads easily on the web – use section subheads, line breaks, tasteful bolding, etc.
_____ written content is clearly improved using professor feedback from earlier drafts
_____ accompanying revision statement is emailed by the deadline & clearly explains the revisions made (this can be brief, for example, “In response to professor feedback, I incorporated more evidence of how the brand community engages with the social media marketing of this brand”).